After reading Richard Gregory’s fascinating article about his great grandfather Gregory Marcar Gregory in the Armenian’s Institute‘s Bardez bulletin, we got in touch with him to learn about their family story. Richard kindly shared some images of this wonderful man, who was so dedicated to the Armenian cause.
We also learned about Gregory’s sons – John Gregory, a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, killed in World War 1; and Marcar Sheridan Gregory (Richard’s grandfather), who was an executive engineer on Indian State Railways and was a soldier in both World wars. Read the article reproduced from Bardez below and scroll down for more biographical details about Gregory, John and Marcar.
Gregory Marcar Gregory: Armenians in India by Richard Gregory
In late 2015, I was clearing out my parent’s house when, hidden under the stairs, I discovered Victorian photo albums. There were hundreds of pictures of my father’s ancestors in London and India, including children in mysterious national costumes. Curiosity took hold and I researched a rich vein of Armenian heritage, from the founding of Calcutta to trading throughout the Far East.
Here is a tiny sample: From 1603 a war was raging between Safavid Persia ruled by Shah Abbas I and the Ottoman Empire ruled by Sultan Ahmed I. In 1604 over 150,000 Armenians were forced from Julfa, the town was razed and the population resettled in New Julfa, a suburb of Isfahan with the Armenian Vank Cathedral. Shah Abbas calculated that Armenians would benefit the Persian economy. Job Charnock of the East India Company recognised the success of these Persian Armenian traders and invited them to Calcutta, at the time of founding in 1689, to encourage the development of trading routes. The Armenian church of St Nazareth, Calcutta was built in 1724. By the late 19th century there were 1,300 Armenians living in Calcutta, Dhaka and Rangoon. When an opportunity arose, they showed themselves to be more than merchants. An Armenian, Israel Sarhad, was instrumental in securing the “Grand Farman” for the East India Company from the Mogul Emperor Farrokhsiyar in 1715.
Petrus Arathoon, known as the “Armenian Petrus,” was an envoy between the British and Mir Jaffir during the overthrow of Siraj-ud-dowlah and the replacement of Mir Jaffir by Mir Kasim as the Nawab of Bengal, Behar and Orissa in October 1760. Khojah Gregory, son of Khalanthar Arratoon of Julfa and younger brother of Petrus Arathoon, was a cloth-merchant at Hooghly in West Bengal. He became Mir Kasim’s confidant. The new Nawab appointed Khojah Gregory as the Commander-in-Chief of the Bengal Army. My great, great grandfather, Marcar Gregory (aka Margar Grigorian) was born in July, 1824 in Shiraz, Persia. By the age of 22 he had joined the Calcutta community and was a dealer in Shell-Lac, Lacdye and Garnet. This tree gum, produced as a result of beetle attack, was moulded into buttons and jewellery and also used as a protective lacquer. In 1850, he inherited the schooner ‘Elizabeth’ from his wife, Elizabeth Manook, and traded throughout the Far East. Through the trust provided by bonds from extended family members, Armenians spread from Calcutta into Rangoon, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Manila, Okinawa and other ports. Marcar’s offspring married into the Apcar, Anthony, Joaquim and Emin families.
My great grandfather, Gregory Marcar Gregory, was born in 1851 and educated at Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He joined the Indian Civil Service and became an opium agent, eventually managing an indigo and opium factory in Ghazipur. He married Edith Sheridan in 1885. He retired to Gunterstone Road, London in 1904 and became President of the Armenian United Association of London in 1913. Keen to promote understanding of the Armenian people, he translated Ormanian’s ‘Church of Armenia’ and Archag Tchobanian’s ‘The People of Armenia’ into English. The Foreign Office appointed him Liaison Officer for Armenians in the UK from 1914. Throughout the 1914-1918 war he lobbied on behalf of Armenian refugees. Early in 1915 the AUAL hosted an “At Home”. The evening ended with the presentation of a large silver cup from the Armenians of London and Manchester to the Association’s President, Lt Col Gregory, “as a slight token of their esteem and respect”. As the situation in Turkey deteriorated, the AUAL inaugurated The Armenian Refugees’ Relief Fund which raised substantial sums. By March 1915, £7,750 8s 10d had been collected. When he retired in July 1917, as President of the AUAL, Gregory was 66 years old. However, he remained active. On 8th June 1918, he addressed the AUAL, with English guests, in London: “To us Armenians the Armenian Question is the very life-blood in our veins… Our Association is essentially of a pacific character, and our politics are neutral… We do not desire autonomy or the setting up of an independent kingdom… What we ask of the powerful nations of Europe is security of life…the elements of justice for all… Our countrymen have struggled against heavy odds for centuries, their country has been torn from them, their women and children are being subjected to the grossest indignities, they have been decimated in number and are, at this moment, struggling under the heel of a fanatical overlord, and at the point of death.” The AUAL employed a well known artist, Flora Lyon, to paint his portrait. This is still in the possession of the Gregory family. He died in 1920. One son, John, was in the RFC and shot down and killed in 1918. His other son, my grandfather, Marcar Sheridan Gregory, became an Executive Engineer of Indian State Railways and was a soldier in both World Wars.
* This article was first published by the Armenian Institute in Bardez 2019, https://www.armenianinstitute.org.uk/publications