Impressions Of A Visit To Oil-Fields In Persia

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15th December 2021 The following article was contributed by Mrs. Talbot Clifton to the APOC magazine, published in October 1925 (by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company Limited, Britannic House, Finsbury Circus, London) [volume 1, Number 6]. It is her impressions of a visit made the previous spring to the company’s oil-fields in Persia. She is the daughter of the late British minister to Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. She visited Persia with her husband John Talbot Clifton; He is a noted explorer and naturalist, his exploits including the discovery of a new route between Ujiji and Victoria Nyanza; and pioneer explorations in Siberia and the far North of Hudson Bay, in which latter region he discovered a new species of wild sheep, which the British Museum has named after him.

Here is the summary of Mrs. Talbot Clifton’s personal view and her visit to the company’s oil-fields in Persia:

  1. We travelled from Baghdad to Basra in the smokeless train the fuel of which was oil.
  2. The duration of the journey from Baghdad to Basra was 29 hours: 380 miles of desert.
  3. We saw the sites of previous fighting and guarding in 1920: the year of rebellion in Iraq.
  4. On the desert, we finally reached Mohammarah after some 20 miles on the banks of Karun river.
  5. We were initially welcomed by Mr. Jacks
  6. Next day we sailed up Karun river.
  7. We reached Darquain: one of the 4 pumping stations of the company.
  8. A distance of 150 miles through to Abadan: the liquid inside the pipeline is pressurized and thrusted by immense boilers, fed with oil, creating steam to push it towards Abadan.
  9. There are telephone-houses conducted by Persians to inform the other endpoints quickly.
  10. In Darquain, like other parts and regions of oil-fields, there is a British engineer, ranking below them Indian and Armenian clerks and mechanics and Iranian and Arab labourers.
  11. Mann showed us many sectors and arenas in Darquain.
  12. We moved to Ahvaz by a Ford vehicle: 40 miles away.
  13. The native part of Ahvaz which we entered and settled was full of Persian soldiers, all being under their commander’s order prime minister Reza Khan.
  14. Leaving Ahvaz next day towards Dar-i-Khazinah on a motorcycle, travelling for some 40 miles, where commences the railway line to fields.
  15. The great road to the fields was constructed by the APOC in 1907: 32 miles along and over the hills, generally following the course of the Tembi river.
  16. In 15 years, the men of the Company have made 250 miles of road, have laid many miles of rail and spun hundreds of miles of telephone wire and telegraph wire, besides maintaining communication by means of wireless telephones in Persia.
  17. More than 60 oil tankers plough (move and transfer through) the sea between Wales and Persia.
  18. The wages being paid by APOC is more generous than the wages at home (in the UK).
  19. Mechanic’s Bay: repairs are done here to the drillers’ tools, machines, motors and to the railway stock, while spare parts are made here as well. A few British mechanics direct both Indian and Persian workmen.
  20. The working hours are eight hours.
  21. Three shifts of men are provided in these departments where the work is continuous for 24 hours.
  22. Another bay: here seven Europeans oversee 100 clerks who are Armenians, Persians and Indians. 250 labourers serve this bay.
  23. Crockery, cooking utensils, furniture and chintzes are supplied by the company for all in equal shares.
  24. All is received by rail.
  25. The number of Europeans here is 380.
  26. 2000 tons comes up each month by train from Dar-i-Khazinah: materials.
  27. We saw three Americans on another rig, and three Englishmen on this rig who in two and a half months had drilled 2800 feet.
  28. The 1st pumping station is Tembi.
  29. The hospital has separate segments for Europeans, Persians, Indians and women.
  30. 34000 employees are currently working for the company in Persia and a population of 60000 people is maintained in the country as a direct result of the energies of the APOC.
  31. Well F.7 is known as the mother of prosperity. Managers of this well are Mr. Jameson (general manager of fields and refineries), Mr. Wright who is fields’ manager and Mr. Seamark (assistant fields’ manager) who kindly accompanied us.
  32. The Company was formed in 1909. Well F.7 is the romance of the fields with a high pressure and oil.
  33. Well B.1 from which no oil is drawn in the meantime. But oil was first found in well B.1.
  34. Reza Khan (prime minister of Persia) did visit the fields and was quite amazed with these complexities.
  35. Wives of employees live in bungalows.
  36. The Abadan refinery is 3000 acres. Stone is brought in from a considerable distance. The Admiralty is obtaining an important proportion of its needs of fuel from the APOC.
  37. In Persia, the company disburses £ 175000 (the British pound sterling) per month on wages.


Violet Mary Clifton (born Beauclerk) (2 November 1883 (Rome) – 20 November 1961) was an English writer, and a descendant of Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St Albans, the illegitimate son of king Charles II and Nell Gwyn.

She married the English landowner and traveller John Talbot Clifton (1868-1928) in 1907 in Brompton Oratory, London, whom she had met in Peru. They lived in the Clifton family seat at Lytham Hall, Lancashire, Kylemore House in Connemara, Ireland, and then at Kildalton Castle on the Scottish island of Islay. After her husband died in 1928 in the Canary Islands on the way home from an abortive expedition to Timbuktu she had his body embalmed and accompanied it back to Scotland for burial.

Her biography of her colourful husband, published under the title The Book of Talbot, won the 1933 James Tait Black Prize. WH Auden praised the book in a review that appeared in the Criterion. In 1935 Nevill Coghill nominated her for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but the prize was ultimately not awarded that year.

Her other books include Vision of Peru and Islands of Queen Wilhelmina, later reissued as Islands of Indonesia.

She died at Lytham Hall in 1961. John and Violet’s son was the dilettante film producer Harry Talbot de Vere Clifton, who squandered much of the family’s remaining wealth. Harry Clifton gifted a carved Lapis Lazuli to William Butler Yeats, inspiring the poem Lapis Lazuli. (source:Wikipedia)

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