The official commemoration of the centenary anniversary of the landing of arms on 26 July 1914 by the yacht Asgard at Howth, and the subsequent loss of life at Bachelor’s Walk, took place on Sunday 27 July 2014 at Howth harbour. Descendants and relatives of the key participants were guests of honour at these events, which were open to members of the public.
On 26 July 1914, Erskine Childers’ yacht, the Asgard, arrived at the east pier of Howth harbour, north of Dublin. The yacht contained 900 rifles and 19,000 rounds of ammunition, purchased in Hamburg with funds raised by individuals associated with the Irish Volunteers, most notably with the assistance of Alice Stopford Green and Roger Casement.
The early planning of the Howth and Kilcoole gun-runnings, May 1914. From UCD HistoryHub.
The gun-running was prompted by the much larger gun-running expedition carried out by the Ulster Volunteer Force at Larne the previous April. The weapons were unloaded at Howth by members of the Irish Volunteers and Na Fianna Éireann; a smaller cargo of weapons was landed at Kilcoole, County Wicklow, a few days later. As the weapons were being brought into the city, an abortive attempt to seize them was made by members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and the King’s Own Scottish Borderers; the latter, while returning to the Royal Barrack’s (now Collins Barracks) later that day, opened fire on a hostile but unarmed crowd at Bachelor’s Walk on the Dublin quays, killing three civilians—Mary Duffy (56), Patrick Quinn (50), and James Brennan (18)—and injuring another 80; a fourth victim, Sylvester Pidgeon, died of his wounds on 25 September. Most of the weapons landed were not seized, and were later used in the Easter Rising of 1916.
Gun-running at Howth and Three people shot dead by British soldiers on Bachelor’s Walk. From Century Ireland.
The programme of events for the day began at 9am, with ceremony at Glasnevin Cemetery led by Ms. Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, in memory of those killed at Bachelor’s Walk, who are buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. The ceremony, which involved a wreath-laying, was followed by a memorial mass at the Pro-Cathedral at 10am, attended by President Michael D. Higgins.
The focus of the centenary commemoration then shifted to the east pier of Howth harbour, the original venue for the unloading of the weapons. The official commemoration, which began at 11.30am, was addressed by President Higgins. It also featured a salute from the Defence Forces and a re-enactment of the events of the gun-running in 1914. Historical context to the events of 26 July 1914 was provided by members of the ASGARD 100 group throughout the proceedings. After the re-enactment, Presdident Higgins met with relatives of those involved in the gun-running.
The community element of the commemoration continued afterwards, with a cultural programme featuring Brendan Begley, Ceoltóirí Chluain Tarbh and the St Lawrence Pipe Band from Howth. Prizes were presented to the best period dressed individual male and female, family and boat crew. The programme of events concluded at 4pm.
From History Ireland: Lar Joye on the Asgard’s cargo.