Maurice Shellim, Civic work
Nicola Jennings and Valerie Collis (nieces)
Maurice Arthur Shellim was born on 12 February, 1915 in Shanghai of Iraqi Jewish origin. He spent most of his childhood and working life in Calcutta; he was a scion of both the British and the Sephardic Jewish communities, a frequent figure at the races, Bengal Club and other local haunts. After school, he was sent to England to train as a doctor at Guy's Hospital in London after which he returned to Calcutta and worked as a GP. He moved to England for the latter part of his long life.
Maurice went to boarding school in Darjeeling and in the 30s was sent to London where he trained as a doctor at Guys Hospital but along with his peer group they were never given a graduation ceremony due to the war. In the second world war he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, keeping an extensive diary which tells of his experiences in Italy after the Allied Landing. After he was demobbed he returned to Calcutta setting up in general medical practice, and was the doctor for the crew of BOAC (now British Airways); he was also President of the Geographical Association. But in the meantime, he had fallen in love with Italy and on his many visits there he became a self taught artist developing a distinctive style; he went on to exhibit in many London galleries, and five hundred or so of his paintings have found their way into private homes all over the world.
In the late 1960s he bought a painting by the 19th century British painter Thomas Daniell and this led to a life-long passion for paintings by a number of other British painters living in India, but in particular Thomas Daniell and his nephew William. He wrote a book on their works and travels in Papanasum in southern India, and is celebrated for having compiled the catalogues of both father and nephew as well that of another artist, John D'Oyly. He was also called upon by Christie's in London to authenticate many new found paintings.
Maurice's most important contribution to Calcutta was his involvement in the Park Street Cemetery. Opened in 1767 it is where many British families were buried. He organised the cleaning of it and raised funds by giving donors a lane named after themselves. In 1986 he published, for the British Association for Cemeteries of South Asia, "On progress in restoring 'The Great Cemetery'", a project to which he devoted a considerable amount of time; and he wrote a booklet giving the names and dates and map detailing the many who were buried there. Another of his passions was music: he was an accomplished pianist, and composed a song deeply evocative of the inter-war period.
Maurice eventually settled in London as did the rest of his immediate family, but on his frequent visits to Calcutta he worked as a locum in the practice he had set up. He was a true gentleman, wonderful raconteur, full of wit and humour; he was invariably invited to dinner when an important dignitary was visiting: Prince Charles later with Mrs Parker Bowles, the Maharaja of Burdwan, the Queen.... He died in London in 2009 at the age of 94 but his heart and soul was always in Calcutta.