Erskine Childers

Read a brief biographical account of Childers and his part in the story of the Asgard

Erskine and Molly Childers aboard the Asgard.

Robert Erskine Childers was an unlikely candidate for an Irish nationalist. He was born in 1870 into an Anglo-Irish Family which had an extensive history of involvement with the British establishment.

After studying classics and law in Trinity College, Cambridge, he came third in the civil service entrance exam and started working as a clerk in Westminster in 1895.

In 1899 he volunteered to fight in the Boer War, serving in an artillery unit. In 1903 he visited Boston where he met Mary Alden Osgood who came from a wealthy family with a tradition of holding anti-imperialist views, they were married in 1904.


During this time Childers published several works which were very well received giving him some notoriety in literary circles, the most famous of these The Riddle of the Sands was a fictionalised account of a sailing trip he took around the North and Baltic seas in which he advocated greater preparedness for war with Germany.

Change of Heart

At the outbreak of the Boer War he was a supporter of British conservative values, but as the war progressed he grew disillusioned with the poor handling of the situation by the authorities. After marrying, his wife too added to his doubts about the merits of empire.

After several visits to Ireland he became convinced that Home Rule should be granted. In 1910 he resigned from his position in Westminister to run as a candidate for the Liberal party in the general election. His increasing preoccupation with the Home Rule question would get in the way of his political ambitions. When the possibility of excluding the North from the agreement became a real possibility Childers withdrew from the Liberal party, adamant that no compromise be made with the Unionists.