Click on the above pic to visit our sister site Bear Alley Books

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Norah Burke

Norah Burke has been on my radar for many years and it was only last night that I finally managed to track down her death. I think I first noted her name as a writer for Gerald G. Swan. Some years later, Cliff Lewis mentioned her in connection with his publishing company Curzon, which published romances—some reprinted from serials in women's magazines—under rather more saucy titles for the original paperback market. Ever since her name has popped up in various contexts... as a writer for Look and Learn, for instance, and now with a story in The Children's Newspaper. Time, I thought, to gather together everything I knew.

Norah Aileen Burke was born in Bedford on August 2, 1907, her parents—who had lived in India for many years—returning especially for her birth. The family returned to India when the baby Norah was only two months old, and she spent the next twelve years travelling around the jungle at the foothills of the Himalayas where her father, Redmond St. George Burke, was a forest officer with the Imperial Forest Service. Constantly changing camps, carrying their belongings by elephant, made education difficult, but she learned to write at the age of eight, and started writing stories straight away. She also read as much as she could, including bound volumes of Chums and Boy’s Own Paper, and even wrote and edited her own little magazine entitled The Monthly Dorrit.

She returned to England in 1919 to attend a school in Devonshire, and lived her family home at The Auberies, Bulmer, near Sudbury, in Suffolk. Her first novel, Dark Road, was published in 1933, Burke drawing on her own background for the book's settings of Suffolk and India. After a second novel dealing with a European dictator (The Scarlet Vampire), she wrote Merry England, which was set in historical Suffolk.

Her next few novels, romances, appeared from Gerald Swan during the war and post-war years and, according to an article published in The Writer in January 1950, she had by then published 11 novels and her short stories and articles had appeared in more than 100 periodicals. Her work was published in France, Denmark, Holland, Sweden, Irish Free State, Australia, America and Canada. In 1954, she was the winner of the New York Herald Tribune World Short Story Contest.

As well as fiction, Norah Burke was also an enthusiastic travel writer, relating many of her early adventures in autobiographical travel books Jungle Child (1956), Tiger Country (1965) and Eleven Leopards (1965). She also wrote about wildlife in King Todd (1963) and The Midnight Forest (1966) and numerous short stories. She collaborated with her father on his book of big game hunting and camp life in the Indian jungles, Jungle Days (1935).

She married Henry Humphrey R. Methwold Walrond (1904-1987), a lawyer, and had two sons. She lived for many years at Thorne Court., in Cockfield, near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. She died in 1976.


Dark Road. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1933.
Merry England. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1934.
The Scarlet Vampire. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1936.
Dreams Come True. London, Gerald Swan, Feb 1943.
The Awakened Heart. London, Gerald Swan, Mar 1944.
Gold Temple Bells. London, Gerald Swan, Nov 1949.
Hazelwood. London, Hodder & Stoughton, Jul 1953; as The Splendour Falls, New York, Morrow, 1953.
Not as Others. London, [publisher?], 1956.

Novels as Andre Lamour
Harem Captive. Stone, Staffordshire, Curzon, Dec 1946.
Desert Passion. Stone, Staffordshire, Curzon, Nov 1947.
Dusky Bridegroom. Stone, Staffordshire, Curzon, Dec 1947.
No Wedding Ring. Stone, Staffordshire, Curzon, Feb 1948.
Pin-Up for Michael. Stone, Staffordshire, Curzon, Aug 1948.
Take My Love!. Stone, Staffordshire, Curzon, Sep 1948.

Novels as Paul Lestrange
Slave to Passion. Stone, Staffordshire, Curzon, Aug 1948.
Tarnished Angel. Stone, Staffordshire, Curzon, Sep 1948.

Jungle Picture. A picture of the vast forests of India, along with the foot-hills of the Himalayas in short stories. London, Cassell, 1960.

Jungle Days, with R. St. George Burke. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1935.
Jungle Child (autobiography). London, Cassell & Co., Feb 1956; New York, W. W. Norton, 1956; abridged, London, Cassell (Red Lion Readers 2), 1966.
King Todd. The true story of a wild badger, illus. D. J. Watkins-Pitchford. London, Putnam, 1963.
Tiger Country. London, Putnam, 1965.
Eleven Leopards. A journey through the jungles of Ceylon. London, Jarrolds, 1965.
The Midnight Forest. A true story of wild animals. London, Jarrolds, 1966.


Parables of the Gospel [Homiliae], by Saint Gregory, translated by Nora Burke. Dublin, Scepter, 1960.
The Faith Applied [Vivre le christianisme], by Jean Daujat, translated by Norah Burke. Dublin, Scepter, 1963.

(* The Children's Newspaper © Look and Learn Magazine Ltd.)


  1. Just love the way she had me gripped when I read the 'Jungle Picture'. Her descriptions are marvellous. Would love to get hold of other books by her. We had Jungle Picture as our rapid reader in school.

  2. I have had her Jungle picture with me for the past thirty years. I have read, reread and read out loud her stories again and again. Brilliant colourful prose that reflected an intimate understanding of the ways of the jungle, I have used the stories to inspire love for forests and wildlife among students.

    I would like to read some more of her writings. Can any fans who have some please share them with me?
    M James email:

  3. Arindam Chatterjee2 Jan 2010, 10:16:00

    Great work done. Thanks a lot.

  4. Just great work done by yoy Holland. I had been tracing her for a very long time and it was a surprize to find her.I did her Jungle Book for my class X and fell in love with her writings. Living very close to the forests and areas as described in her book I am fortunate to go back and trace all such places in reality. Some of the descriptions still remain the same. Simply admire her intellect to grasp the essence of indian forest life so deeply and correctly.

  5. Just great work done by yoy Holland. I had been tracing her for a very long time and it was a surprize to find her.I did her Jungle Book for my class X and fell in love with her writings. Living very close to the forests and areas as described in her book I am fortunate to go back and trace all such places in reality. Some of the descriptions still remain the same. Simply admire her intellect to grasp the essence of indian forest life so deeply and correctly.

  6. I had Jungle pictures for my class X ICSE board . Her stories are beautiful as well as simple , they touch an inner core & remain with you for a long , long time .
    Kavita Singh

  7. I had 'Jungle Picture' for my 8th Std. ICSE class.
    The impact this collection of stories has had with me, has remained all these years. In fact I'm still looking for a copy (how we foolishly discard such treasures).
    Her simple yet masterly story weaving ability had me see 'Gajpati' tied to the tree, and the young lad who carried his brother across the jungle, while he suffered with high fever....
    absolutely enchanting and riveting!

    Good to see like minded readers and book lovers in this corner of the WWW.

  8. Eleven Leopards was my first read.. and the first time I heard about her.. picked up the book along with Call of the the Tiger (Ismail, not Powell) the latter was a sore disappointment - contrived and amateaur (read - part about hyenas being a scourge and needing extermination)Eleven Leopards was a breathe of fresh air (picked up both from the Pune Club Library- they have quite a collection on natural history)

  9. After so many years, I tracked down one of her stories which made me cru during my school days. You can read it here:

    She was awesome! I guess she did not receive the appreciation she deserved. We doesn't even have a wiki page on her.

  10. Most of us who did ICSE in India in the late 70s were introduced to this truly illustrious English writer, thanks to some intelligent people on the board who chose the book for our study. Given the trite that are now chosen for study even in degree courses one is indeed blessed to have read this classic book- jungle pictures- which is a richly descriptive book written in flawless English. I agree Norah Burke has not yet been given the recognition she truly deserves.

  11. Norah Burke is the reason why I am a writer today. We had her book as a part of our English Literature curriculm in my Delhi School,in std.9th. I was barely 13 years old then and was fascinated with the world of Norah's words, what a skill full magician of words, who could draw the entire multifaceted canvas of the Indian jungle life with such few, such simple words...I would wonder in awe. In fact that was when I wrote my first short story and love affair with the world of words never ended since.....I am fifty now, and still have my 47 year -old copy of Jungle Picture with me. God bless her soul and the author of this blog !!

  12. I did Jungle Picture for my ICSE in Mumbai (and my daughter too). Norah Burke's unforgettable descriptions were always at the back of my mind when I visited Corbett National Park in the Himalayan foothills decades later. She has single handedly converted countless students into nature lovers. I don't think any of her other books are on sale here. If I am wrong please let me know.

  13. Her stories have left an indelible impression on my mind. 'Jungle Picture' was the prescribed literature book for us for our ICSE, and I re-read those stories in my leisure time.

  14. Did you miss mentioning one of her best books "Jungle Picture"? Or did I miss it while reading the blog.

  15. I mentioned Jungle Picture in the bibliography, but not specifically in the text. I did mention it in a later post, which you can find here, which discusses how the original post was lifted wholesale by someone to use on Wikipedia.