Writer and historian Erskine Childers will present a lecture entitled, “The Riddle of Erskine Childers,” on Friday, March 28 at 4:30 p.m. at the Lewis Center for the Arts’ James M. Stewart ’32 Theater, 185 Nassau Street. The lecture is part of a series presented by Princeton University’s Fund for Irish Studies. The event is free and open to the public.
Childers will talk about his great-grandfather Robert Erskine Childers, a major figure in the Irish revolution. A writer and political activist, Robert Erskine Childers was born in London and educated at Haileybury College and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he argued against Irish Home Rule. From 1895 to 1910 he was a clerk in the House of Commons. He served in both the Boer War and the First World War before settling in Ireland in 1919, by then wholly committed to the goal of Irish independence. He used his own yacht, the Asgard, to supply arms to the Irish volunteers at Howth in 1914. In 1921 he was appointed director of publicity for the Irish Republican Army and in 1922 he was court‐martialled for possession of a revolver and executed by a Free State firing squad.
As a writer, the elder Childers is remembered for The Riddle of the Sands (1903), often described as the first example of spy fiction, a novel about two British yachtsmen sailing in the Baltic who discover German preparations for an invasion of England. The book was a sensational bestseller and drew attention to the menace of an enemy yet to be acknowledged. Childers was the son of the Victorian Oriental scholar Robert Childers and father of Erskine Hamilton Childers, who became the fourth president of Ireland.