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Thursday 2 October 2014

Relatives of Asgard crew gather to celebrate centenary

Danielle Stephens

Published 28/07/2014 | 02:30

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Paul Callery, James Langton and Rod Dennison from the Dublin Brigade
Irish Volunteers History Society at yesterday’s commemoration. Photo: Mark Maxwell
Paul Callery, James Langton and Rod Dennison from the Dublin Brigade Irish Volunteers History Society at yesterday’s commemoration. Photo: Mark Maxwell

A fisherman who threw out a rope to the yacht at the centre of the Howth Gun Running was just one of a group that helped change the course of Irish history.

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On the pier where the Asgard landed a cargo of 900 German rifles on July 26, 1914, descendants of the yacht's skipper Erskine Childers joined scores of dignitaries and members of the public to mark the mission.

It was recalled that fisherman John K Cotter steered Childers' yacht through the final stages of its journey, pulling it into the harbour.

Decades after his death, his family found a letter that he wrote, documenting his involvement in the gun run.

Fifteen of his descendants gathered to celebrate his actions that helped pave the way for an Irish free state.

Helen Cotter-Kenny, proudly showed off a picture of her Kerry-born grandfather, explaining that without him the yacht may never have docked in the Dublin harbour.

"His tug boat was the only boat in the sea at the time, so he threw out a rope and brought in the Asgard.

"He also helped unload the guns and then pulled the boat back out when they were finished.

"There were an awful lot of people involved that were never recognised and I suppose my grandfather was one of them," said Ms Cotter-Kenny.

President Michael D Higgins, who led the commemorative ceremony, said the centenary of the extraordinary Howth Gun Running was a challenge to remember the dream of a truly inclusive republic.

"The arrival here of the Asgard on July 26 was an event which was to change the course of our Irish history," he said.

Nessa Childers, the Independent MEP and grand-daughter of the captain of the Asgard, also attended the event.

The Howth Gun Running followed the smuggling of munitions into Larne by the Ulster Volunteer Force and was intended to arm the Irish Volunteers with 900 Mauser rifles and 29,000 rounds of ammunition to defend the principles of Home Rule. Many of the weapons were later used in the 1916 Easter Rising.

On board were Erskine Childers and his wife Molly, maritime pioneer and republican Conor O'Brien, two islanders from Gola off Donegal, Patrick McGinley and Charles Dugen, and Mary Spring Rice.

Irish Independent

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