“I was born in one of the most romantic places in the world—Darjeeling—although I have only confused impressions of its beauty, and of the gaiety of life there, for my father, who was a stockbroker, brought the family back to England when I was five.”
Vivacious, versatile and Academy Award winning British-Hollywood actress, Vivien Leigh—who charmed the celluloid screens in films such as Gone with the Wind (1939), Caesar and Cleopatra (1945), and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)—was born and initially brought up in the hill station of Darjeeling, in India. It is no wonder then that her appearances still exude a fresh breath of mountain breeze!
Leigh said in an interview “I was born in one of the most romantic places in the world—Darjeeling—although I have only confused impressions of its beauty, and of the gaiety of life there, for my father, who was a stockbroker, brought the family back to England when I was five.” It is likely that Leigh attended the Loreto Convent School in Darjeeling, before moving to England.
Leigh was most probably born at Dawkins House in the campus of St. Paul’s School. Another version has that she was born at Shannon Lodge, which was the residence of her parents. She was born to Ernest and Gertrude Hartley (Leigh being born as Vivien Mary Hartley).
The Shannon Lodge was built sometime in the 1880s by Thomas Kenay, who came to Darjeeling as an engineer. Among other things, he established a pure water source, built the Jalpahar barracks, and rebuilt the St. Francis’ Church renamed as St. Joseph’s Church. After Kenay, the lodge was resided in by the Protestant missionary husband and wife Dr.s Robert and Olive Ingersoll, before the Hartleys moved in, in 1913.
The two-storied house with the wide-sloping roof, which stood in its own wooded grounds on the side of a hill overlooking the town, was a quiet and perfect place in which to prepare for the child’s arrival. From the veranda of the house the view seemed especially beautiful on the evening of November 5th. Far away to the north, toward the great snow-capped peaks of Everest and Kanchenjunga; and not long after the sun had disappeared, leaving the town a spangle of twinkling lights in the sudden darkness, the doctor came downstairs with the news that it was a girl (Vivien Leigh: A Biography, by Hugo Vickers).
The American actress, Anna Kashfi was also born in Darjeeling, where she lived till the age of thirteen. Her father was a traffic superintendent for the Indian Railways.
Other well known international movie artistes who were born in Darjeeling and/or spent some of their early years in the hill station include Erick Avari, Sylvia Coleridge, Hazel Adair, Roy Pomeroy and Lyndon Gregory.