Saturday, April 5, 2014

Historic Tour with the British Ambassador and AUB President

On 2 April 2014, the committee for the Anglo-American Cemetery Association hosted a historic tour of the AAC as part of the Centennial Year Commemoration Events. His Excellency Tom Fletcher, British Ambassador to Lebanon, and AUB President, Dr. Peter Dorman, participated in the event, alongside relatives of those buried in the cemetery and representatives from the British and American communities.
AACA President Ms. Harriet Joly
with British Ambassador Tom Fletcher

Following a short welcome by AACA President, Ms. Harriet Joly, Ambassador Fletcher and Dr. Dorman both gave short, but insightful speeches, reflecting upon the long history of British and American residency in the region. Dr. Dorman, who is the great-great grandson of AUB founder Daniel Bliss and has seven relatives buried in the AAC, highlighted the importance of ard (earth, land), which for those like himself is both here in Lebanon and there in the United States/United Kingdom. 

This was followed by a tour of the cemetery given by AAC Secretary Dr. Christine Lindner. The tour highlighted important figures such as Eli Smith (II F 7), John Wortabet (II F 10), Daniel Bliss (II G 4) and Cornelius Van Dyck (II F 1). The graves of Dr. William Carslaw (II D 6) and his relatives were pointed out as examples of recent restoration of graves.

The tour concentrated on retelling the story of British, Commonwealth and American residents of the region during WWI, which began 100 years ago. 

UK Ambassador Tom Fletcher &
AUB President Peter Dorman
during the tour

This included individuals like Ernest and Kenneth Joly (IV G 1 & 2) and Warren (IV D 3), Edwin and Henry Glockler who, as British nationals in Beirut, were arrested by the Ottoman authorities and deported to Anatolia. Here they witnessed the Armenian Genocide and Deportation. These men often befriended German soldiers stationed in the Ottoman Empire. As such, these Brits had a very different experience of WWI on the Ottoman Front than their compatriots on the British Home and Western Fronts. It was also pointed out that Mary Bliss Dale (II G 10), the great grandmother of Dr. Dorman, was also briefly arrested for pursuing relief work during WWI!

AACA Secretary Christine Lindner
at the grave of Martha Frearson
Another part of the tour included the graves of British, Commonwealth and American relief workers for the Armenians. This included Martha Frearson (V A 14) whose beautiful grave is pictured here. This British woman opened an orphanage for Armenian children in the village of Shemlan. The building was an old mission building, which eventually became the famous MECAS building. 

The grave of Dr. Arthur Dray (VI F 1) was also highlighted. Dray founded the Dental School at SPC. As a British national, he was originally arrested with the Jolys and Glocklers, at the start of WWI. But after successfully treating the victim of an assassination attempt of Jamal Pasha (the Ottoman governor of the region), Dray was released alongside his SPC colleagues Dr. Charles Webster (VI E 2) and Dr. Harris Graham (IV D 1). In 1916, Dray opened a Soup Kitchen in Brummana with the Cortas family to provide food and work for approx 1,200 individuals on Mount Lebanon. 

The tour included the grave for Flying Officer Geoffrey Urquhart-Pullen (IX L 2) and the retelling of his interesting story, which you can read on an earlier post. With the help of the AACA and the British Embassy, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is restoring Urquhart-Pullen’s grave, which should be ready in time for this year’s Remembrance Day.
Tour Participants

The tour ended at the grave for Bassil Fuleihan (X P 1), the former member of Lebanese Parliament who was killed as a result of injuries sustained during the assassination of Rafic Hariri, and whose family has long established connections to the British and American communities in Beirut.

In addition to providing guests with information on some of those interred in the cemetery, the tour was a time for fellowship, as it brought together Lebanese, Palestinian, British and American residents of Beirut, whose families’ histories form part of the intricately entwined connections amongst these areas of the world. 

Generous donations were made to the Centennial Year Commemoration Funds that will be applied to restoring the cemetery, particularly the crumbling north wall. The committee for the AACA is very grateful for this support and for those who were able to participate in this lovely event.  

AACA Committee with
caretakers Mr. Yehia Bsat & Mr. Nabih Sayegh
Many thanks to AACA committee members, especially Hazel Nicholmann, for their hard work in coordinating the event and to Abir Brier from the British Embassy for providing the lovely photographs. 

Christine B. Lindner
5 April 2014

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Historic Tour with British Ambassador and AUB President by Christine B. Lindner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.