While I was at the Irish National Museum at the Collins Barracks on Sunday, continuing the theme of Irish rebellion against the British, I called in to see the exhibition which told the story of a sleek yacht, the Asgard, that had been renovated and was on display on an out building at the former barracks.
The Asgard was built in 1905 to a design by Colin Archer, a Norwegian naval architect, based on a Norwegian pilot boat. It was commissioned by Erskine Childers and his wife Molly. Childers was a writer and the author of a popular novel, the Riddle of the Sands, a patriotic espionage story about a German plot to invade Britain. Ironically Childers was also a supporter of Irish Home Rule and used the Asgard to transport guns from Germany over to Ireland on the eve of the First World War.
The Asgard set out from Conwy in north Wales on July 3rd, and sailed down the Welsh coast, around Land’s End and into the Channel. It rendezvoused with a German ship, the Gladiator during the evening of July 12 th off the coast of Belgian where the cargo of 1,500 German made Mauser rifles together with 49,000 rounds of ammunition were transferred to the yacht. It sailed back to Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire and then across a stormy Irish Sea to Howth, a small port on Dublin Bay just north of the city.
It docked on July 26th and the guns and ammunition were unloaded by a large group of Irish Volunteers (the Republican paramilitary organisation) who then marched in formation back to Dublin proudly bearing their arms.
The Mauser rifles dated from 1970 when they were “state of the art”, but by 1914 they were rather outdated. However the Asgard’s cargo was one of the main sources of weapons used by the rebels during the Easter Uprising in 1916.
Asgard was sold in 1928, and would have three further owners before being purchased by the Irish Government in 1960, after which it was used as a training vessel for naval cadets between 1961 and 1974. It was “retired” and put on display in dry dock at Kilmainham until 2001 and was then put into storage.
Inspection of the Asgard revealed that there was considerable damage from corrosion. It was decided to repair and restore the vessel and after a major restoration project it was put on display at the Collins Barracks where it remains today.
It’s beautifully preserved and the sleek vessel is an impressive sight. It can be viewed from the ground, looking up from below, and also from a viewing balcony at deck level. Panels around the room tell the story of the Asgard, it’s owner and crew and the Howth landing.