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

Transcript of The Bugle, 14 June 1894 p.50

Please remember that all transcripts show what is written on the page; spelling and grammatical mistakes are not corrected.


"Leaving 3 men in charge of the boat the remainder pushed on, but darkness had now set, and further pursuit being considered useless, it was shortly abandoned. The child was put on board and the party retired to where Smith Dorrien and the main body were encamped. For a considerable time the boy caused great amusement to the soldiers by his quaint expressions. At first he could only say 'Bonsy Morto' pointing his finger or a stick at those he addressed. Morto is the Arabic expression to denote death. He was absolutely fearless and would wander round the camp being no respecter of persons. His usual request was "aus laban" which being interpreted means 'I want milk'.

Jimmy remained the pet of the Durham division of the mounted Infantry and performed the long marches seated astride the pommel of Sergt. Stuart's saddle, on which a blanket was strapped. Treated kindly by all, he was the especial favourite of the kind-hearted Scotch Sergeant on whose saddle he travelled some 300 miles until the Mounted Infantry reached Assouan.

In June 1886, some native women were asked his age. By this time he could speak English, and had the strongest objection to being touched by the "nasty black women" as he called them. In spite of struggles his mouth was opened and his teeth carefully examined by two women, who pronounced his age to be 18 months. It was calculated that his birthday would be about 1st January 1885, and at the date of capture he was one year old. To English mothers it must seem incredible that a child of two years could talk Arabic and English, ride a horse bare back to water daily, and give a song and dance on a barrack room table.

All who knew Jimmy Durham in 1886 will vouch for the truth of this, and many other wonderful stories which are too marvellous for this respectable paper.

By the above calculation the boy is now 9 years and a half and no one could possibly credit him with being older.

When the Battalion was under orders for India it was intended that the boy should remain at a mission school at Cairo, and many still remember a body of Sergeants being marched into the Cairo orderly room to ask permission for the boy to come with them, promising to subscribe monthly towards his maintenance. Cr. Sergt. Stuart was spokesman, and he was quite heartbroken at the thought that Jimmy was not to be allowed to come to India. All the Sergeants till lately subscribed 1 rupee a month, and Master Jimmy's banking account is now worth more than that of any Subaltern in the Regiment. Before closing this account mention should be made of Old Jim Birley his first nurse, and from whom he derives his name of Jimmy. To see Birley giving the child his daily bath by first soaping him all over and then standing him in a stable bucket at the door of his tent and ladling water over him out of a cavalry canteen, used to be the daily excitement at Akasheh after mid-day stables.

I am sure he owes much of his bright clean appearance to the excellent early training in cleanliness he got from good old Jim Birley, who had as much affection for the boy as if he were his own child, and who kept him in a clean and highly polished manner.

It is now time the lad chose a profession, and no doubt remembering the jolly time he had in the mounted infantry, his fancy will turn to soldiers and horses, and I feel sure he can never regret the 85-86 Expedition and his desertion by his people during the panic..."