Boaters Meeting – Wednesday 18th April 2018 – “Erskine Childers – Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Gun-Runner” by Dick Durham

Dick Durham returns to Boaters after last year giving us his “Confessions of a Cruising Correspondent”. This time he’ll be talking about the extraordinary life of Erskine Childers.
Childers picked up the fundamentals of seamanship as a deckhand on his friend’s yacht, before buying his own “scrubby little yacht”, which he learned to sail alone on the Thames estuary. He quickly moved on to a succession of bigger and better boats; crossing the Channel and then cruising the Frisian Islands and the Baltic.
These were the adventures he was to fictionalise in 1903 as his most acclaimed novel “The Riddle of the Sands” which combined sailing a small boat through hazardous waters with pre-war intrigue and threats to the nation. It has been called ‘the first spy novel’ and it influenced other writers including John Buchan (“The Thirty-Nine Steps”) and Eric Ambler (“The Cruel Sea” and “A Night to Remember” screenplays). Winston Churchill credited it as a major reason that the Admiralty decided to establish naval bases at Invergordon, Rosyth, and Scapa Flow.
Childers’ extensive writing also included his experiences serving with the Honorable Artillery Company in the Boer War, before his return to London and transfer to the fledgling Royal Air Force.
Initially an ardent patriot, over time Childers’ lost his support for the British Empire and he became a leading role in the Irish revolution, and in 1914 he was caught smuggling guns and ammunition to the Irish Volunteers aboard his yacht ‘Asgard’.
Dick himself worked his way through a succession of boats, as mate on the Thames sailing barge Cambria, on schooners and a 55ft brigantine before taking up yacht cruising for pleasure and spending 20 years as a journalist on Fleet Street and with CNN before joining Yachting Monthly in 1985.

Dick Durham Childers1 Childers2

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