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The Howth Gun-Running and the Kilcoole Gun-Running: Recollections & Documents


F.X. Martin

July 2014

An invaluable historical record of the first nationalist military operation in Ireland’s twentieth-century independence struggle written by the leaders of Irish nationalism, including Erskine Childers, Darrell Figgis, Pádraig Pearse, Bulmer Hobson, Arthur Griffith, Roger Casement, Seán MacDiarmada and Eoin MacNeill among many others which gives a fascinating and unique ‘running account’ of the planning, execution, and aftermath of the operation as told by the men and women ‘on the ground’.


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ISBN: 9781908928658 Categories: ,


This unique compendium of historical documents dating from 1914, and collected by FX Martin in 1964, is considered the definitive history of the Howth & Kilcoole Gun-Running. The letters and diary-entries written by the chief protagonists are remarkable first-hand accounts and provide a running commentary on the momentous events of July/August 1914, when German weapons were illegally landed in Ireland by sea. The rifles procured for the Irish Volunteers transformed perceptions of the organization and convinced many ordinary Nationalists that London would be obliged to deliver on the long promised implementation of Home Rule.

The complex seaborne operation was replete with acts of courage and endeavour and the fascinating letters, diary entries, eyewitness accounts and reports in this remarkable collection provide an unrivalled perspective on the event as it unfolded, ultimately constituting a genuinely extraordinary record of one of the most significant events in modern Irish history. This comprehensive collection is an essential record of the time.  It is also notable for charting the early militant activism of Eamon de Valera, Liam Mellows, Sean McDiarmada and many others who left their mark on the evolution of modern Ireland.

Table of Contents

Original Foreword by ‘His Excellency, Éamon de Valera’, 1964
New Foreword by Éamon Ó Cuív, 2014
Introduction by Rev. Professor F. X. Martin, O.S.A., University College Dublin, 1964
New Introduction by Ruán O’Donnell and Mícheál Ó hAodha, 2014


The Irish Volunteers in 1914

1. Proclamations prohibiting the carriage and importation of arms into Ireland, 1913
2. Conservatives and Orangemen defy the Government 1913-1914
3. Arms and drill by Ernest Blythe
4. Defence of Ireland Fund for Arms
5. No hostility to the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Unionists
6. We must have rifles
7. Over the Ulster frontier


8. Alice Stopford Green by Maire Comerford
9. Erskine Childers
10. Plans are laid in London by Darrell Figgis
11. List of subscribers to the gun-running fund
12. The boat at Foynes: Erskine Childers to his wife, 22 May 1914
13. Childers and Figgis in quest of guns, May 1914
14. Buying the guns at Hamburg by Darrell Figgis
15. Final Plans at Dublin: Erskine Childers to his wife, 21 June 2014
16. Everything completed: Figgis to Childers, Hamburg, 7 July 1914
17. Now or never! Padraig Pearse to Joe McGarrity 17 July 1914
18. The Asgard


19. Rendezvous at the Roetigen lightship by Darrell Figgis
20. The first stage of the journey: Gordon Shephard to his mother, 9 July 1914
21. Diary of the Asgard, July 1914: Mary Spring Rice
22. Letters from the Asgard: Mrs Erskine Childers to Mrs Stopford Green
23. Conor O’Brien
24. Sir Thomas Myles
25. Contraband of war by Conor O’Brien
26. Guns for Kilcoole by Diarmaid Coffey


27. Waiting in Philadelphia for a telegram: Roger Casement to Mrs Stopford Green
28. The Plan succeeds by Bulmer Hobson
29. Challenge from police and soldiers by Darrell Figgis
30. Bringing in the guns by Arthur Griffith
31. Sealed Orders: the Fianna at Howth by Padraig O Riain
32. Watching from Howth Pier by Gordon Shephard
33. An eye-witness at Howth
34.The guns are safe: Sean MacDiarmada to John Daly, 26 July 1914
35. With the I.R.B. at Howth and Kilcoole by Harry Nicholls
36. What the Howth gun-running means: Pádraig Pearse to Joe McGarrity


37. Bloodshed at Bachelor’s Walk from The Daily Chronicle, 27 July 1914
38. The greatest deed in Ireland for 100 years’: Casement to Mrs Stopford Green
39. What happened at Howth and Bachelor’s Walk: Eoin MacNeill to Casement
40. When the news reached Belfast by George Fitz Hardinge Berkeley
41. Danger and duty from The Irish Times, 27 July 1914
42. How matters now stand with the Volunteers: Padraig Pearse to Joe McGarrity, 12 August 1914
43. ‘My old Howth gun’

About the Editors

Ruán O’Donnell is a senior lecturer in history at the University of Limerick. He is an authority on the history of Irish republicanism and has published extensively on the United Irishmen and Irish Republican Army. His most recent book, Special Category: The IRA in English Prisons (IAP, 2012) is a bestseller.
Mícheál Ó hAodha works at the University of Limerick where he is a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of History. He has published books on various aspects of Irish migration and on the history of the Irish Diaspora.