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A Highgate hero who repelled Russians in Afghanistan

PUBLISHED: 10:06 04 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:35 07 September 2010

IN 1885 an incident occurred on the banks of the Kushk River in Afghanistan. It came to be known as the Panjder incident. Little is known save that several hundred tribal Afghans died attempting to prevent a Russian advance which would have had dire conse

IN 1885 an incident occurred on the banks of the Kushk River in Afghanistan. It came to be known as the Panjder incident. Little is known save that several hundred tribal Afghans died attempting to prevent a Russian advance which would have had dire consequences for British interests in Northern India.

It fell to the lot of Lord Dufferin, a one time resident of Dufferin Lodge in Highgate, to lock horns with the crisis and circumscribe the Russian advance. Yet this defining moment in Anglo-Russian relations fails to be given due importance in retrospectives on the war in Afghanistan. The recrudescence of this centuries-old conflict, however, is testimony of how in the decades since, muscular diplomacy has become the emasculated influence it now represents in international crisis.

As for Lord Dufferin, this most charismatic and flamboyant of diplomats, though proving to be an exemplary ambassador, peregrinator and adventurer of exceptional derring-do, is most remembered as a raconteur of a terrifying ghost story.

He is claimed to have stated that he had an encounter in the dead of night with a hideous ghost bearing a coffin in Tullamore, Ireland. Many years later he is said to have come face to face with the same dreadful apparition in the form of a lift attendant at the Grand Hotel in Paris. He instinctively refrained from entering the cage, which crashed seconds later, killing all of its occupants.

In the aftermath of so much bloodshed in Afghanistan, one shouldn't be surprised if the ghost of Frederick-Temple-Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, Ist Marquess of Dufferin and Ava (1826-1902), takes to haunting the corridors of power in Whitehall and the Senate, bearing a coffin.

Walter Roberts

Henfield Close, N19


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