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Gun running at Howth!
Scenes at Howth yesterday as the National Volunteers landed a shipment of munitions Photo: RTÉ Stills Library

Gun running at Howth!

Irish Volunteers lands hundreds of guns and ammunition

Dublin, 26 July 1914 - There were sensational scenes in the seaside village of Howth, Co. Dublin today when the Irish Volunteers successfully landed hundreds of guns and a considerable amount of ammunition.

Shortly after midday an ordinary yacht sailed into the harbour at Howth and soon afterwards about 1,000 members of the Irish Volunteers appeared on the pier.

Half of the Volunteers formed a cordon to prevent access to the pier, while the remainder began to pass rifles and boxes from the yacht.

Some of the arms were distributed to Volunteers, while the remainder were placed in motor cars and driven away.

The Howth gun running had clear precedent in the successful gun running undertaken by the Ulster Volunteers at Larne last April when more than 35,000 rifles were landed and dispersed across Ulster.

The Asgard, the vessel on which the munitions were landed. (Image: RTÉ Stills Library)

A woman who was on holidays at Howth has given a graphic description of the event: ‘I was on the head of the East Pier about noon when I noticed a white-painted yawl of at least 50 tons, smartly kept, and steered by a lady.’

‘Turning around I saw at least a couple of hundred men running for all they were worth towards the pier from the direction of the railway station. While they were running up the pier the hatches of the yawl were opened. Some of the men from the pier jumped down and handed up to their comrades Lee-Enfield rifles.’

The RTÉ History Show discusses the Howth gun running and the diaries of Mary Spring Rice, one of the people on board the Asgard.

‘A small machinegun with wheels, was also taken off the yawl, but it was so well wrapped up that I could not see what it was like.’

‘About 20 minutes after the hatches had been lifted three coastguards in a boat approached the yawl, but went away in response to a warning from the men on board. The yawl sailed off between the Kish Lightship and Lambay Island.’

‘During the whole proceedings I was, with another lady and our escort, kept ‘under arrest’ by two men, who treated us courteously and apologised for the necessity of detaining us.’

[Editor's note: This is an article from Century Ireland, a fortnightly online newspaper, written from the perspective of a journalist 100 years ago, based on news reports of the time.]

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Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.