Tinco Lycklama is boarding the Penine, an English steamer that will take him from Bandar Bushehr across the Persian Gulf to the mouths of the Tigris river. He spent nearly eight months in Persia. Next year, he will travel back to Tehran. But, for now, his mind is set on discovering Mesopotamia – the modern Iraq.
Tinco arrived at Bandat Bushehr on November 17. There wasn’t much to see in this harbour town. In fact, it was a most unhealthy place. It was hot – even in November – and because of the humidity of the surrounding marshlands and the very poor sewer systems, it was full of nasty insects and had a permanent, terrible smell. Not a good place for our young Frisian gentleman!
Actually, Tinco arrived in poor health and had early signs of typhoid. That was the main reason why he delayed his departure for Iraq. Fortunately, with a solid dose of quinine (never leave home without it) and the concoctions of an Armenian doctor, he recovered pretty well.
He had in his pocket a fine recommendation from his close friend Charles Alison, the British minister plenipotentiaty in Tehran. His first visit was to the British resident at Bandar Bushehr, colonel Lewis Pelly (1825-1892 – later Lieutenant general and a Member of Parliament in London). Pelly turned out to be as amiable and helpful as Alison was, and Tinco enjoyed the hearty welcome.
Whereas the Russians had a dominant diplomatic presence in Tehran and northern Persia, Bandar Bushehr and the coast line around the Gulf were British ‘territory’. In fact, ten years earlier, Bandar Bushehr was briefly occupied by the British during a military conflict with Persia. Their presence was not just commercial but heavily political and military.
For Tinco, there really was no good reason to spend too much time at Bandat Bushehr. However, it was the occasion for him to appreciate how important this city still was as one of the major ports of Persia and an important stop on the shipping routes towards the Far East. In the past, the Dutch East Indies Company had a significant presence in this town, and the remaining ruins of Fort Riché were a reminder of that. However, the Dutch currently didn’t have any diplomatic presence at Bandar Bushehr – nor anywhere else in Persia, for that matter.
Perhaps Tinco played a role in changing that. During his stay at Bandar Bushher, he made the acquaintance of captain Meyer, who was delivering a cargo of sugar from Batavia (Java). Meyer told Tinco about the difficulties in trading with Persia. For instance, the Dutch imports were taxed higher than those from other nations, and there was no Dutch political presence to influence any change.
Back in Tehran, Tinco had discussed with Naser al-Din Shah the old connections between Holland and Persia, and both regretted the absence of formal relationships today. After talking to captain Meyer, Tinco decided to write to the appropriate minister at The Hague and ask the government to consider establishing some presence at Bandar Bushehr. Fifteen months later, his wish came true.
Coincidence? Though we haven’t yet identified the archival records to back it up, it is quite possible that Tinco Lyckama addressed his letter to the Dutch premier, Julius van Zuylen van Nijevelt (1819-1894), who was also the minister for Foreign Affairs. Shortly after, the Dutch government offered to Dr. Johann Schlimmer (1819-1881) the position of Dutch honorary consul general in Persia.
Readers will remember that Tinco stayed with Johann Schlimmer during his visit to Isfahan. Schlimmer was a very respected Dutch doctor who had been an instructor at the Dar ul-Funun polytechnic at Tehran. Schlimmer himself had been an advocate for the establishment of formal trade relations. But, he refused the post. Instead, Richard Keun became the first Dutch consul at Bandar Bushehr, in February 1868. The latter was the son of a merchant family that was well established at Izmir, in the Ottoman empire.
It seems that Keun sometimes mixed official duties with personal interests, and Dr. Schlimmer was appointed a few years later to have some supervisory role over Keun. However, in general, the Dutch relationship with Persia remained quite low profile, despite the state visit of Naser al-Din Shah to The Netherlands in 1889. Perhaps Tinco should have played a more active role?
Today, November 26, Tinco picks up his luggage and, in the company of two servants, he heads for the beaches where small boars are waiting for him to take him to the Penine – anchored a few miles off-shore. On his way, he meets a sad funeral procession. They are carrying Ali Beg, Tinco’s loyal servant throughout his stay in Persia. Whereas Tinco had recovered from his illness shortly after arriving at Bandar Bushehr, Ali Beg was less fortunate and had passed away because of typhoid.
On the Penine, Tinco was wondering about the next adventures on his fabulous voyage. In two days, he would reach Basra, on the Shatt al-Arab.