and the
" Riddle of the Sands"

Known as the Yachtsman’s Classic this book was written by Erskine Childers in 1902 and was sub-titled “A record of Secret Service” and told a story of Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany’s preparations for a possible invasion of the English lowlands, and of ‘Arthur Davies’ and his friend ‘Carruthers’sailing around the East Freisian Islands in his yacht “Dulcibella” and both becoming involved in uncovering what was happening.

Unfortunately Childers subsequently became involved in ‘The Irish’ question, as it was then known, his sympathies lying with Irish nationalism. With his 50 foot Colin Archer built ketch"ASGARD" bought for his wife Molly, he smuggled arms and amunition to Ireland in 1914. As a result he was subsequently executed by firing squad. (see postcript below)

His small yacht, “Dulcibella” was eventually to end her days at the Lymington Slipway, at Lymington in Hampshire where as a young boy I used to play on board her propped up against the side of one of the yards building sheds.

What happened to her is described at right:

Breaking up “Dulcibella”

All that is left of a very famous yacht is shown in the photograph on the above.

Taken in October 1948, this shows the last part of the keel of the ‘Dulcibella’, made famous in the book
“The Riddle of the Sands”

"Dulcibella" had found her way to the Lymington Slipway from Wooton, on the Isle of Wight, and there she stayed for many years during which time she gradually became decrepit.

An attempt, led by Commander Douglas Dixon RN (Retd)., was made, in 1948, to try and restore her as a lasting memorial to Erskine Childers, however she was too far decayed and so it was decided to break her up.

The photograph, above, shows Steve Biggs, the Yard Manager, with my late Father’s Diston saw after having cut the final piece of the keel, which was sent to Mrs Molly Childers, Erskine Childers Widow, in America.

As part of the team involved in the project, my Father received a nice letter of thanks from Mrs Childers..as shown at left.

Photo of Dulcibella in 1937
This photo was found by Carol Hammond in an old edition of Riddle of the Sands and sent to me for inclusion here. (Carol is also an Arthur Ransome enthusiast- Swallows and Amazons et al)
Yachting Monthly article April 2004
The item, left, appeared in the April edition of Yachting Monthly, as a result of my seeing an article in the December issue describing a voyage following in Dulcibella's wake. I wrote to explain the end of "Dulcibella", which was reproduced opposite with, however, some editorial 'inaccuracy'. The article mentions that I used to play aboard her in her' mudberth at Lymington'...which is untrue because she had been hauled out of the water some years before and had been propped up against one of the building sheds, as already described above.

A film “The Riddle of the Sands” was made and distributed by the Rank Organisation in 1979 and starred Michael York, Jenny Agutter and Simon MacCorkindale. It was shown, later, on television by Carlton. The film follows the book with about 95% accuracy. The last scene where "Dulcibella" was rammed and destroyed was simply not true, and was obviously put in to try and make a more dramatic ending.

Times Newspaper Article 19 Oct 1998

Erskine Childer’s boat "ASGARD", which was rescued and placed in the yard of Kilmainham jail in Dublin, now a museum, was, according to an article in the Times newspaper dated 19th October 1998 (shown opposite), again involved in politics between two Irish cabinet ministers with opposing views as to what should happen to her.

Should she should be restored to her original condition but kept in the museum, or restored to sailing condition and used as a sailing memorial not only to Childers but also to her builder Colin Archer. The full cost of restoration was quoted as being £500,000 of which some £250,000 has already been pledged by the Irish Minister of Defence. Time will tell

POSTSCRIPT (8th July, 2004)

The following information was sent to me today by Mr. Peter Kelly, from the Republic of Ireland, and clarifies the situation with regard to why Erskin Childers was executed. I had always understood that it was because he was regarded as a British traitor, which always begged the question why, in that case, would there have been a concerted attempt to preserve and, hopefully, restore "Dulcibella" as a permanent memorial to Erskine Childers. The information given below explains all and I am accordingly most grateful to Peter Kelly for the clarification, and therefore subsequent correction of the facts, and for readily giving me permission to include his comments in full:

"Erskine Childers did indeed become involved in the "Irish Question", on the Irish nationalist side. The "Asgard" ran guns to Dublin for use in the 1916 Rising against the British, and Erskine Childers is honoured for this and many other activities on the Irish side. However, after the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 a minority of the new Dail (Parliament) believed that by settling for an "Irish Free State" the new native Government had betrayed the sacrifice of those who fought for nothing less than an Irish Republic in the Rising and the subsequent War of Independence. (The differences between the Free State and an actual Republic were largely symbolic, but as you know, symbolism can be important at times of emotion and stress.)

This minority withdrew from Parliament and many of them took up arms against the Irish state. This number, sadly, included Erskine Childers. In the ensuing, very bitter, civil war, many terrible things were done by both sides. Erskine Childers was executed by the Irish Government (not the British, as your web site might be read to imply) I think Erskine Childers may have been executed, not as a reprisal, but because he was found to be carrying a handgun. This may not sound so serious--I don't think he had any kind of reputation as a personally violent or bloodthirsty man--but in the atmosphere of the times, when a new Government was trying to establish its authority in the midst of civil war, it was perhaps understandable.

His memory is still honoured by the political successors of both sides in the Civil War, and thankfully these things are now long behind us. His son Erskine Childers II was a prominent Irish politician and held many ministries. He was elected President of the Republic of Ireland in 1973, but sadly died early in his term of office (17th November 1974).

Finally, I think the "Asgard" is safe--but not seaworthy! It was removed to the safekeeping of Kilmainham Gaol Museum several years ago, and then there was a controversy about whether it should be kept indoors or restored to seaworthiness. Surveys established that restoration would involve replacing something like 90% of its timbers, which would obviously put in question whether it was really the Asgard! It is likely that it will continue to be kept in a museum--perhaps in the port of Howth, where the guns were landed".

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