From Arthur Cook in Abadan
Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 – 1954), Friday 19 October 1951, page 2
«A NOTICE has appeared on the front page of the Abadan Daily News under the heading “Important.” It explained to the population that there were still some British left in Abadan.»
«”They are British journalists and one Swiss photographer,” read the notice. “The Swiss are fine people and our friends, but we must show Persian hospitality to the British journalists, too.” Those few, words explain the feeling towards the British of 90 per cent of Abadan residents now.»
Wherever the handful of British are seen, they are met with hostile stares from the Persians. The refinery general office is a mixture of friendliness, astonishment, and smooth politeness at our approach. It all depends on whom you meet as you move around. Friendliness from the Armenians, more highly educated and filling the main office jobs; astonishment that we dare stay from the Persians who lie or loll around the corridors; and smooth politeness from the senior Persian officials who have moved in the British management’s offices.
The officials lean back and glory in their new surroundings. They use the stock phrase: ‘”Everything is running smoothly and well under the new management.” British efficiency was at such a high pitch that force of habit alone will enable those Persian workers still active to keep the system running for many weeks. But one part of this oil town is dead and deserted.
Thirty-seven Persians now live in the English sector of Braim, where once 450 bungalows and dozens of flats were occupied by oil men and their wives and children. At night the only movement in street of neat hedgerowed houses is by the guards and armed police. Since the first small wave of looting immediately after the British left, the lights have been left on permanently in all bungalow porches. It is a deterrent to the thieves. Members of the exclusive Boat Club, now guarded by Persian sailors are using some of the 30 launches and sailing boats left by the British.
Abadan’s Gymkhana Club which was booked every night in the next winter season for dances, concerts, casino nights, and musical recitals is dark, locked and guarded. Bartenders turn up for duty no more. Abadan is now a town of prohibition, and thousands of pounds’ worth of beer, whisky, gin and brandy left by the British is on the way to Teheran for conversion into cash. Across the road in the billiards hall at the huge central restaurant, four Persians were trying to play snooker with the few cues left with tips. Billiards boy Hussein hurried towards me when I walked in to-day. “You play, sahib?” he asked excitedly. “But sorry, sahib, no beer. When the British come back -one, two months-plenty beer again.” Upstairs the long bar is closed and deserted. In the restaurant 20 waiters stand serving three Persians where 100 used to sit. At the big Anglo-Iranian hospital, Persian Dr. Sarfeh sits in the office where the chief medical officer, Scottish Dr. Sandy Anderson, used to be. The hospital is still running with British-trained smoothness, but when I enquired at the casualty department yesterday if they were busy, I was told: “No, refinery not working, no accidents, we no busy.” Sprays still play all day on the lawns at Bungalow Three, still beautifully furnished as general refineries manager Kenneth Ross left it. But the place is empty until rival claimants settle their squabble. The Oil Board chairman engineer Bazargan feels he should have it. but senior official Dr. Falla, with five children, claims it. Chief Britain-hater Makki will ensure that neither has It. He wants it himself.
A flock of a hundred sheep wandered past the refinery at the week-end on the way from north of Bawarda to the so far uneaten pastures of the British bungalow front gardens. But much grass has already disappeared. Boys from the nearby Arab village are going round the streets with donkeys, cutting the grass and filling sacks, which they pile high on the donkeys’ backs. A tiny Armenian secretary was in tears at the general office when I called. For years she studied English to qualify as a secretary. Her new Persian boss hal sacked her from her position. Her knowledge of Persian is not good enough for the new management. Many other Armenians expect a similar fate. Rashid, a waiter at the Guest House, Braim’s only hotel, which was run by Mr. and Mrs. Flavell, ignored my request for Sunday afternoon tea. I told him I would report him to Mr. and Mrs. Flavell-thereupon, he jumped into action and brought the tea in record time. So far the hotel is continuing at the high Flavelt standard. They say: “Mrs. Flavell-back soon.”