By Eoin Kelleher
A LITTLE known link between Bansha and far off Afghanistan was unearthed by Tipperary Peace Conference Secretary, Mr Martin Quinn, at last weekend’s peace award presentation to Dr Sima Samar.
Mr Quinn told assembed guests and dignitaries that, while researching Afghanistan, he came across the name of Paul Conneally, a print and broadcast journalist stationed there. While working in war torn Afghanistan, Mr Conneally would sometimes frequent a “long established American Club - a place with cold beer, conversation with women and late night darts.
“At the entrance of this modest but grand old building, just before you climbed the stairs to the bar, hung a gilt-framed oil painting which always stopped me in my tracks and urged me to ponder awhile,” said Mr Conneally.
Remnants of an Army, by Lady Elizabeth Butler, depicts a lone soldier, Dr William Brydon, riding horseback before the gates of Jalalabad, about half way along the 200 mile road connecting Kabul and Peshawar.
Scotsman Dr William Brydon was an Assistant Surgeon in the British East India Company, during the first Anglo-Afghan war, explained Mr Quinn.
Dr Brydon’s name goes down in history as the sole survivor of an army of some 4,000 men, after a rout by Afghan tribesmen during the Anglo Afghan war.
On the afternoon of the 13th of January 1842, legend has it that British troops in Jalalabad spied a single figure on horseback riding up to the town walls, the inspiration for Lady Elizabeth’s painting.
Part of Dr Brydon’s skull had been sheared off by a sword. The story goes that Dr Brydon only managed to survive after he stuffed a copy of Blackwood’s magazine into his hat to fight the intense cold weather.
The magazine “took most of the blow” saving the Doctor’s life, said Mr Quinn. Dr Brydon’s story was later immortalised by Lady Elizabeth Butler, whose husband, - writer, soldier and adventurer Sir William Francis Butler - hailed from Ballyslateen near Golden.
Rising to great heights in the British Army, Sir William and Lady Elizabeth returned to live in Bansha Castle, where he died in 1910.
Sir William’s Remains still lie in the local cemetery of Killaldriffe, not far from his ancestral home.
Lady Elizabeth remained at Bansha Castle until 1922, when she moved to Co Meath. She died in 1933.
“Her paintings are to be found in Buckhingham Palace, in the Imperial War Museum in London, and this particular painting of Dr William Brydon, the last remnant of a desolated army, is part of the Tate Collection,” said Mr Quinn, who gifted a replica of the painting to Dr Samar as a token of one of Tipperary’s lesser known links to that central Asian republic.