Finding Charles Scott (Sir Walter Scott’s son’s) obscure grave in Tehran, Iran, where he died of a fever in 1841.
I grew up in Iran where I arrived in 1960 from the UK at age 5 and where my parents were attached to the British Embassy.
While In my teens, the then British Ambassador, Sir Denis Wright, took me under his wing and to many amazing places in Iran, kindling my love of Iran, Farsi and all things Iranian. He was old school- from a time when diplomats actually had to speak the language of the country to which they were posted and know something of it. Sir Denis knew Iran backwards and I was privileged to learn from him.
I think it may have been he who first spoke of a tiny church in the bazaar that contained the remains of some important British nationals but I cannot recall with whom I first went there, which would have been sometime in the late 60s.
Bordering the grand bazaar, whose sprawl covered 10sq km, on the east side was a street called Cyrus Street and in that street was a grand teahouse in the old Persian style and it may well have been a bazaar merchant who I worked for as a translator who took me from there to the church.
I cannot begin to tell you how off the beaten track that place was! The bazaar was an impossible labyrinth of dim, winding passages in which a small army might lose itself with no problem. I recall only a mud wall amongst a million others and a tall wooden door which gave way to a courtyard and, from there, into a tiny church, one room of which contained the headstones. The chances of stumbling across it are absolutely zero, and of finding it again after the initial visit, almost zero. I found and re-lost it so many times that I lost count!
The church was Armenian and the oldest church in Tehran, dating back to somewhere between 1793 and the turn of the century and it was totally logical that, in the absence of other churches, deceased British nationals should be buried there, one mile south of the Embassy. This is where Charles lies, in a dimly lit room off of the Church of Thaddeus and Bartholomew.
Back in the day, I am not aware of anyone else who knew of that church and, being bilingual in Farsi, I began taking interested parties there..when I could find it! Once I came across someone in the church who might loosely be described as a ‘janitor’ and I asked him if he saw anyone. He replied, “you, mainly!” That told me that the church had fallen well and truly off the map and that with the absence of Iranian scholars in the Embassy, so it would remain.
I visited many, many times, haunted by the gravestones and the personalities who lay beneath them. Charles is buried alongside Mr Alison, a very eccentric former British ambassador with a colourful lifestyle and a British parson who translated the Bible into Persian. Charles died 175 years ago the day after tomorrow!
My visits were interrupted by the Islamic Revolution and I never returned, although I have in mind to do so.
The all-pervasive internet changes everything, however, and shines light into the darkest of inner sanctums. Imagine my surprise when someone recently sent me the link above which shows that someone has taken interest in the old church and its inhabitants. Judging by his name, he is an Armenian and I am still trying to locate him. Meanwhile, enjoy the link and the pictures.
I remain on hand to explain further, should you so wish. BTW, I certainly did not ‘discover’ this grave but am among the very few to have seen it…until now, I hope!
The Seychelles-based Burridge is, in reality, a writer and a legendary figure in these parts. He sports a trim goatee and a fugitive grin. The bespectacled author is also a tourism consultant and freelance copywriter. The compelling nature of his narrative imparts an aura of mystery to his persona and his tales.
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