Turtle Bunbury

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Knox D'Arcy (1849 - 1917)
The First Great Oil Tycoon

See Turtle's article on Knox D'Arcy, published in the Irish Daily Mail.


Knox D'Arcy (1849-1911) was one of Australia's greatest entrepreneurs. The only son of an Irish-born solicitor, he is regarded as the founding father of the oil and petrochemical industry in Iran. His company, Anglo-Persian Oil, was the forerunner of British Petroleum. Like any billionaire worth his salt, Knox D'Arcy is miscellaneously described as a pillar of the community, a desecrator of humanity and a monumental bounder. His story begins in Devonshire but quickly moves to Queensland, Australia, where he struck lucky amid the gold mines around Rockhampton. He became a high society figure in London during the 1890s and went on to amass even greater wealth when he secured the exclusive rights to explore and exploit petroleum in Persia. The story also encompasses that of his sisters, Bertha Benson and Annie Goldsmith.

A Childhood in Newton Abbot

Knox D'Arcy was the sixth of seven children born to an Irish-born solicitor, William Francis D'Arcy and his English wife, Elizabeth Bradford. As Knox was the only son, we can assume his six sisters played a vital role in his early upbringing. His father was born in Ireland traced his lineage back to the Anglo-Norman family of D'Arcy. During the 14th century, Lord D'Arcy of Knayth had risen to become both Lord Justice and Chief Governor of Ireland. It is not yet known exactly how William Francis D'Arcy was connected to the main branch, perhaps because he seems to have abandoned Ireland at such a young age. He arrived in England during the 1830s, set up practice as a solicitor in the lively town of Newton Abbot, Devonshire. There he married Elizabeth Baker, daughter of the Rev. Robert Bradford, with whom had a family and lived on the Abbotsbury estate outside Newton Abbot. In about 1865, William made an unfortunate financial decision that bankrupted both himself and a number of his clients. He was obliged to leave England in haste.

The Flight to Australia

On 29th January 1866, William embarked upon the 'Southern Ocean' at Portsmouth. With him were his wife and family - Maria, Mary, Bertha (the future Mrs. JR Benson), Lucy, Anastasia ('Annie'), Knox (the oil magnate to be) and Frances. Also on board this ship were the Goldsmith and Higgens families. Edward Goldsmith, who subsequently married Annie D'Arcy, wrote a detailed diary of the ensuing 105 day journey to Australia from which much of the following is taken.

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Above: William Francis D'Arcy,
father of Knox, photographed
after his arrival in Australia in
1866. He was dead just four
years later.

On Board the Southern Ocean

The voyage to Australia proved to be pretty horrendous from the outset. The weather was so bad they could not even leave Portsmouth for 18 days. Before the ship set sail, one of the crew, sentenced to be thrashed for bad mouthing the first mate, escaped into the night causing much panic amid the ladies. Some days later, while the Captain was back on the mainland attending to last minute affairs, the ship was caught in a powerful storm that 'blew all day, shrieking through the masts, yards and rigging of the vessels'. Three ships nearby broke their cables and were swept away. One was lost with all its crew, a second was lost but the crew was saved and the third was saved in Portsmouth harbour. Edward recorded, 'It was an awful sight to see other ships drifting away without any hope for them'. Passengers and crew of the 'Southern Ocean' feared that at any moment their ship, with neither pilot nor captain on board, would break loose and carry them to their deaths.

Miss. D'Arcy's Rather Nice

'Don't think much of our fellow passengers at present', Edward complained to his diary in the early days of the voyage. 'One of the Miss D 'Arcys rather nice looking'. Before long, he and Annie were walking the deck. When an aunt berated him for spending too much time with the girl, Edward scoffed: 'Think it awful humbug - thought I would not take any notice of her so I walked with Annie D 'Arcy on the poop for a long time this evening'.

Albatross's and Sad Times

The ship finally set sail on Sunday 18th February. By the following Friday, they were off Gibraltar making 240 miles in 24 hours, a good average of 10 knots. On Sunday 25th they were off Madeira and making 13 knots, and on Wednesday 28th they entered the Tropics. In daylight hours passengers walked or played games on the decks, fished or sat about and read; in the evenings they played games, watched home-made plays, readings, concerts or danced. Later in the trip, they came across a number of luckless albatrosses, which they shot. Edward found the journey claustrophobic and is regularly to be found cursing the other passengers, particularly the Germans and Murphy, the purser, who sat next to him at dinner time 'and smells so beastly hot I can hardly eat my dinner'. He came to blows with a chap called Harlin when the latter's dog attacked him as he danced with Lucy D'Arcy. The arduous conditions continued to take their toll, particularly on the destitute passengers below deck. Shortly after they passed the Cape Verde Islands (where they saw 'a lot of whales, one shark, a turtle and a great many jelly fish'), a woman gave birth to a little girl but both mother and child died the following day. The next day, Edward watched them 'sew her up with her baby and pitch her overboard and directly after that saw a large shark going just in the direction of the body'. The weather became increasingly humid as they voyaged across the Equator and many of the men were given to jumping overboard to bathe until someone saw a shark. 'They all came out like a shot', wrote Edward, 'and although they talked very bravely, none got in again'.

New Life in Queensland

On Saturday 2nd June 1866 - three months and twelve days after their departure from Portsmouth - the 'Southern Ocean' and the D'Arcy family anchored in Moreton Bay, Brisbane, Queensland. [Back in Ireland that same day, Captain William McClintock Bunbury of Lisnavagh, passed away at the house in County Carlow he had built twenty years earlier]. It was a good time to arrive in the colony as, due to recent bank failures, selling prices were low. Edward Goldsmith and his brother William began running cattle and sheep while William D'Arcy recommenced his practice as a solicitor in Rockhampton. On Christmas Eve 1866, his daughter, Bertha D'Arcy was married to the Canadian born doctor and aspiring politician, John Robinson Benson. Another daughter, Lucy married the surveyor and geographer Archibald Richardson, adopted son of Arctic explorer Sir John Richardson, who had accompanied the Jardine brothers on their pioneering exploration of northern Queensland in 1864. Meanwhile, young Knox joined his father's practice. However, when William Francis D'Arcy died in 1871, his widow and most of her daughters soon tired of the hard life in Australia and returned to England.

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Above: Knox's sister Mary D'Arcy.

Edward Goldsmith and the Misses D'Arcy

At this juncture, we might detour from the story of the D'Arcy's to follow that of their fellow passengers, the Goldsmiths, who fared rather less well in Australia. Edward Goldsmith, author of the diary that chronicled the voyage to Australia, got into all sorts of knots when he married one of Bertha and Knox D'Arcy's sisters - and had an affair with another. Upon arrival in Australia, Edward's elder brother William Goldsmith had married another of the Southern Ocean's passengers, Dora Higgens, in 1867 and settled in Toowoomba. However, he died of an abscess in his ear just six months later. Edward sold up much of their farming interests and became engaged to Anastasia (Annie) D'Arcy, who was already complaining that she did not enjoy life in Australia. They were married on 2nd February 1869, and their firstborn, Constance Emily Goldsmith, was born on 14th January 1870. The work-shy Edward and his family returned to England soon after the death of William D'Arcy in 1871 and settled at Cams, a lovely, sequestered Jacobean house in Hambledon.

The Guernsey Connection

In 1875, after the birth of their second daughter Marion, Edward and Annie Goldsmith left for Guernsey where Mrs. D'Arcy was staying with her daughters, Maria, Mary and Frances. While in Guernsey, Edward and Frances, then in her twenties, embarked upon an illicit affair. 'If this was a case of 'careless rapture', then it was clearly more careless than rapture, for a child was born', wrote their granddaughter. 'Though the child did not live, its arrival had a devastating effect; the D'Arcys had to leave Guernsey, Edward fled to Australia and Frances removed herself to a convent'. Edward returned home in 1878 and, with tail firmly between legs, he called upon both Frances and Annie. Frances was in a convent and Annie, persuaded by Frances and Mrs D'Arcy, 'forgave Edward and returned with him to Cams'.

The Demise of a Marriage

Annie bore Edward two further daughters - Maud in 1880 and Lucy in 1882 - and a son, John (known in the family as Jack) in 1882. At Jack's birth, the Hambledon church bells were rung. The Goldsmiths marriage continued to wane with Edward's ineptitude at holding down a career and he was obliged to move to a lodging near Littlehampton, while Annie stayed with her difficult mother and unmarried sisters Maria and Mary at 55 Arundel Road. It was there that her youngest son, (Edward) Philip Goldsmith, was born in 1887. Annie had by now 'rashly and tactlessly became a Roman Catholic, which maddened Edward, who held very strong, low-church views'. The baby was baptized in the Roman Catholic Faith at Arundel church 'with the doors locked against his father'.

The Wanderers

The Goldsmith's marriage collapsed entirely when Annie drove off, leaving the family for good, taking her 18-month-old baby Philip with her. She fled first to Southampton, then to Guernsey, where she stayed a year or more, and then with the FitzJameses at Clifton. In 1890, she moved to London, staying first with her sisters Maria and Mary D'Arcy, and then at Mount Waltham with her sister Bertha whose husband, Dr. Benson, had since deceased. Further years of wandering ensued with Annie determined to hide from her estranged husband. On one occasion he came upon them on the streets of London and horrific row ensued as Annie and Edward tried to drag poor Philip in opposing directions. In time, she went to stay with her brother Knox D'Arcy at his houses in Paris and Brussels where Philip went to school at a convent. In 1893 Annie and Philip returned to England and stayed with Knox and his wife, 'Aunt Elena' at Stanmore Hall. Philip later recalled how very kind Elena was, until he was sent as a border to Hodder, a Jesuit preparatory school 'of the harsher kind where he was very unhappy and dreadfully homesick', and then on to Stoneyhurst.

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Above: An extract from the Goldsmith diary.

The Reunion of the Goldsmiths

The story of Philip Goldsmith's reunion with his estranged brothers and sisters is poignantly recalled in his daughter's memoirs. He joined the Royal Navy's Paymaster branch and, in 1905, was appointed Assistant Clerk in H.M.S. Commonwealth, a new ship in the Atlantic Fleet. By 1910, he was Captain's Secretary [Captain's Clerk as it was called in those days] on the Cadet Training Cruiser, H.M.S. Cornwall, on which happy ship he 'made many friends, rode cross-country in Spain, shot wild duck in Greece, fished for salmon in Canada, climbed the pyramids in Egypt, kissed the Pope's hand in Rome, staked money on the tables of Monte Carlo, played cricket, rugby, soccer, tennis, hockey, and golf - not a negligible achievement for the shy, 'unmanly', lonely boy escaping from his less-than-satisfactory parents into the Royal Navy'. Back at Plymouth the following year, he met 'my young cousin, D 'Arcy Benson' who was serving on H.M.S Bellerophon. The ship was known by its crew as 'Billy Ruffian'. In March 1913, he entertained his cousin D'Arcy Benson to lunch at Devonport while the whole port was 'stiff with Dreadnoughts' and commented 'thought him much improved & a very cheery fellow'. [D'Arcy Benson was the grandson of Annie's sister Bertha].

Dr. John Benson

Knox D'Arcy's elder sister Bertha was married on Christmas Eve 1866 to Dr. John Robinson Benson, a 35-year-old Canadian émigré with English and Irish ancestry. For more on his roots, see Bensons of The Fould. The marriage took place at at St Paul's Church of England, Rockhampton, Queensland. Dr. Benson had arrived in Australia the previous year. His reasons for coming to Australia are at present unknown; his twin brother Thomas Benson died in 1867, possibly in Jersey City. Shortly after the marriage, Dr. Benson set up a medical practice in Rockhampton. By 1870 he had moved into politics as the elected representative of the small gold-mining town of Clermont. During his time in Canada, Dr. Benson had worked with his uncle, Thomas Benson, on the development of the railways. He advocated that railways, built cheaply, could open vast tracts of land for small settlers in Queensland and thus attract both immigrants and investment. He continued to practice as a doctor and was appointed government medical officer at Gympie. He was appointed to the Commission of the Peace in 1876 and elected President of the Gympie Agricultural Society in 1877. He resigned from government service in 1884 and left for Melbourne. He died at St Kilda on 25 July 1885, apparently as a result of a riding accident. He was 51 years old. His probate was sworn at £6800. He left a widow, Bertha, seven sons and two daughters.

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Above: Bertha Benson (nee D'Arcy) as a young girl and in later life.

Bertha's Return

In 1886, financially buoyed by the flotation of her brother's Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company, Bertha returned to England with several of her daughters and settled at Beer in South Devon.* They settled at Primley Park at Torquy in South Devon. (6) The house burned down during this time - 'must have been a good party', suggests her grandson, Captain Ian Benson - and Bertha later went to live in Bath. Bertha was a small woman but, according to her grandson, she was more than able to handle her seven sons. She would belt them with whatever she had. 'When she got really mad, one of them would pick her up and not put her down again until she quietened. Then the others would run off and he would drop her and then he would run off too'. At any rate, the seven brothers secured seven brides - in fact, two had two wives. 'It all seems a long time ago now', recalled her great-granddaughter Wendy in 2006 who has miniatures of many of them. 'They were all very familiar to us once. We knew all these people but they become history when you get to the generation after". Bertha Benson died in 1921.

* The farm where they initially lived was later home to the Whitley family. Herbert Whitley effectively converted the demesne into the Paignton Zoo Environmental Park. (www.paigntonzoo.org.uk)

Knox D'Arcy - The Early Years

Bertha Benson's only brother, the billionaire (William) Knox D'Arcy was born in Newton Abbot on October 11th 1849. He was educated at Westminster School in London until Christmas 1865; the school records him (and his two sons) as "Old Wets" but does not offer a reason for his early departure. (Thanks to Tom Edlin) The reason, of course, was that the 17-year-old had to accompany his bankrupt father, mother and six sisters on their flight to Australia.

Young Knox D'Arcy studied law and joined his father's practice in Rockhampton (or 'Rocky'), becoming extremely competent in the art of land speculation. He was not long in the business when his father, William D'Arcy, passed away in 1871. In 1872, 23-year-old Knox D'Arcy was married in Sydney to the beautiful Miss. (Maria Colletta) Elena Birkbeck, only daughter of Samuel and Damiana Birkbeck of Glenmore Homestead, Parkhurst, Rockhampton. She was nine years his senior. The newlyweds lived at "Ellan Vanin" on King Street, Wandal, Rockhampton, and there raised five children - two sons, Frank and Lionel - and three daughters, Elena, Violet and Ethel.

The Mount Morgan Gold Mines

One of the dominant families in Rockhampton at this time was that of the Morgans. Their womenfolk ran the Criterion Hotel while the three brothers - Thomas, Frederick and Edwin Morgan - prospected and developed mines in the surrounding hills. In 1882 the Morgans took up the mining lease on Ironstone Mountain (later named Mount Morgan) from the Gordon family. They did not have sufficient money to cover the entire lease. Thus, they let word slip to Thomas Skarratt Hall, manager of the Queensland National Bank in Rockhampton, that they were willing to transfer half their interests in the Ironside mine to anybody who invested STG£1200 in the company. D'Arcy was by now one of Rocky's leading citizens and the concept struck him as attractive. He teamed up with a farming pal called William Pattison and agreed to invest £2000 for a half share. At the close of 1882, D'Arcy, Hall, Pattison and the Morgan brothers formed a syndicate. The initial returns were very good but, sticking to an old Australian tradition that mines deteriorate with depth, the Morgan brothers decided to bow out and sell their shares over the course of 1883 and 1884. In October 1886, D'Arcy and the remaining shareholders agreed to form a properly constituted, registered company with a nominal capital of one million pounds. The Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company Limited was thus formed with D'Arcy as director and major shareholder holding 358, 334 shares. (1) They had their head Office and Gold Store located at 236 Quay Street, Rockhampton. (2) D'Arcy's sister Bertha Benson, lately widowed after the death of her husband in a horse fall, was given substantial shares in the company.


1. H. J. Gibbney, 'Morgan, Frederick Augustus (1837 - 1894)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 5, Melbourne University Press, 1974, pp 287-288.
2. The building has been home of ABC Radio and Television since 1963.

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Above: Knox's home at Stanmore Hall.

An Australian Gent in London

By 1889, Knox D'Arcy was an exceedingly wealthy man with a fortune equivalent to that of Bill Gates today. He returned to England that same year and purchased two large mansions - Stanmore Hall in Middlesex and Bylaugh Park in Norfolk. It was to Stanmore that his sister Annie Goldsmith sought refuge with her son Philip during the painful and somewhat violent separation from her husband Edward. Knox also had a substantial townhouse at 42 Grosvenor Square and houses in Paris and Brussells. Knox D'Arcy was by no means alone in purchasing property within the heart of what had hitherto been the exclusive enclave of the British aristocracy. The establishment of a new Stock Exchange in London in 1885, backed by firm adherence to the gold standard, had attracted the greatest financial dynasties in the world to London - Hirsch, d'Erlanger, Rothschild, Bischoffsheim, Lazard, Seligman, Speyer and Stern. These new financiers came for profit and stayed for prestige. Knox was as great an entertainer as any of them, hosting dinners at his private enclosure at the Epsom Racecourse and throwing wild parties in London where guests twirled to the voices of Nellie Melba and Enrico Caruso.

Elena D'Arcy

However, Knox's 23-year long marriage to the Australian-born Elena had come asunder and the couple separated in 1895. In a letter to Annie Goldsmith, Elena wrote: "'Wealth did not make me happy, on the Contrary, wealth has brought all this misery and unhappiness on me, and flattery and success has turned yr Brother's head'. She kept in touch with Annie and Philip after her parting from Knox, no doubt bonded by the similarity of their situations. In a letter written from the Hotel des lies Britainniques in San Remo, Italy, and dated 16th November 1895, she talks of her relief that Annie's sister Frances, with whom Edward had his affair, 'went to Confession before her death - I think it a happy release for her - as her ill-health end the lonely purposeless life she led must have been too dreadful'. She goes on: 'So you are still a wanderer - well! I am a wanderer too, and less fortunate than you in one way as I cannot even live near my children, but you can go & at least see your little Philip as often as you like. I suppose Mary has told you that I am leaving for Australia in January. I intend to stay in Melbourne till the hot weather is quite over, and then go up to Rockhampton to see my Mother & my Brothers who still live in the same place. My Mother will I know be very glad to see me again, although the poor old lady will be much grieved at the sad & painful circumstances that make me go out to Australia. I am taking a companion with me - a Miss Robertson who is here with me now, but I have no maid with me. I had to part with Tina who was so useful and faithful to me but I cannot afford to keep a companion & a maid too ... Lucy Richardson [Annie's and Knox's sister who married Dr Richardson] will be sure to ask me all sorts of questions about her sisters and how you all were when I last saw you. I saw all my children before I left England ... [The last page of the letter is missing]
In another letter to Annie written in December, Elena bemoans all the 'terrible trials, ironies & unhappiness' that she had to suffer. No clue is given as to what caused the sad rift and judicial separation between herself and Knox but there may well have been a scandal of some sort. She refers to Knox as 'JG'.(for reasons unclear). On 9th August 1896, she writes, she 'signed the deed of separation - & JG - (I can't bear to call him by his Christian name now) signed it after in the presence of my Solicitor ... he refused to allow me to be present at Lena's [their daughter] wedding'. The letter ends: 'I have had most kind & sympathetic letters from many persons in High position whose friendship I greatly value because they have stuck to me when I am no longer Mistress of Stanmore Hall ... With much love to you both, I am yr affectionate Sister, Elena'.
Elena D'Arcy died on 19th December 1897.

Nina Boucicault

Two years later, in 1899, Knox D'Arcy married secondly Nina Boucicault (Mrs. Ernestine Nutting), daughter of Arthur L. Boucicault, proprietor of the Rockhampton Argus and sister to the Australian singer Mary Boucicault. Nina is apparently not to be confused with her first cousin, Nina Boucicault, the celebrated stage and film actress and daughter of Dion Boucicault. Further links to the latter can be found here and here and here.

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Above: The Abadan oilfields as they
were by the 1980s.

An Invitation to Persia

Several attempts had been made to discover oil in Persia (modern day Iran) during the last decades of the 19th century, most notably by Baron Julius de Reuter, founder of Reuter's News Agency. These had all come asunder, largely due to Anglo-Russian hostilities in the country. In 1900, Reuter's private secretary, Monsieur Cotte, met in Paris with General Kitabgi Khan, a fun-loving Persian of Armenian origins and former Director General of the Persian Customs. Cotte had on his personage a report published by a French geologist called De Morgan (no relation to the Australians) entitled 'Note sur les Gites de Naphte de Kand-I-Shirin' which claimed Persia was capable of having vast oil reserves. Cotte and Kitabgi then called upon Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, formerly British Ambassador in Tehran during the time of Reuters exploration. Sir Henry crossed the English Channel in pursuit of a financial backer and presented the idea to Knox D'Arcy. With the prospect of a major European war never far away, D'Arcy knew the world's increasingly mechanized armies would need oil. Lots of oil. He dispatched Alfred Marriot, a cousin of his private secretary, to Tehran to negotiate a concession to explore oil. A geologist by name of HT Burls was also sent to make a technical report. It helped that Kitabgi was a personal friend of the Shah's Prime Minister (or Grand Vizer) Atabake Azam.

Oil Contract Secured

Tsarist Russia, jealously dominant in the north of Persia, had just begun to protest against D'Arcy's involvement when Marriot seized the opportunity and offered an immediate payment of STG£10,000 to the Persian government. In return, D'Arcy secured 60 years of petroleum exploration and exploitation throughout 490,000 square miles of the Persian Empire. The contract was dated 21st May 1901.The only area excluded from the concession were the five northern provinces bordering Russia, namely Gilan, Mazandaran, Gorgan, Khorassan and Azerbaijan. As it happens, the Green family forbears had this area covered too for Jim Whishaw would soon be in the ascendance at the Baku Oil Fields in Azerbaijan. One assumes D'Arcy and Whishaw were known to each other. (The Baku Oil Fields is where James Bond goes in the less-than-worthy film, 'The World is Nor Enough').

Drilling Begins

An Englishman named G.B. Reynolds with wide experience in India and Sumatra was recruited as chief engineer. Drilling began at Chiah Surkh near the frontier of Iraq (then part of the Turkish Empire). It is odd to think of either Baghdad or Basra having an existence before the recent wars but Reynold's had his headquarters in Baghdad and Basra was the company's principal storage depot. Under the terms of the 1901 concession, D'Arcy was obliged to form an exploitation company within two years. This required some STG£600,000 capital, most of it personally subscribed by D'Arcy. The concession also required him to pay a lump sum of STG£20,000 and 20,000 shares to the Persian Government. Together with equipping and maintaining a drilling party - and trying to outwit the bureaucratic interference of Turkish officialdom - the costs of this operation must have been astronomical. D'Arcy dryly remarked: "Good news from Persia would be very acceptable now".

Oil in My Bones

Knox D'Arcy's patience and resources would be sorely tested over the ensuing years. In May 1905 he was obliged to sign an agreement with the Burmah Oil Company to form a new undertaking called the Concessions Syndicate. They agreed to spend a further £50,000 on exploration plus another £20,000 if required and also to advance D'Arcy £25,000 towards his overdraft, repayable if oil was not found. The search went on for several more years, exhausting D'Arcy's fortunes. In 1907, the Anglo-Russian Entente (in which Jim Whishaw undoubtedly had a hand) eased friction between the two countries and enabled D'Arcy to spread his exploratory wings in Persia. But Burmah Oil had had enough and were starting to call for a halt to proceedings. Legend has it that in May 1908, D'Arcy had finally cabled Reynolds to call off the search when an old timer with a drill said "I can feel a strike in my bones". Disobeying D'Arcy's orders, Reynolds continued to drill at the Masjid-I-Sulaiman site for three weeks and on May 26th 1908 they struck a gusher at 1180 feet.

Anglo-Persian Oil Company

The Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) was formed in 1909 when D'Arcy sold 51% of his business in London, with the governments of both Britain and Persia as major shareholders. D'Arcy received a seat on the Board which he held until his death in 1917. The company would later become British Petroleum. By 1911, the company had run a pipeline from the find to a refinery at Abadan. A few months later, Winston Churchill, Britain's First Lord of the Admiralty, announced that the driving systems of all vessels in the Royal Navy would be converted from coal to oil. APOC would provide oil at a major discount in return for which the British Government would finance the company and build its world famous refinery at Abadan. In 1912, the Mount Morgan company was floated on the London Stock Exchange with D'Arcy as Chairman.

Death of Knox D'Arcy

William Know D'Arcy died at Stanmore Hall in Middlesex on May 1st 1917 at the age of 68. The people of Rockhampton do not remember d'Arcy as fondly as they might. He seems to have contributed as little of his amassed wealth to the town as the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company gave Iran. After his death, the town reluctantly named a street after him. (See: www.mountmorgan.com)

Prince Firouz, OPEC and the Future of Oil in Iran

In 1919, the Anglo-Persian agreement effectively made Iran a puppet state of the British Empire - or even of British Petroleum. In return for a remarkably small loan, Iran gave Britain almost total control of its oil industry. Amongst the three Persian signatories to this agreement was Prince Firouz Norsat-Doleh, sometime foreign minister and finance minister of Iran. He was a high-spender in the true Persian sense of the world, a revered party animal in Paris who owned one of the two Rolls Royces in Tehran and counted the future George VI and film director Jacques Cocteau among his friends. As part of the 1919 agreement, British Foreign Minister Lord Curzon signed a written affidavit promising British protection and asylum for each of the three signatories. However, despite this guarantee, the politically volatile Prince was arrested on the Shah's orders in 1937 and murdered in the small desert town of Semnan. The Prince's brother Manucher Farmanfarmarian would go on to dedicate his life to retrieving concessions from Anglo-Iranian Oil to maximize returns for Iran. In 1959 he became one of the founding fathers of OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). If left to prosper without interference from foreign military might, it is expected that Iran can provide between 10 and 12% of the increase in world demand for oil by 2050.

With thanks to Adam Green, Ian Benson, Marni Foote and Rob Kemp (http://copwick.net/familyhistory).


Blood and Oil: Memoirs of a Persian Prince, Manuncher & Roxane Farmanfarmarian (Prion Books).