NIA JONES recounts the chilling tale of Lord Dufferin and his Moonlit Vision
The 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, aka Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood (21st of June 1826 –12th of February 1902) was a prominent and successful Victorian statesman and diplomat.
Serving an illustrious and varied career around the world, his posts included British Commissioner in Syria, Viceroy of India, Governor General of Canada, Ambassador in St Petersburg and Ambassador to Turkey.
Also a prolific travel writer, a witty and studious man; he provided the template for what we now know as the travelogue from the publication of his book ‘Letters from High Latitudes’
Dufferin loved to entertain high society peers and enjoyed nothing more than regaling his after dinner audience with terrifying tales.
Affectionately known as “Freddy” in personal circles – one chilling story became synonymous with his storytelling abilities; he swore until the day he died that the frightening fable was a gospel truth.
On June the 14th, 1879 he was staying at a friend’s country estate near Tullamore in Ireland.
After retiring to his bedroom he found himself uncharacteristically restless, unable to get to sleep he felt a pressing sadness and dread, which he could not explain.
Thinking that a little fresh air would ease his nerves he arose and made his way onto the balcony. In the night sky was a bright full moon; a presence that illuminated the garden as beautifully as the morning sun. As he stood admiring the moonlit scene he became aware of movement in the shadows of the topiary.
A laboured figure was making its way across the lawn, on its back there seemed to be a large and weighty object.
After a moment, the silent figure stepped out from the shadows, it appeared to be a man with what seemed to be a coffin on his back; he stopped and looked up at the balcony. Lord Dufferin suddenly recoiled in horror; the man’s face was ghoulishly ugly, so terribly repulsive that his image forever burned itself inside his mind.
“Sir! Excuse me! Where are you taking that?” the Lord called out to the man, there was no reply, as the Lord called out once more; the man and his coffin suddenly vanished without a trace into the stillness of the garden. Shaken, Dufferin returned to his bed and immediately wrote the encounter down in his diary.
Over breakfast the Lord told his host and the other guests about the strange man in the garden; with the hope of shedding some light on the encounter.
No one seemed to have any knowledge of the man, the host jovially dismissed the incident as a vivid nightmare possibly brought on by the quality of the cheese and port served after dinner.
Lord Dufferin eventually put the incident to the back of his mind…
Ten years later he was made the British Ambassador to France and attended an important gathering of diplomats at the Grande Hotel de Paris. As the hotel lobby was buzzing with people, Dufferin and his private secretary had to queue to use the lift.
As it came to their turn to step inside it the Lord glanced at the lift operator, to his horror it was the same ghoulishly ugly man he encountered in the moonlit garden all those years before.
Startled, he grabbed the arm of his secretary and backed away, letting the people behind him take their place.
The secretary was perplexed at the Lord’s sudden agitation and asked if he was feeling unwell, Dufferin remained frozen and speechless for a few minutes remembering his past vision.
Suddenly came terrible screams and a horrific crash, the lift cable had snapped causing the lift’s passenger compartment to hurtle violently down the shaft three floors at high speed, crashing into the basement.
There were sadly no survivors and Lord Dufferin took a few days to recover from the shock and guilt of the incident.
Speaking to the hotel officials regarding the identity of the lift operator, they explained that the man was only a casual temp, the usual attendant was unwell that day, nothing was known about him, his name or where he came from.
In a cruel twist, the only body unclaimed by any next of kin was the lift operator’s. Did Lord Dufferin experience true precognition, a moonlit warning from beyond the grave?
It is possible he saw something supernatural in the moonlit Tullamore garden that night…?
Or maybe it was just a dream and coincidence. Regarded these days as more of an urban myth, the Lord certainly delighted in telling this particular tale over brandy with a glint or should I say, some moonlight in his eye.