Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

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From 'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyageby Turtle Bunbury (MPG, 2008).

On September 11th 2008, many were stunned to hear that the Asgard II had sunk in the Bay of Biscay. The sail-training vessel was a regular visitor to the Dublin Docklands. Owned by the Ministry of Defence and managed by Coiste an Asgard, the ship was built to absolute perfection in Arklow, Co Wicklow. Completed in 1981, its architect was the late Jack Tyrrell, a consummate craftsman who hand picked every single plank of oak. The design was based on that used by Brigantine pirates in the 17th century and was operated by muscle and wind. Frank Traynor, skipper for eight years, reckoned she was one of the fastest, safest and sturdiest ships ever built. She was heading to a maritime festival in La Rochelle when she sank. The crew and the trainees were picked up by the French Coast Guard and taken to the Island of Belle-Ile. At time of print, the vessel has been located on the seabed and appears to be upright and largely intact. Further investigations are underway but it is widely hoped that the priceless ship may yet be salvaged.

The Asgard II was named for Asgard, a gaff rigged Ketch designed and built by Colin Archer of Larvik, Norway, in 1905. The name ‘Asgard’ is an old Norse word meaning ‘Home of the Gods’. The two-master was destined for considerable fame when Dr. and Mrs. Hamilton Osgood of Boston presented it to their daughter Mary on the occasion of her marriage. Her husband was the writer Erskine Childers, subsequently one of the most controversial figures of the Irish War of Independence. In July 1914 Erskine, Mary and four others sailed Asgard to the North Sea to collect a cargo of German guns for the Irish Volunteers. The cargo landed at Howth on 26 July 1914, just two days before the outbreak of the Great War. Asgard was sold in 1926 and passed through several hands before being purchased by the Irish Government in 1961 because of her historical associations. She was transferred to Kilmainham Jail Historical Museum in 1979 for exhibition to the public, and is now owned by the developer Harry Crosbie. In 1973, Erskine and Mary Childers’s eldest son Erskine became the fourth President of Ireland.




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