Historic 'Asgard' set to go on display after five years of intensive restoration

Thu, Aug 2, 2012, 01:00

FIVE YEARS after the intensive conservation process of Asgard first began, the restored ship will go on public display in Collins Barracks in Dublin next week for the first time.

The yacht, owned by Erskine Childers, the father and namesake of the fourth president of Ireland, played a pivotal role in the 1914 Howth gun-running.

John Kearon, Asgard project manager and lead conservator who is a master shipwright and ship and boat conservator, said the final touches to the yacht, which will contain replica upholstery and mattresses, were ongoing ahead of the opening. Mr Kearon, who has been involved in the restoration process for more than 20 years, said “ground breaking” techniques had been used to save as much of the boat’s original material as possible.

“We are now approaching the end of that conservation process and have saved some 70 per cent of the original hull and deck. We have also re-created the missing original accommodation and deckhouses. Asgard now is exactly like when she was first built in 1905.”

Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan said the restoration was an “important contribution to the commemorative programme marking the centenary of the years that shaped modern Ireland”.

“I would encourage everyone to come and see Asgard and the associated exhibition that tells her story and acknowledges the achievement of Erskine and Molly Childers and the other crew members who brought a shipment of arms for the Irish Volunteers to Howth in May 1914,” he said.

On May 28th, 1914, Darrell Figgis, the Irish writer and political activist, and Erskine Childers, a writer and republican, travelled to Hamburg where they negotiated the purchase of 1,500 rifles and 49,000 rounds of ammunition from arms firm Moritz Magnus jnr.

With Roger Casement acting as liaison between the London committee and the Irish Volunteers in Dublin, it was arranged that Childers would collect the arms shipment in his yacht Asgard.

Although half the shipment was to be collected by the yacht Kelpie, in the event Asgard transported 900 rifles and 29,000 rounds of ammunition, with Kelpie taking the rest.

Sandra Heise, curator of the Asgard exhibition, said the exhibition aimed to tell the yacht’s story from her commissioning as a wedding gift for the Childers in 1905, to her role in the Howth gun-running and her eventual use as Ireland’s first national sail-training vessel.

The opening of the permanent exhibition, Asgard: The 1914 Howth Gun-Running Vessel Conserved, will be launched at The National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, in Dublin next Wednesday at 6pm.