Restored Asgard to draw the public

Restoration of the century-old gun-running boat Asgard will allow people to reflect on the complexities of its history, a minister has said.

The yacht, which journeyed into Howth in 1914 laden with German rifles for the Irish Volunteers, has been brought back to life at the National Museum.

Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, said having the boat on display will allow people to look back on the huge historical shifts of the time.

“Asgard links us directly to the tumultuous times, 100 years ago, when the futures of Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Europe were about to change,” he said.

“The launch of this exhibition presents an opportunity to reflect on the complexities of the time and to remember Erskine Childers in the range of identities and roles: As a writer and sailor, as a soldier of the Empire who became an Irish nationalist and as a Republican that could not be reconciled to the outcome of the struggle, even as a member of the treaty delegation.”

The Asgard display will be free to the public as a permanent exhibition at Collins Barracks, Dublin, after the five-year restoration project. The yacht was built in 1905 by one of Norway’s most famous boat designers, Colin Archer, on commission as a wedding gift for writer Childers and his wife Molly.

On May 28, 1914, writer and political activist Darrell Figgis and Childers negotiated a shipment of 1,500 rifles and 49,000 rounds of ammunition from arms firm Moritz Magnus Jr in Hamburg.

Asgard, with Childers and his wife on board, carried 900 rifles and 29,000 ammunition rounds into Howth on Jul 26, 1914, with the yacht Kelpie taking the rest. The gun-running was in response to the arming of the Ulster Volunteers with a shipment of guns into Larne.

The Asgard went on to have a second life as the national sail-training vessel after being bought by the Government in the 1960s. Master shipwright and ship conservator John Kearon, the Asgard project manager, has been involved in the restoration for more than 20 years.

About 70% of the original hull and deck has been saved and the missing accommodation and deckhouses have been recreated, down to replica upholstery and mattresses.

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