Asgard docks at Collins Barracks

 

Ireland’s first national sail training vessel Asgard, the yacht used for gun running in 1914, has been put on public display after a €1.3 million restoration process.

The permanent exhibition Asgard: The 1914 Howth Gun Running Vessel Conserved was formally opened tonight at the Collins Barracks branch of the National Museum of Ireland by Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan, after a 20-year restoration process including five years intensive conservation.

Built in Norway in 1905 for Irish writer and nationalist Erskine Childers and his wife Molly Osgood, the vessel was used in May 1914 by the couple and a small crew to cross the channel into Howth, Co Dublin carrying 900 rifles and 29,000 rounds of ammunition from Germany for the Irish Volunteers.

The gun running was a response to a similar expedition to Larne, Co Antrim the month before to arm the Ulster Volunteers.

Ground breaking techniques were used to save much of the boat’s original material including 70 per cent of the hull and deck, in the project led by John Kearon, a master shipwright and conservator.

The exhibition tells the story of the yacht’s commissioning as a wedding gift for the couple, parents of Ireland’s fourth president, its most famous role in gun running and its eventual use as Ireland’s first national sail training vessel.

Its successor as the State’s sail training vessel, Asgard II sank off the coast of France in 2008 but after initial promises by the then government, was not salvaged or replaced. The insurance money from the sinking reverted instead to central exchequer funding.

The Minister this evening praised the conservation efforts used for the original Asgard and the technical ability, artistic skill involved in restoration sensitive to the original materials. The challenge was “even more complicated when the vessel is cherished as an item of national heritage”.

Mr Deenihan said the original Asgard “links us directly to the tumultuous times a hundred years ago when the futures of Ireland, the United Kingdom and Europe were about to change”.

The exhibition represented an opportunity to “reflect of the complexities of the time” and to remember Erskine Childers in the range of identities and roles.