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Kelly’s 12 Christmas Days – No 5, Iran 1906

December 16, 2016

Captain Thomas Kelly, now in his mid-30s, spent Christmas 1906 in the remote province of Seistan in Persia (present day Iran). There his one task was to stop an outbreak of the plague spreading to India.

It was dangerous. Previous medical officers had caught the disease and died. The tiny British consulate in Nasratabad was attacked by a 500-strong mob claiming claiming Kelly was burning the Koran – an incident reported in newspapers around the world.

But they were British and had standards as Swedish explorer Sven Hedin noted when he stayed at the consulate:

“Six Englishmen, without ladies, were staying in Seistan, and with them I spent nine memorable days. Englishmen have a knack of making themselves at home in whatever part of the world their lot may cast them, and even here in this wretched Nasretabad they lived much as in London. They did not come unshaved to luncheon in the great saloon, and at dinner they appeared in spruce attire, with starched shirts, dinner jackets, and patent leather shoes. And then we sank into the soft armchairs, and took coffee, with prime cigars, and, while the gramophone reminded us of the divas and tenors of the great world, whisky and soda were served, and we talked of Iran, Tibet, and the plague. We were in high spirits; and it was difficult to believe that all the while the angel of death was roaming about in search of his hapless victims.”

We can imagine they ensured Christmas Day 1906 was celebrated with some style.

It took two years but Kelly rid Seistan of the plague.

The Kelly story is told in Fighting for the Empire.

Follow his remarkable life through 12 Christmas Days.

Next: No 6 – Egypt, 1914

Previous: No 4 – Tibet, 1903

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