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Asgard may sail again

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — The famous Asgard yacht owned by the father of former President Erskine Childers and used to run guns into Howth for the Irish Volunteers in 1914, is going to be restored.

The yacht had been languishing in Kilmainham Goal for years but it was lifted out over the wall on Sunday, March 4, by a crane and brought to the Royal Dublin Showgrounds.

The 50-foot-long yacht landed German Mauser rifles that were later used in the Easter Rising. There was a minute of silence as the yacht was lifted out of the jail where many of the 1916 leaders were executed.

It had been planned to be put on view at the Boat Show, but this was cancelled because of the foot-and-mouth disease crisis.

After many years of neglect, a new campaign — "Nail Your Colors to the Mast" — is raising £1 million toward the restoration. Defense Minister Michael Smith has pledged that the government would meet half the cost.

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Harry Crosbie, chairman of the fund-raising development group, said he had been staggered how bad a condition it was in.

"These ships are living things," he said. "It isn’t right to leave them like this. Even though they are national artifacts, on balance it is better they would be kept as living sailing vessels."

Some historians have argued that, rather than restore it to sail again, it should be conserved. However, though all the rigging and the interior is gone, surveys have shown that much of the original wood remains and is in good condition.

Nessa Childers, a granddaughter of Erskine Childers, believes the project will restore her grandfather’s place in history.

"I think that he has been forgotten by history — maybe repressed would be a better word," she said.

The Norwegian-built Asgard was a wedding gift from Dr. and Mrs. Hamilton Osgood of Boston when their daughter Molly married Erskine Childers, father of the president.

Molly was disabled and used a wheelchair. The Asgard was originally specially fitted out so that she could sail it and she used to lash herself to the helm so that she could steer it.

Childers was the author of the famous spy novel and classic sea story "The Riddle of the Sands," which was credited with alerting Britain to the danger of German naval intrusion from the North Sea sand dune coasts of Holland and Germany before World War I.

The government bought the ketch in 1961 from the last of several English owners. Childers was executed in 1922 and his widow sold it in 1927.

From 1961-67, it was laid up and then was used for sailing training between 1968-74. It was replaced by Asgard II, a brigantine built in Arklow.

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