Memories from Iran: Scottish family recall 'exciting, terrifying' experience

Just over 50 years ago, Scots engineer George Lindsay decided to take his young family on an Asian adventure.

Having gained a PhD in metallurgical engineering from the University of Strathclyde, George, who grew up in Montrose, worked for a couple of years in the research centre at Babcock & Wilcox in Renfrew.

In 1970, he decided to make a move across the globe to take up an associate professorship at Aryamehr University of Technology in Tehran, Iran.

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George, his wife Charlotte and son Graham, two, found themselves in a strange city in a strange country, but it turned out to be a rewarding time.

Amir Kabir Lake, formed by the dame supplies tap water to Tehran, provides irrigation for agriculture and has a 90-megawatt power plant. Picture: George Lindsay

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"It was an amazing experience working and living within the Iranian people,” George said.

"We lived in a house in the city rather than in a western expatriate compound.

"Our neighbours and my work colleagues were all extremely welcoming and helpful. They even installed a western-style toilet at the university for me.

George Lindsay shakes hands with the Shah at Aryamehr University of Technology in Tehran where he worked as an associate professor for a year in 1970. The Shah was the chancellor of the university. Picture: George Lindsay

"I loved the Iranian national dish – chelo kebabs – minced lamb on a skewer which came with a raw egg you had to crack and mix with the rice.

"The students were very enthusiastic and keen to learn and I met the Shah on a couple of occasions at the university – of which he was Chancellor."

After a few mistakes in Farsi, including going into a local shop to return a carton of milk and declaring "I am a woman" instead of "my wife bought this", George was confident enough to plan an adventure within an adventure in the summer of 1970.

The family set out in their less-than-luxurious, but reliable Citroen Dyane to drive north through the stunning Alborz mountains for a holiday in the city of Chalus on the southern shores of the Caspian Sea.

A hillside village in the northern Iranian Alborz mountains

George recalled: "The journey itself was extremely exciting, verging on terrifying at times.

"We drove north on increasingly winding, narrow and precipitous roads and the scenery was simply stunning.

"It's a beautiful part of Iran far removed from the image that some may have of deserts and oilfields."

George's son Graham, now a journalist at our sister paper The Scotsman, recently digitised all of his father's slides from the 1970s, including a small box with these pictures taken on that trip.

Made it! George Lindsay and son Graham on the grey sands of the southern Caspian Sea

Graham said: "It was amazing to find these images, especially as I have hardly any recollection of the trip, although I do remember some aspects of that year in Tehran.

“As an excited wee boy, I used to rush to the gates of our house every day to watch the daily camel train pass on its way into the city.

"The only other things I can really remember vividly are watching an incredible electrical storm from the balcony of our house and when my mum had to summon my dad home from work to deal with a lizard that had found its way into the bathroom.”

After his year in Tehran, George returned to work for B&W again before joining Exxon Chemicals and working in New Jersey, Brussels, Southampton, Scotland and Houston.

He and Charlotte are now retired and living in Kinross. They also have a daughter, Emma, born after their return to Scotland.

George Lindsay's wife Charlotte and son Graham, 2, beside a gorge in the Alborz mountains
A road winds through a mountain pass in the Alborz range in northern Iran
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