North African Dagger with Possible Connections to Gordon of Khartoum
A low quality late 19th century North African / Arabic dagger with two piece horn handle, double edged blade with stuck decoration to the top section. Cloth covered wooden scabbard with white metal fittings having patterned relief. Accompanying the dagger is a very interesting letter written by a Louise Erskine of 9 Cheriton Place Folkestone, believed to date from 1935, in which she writes that this dagger was given to a member of her family by the eldest nephew of General Gordon, and was amongst General Gordons possessions when he died, “When their uncle General Gordon died all his belongings were packed in cases & some came to our house to store”, “Donald Gordon the eldest nephew came & unpacked some of them, my sister was mad about curios so Donald said, here you are, who knows if this was used to assassinate uncle Charlie with”. The letter goes on to describe other items which they were given by the family of the late General Gordon. Accompanying the two items are various other written items of provenance and history which indicates the items, along with the other items mentioned in the letter, were removed by a house clearance firm from the attic rooms of Harewood House, Yorkshire, under the instructions of Lord Harewood, the Queens cousin. A very interesting item which could possibly tell an interesting story and was without doubt owned by one of the most famous personalities of the Victorian era. Major-General Charles George Gordon CB, known more famously as Gordon of Khartoum, was a Military officer who made a name for himself firstly in China in the 1860’s. He was instrumental in putting down the Taiping Rebellion. After service with the Military, he entered the service of the Khedive of Egypt in 1873 and later became the governor general of the Sudan. He returned to England in 1880. When the revolt in the Sudan broke out, led by the Islamic leader and self-proclaimed Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad, Gordon was once again sent to the Sudan, to evacuate from Khartoum loyal soldiers and civilians, once he managed to evacuate about 2,500 civilians, he ignored his orders and remained in Khartoum with a force of soldiers and non-military men. He held out the besieged city for almost a year, it was this heroic actions that gave him the publicity back in the UK. The government at the time was not pleased with the situation they felt that Gordon had got them in and reluctantly sent a relief force to Khartoum, however this arrived too late, the Mahdi’s men had finally taken the city and Gordon had been killed in action on the steps of the Governor Generals Palace. The image of his death is immortalised in the painting by George William Joy, titled General Gordons Last Stand. It is believed that the Mahdi’s men cut off the head of General Gordon and took it back to the Mahdi as a prize, his body was then desecrated and thrown down a well. It is said that “the head transfixed between the branches of a tree, where all who passed it could look in disdain, children could throw stones at it and the hawks of the desert could sweep and circle above”. General Gordon was a prominent figure in Kent, he commanded the Royal Engineers in Gravesend, he was responsible for the erecting of forts to defend the River Thames. He was also heavily involved in charity work in the town. A statue of Gordon proudly stands in the Gordon Gardens, as does a statue of him at the Royal Engineers barracks in Gillingham.