Durrell on Desert Island Discs

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On 7th August 1961, Gerald Durrell was the guest on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs programme.

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‘I have had a most extraordinary affair of the heart’

At the end of July 1987, Gerald and his wife Lee flew out to Corfu to watch the filming of the BBC ten-part series of My Family and Other Animals.

Douglas Botting refers to the trip towards the (rather rushed) latter section of his (rather good apart from the rather rushed latter section) biography of Durrell, noting that the BBC had some problems with filming because Corfu had changed so much since Gerald’s idyllic childhood there in the 1930s.

On this trip, Gerald appears to have been so upset about the changes – something he remarked on during previous visits to Corfu (known colloquially as “Cor, Phew” in Britain in the  late 1980s, if my childhood memories serve)- that he was moved to write an article about the devastating effect of tourism on the island and its wildlife for the Sunday Times newspaper, published as part of its Impressions in the Sand travel series, around July 1987.

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Animal collecting with Gerald Durrell

When Bob Golding was 18, he wrote to Gerald Durrell who agreed to take him along on an animal collecting expedition to the then British Cameroons in West Africa. Golding is immortalized as “young assistant Bob” in Durrell’s book A Zoo in my Luggage.

You can read Golding’s story and see some photos from the expedition on his website here.

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‘Can you help Gerald Durrell’s family document his life?’

Bournemouth photos from ‘Whatever Happened to Margo?’

This week, the Bournemouth Echo is running an appeal by Lee Durrell, Gerald Durrell‘s widow, asking for information on Gerald’s life in Bournemouth.

Together with Gerald’s nephew (Margo’s son) Gerry Breeze, Lee is organizing an exhibition on Jersey about Gerald’s Bournemouth days. The text of the Echo story is below, plus a link to the site. Anyone with information is invited to email Echo reporter Faith Eckersall, whose email address is given at the end of the piece.

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‘Mother’ Durrell, 1961

Louisa Durrell, ‘Mother’, with a chimp.

Photograph by Loomis Dean for Life, taken in Jersey in 1961.

Dean came to photograph Lawrence Durrell and his wife Claude during their visit to Gerald Durrell on Jersey in 1961.

Durrell in Russian

When Gerald Durrell and his wife Lee visited the then-USSR to film Durrell in Russia, Gerald was surprised to be mobbed by fans of his books.

Durrell’s books were and still are immensely popular in Russia and other post-Soviet bloc states. Here’s a glimpse at the various editions of My Family and Other Animals.

1971 – paperback edition by Mir, Moscow.

The book is titled ‘Moya Semya i Zveri’, which translates as ‘My Family and Wild Animals’, translated by by L. Derevyankinoi.

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Photos from 1957 Bafut expedition, Cameroons

In 1957, LIFE magazine despatched a photographer, Howard Sochurek, to photograph Gerald Durrell during his expedition to Bafut in the Cameroons. The expedition came not long after the publication of  My Family and Other Animals in 1956, which became an instant hit – and of course the public were already aware of Durrell and his previous Cameroons adventures from his previous books, The Overloaded Ark and The Bafut Beagles.

Jacquie Durrell accompanied Gerald on this trip, as did his secretary, Sophie Cook, and a young aspiring naturalist, 18-year-old Robert Golding.

Gerald found the Cameroons had changed somewhat since his previous animal-catching expedition, and ran into difficulties with the British Administration, whom Jacquie wrote were:

“not at all pleased to have Gerry back in the country. They wagged a finger at him and tore him off a strip for writing about the Fon the way he had done in the Bafut Beagles, presenting a paramount chief as a carousing black clown who spoke comic pidgin English.”

While Gerald thought the Fon might be angry about his depiction in the Bafut Beagles, he turned out to be delighted. “You done make my name go round the world,” he said.

Here are some of the photos, from the LIFE archive, as digitalized by Google.

Gerald with the Fon

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