Skip Navigation • Access Keys • Frequently Asked Questions •

Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

The Story of Jimmy Durham

Follow the story of a tiny Sudanese boy rescued beside the River Nile in 1886 and brought up by soldiers of The Durham Light Infantry regiment.

Read about his career in the British Army and his marriage to a girl from County Durham.

Jimmy's story provides resources for Key Stage 3 History, QCA Unit 14, The British Empire, and Key Stage 3 Citizenship, QCA Unit 4, Britain - a diverse society? It can also be used for Key Skills, Literacy, PSHE, Geography and ICT. Children from other Key Stages can use the appropriate activities, or teachers can use the documents in their own way. We welcome feedback and ideas.

The Story of Jimmy Durham - Introduction

James Francies Durham, or 'Jimmy Durham', was born in the Sudan about 1885. His father was killed at the Battle of Ginnis, December 1885 and he was with his mother on a boat on the River Nile, attempting to return to their home in Berber, about 500 miles to the south. The boat was attacked by the Mounted Infantry of the 2nd Battalion The Durham Light Infantry in January 1886 and Jimmy was left on board with a wounded man, while the other occupants fled to avoid capture. The soldiers picked the child up and looked after him, giving him the name James Francies Durham, after the men who cared for him.

The original intention was to place Jimmy in a mission school in Cairo, but the sergeants who were looking after him were upset at the idea, and promised to continue to care for him.

Jimmy went with the 2nd Battalion to India and Burma and, when he reached the age of 14, he enlisted into The Durham Light Infantry as a bandsman. He moved to Aldershot in 1902 and Ireland in 1905.

He married, in 1908, Jane Green of Bishop Auckland, whose brother was a Quartermaster Sergeant with The Durham Light Infantry.

Jimmy died, of pneumonia, on 8 August 1910, while stationed at Fermoy, Ireland. Shortly afterwards, his daughter, Frances, was born. She lived in Bishop Auckland until her death in 1998.

To find out about Jimmy's fascinating life story, click on the links in the navigator on the left.