Dr William Cormick

by Vincent Flannery

Vincent’s essay on Dr Cormick was first published in Solas, the Irish Bahá’í studies review.

John and William Cormick

On the borders of Counties Kilkenny and Tipperary in South East Ireland, at the ancient Ahenny monastery, stand two ringed High Crosses (in the north and south of the site), symbols of that great age of the island’s history when Irishmen travelled far and wide. The crosses are considered to be the first of their kind, dating to the ninth century. Although uniquely Irish, their visual references draw from other cultures; elaborately carved geometric strapwork ornament, thought to have originated in Coptic Ethiopia, as well as figurative ornaments depicting scenes that include the Garden of Eden.1 A special feature of the north cross is its unusual, large conical capstone.

A curious local tale tells of a third, west cross, which is said to have been transported eastwards. As the story goes, it never reached its destination as the ship sank early on in its voyage from Waterford harbour. It is said this happened some 200 years ago. Perhaps to be dismissed as just a local story, it is interesting to note nonetheless, as it was in 1800 that a local man named John Cormick (of Cussane, Tullahought, County Kilkenny – a few miles from Ahenny) did indeed go East, specifically to Madras, India as a surgeon to Sir John Malcolm’s expedition to Persia and then, via Bushihr, to Tabriz in 1810. We do not have a date for the birth of John Cormick but we do know that he studied medicine in London. At that time it would not have been uncommon for a man of twenty years to have completed his education, as we will see from accounts of the life of his son, William.

It was my luck in June 2000 to come across a reference to John Cormick in an index for The Old Kilkenny Review, published in 1996 by the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, by simply entering a search on the internet using the terms “Cormick, Tabriz”; luckier still to obtain the last copy for sale and excited to find therein a photograph of William Cormick. In the Review, the author’s name, Mr John Landy and his Galway address were listed. Later, in some nervousness, I telephoned him, stating my interest and conscious of the value of any information he may wish to share. I need not have worried, the Australian accent on the phone communicated warmth and an immediate invitation to visit. I went to see him two hours later and was treated with informal and polite friendliness by his wife and himself. At the time I arrived we sat together to watch the end of a TV programme about a refugee to Ireland, a black artist, and her work. With such interests, I knew then that I was in the right place.

The home was filled with Mrs. Landy’s charming paintings and many books, and, in a back room used as a study where he spends much of his retirement hours, Mr. Landy kindly began to share with me the fruits of his own research. Being a distant relative of John and William Cormick, he explained that his great grandfather (also John Landy) was a first cousin of William, and that members of his own branch of the family had moved to Australia, whence he himself had returned to retire in Ireland. The Cormick family came originally from County Kilkenny, where they held land and property at Cussane, Tullahought in the south west of that county, near Ahenny and Carrick-on-Suir (County Tipperary). The Landy family name comes from the Norman, de la Launde. Six Landy brothers had leases from the Ormonde estate. Ten sisters and three brothers emigrated to Australia in the 1800s. He had heard from a Cormick relative that there were members of the family who had been in Persia. Although little attention was paid to this by others in the family, his father’s aunt, Bessie Cormick, encouraged him to do some research and he managed to trace photographs of both William and his Armenian wife, Tamar, and had corresponded extensively with authors of books and British records offices. Authors included Anthony Parsons, Anne Lambdon, Moojan Momen and Denis Wright.

He encouraged me greatly and generously shared all of his information, including his copy of William’s photograph, which I later scanned and edited. He told me that the photograph was “amongst the effects of a late cousin of William”. The photograph of Tamar, William’s wife, he told me, had been mislaid. With his directions and encouragement, I travelled to Tullahought and took some photographs.

The remains of the Cormick homeplace are still to be seen near Tullahought. A visit there banished ideas of a grand residence, expected, perhaps, knowing something of the distinguished history of some of the family. Accessed from the road by a lane-way bordered by dry, limestone walls, one approaches a square, pillared gateway, the entrance to a central courtyard with long outbuildings arranged round. Enough does remain, however, to imagine the place as it once was, with fine, country stonework and some ancient shrubbery. Specific directions were given to me by a neighbour, who lived in a smaller, but similarly structured holding. The original Cormick dwelling house no longer stands, although its position is clearly seen by its remains. Tall oaks stand in the surrounding hedged fields, perhaps once witnesses to the lives of generations of this family with their remarkable story. I left in another direction, through stubble fields and by a lane-way, dotted with fallen crab apples, in the sunset of one atmospheric All Souls Eve. In timeless countryside and in the absence of the signs and intrusions of the twenty-first century, it wasn’t difficult to imagine what it might have been like for a young man to be leaving his home, possibly for ever. Did he wonder where his steps might be leading him to and about the destiny awaiting him and his family, that would be talked and written about two hundred years later and beyond?

John Cormick

At exactly what age John Cormick left Ireland we don’t know at present. We do know, however, that he was to study in England and qualify as a doctor at the Royal College of Surgeons in London in 1800. That a young Irish Catholic from a farming background should find himself so well placed for a future career may appear at first surprising, but it seems from my talks with his distant relative, Mr. Landy, that the family was well established with their Protestant neighbours. In the area there was notable co-operation with and even adoption of Irish culture by the English ascendancy, well established since Norman times and some having remained Catholic. Other native Irish families from the region, including the Sheil family of Waterford and Tipperary, had also managed to maintain their Catholic identity and to prosper, perhaps because they served in British government agencies and forces. After qualifying in London, John Cormick went to Madras, India, serving first as an assistant surgeon in 1800 and then Surgeon in 1807, with a British expeditionary force. He left India on January 10th, 1810 with the ship Psyche bound for Bushihr, with Major General John Malcolm on his second mission to Persia, and from there to Tabriz. Carvings in stone of the names of some of the regiment, including Cormick’s, at the ruins of Persepolis testify to their presence there.

In Tabriz, John was subsequently employed by the East India Company and attached to the army and household of the Crown Prince, Abbas Mirza, who was a relatively enlightened member of the Shah’s family – progressive in his thinking.2 John was married to an Armenian Christian woman in 1812. Rev. Henry Martyn, a Protestant minister, officiated. Rev. Martyn, who came from India to Shiraz in 1811, is the earliest name associated with Protestant missions in Persia.3 Later the Russians objected to the British presence and, when British connections to the Court were severed in 1815, John Cormick remained in Tabriz. In 1820 a son, William, was born.

John Cormick found increasing favour with the Crown Prince, who encouraged western medicine, and he was appointed the Prince’s chief physician. He held this position alongside John McNeill after 1821 and became wealthy. (McNeill was appointed British envoy to the Shah in August 1836, followed by Justin Sheil of Bellevue, Waterford in 1842). Although considered by some to be a British spy, reporting regularly to the British representative at the Shah’s Court in Tehran, he nevertheless was dedicated as a doctor and companion to Prince Abbas Mirza, and to his profession. He had a treatise on smallpox translated into Persian in one of the first books printed in Persia.4 He was twice decorated with the Order of the Lion and the Sun, necessitating permission from King George IV of England, second class in August 1825 and first class in 1828. Armenians living in the border areas of North-western Iran suffered greatly and, due to concerned British intervention, a treaty was arranged for their well-being. The Armenian population in the region was placed under the care of John Cormick in 1830. When Cormick accompanied Abbas Mirza to Khorasan in 1833, he contracted typhus and died in Mayamey. His body was buried in the Armenian cemetery in Tabriz, where there are now eleven Cormick graves.

William Cormick

John’s son, William, was to follow in his father’s footsteps in a number of ways. William was born in Tabriz in 1820, eight years after his parents had married. We know he had at least one sibling, a brother.5 At the age of ten he was “sent by his father to study medicine” in England.6 We have no details of where he was educated, but this one reference to him being sent to study medicine at such a young age seems highly unlikely. So did he travel further to attend school in Ireland? Were there relatives in London? At a later date an address is given for him in London at 217 Albany Street, Regents Park. When he was thirteen years old, while so far away from his home, William’s father died in Persia. One wonders how his mother would have fared in Tabriz in the years after her husband’s death. British responsibility for the protection of Armenians lapsed in 1833 after John’s death and resumed, only temporarily, in 1838 when there was again a rupture in English-Persian relationships and after that the role that doctors could play as a medium of confidential intercourse between the Mission and the Shah was lost, in favour of the French. In this context, it is interesting to see that later the Persians complained that Justin Sheil, also of County Kilkenny and envoy to the Shah since 1842, had made the Mission “…a sanctuary … a refuge for discontented persons.”

Wherever William had his secondary education, the next record we have is of him, at age twenty, having qualified at University College London (MRCS) in July 1840, (LSA) in 1841 and later (M.D.) at St. Andrews also in 1841. He practiced medicine in London and Paris, returned to Persia in 1844 and was appointed second physician to the British Mission in Tehran. In 1846, like his father before him, he was seconded as physician to the family of Abbas Mirza, and later to the Crown Prince Nasir al-Din Mirza. When Nasir al-Din Mirza was appointed Governor of Azerbaijan, William accompanied him to Tabriz as his personal physician on March 15th, 1847. At this time, to William, his future career must have seemed assured, being not yet thirty years of age, well placed with the British agencies, doctor to the future Shah. He had also returned to his family and place of birth. But changes were to come.

Dr William Cormick - Courtesy of Mr John Landy and Vincent Flannery
Dr William Cormick

Dr Cormick and the Báb

By the year 1848, momentous events were unfolding in Europe, in Persia and in the very heart of human existence, the import of which could not then have been outwardly perceived by Dr Cormick, although he was better placed than most to be aware, at least, of the surface appearance of things. Neither could he realise that he would be chosen, invited even, to a series of encounters that would assure the perpetuation of his name through future centuries. Hints there were, some of which he must have been aware of. On November 1st and 19th, 1845, the Times of London published the first known printed references to a new religious movement in Persia, concerning the arrest and torture of four of its followers, including one Quddús, which had taken place in Shiraz the previous June.7

At the very time William was moving from Tehran to Tabriz, in March 1847, a Prisoner, the Founder of this new movement, was, under the Shah’s instructions, being escorted from Shiraz to meet with the Shah in Tehran. The prisoner, the Báb, had so convinced His captor, Manuchihr Khan, Governor General of Isfahan, of the truth of His Mission as the fulfilment of prophecies of Islám, that the governor, previously notorious for defending the Shah’s interests, became a changed man, and was moved to offer to the Báb all of his vast possessions in order to also convince the Shah. Fearful of the effect the Báb would have on the Shah, the Prime Minister diverted the route of the Prisoner to the prison fortress of Máh-Kú, skirting Tehran and on toward Tabriz, where He arrived in May or June, just weeks after Cormick’s own return there. What news might have spread throughout Tabriz about this Prisoner, Whose guards and their chief had become so enthralled by Him that they implored His blessings and begged His forgiveness and pardon, as they handed Him over to the officials of Nasir al-Din Mirza, to be imprisoned for forty days in the citadel of Tabriz, called the Ark?

A tumultuous concourse of people had gathered to witness His entry into the city … desirous of ascertaining the veracity of the wild reports that were current about Him … the acclamations of the multitude resounded on every side… Such was the clamour that a crier was ordered to warn the population of the danger that awaited those who ventured to seek His presence?8

How could Dr Cormick not have heard this or been unaware of the Báb’s presence nearby, even if restrictions were such that only two people were subsequently allowed to visit Him?

Indeed, change was in the air, and not just in Persia. Within the year, revolution after revolution was shaking established governments throughout Europe, to the extent that the year 1848 became known as the “Year of Revolutions”. In Ireland, since 1845, famine was ravaging the land. Although on the periphery of Europe, the Zeitgeist could not be resisted even there. Only a few miles from William’s father’s birthplace, in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary, in the last week of July 1848 crowds were gathering:

…a torrent of human beings, rushing through lanes and narrow streets, whirling in dizzy circles and tossing up its dark waves … wild half stifled, passionate, frantic, prayers of hope, …scornful exulting defiance of death. It was the revolution, if we had accepted it.9

This same week in Tabriz, crowds too were gathering again – one year since the Báb had been taken to be imprisoned in a more remote outpost:

The tales of the signs and wonders which the Báb’s unnumbered admirers had witnessed were soon transmitted from mouth to mouth, and gave rise to a wave of unprecedented enthusiasm which spread with bewildering rapidity over the entire country. Tabriz, in particular, was in the throes of the wildcat excitement. The news of the impending arrival of the Báb had inflamed the imagination of its inhabitants and had kindled the fiercest animosity in the hearts of the ecclesiastical leaders of Adhirbayjan. Such was the fervour of popular enthusiasm, which that news had evoked, that the authorities decided to house the Báb in a place outside the gates of the city. Only those whom He desired to meet were allowed the privilege of approaching Him.10

The Báb had returned to Tabriz. A tribunal was convened for a trial, of which the Báb took control, embarrassed the clergy, and made a formal declaration of His Mission. Presiding was the young Crown Prince and alongside him, his tutor. In the course of the trial, reluctance on the part of a number of the participants to endorse a death sentence caused Dr Cormick and two Persian physicians to be called to carry out an examination on the Prisoner to certify as to His state of mind. Years later Dr Cormick’s memories of the event were to be gathered and compiled.

You ask me for some particulars of my interview with the founder of the sect known as Bábís. Nothing of any importance transpired in this interview, as the Báb was aware of my having been sent with two other Persian doctors to see whether he was of sane mind or merely a madman, to decide the question whether to put him to death or not. With this knowledge he was loth to answer any questions put to him. To all enquiries he merely regarded us with a mild look, chanting in a low melodious voice some hymns, I suppose. Two other Sayyids his intimate friends, were also present, who subsequently were put to death with him, besides a couple of government officials. He only once deigned to answer me, on my saying that I was not a Musulmán and was willing to know something about his religion, as I might perhaps be inclined to adopt it. He regarded me very intently on my saying this, and replied that he had no doubt of all Europeans coming over to his religion. Our report to the Sháh at that time was of a nature to spare his life. He was put to death some time after by the order of the Amír-i-Nizám Mírzá Taqí Khán.

On our report he merely got the bastinado, in which operation a farrásh, whether intentionally or not, struck him across the face with the stick destined for his feet, which produced a great wound and swelling of the face.

On being asked whether a Persian surgeon should be brought to treat him, he expressed a desire that I should be sent for, and I accordingly treated him for a few days, but in the interviews consequent on this I could never get him to have a confidential chat with me, as some Government people were always present, he being a prisoner.

He was very thankful for my attentions to him. He was a very mild and delicate-looking man, rather small in stature and very fair for a Persian, with a melodious soft voice, which struck me much. Being a Sayyid, he was dressed in the habits of that sect, as were also his two companions. In fact his whole look and deportment went far to dispose one in his favour. Of his doctrine I heard nothing from his own lips, although the idea was that there existed in his religion a certain approach to Christianity. He was seen by some Armenian carpenters, who were sent to make some repairs in his prison, reading the Bible and he took no pains to conceal it, but on the contrary told them of it. Most assuredly the Musulmán fanaticism does not exist in his religion, as applied to Christians, nor is there that restraint of females that now exists.11

It is very interesting to study this unique record, for it goes some way in revealing the effect that this meeting had on Dr Cormick, and also something of his own character. For example, it opens with the words “…nothing of importance transpired”, yet on the other hand we have strong expressions such as, “…with a melodious soft voice, which struck me much” and “…his whole look and deportment went far to dispose one in his favour.” Did Cormick really believe the Báb was not sane? Despite his report (note “at that time”), there is nothing to be seen here that would have us accept that the doctor really believed this. Unless there was a prior arrangement to have this result, then we could conclude that the doctors themselves wished to save the Báb. Other aspects are also interesting, especially the fact that the Báb requested that William should attend Him, which he did and on a number of occasions. We have seen above “Only those whom He desired to meet were allowed the privilege of approaching Him.” What are we to make of this? The Báb was far beyond requiring favours of anyone as is obvious from His refusal to accept offers to escape or save His own life. We see also Dr Cormick’s desire to have a confidential conversation with the Báb, once the need for a psychological assessment had passed. The attention to religious aspects in the record is also interesting and it appears, if we regard his opening question about considering adopting the new Faith as a means to have the Báb respond at that stage, William was keen to find out more and was apparently impressed by what he heard. He gives us some details – lack of fanaticism (a very interesting judgement, considering the official report), toleration of other religions and the freedom of women. In this respect, perhaps news was current in Tabriz that just a few weeks earlier, sometime in the first two weeks of July, the leading female follower of the new Faith, the beautiful poetess Tahirih, had removed her veil, dramatically announcing the birth of a new Divine cycle and the break with Islam and also symbolically declaring the emancipation of women. (It is interesting to note that, thousands of miles away, on July 20th in America at Seneca Falls, a formal declaration of the rights of women was also heard.) The information that the Báb was wounded in the face, as well as being bastinadoed, does not seem to be recorded elsewhere. It should be noted that some of the information is not first hand, some of it reported by “Armenian carpenters”. The Báb was seen reading and speaking about the Bible. It was quite possibly a copy of the first translation into Persian by Henry Martyn, who, coincidentally, had officiated at the marriage of William’s parents.Was William present as the Báb revealed His Sacred Scripture? In Lady Sheil’s later, brief account of the Báb (most likely information she received from Dr Cormick), she records that the Báb “wrote rapidly and well”, and William heard the Báb “chanting in a low melodious voice”. The following is an early description by one of the most learned divines of the Shah’s Court:* *

Verses streamed from His pen with a rapidity that was truly astounding. The incredible swiftness of His writing, the soft and gentle murmur of His voice, and the stupendous force of His style, amazed and bewildered me.12

Only one other Westerner, Mochenin, a Russian student, is recorded as having been present to observe, from a distance, as the Báb taught His doctrine to a huge crowd who listened engrossed, to “the new Qúran” at Chihríq, His place of captivity.13

William’s life was to take a different course than what he may have anticipated, and at the hands of one who was to be instrumental in making fateful decisions regarding the life of the Báb. Just two months after Dr Cormick’s meeting with the Báb, in September 1848, Muhammad Shah died. On his death and the accession of the seventeen-year old Crown Prince to the throne, Cormick accompanied the Prince to Tehran. Mirza Taqi Khan, the Prime Minister, opposed Cormick’s association with the new Shah, not wanting to be dependent on either Britain or Russia, and so Dr Cormick was replaced by a French physician, Dr Cloquet. William returned to Tabriz, his life in public service seemingly ended. At twenty-eight years of age, he opened an apothecary shop, practiced medicine and was later to serve as a physician to the late Abbas Mirza’s family, for whom his father had once served in the same capacity and become wealthy. Two years later, in May 1850, Tabriz was yet again in upheaval:

That day witnessed a tremendous commotion in the city of Tabriz. The great convulsion associated in the ideas of its inhabitants with the Day of Judgment seemed at last to have come upon them. Never had that city experienced a turmoil so fierce and so mysterious as the one which seized its inhabitants on the day the Báb was led to that place which was to be the scene of His martyrdom.14

Mirza Taqi Khan, the Prime Minister, was shaken by events that had involved the astoundingly successful self-defence by a few of his Prisoner’s followers against the might of his armed forces. Alarmed at the rapidly increasing emergence of more and more adherents to the new Faith all over Persia, the Prime Minister demanded the immediate execution of the Báb, despite strong advice to the contrary. Forty of the Christian Armenian soldiers of Tabriz were appointed to guard Him. The subsequent execution of the Báb was accompanied by such disturbing events so as to affect even the physical atmosphere of that city. An Armenian regiment under Sam Khan, assigned to carry out the deed, dramatically and despite risk to their own lives, refused to proceed. One wonders at the reports coming to William and their effect on him, considering his personal encounter with the Báb just a short time previously. How much might he have actually witnessed?

There were a number of Irish people in Persia at various stages during these momentous years; Sir Justin Sheil of Waterford, his wife, Lady Mary (nee Woulfe) and their three children, who had with them three Irish servants (recorded as having worshipped at an Armenian service); a young man, Art McMurrough Kavanagh of Borris House, Carlow, who later became an M.P., with his older brother, Charles, and their tutor, Rev. David Wood. Of these eleven there is no clear record of their having actually met William, but it would be surprising had they not.

By 1851, William Cormick married an Armenian lady, Tamar, “one of the most beautiful girls in the country”, according to Edward Burgess in his Letters from Persia. Tamar was, in fact, a sister of Burgess’ own wife, Anna. William had an annual income of £1000 and was thinking of going to London for the Great Exhibition in 1853. Burgess says that William wanted to pursue medical study – “his passion” – for one or two years in London, even though this would reduce his income to £200 per annum. Burgess, of a famous British merchant family, had long lived in Tabriz, but had become virtually trapped in Persia, having decided to honour his own older brother Charles’s debts to the government. After he finally obtained permission to visit England in 1855, he sadly died en route. He was survived by his wife and daughter (Fanny) who, at least once, visited England, staying with Edward’s father in London. With such close family ties with William Cormick, their history has been worth considering.

In August 1857 there were unsuccessful attempts by the Deputy-Governor to dispossess William of his property in Tabriz. This does not seem particularly aimed against him, but was consistent with levels of injustice that prevailed at the time. In the summer of 1861, William went to Salma in the company of a friend. Just past forty years of age, he was in the place where the Báb had been imprisoned only a few years previously. Prior to that, the Báb had looked towards Salma from His mountain prison in Máh-Kú and had quoted Hafiz:

He gazed towards the west and, as He saw the Araxes winding its course far away below Him, turned to Mulla Husayn and said:

“That is the river, and this is the bank thereof, of which the poet Hafiz has thus written: ‘O zephyr, shouldst thou pass by the banks of the Araxes, implant a kiss on the earth of that valley and make fragrant thy breath. Hail, a thousand times hail, to thee, O abode of Salma! How dear is the voice of thy camel-drivers, how sweet the jingling of thy bells!’ …Continuing His remarks, the Báb said: “It is the immediate influence of the Holy Spirit that causes words such as these to stream from the tongue of poets, the significance of which they themselves are oftentimes unable to apprehend…. The Báb subsequently quoted this well-known tradition: ‘Treasures lie hidden beneath the throne of God; the key to those treasures is the tongue of poets.’15

William was not to forget his interview with the Báb. W.A. Shedd, from a family of American missionaries, writing to The Moslem World in August 1914 says:

I found the following memorandum among the papers of my father, the Rev. J. H. Shedd D.D. The record was made sometime between 1860 and 1870, perhaps in 1861, when Dr Cormick spent the summer or part of it in Salma, where my father was then stationed, and, they saw a good deal of each other. Dr Cormick was an English physician, who for a number of years lived in Tabriz, having there a large medical practice and, being much esteemed. The events referred to took place in Tabriz some time before the execution of the Báb in July, 1850, probably at the time of his first examination in Tabriz. Probably no other European had an interview with the Báb and certainly no other record of such an interview is extant.16

This account of the origin of Dr Cormick’s descriptions of the event is a little confusing. On March 1st, 1911, Dr Shedd had previously written to Edward Granville Browne. Heading the interview account, Professor Browne writes that they are “Dr Cormick’s accounts of his personal impressions of Mírzá ‘Alí Muhammad the Báb, extracted from letters written by him to the Rev. Benjamin Labaree, d.d.” So, did Dr Cormick give the account directly to John Shedd or to him through Rev. Labaree? Whatever the case, compassion, in this circle, towards the Báb is revealed by W. Shedd writing about the “period of his imprisonment and suffering”.17 Esteem for Dr Cormick is shown too by the description, “a cultivated and impartial Western mind”.18

Later Life

In October 1875, like his father, William received the Order of the Lion and the Sun. On October 19th, 1876 he became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, and continued to promote western medicine. His photograph must have been taken around this time, it shows two decorations, but we have records of only one.19

On December 30th, 1877, almost fifty-seven years of age, William Cormick died. He was the last of his family to be buried in the Armenian Cemetery in Tabriz, where there are eleven other Cormick graves, including that of his father and brother. Of children there is but one account, of a son who was in Iran until the last decades of the nineteenth century and then returned to England.20

At present there are no available records of contact between any English members of the family and the Australian and Irish relatives for these later years. Mr Landy provides an invaluable link in this most interesting history. On one occasion, on a visit to his home, I brought an Israeli postage stamp depicting the Shrine of the Báb and the Haifa Municipality brochure of the gardens on Mount Carmel. Mr. Landy appeared pleasantly surprised as he examined them and my impression was that he realised then, more clearly, the importance of his family’s history.

  1. Recent research suggests the Garden of Eden was located in North West Iran and specifically in Tabriz. David Rohl’s Eden discoveries can be accessed on: www.biblicalheritage.org.
  2. “In the early nineteenth century, Abbas Mirza had stood among the ruins of the Iranian army on the Russian front. Suffering the disgrace of his country, he saw in retreating soldiers and captured armaments Qajar Iran’s backwardness and impotence. When he returned from war, he began to agitate within the court for reform of the monarchy and the nation. Tragically dying before his father, Abbas Mirza left his vision to the few enlightened minds within the palace.” Sandra Mackey, The Iranians: Persia, Islam, and the Soul of a Nation, p.131, (excerpted at bahai-library.org)
  3. “Martyn was in Shiraz only about ten months but toiling amid heat and dust in weakness of body and with many enemies about him, he completed his Persian translation of the Psalms, begun in India. A few months later he died alone at Tokat in Turkey on his way home.” Moojan Momen, Comprehensive summary of life of John Cormick.
  4. Fath ‘Ali Shah’s Crown Prince and Governor of Tabriz, ‘Abbas Mirza, is a quintessential example of this trend towards the espousal of European preventive health practices. Having been cured of a venereal complaint, the Prince embraced the recommendations of his English physician, Dr. James Campbell, and agreed to have his family vaccinated against smallpox. Furthermore, he requested the permanent appointment of a British physician to his service and undertook the sponsorship of Mirza Baba Afshar’s medical studies in London and Oxford in 1818. It was ‘Abbas Mirza’s recognition of the significant life-saving value of the smallpox vaccination, together with his quest to preserve the health of his Nizam–i–Jadid (new army) that led to the first steps in spreading the knowledge of the Jennerian method of vaccination among Iranian physicians. Accordingly, Dr. John Cormick, who had succeeded Dr. Jukes as ‘Abbas Mirza’s personal physician, composed a treatise on vaccination at the Crown Prince’s request so as to promote this practice. The tract, entitled Risalah i abi-lah-kubi, was translated by Mohammad ‘Ibn-i ‘Abd al-Sabur and, when published in 1829, was among the first works to be printed at the newly established printing press in Tabriz. Moojan Momen, Comprehensive summary of life of John Cormick.
  5. Moojan Momen, Encyclopaedia Iranica
  6. Edward Burgess, Letters from Persia, p.112.
  7. Moojan Momen, The Bábí and Bahá’í Religions, 1844-1944, pp.4 and 69.
  8. Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p.237.
  9. Cecil Woodham-Smith, The Great Hunger (London, 1962). Quote from Thomas Francis Meagher of the Young Ireland Movement, p.351.
  10. Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p.313.
  11. Dr. Cormick’s accounts of his personal impressions of Mírzá ‘Alí Muhammad the Báb, extracted from letters written by him to the Rev. Benjamin Labaree, d.d. Cited in Shoghi Effendi, Dawn-Breakers, p.320.
  12. Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p.174.
  13. Moojan Momen, The Bábí and Bahá’í Religions, 1844-1944, p.75.
  14. Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p.507.
  15. Ibid. p.358.
  16. The Moslem World, Vol.5 (1), 1915.
  17. A plaque, currently being restored, (at Princeton Seminary) recalls William Shedd (Class of 1892), who died of disease in 1918 in Persia while leading a company of Armenian Christians escaping persecution. He was hastily buried under rocks while his wife prayed the Lord’s Prayer as the group continued its flight.
  18. E.G. Browne, Materials for the Study of the Bábí Religion, p.260. “The last two documents, which are in English, were kindly communicated to me by Mr W. A. Shedd, who wrote concerning them as follows in a letter dated March 1, 1911: ‘Dear Professor Browne, In going over papers of my father, I found something, which I think may be of value from a historical point of view. I have no books here, nor are any accessible here, to be certain whether this bit of testimony (or rather these two bits) have been used or not. I think probably not, and I am sure that I can do nothing better than send them to you, with the wish that you may use them as you think best. Of the authenticity of the papers there can be no doubt. Yours very truly, W. A. Shedd.’ The first of these two documents is very valuable as giving the personal impression produced by the Báb, during the period of his imprisonment and suffering, on a cultivated and impartial Western mind. Very few Western Christians can have had the opportunity of seeing, still less of conversing with, the Báb, and I do not know of any other who has recorded his impressions.”
  19. Of course this might raise doubts as to whether the photograph may have been of John, rather than William. However photography would not have been available in 1833, the first photograph in Iran is from 1842. Perhaps William wore one decoration which had belonged to his father. Also, Mr. Landy assures me it is of William. An article on early photography in Persia is available here (using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine).
  20. Moojan Momen, letter to John Landy, November 1984.

21 Comments Add yours

  1. Ardin Lalui says:

    Truly inspiring. What an exciting project. Speaking as an Irishman whose own life has been deeply shaped by the Bab’s writings I feel very proud that one of our own met Him.

  2. Vicky Uffindell says:

    I was most interested to read Vincent Flannery’s essay on Doctor William Cormick. As the great-granddaughter of William Cormick I can confirm that the photograph is indeed of William. I have papers showing that William, his wife Tamar, their five surviving children and two servants left Tabriz for London in 1873. By 1877 William was living in Chichester House, Grange Gardens, Hammersmith. He died there, not in Tabriz, on 30 Dec. 1877. His widow died in London on 21 May 1899. His son George became a doctor and returned to Persia where he married and raised a family. George Cormick died on 2 February 1919 in Sultanabad and his widow and children came to England in 1924.

    1. Are you related to Alec Raffi?

  3. Katherine Mc Cormick says:

    That is a very interesting article. I am related to the family also, through my father’s family who lived in county Kilkenny. I used to hear about a relation who worked as a physician in the court of the Shah of Persia and that they were buried in Tabriz, Iran. I live in Ireland, and I remember speaking to Mr Landy on the phone and recieving letters about the Cormicks. It is amazing to read about their lives and travel in an age where travel was a major undertaking, and at a much slower pace than now.

  4. I am so happy to have found this article. My mother’s aunt, I know her name to be Melanie, was married to a Cormick, who was a doctor, and they lived in Tabriz. Later they moved to England and their descendants are still there! I would love to find out more about this family.
    Unfortunately, I lost an original photograph of the couple in a car break-in. But I had made a copy for my aunt.

  5. Julia Cormick says:

    I am also a great granddaughter of William Cormick (whose bloodline was half Irish and half Armenian)and granddaughter of George and Melania Cormick. I was interested in Arby Gazarian’s message as it seems likely that she is a granddaughter of one of Melania’s siblings and would therefore be my second cousin.

    1. Arby Gazarian says:

      Arby, I am the grandson of Victoria, Melania’s sister. Living in Montreal, Canada. So nice to see that so many are interested in their roots.

  6. Julia Cormick says:

    Am I right in thinking there are two Arby Gazarian’s? My apologies for not being sure whether Arby was a male or female name – it sounds good for either and I (wrongly) assumed the lady in the facebook picture was Arby. The second Arby, as the grandson of Victoria, is my second cousin. I have a photograph of my father as a small boy with his Aunt Victoria (my Great Aunt).

    1. Arby Gazarian says:

      Yes Julia, I am the grandson of Victoria, Irene’s son, my mother chose my name probably hastily! I live in Montreal, Canada.

    2. Arby Gazarian says:

      There should only be one Arby Gazarian related to your Great Aunt Victoria. I would love to know who was your father and to see the photo of my grandmother with your father!

      1. Arby Gazarian says:

        I have been looking for this article for a long time but finally found it again. Please search for me on Facebook. We could then exchange more!

  7. Paula Gill says:

    Very interesting reading. I am the gr gr grand daughter of John Cormack who moved to Australia with his family . I have also stayed with Jack Landy on a couple occasions . Sadly he died a few months ago

  8. Brendan you refer to your book, Connections, from a few years ago. Is it still in print? Where Might I purchase it by mail order. I looked at Amazon and did not see it there. Cheers

  9. Alengo says:

    Dear All, I am interested with Dr Cormick’s history. Do you know who was the Armenian mother of William? What is his name? Thank you. Alda

  10. oriane kuntermann says:

    bonsoir, je suis une descendante d’un Cormick,… j ai l original de la photo ci dessus. mon arriere grand mere s,appelait shaherazade camille Bernay, sa mere se nommait Honorine Cassaboix fille de Mary Cormick. Quel serait le lien de parente avec william?

    1. Dear Oriane,
      So lovely to hear from you- my French is not so good I’m afraid. Is Mary Cormick your great grandmother? Was she Williams’ sister? Any further information would help. Please get in touch again.
      Best wishes,

    2. oriane kuntermann says:

      Dear mrs Uffindell, thank you for all your very interesting informations .
      Dear Brendan,
      Thanks to Mrs Uffindell ‘s explanations, I am able to figure out much more about the history of my familly.
      I am the grand-grand granddaughter of Honorine Cassaboix , daughter of Mary Cormick and Léandre Cassaboix.
      I am the great-granddaughter of Camille ‘ Camée” Chehrazade Bernay, mother of Simone Bernay-Delahodde ( of unknown father) and wife of Eugene Delahodde,
      Claudine ( 31 august 1922- 10 february 2008 )was the daughter of Camille and Eugene Delahodde and half sister of Simone.
      I am the granddaughter of Simone ( born on 25 november 1920- ); she is wife of Gerard Touzaa who died in 1993.
      My name is Oriane de Buttet, I leave in Versailles in France,
      I have picture of Camille and her aunt louisa Hakoumoff with the little william ( son of Charles Cormick ?) in 1912 in England….

      1. Thanks, Oriane. Most interesting! I am sure Vicky will be very interested in what you have found out. A most interesting family!!

  11. Vicky Uffindell says:

    Mary Cormick was the sister of William. She is mentioned in their father John Cormick’s will made in 1829. Mary married Leandre Cassabois in Tabriz. Mary’s granddaughter Camille Bernay visited England in 1911 and stayed in Acton, Middlesex, with William Cormick’s daughter Louisa Hakoumoff and her family. Also staying at the house was William’s son Charles Cormick.
    Did Camille marry becoming Madame Delahodde with children Simone and Claudine?

  12. D R Arathoon says:

    Is there any information on the parentage, surnames etc of Anna and Tamar ( = Queen ) … I have seen something to the effect of a surname Daoud or Daoud Khan … I would be happy to hear about any of the Armenian family connections … Thank you

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