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NA205512 - CHILDERS, E.: Riddle of the Sands (The) (Abridged)

Erskine Childers

Erskine Childers

The Riddle of the Sands


Erskine Childers was born in 1870 of Anglo-Irish parents and was educated at Haileybury and Trinity College, Cambridge. From 1895 to 1910 he was

a clerk in the House of Commons. He spent the long holidays sailing in the North Sea and the Channel, exploring the shoals of the German, Dutch and Danish coasts. At the outbreak of the Boer War, Childers volunteered, later writing a record of his experiences, In the Ranks of the C.I.V., which was the fifth volume of The Times History of the War in South Africa. He also published two books, which demonstrated the outdated use of cavalry against modern weapons.


The Riddle of the Sands, his famous spy novel that has become a classic,

was published in 1903. The following year Childers married Mary (Molly)

Alsen Osgood, whom he met on a trip to Boston. In 1910 Childers resigned

from his job to devote himself to working for the Irish cause, and in 1911 he published The Framework of Home Rule, which advocated full dominion status for Ireland. In 1914, he used his yacht, the Asgard, to bring German arms to the Irish volunteers.


However, during the First World War, he did reconnaissance work in the Royal Naval Air Service, and served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and as an Intelligence Officer. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

After the war, Childers settled in Ireland, to work and write for its independence. In 1921 he became a Sinn Fein member of the Irish parliament for County Widelow, and minister for propaganda. He opposed the treaty that established the Irish Free State, joined the Irish Republican Army and, in 1922, was arrested and shot by a British firing squad.


Although published in 1903, The Riddle of the Sands showed prophetic insight, with its background of German preparations for a naval invasion of Britain — a plot line that would not have seemed dated in the late 1930s. John Buchan wrote of Childers, “No revolution ever produced a nobler or purer spirit.”


Notes by Lesley Young



Dermot Kerrigan


The young Irish actor Dermot Kerrigan trained at LAMDA and has since appeared in much Shakespearean theater including: Richard II at the Royal Exchange, Manchester; Romeo and Juliet (TV); with the RSC at Stratford, as well as modern plays at The Royal Court and extensive touring with Shared Experience.


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