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Doreen Horsburgh's Book


In 1987, soon after our family returned to England, my mother kept asking me to write the story of our life in India. I fully intended to do so one day, however, then was not the time to start work on such a book for it would not have kept the family in food and clothes! I had to concentrate on writing textbooks that would bring in an income. So I asked my mother to write the book herself; perhaps she could start with her early life, growing up on a rubber plantation in Ceylon, where her father had lived and worked as a planter. She informed me that she did not have the skills to write such a book. After much persuasion, she began to jot down short episodes of her life that she could remember and which she felt others would be interested in reading about.

The exercise of remembering and doing some research for the book was in many ways a painful one for my mother, because it brought back many memories of her first husband and the circumstances under which he died during World War II. Eventually, sometime in the early 2000s, her notes and short anecdotes were complete, and she handed these over to me to edit and put together as a complete story of her life from 1922, when she was born, till the time of her departure from Ceylon in 1946.

Her story is simply put, but interesting and amusing; it is also poignant because of the pain she had to endure. It will appeal to a wide cross-section of readers — to those who are interested in the lives of others; to those who knew Ceylon, the Sri Lanka of old; to those who want to know more about military actions in Ceylon during World War II.

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You may flip through a few pages of the book here.

The story continues...

Doreen and Anne Kandy, Ceylon, 1946.jpg

Doreen and Anne (on the elephant); Kandy, Ceylon, 1946.

Doreen and David wedding day July 1950.j

In 1949, Doreen married David Horsburgh, my father, who had just finished his BA Hons. degree in Sanskrit and Pali at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University.


In 1950, shortly after my brother Michael was born, she sailed with David, Anne (her daughter from her first marriage), and Michael to a new life in India. The family settled in Mysore, where David taught English at St Philomena’s College, Mysore University.


In the following years, she moved with the family to Bangalore, where I was born (1951-1953), Rishi Valley in Andhra Pradesh (1954-1959), Madras (1959-1963), back to Bangalore (1964-1972), Neel Bagh, Rayalpad, Karnataka (1972-1987), and finally to Berkshire, UK.

During her years in India, Doreen actively supported her husband David in his work with the British Council, took a keen interest in amateur dramatics (Bangalore Little Theatre), painted and sketched, played the piano and guitar, ran a dispensary for the children at Neel Bagh, and for many years taught them art and handicraft.

After moving back to the UK, she spent her time reading, writing, caring for her garden, actively participating in church and British Legion events, and playing the piano.


Doreen died in January, 2015. She is fondly remembered by her family: her three children, six grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren.

Doreen and David Horsburgh, on their wedding day, July 1950.

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