#OnThisDay 1870 Erskine Childers was born in London. His parents died when he was just a boy and he was sent to his mother’s family, the Barton’s in Glendalough. He studied aw at Trinity College, Cambridge and then worked in Westminster as a junior clerk.
He served as an artilleryman in the Boer war, where he wrote Volume V of “The Times History of the War in South Africa”, published in 1907.
His best known novel is ‘The Riddle of the Sands’, from 1903 which predicted a war with Germany is still in print today and is still included in “The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time”.
Childers smuggled 900 Mauser Rifles and 29,000 rounds of ammunition, bought from Germany, to the Irish Volunteers in what became famously known as the Howth Gun Running in June 1914 aboard his personal yacht, the Asgard, a 28 ton ship he received as a wedding present in 1904.
In August 1914 he volunteered at the outbreak of war and received a temporary commission as a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve. He was to plan an invasion of Germany via the Frisian Islands which never took place. He was then transferred to the Mediterranean Sea to serve in the Gallipoli Campaign, where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
The aftermath of the Easter Rising and the execution of the leaders that angered him. He was assigned to accompany the Irish delegates at the Paris Peace Treaty and then became Director of Publicity in the First Dáil. In 1920 Childers published Military Rule in Ireland, which attacked the heavy-handedness of British policy.
Childers was part of the team of plenipotentiaries who negotiated the Treaty with the British Government but he disagreed with it, especially the Oath of Allegiance. He took the Anti-Treaty side in the Civil War. He was arrested and tried in a military court for possession of a Spanish pistol which was given to hm by the Head of the Provisional Irish Government, Michael Collins.
Childers was executed at Beggars Bush Barracks on November 24th 1922 having first shaken hands with each member of the firing squad.
“I have a belief in the beneficent shaping of our destiny and I believe God means this for the best, for us, Ireland, and humanity. I die full of intense love of Ireland.”
He then said to the firing squad
“Take a step or two forward, lads, it will be easier that way.”
His son was inaugurated as President on this day 25th June 1973.