Mustapha seemed destined to be a solider from the moment he was
found on the banks of Nile by Captain Beauvoir de Lisle.
was New Year's Day 1886 and de Lisle was leading a mounted party
of the Durham Light Infantry. This was the battle of Ginnis, Egypt,
and de Lisle had set out to capture, the enemy's river transport.
aged about 18 months
party approached a large nuggar (Arabic river boat), with a considerable
number of enemy on board.
charge was made and the nuggar was seized.
The Arab inhabitants fled in the darkness, leaving only one behind
who was badly wounded. Alongside the nuggar was an infant.
the bank was a small dervish child, under two years old, who
pointing his finger at me kept repeating 'Bung-morto', imitating
the sound of the rifle and the result. My difficulty was what
to do with the child and with the boats. The child I handed
over to Colour Sergeant Stuart and told him to take the horses
back by road".
of Sport & War by General Sir Beauvoir de Lisle 1939
child was handed over to Sergeant Stuart, who, named him Jimmy Dervish.
The boy's real name was Mustapha.
appeared that the child's father, a Sheik, had been killed in the
battle of Ginnis. His widow with two children had intended to make
her way to Berber, but there was no trace of the child's mother.
Sir Beauvoir de Lisle: Jimmy's kindly
De Lisle, in eccentric, Victorian fashion, decided Jimmy would make
a good 'regimental pet'.
Jimmy performed the long marches seated astride the pommel of Sergeant
James Francis Durham
June 1886, some native women were asked Jimmy's age. By examining
his teeth, the women pronounced his age to be 18 months. It was
calculated that his birthday would be about 1st January 1885.
the Battalion received orders to go to India, it was intended that
Jimmy should be left in a mission school in Cairo.
sergeants, however, objected and promised to subscribe one rupee
a month towards the child's upkeep.
was baptised James Francis Durham.
the DLI moved to India in 1887, Jimmy went with them, where he attended
the school for the regiment's children.
1898, he accompanied the DLI to their new station at Mandalay.
|Jimmy (centre) aged 12, with
the Band of the 2nd Battalion Durham Light Infantry, India 1897.
was in Burma that James Francis Durham made his mark on British
military history by applying to enlist as a boy soldier.
application, strongly backed by the sergeants, went all the way
to Queen Victoria.
official decision was favourable, and in July 1899, James Francis
Durham was formally enrolled as Boy Solider No. 6758, aged 14 years
the British Army had employed Black drummers and musicians since
the 18th century, and colonial regiments were often black, no African
had been allowed to join the regular Army on the same terms as white
family and friends
After Burma the regiment spent a period in Wellington, India,
where Jimmy distinguished himself as an athlete. He returned to
England in 1902.
|Jimmy at Aldershot 1904,
pictured with Billy, the regimental sheep.
known only warm climates, Jimmy found himself in the cold and wet
of Northern England, through he was warmly welcomed by and an extended
family of former and serving sergeants.
spent this period living in and around Darlington, Bishop Auckland
was partially brought up with the family of Sergeant Robson, whose
daughter, Stella, he regarded as a sister.
is no record of Jimmy's thoughts about his original roots but his
letters are revealing.
I hope you will always reckon me as your brother. I have known
you from when you was a dear little child and I always use
to look to your father and dear mother as my mother as well.
They have treated me like one of you all.
band are in hopes of coming to Newcastle as we have been engaged
to play at different places and I believe we are going to
finish up at Darlington. I shall be very likely to be able
to see you all and, I would like you to hear our band.
Your loving brother Jimmy".
|Letter to Stella Robson ,
1908, Stella asked Jimmy to be godfather to her baby. He was over
the same year, Jimmy married Jane Green, the sister of the quartermaster
sergeant at Bishop Auckland.
DLI were on the move again. Their next stop was Cork where Jimmy
divided his time between the regimental band, playing clarinet and
violin, and running the Army Temperance Association.
|Jimmy. A model soldier stationed
at Victoria Barracks, Cork in Oct 1909
Temperance Association was unusually popular at Cork's Victoria
Barracks and its large membership won the DLI an award.
who was teetotal, held his temperance meetings in rooms above a
pub, opposite the barracks.
However, his comrades' interest grew when they realised that attending
the temperance lectures was an easier way of getting into the pub!
The accidental tourist
was by all accounts a popular figure in Cork and an avid tourist,
writing to Stella in July 1908:
"My Dear Stella,
What do you think of the masta,
does he look all right.
I have been very busy and we are not having very nice weather.
Today it has been thundering and lightning. Sorry I didn't
write before but have had a lot of correspondence to do.
You will excuse me not sending
this by its self but it would get damaged I think. Hope you
all are keeping well. Roll on the 21st".
Irish climate finally undermined Jimmy's health and on the 8 August
1910, aged only 27, he died from pneumonia.
was buried with full military honours in the local cemetery. The
floral tributes and large gathering of mourners bear witness to
|Frances Jubb: Jimmy's only
daughter, pictured here in the early 1980's.
weeks later his wife, Jane gave birth to their daughter Frances.
She lived in Bishop Auckland until her death in 1998.
exhibition featuring James Francis Durham is on display at County