News from Cape Clear Ferries

A Fly on the Wall version of the Howth Gunrunning of 1914

Cape Clear Ferry Blog

A Fly on the Wall version of the Howth Gunrunning of 1914

A Cape Clear  ‘Fly on the Wall’  at The Howth Gun Running of July 1914.

Unloading guns from Ashguard Howth 1914
Howth Gunrunning 1914

How often have we hear the phrase ‘I wish I was a fly on the wall’ in regard to important historical events?  Cape Clear Islanders have often witnessed such historical events. And since their presence may have gone unrecorded by contemporary sources that, if anything makes their perspectives more interesting. Because, quite often people’s thoughts and impressions at the time are rather different to the accounts later penned by historians.

Howth Gun Running

Howth Rifles
Howth Rifles

The Howth Gun Running of July 1914 is a momentous event in Irish history. Being the forerunner to the 1916 Rising it set Ireland on the road to independence. One of the boats involved, the famous Ashgard landed in Howth, close to Dublin.

Scéal eile to come, Conor O’Brien and the men of Cape Clear

Another boat involved, the Kelpie, skippered by Conor O’Brien landed in Wicklow with much less fuss. And Conor O’Brien himself also crossed paths with mariners from Cape Clear Island on a later exploit.  But sin scéal eile, that’s a story for another day soon.

And there, in Howth, to greet the Ashgard and her guns were none other than John K. Cotter of The Glen, Cape Clear, skipper and owner of the herring boat Gabriel and its crew of 7, all also from the Island.

German Rifles

Approaching Howth’s East Pier with a consignment of German rifles and ammunition the Ashgard became becalmed. At the time the only other boat at the Pier was the Gabriel then engaged in fishing on the East Coast.

The Ashgard crew included three fishermen from Gola Island, who, knowing the Capers, bellowed at them for assistance in berthing. Quickly a rope was thrown ashore and the men of both islands worked to bring the Ashgard alongside the Gabriel.

Ashguard at sea 1914
Ashguard photo taken at sea 1914
Cathal Brugha
Cathal Brugha

Cathal Brugha, an elated Revolutionary.

As they worked a crowd soon began to gather led by an elated Cathal Brugha,( famous revolutionary)  who, apparently armed with a revolver and came aboard the Gabriel. He was very excitable and Denis Cotter, brother of John Cotter made him a mug of tea to calm him  down a bit.

By now a crowd had thickened and the fishermen, of both islands worked together to bring up the boxes and breaking them open handed the guns to the volunteers on the pier above.

And what were the lads really thinking ?

And when the historic day was done what did the Cape men have to talk about ? Did they talk of military deeds to come? of the National Question? of Independence & Nationhood ?. Actually non of that. Because as John K Cotter relates  the members of the  Childers

John K Cotter Howth Gun running
Bureau of Military History, Howth Gun running

family included a lady dressed in trousers . Later that day he found his crew “arguing afterwards whether this person was in fact a man or a woman !’’.

All this in a hand written statement was given by John K. Cotter to the Bureau of Military history on 11 July 1961.