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  Celebration of JK Cottor - Howth Gun Running

2016 Commemorative Events at Cape Clear Island, Co. Cork, August 20th-21st

Over the weekend of Saturday- Sunday 20-21 August 2016 events relating to the Howth Gun-Running of 1914 and the part played in that daring and historic venture by Cape Clear fisherman and poet John K. Cotter will be held at Cape Clear Island, Co. Cork.

1. John K. Cotter Memorial Lecture at Club Chléire, Cape Clear Island, 8:30pm Saturday 20th August 2016.

John K. Cotter, Glen, Cape Clear island was a fisherman and poet who omposed poems in both Irish and English on a range of varied subjects. Aspects of the following subjects feature in one form or another in verses he composed: landing of guns from the Molly and Erskine Childers yacht Asgard at Howth in 1914; boats, fishing and sailing; island landscape; dancing and other pastimes; An Ghaeilge; love, youth and old age. He also penned a number of poems about other places that were familiar to him, including Galway and Blackwater, Co. Kerry, where he and his family relocated in 1920. His verses are the words and thoughts of an island fisherman who loved his island home, its community, its way of life and language.

Dr. Éamon Lankford, founder and voluntary director of Cape Clear Island Museum and Archive is author of a number of works on Cape Clear island life and history. He has edited the manuscripts, left by John K., of some forty poems. Between 1976 and 1990, he also recorded a number of the poems from an older island generation who were able to recite them from memory.

On Saturday 20th August at 9 pm Éamon Lankford will deliver a lecture titled: Remembering John K. at Club Chléire, Cape Clear island. Over the weekend it is also intended to visit sites mentioned in the poems of John K. where members of the island community will recite some of his verses. All are welcome to attend.

The book of the poems of John K. Cotter : Ó Charraig Aonair go Droichead Dóinneach / From Fastnet Sound to Blackwater Bridge, will along with an exhibition detailing the part played by John K. and the crew of his fishing vessel Gabriel in the landing of guns from the Asgard will be launched at the Island Museum at 3.30pm on Sunday afternoon 21st August.


2.Commemorative Exhibition: The Howth Gun-Running and its connection with Cape Clear islanders

Within a week of the start of the First World War in 1914 a small group of Anglo- Irish Protestant Nationalist daringly brought some 900 guns from Germany to Howth, Co. Dublin in a desperate effort to help arm the Irish Volunteers. Ulster Unionists had been stirring up opposition since 1912 to prevent the passing of the Government of Ireland Bill at Westminster which was at the time offering a measure of Self Government to Ireland. Unionists in Ulster formed the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force and imported some 35,000 guns and 3 million rounds of ammunition to back up their threats to oppose by all means the will of the Government and Parliament at Westminster. The Crown authorities took no action against the Ulster Volunteer Force who were heavily armed and drilling openly. As the Erskine and Molly Childers owned yacht Asgard carrying its cargo of guns and ammunition approached Howth on Sunday morning 26 July 1914, Cape Clear islander John K. Cotter was the only person on the East Pier at the time. A member of the crew of the Asgard, from Gola Island, Donegal, recognising John K. from a previous fishing encounter in 1913, called on him to assist with the mooring of the boat. John K. caught the rope passed to him and, with assistance from some of his own crew, who, by this time, were emerging from Cotter’s fishing vessel Gabriel, hauled the Asgard around the head of the East Pier and moored it.

John K. and fellow Cape Clear islander, Carey Con Cadogan, then went on board the Asgard and from its hold, together with McGilligan and crewman Charles Duggan, also from Gola Island, organised the opening of the cargo boxes and all then set about the distribution of the guns, first to Na Fianna scouts and then to the crowd of several hundred of the Irish Volunteers who had, by that time, arrived on the pier, having marched from Dublin to collect the arms.

As soon as the guns were offloaded and dispatched John K’s motor-powered Gabriel towed Asgard from Howth Pier into a position from which, under her gallant skipper and heroic crew, she could safely and swiftly head for the open sea. The guns landed at Howth Pier were used by the Irish Volunteers in the 1916 Rising in Dublin.

Cape Clear islanders have always known and are proud of the part played by John K. Cotter and the crew of Gabriel in helping Erskine and Molly Childers in that bold, historic venture. What if that initiative had not been successful?


The 2016 commemorative events at Cape Clear island are supported by Cork County Council Centenary Fund.


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