Journal Volume 2 1995
The Landing of Arms and Ammunition at Kilcoole, County Wicklow by the Irish National Volunteers in 1914 (continued/4)
The ‘Asgard’ meantime was sailing to Ireland independently of the ‘Kelpie’. On July 4th the ‘Kelpie’ arrived in the St. Tudwell’s Road and waited in vain for 4 days for the arrival of the ‘Chotah’. It never arrived so on Friday July 24th the’ Kelpie’ sailed out to meet the ‘Chotah’ only to discover that it had split its mainsail and so the operation planned for that weekend was cancelled. Orders cancelling the Kilcoole operation were issued but some Volunteers did not receive them in time and that Saturday night - July 25th - the Kilcoole area was subjected to an unusual amount of motor traffic as Volunteers drove around for hour after hour waiting for a shipment to arrive which had been cancelled. This activity was noted by the correspondents of the local newspapers who commented on this, and some assumed that the landing had taken place when in actual fact it had not. After several hours the motorised Volunteers realised that the landing was not going to happen and departed quickly from the area.
On Sunday July 26th the ‘Asgard’ landed its consignment in Howth unopposed and the landing passed off incident free. However on the way back to Dublin there was a confrontation with the police at Fairview which resulted in a minor melee but the weapons and ammunition were spirited away by those at the rear of the column while those at the head argued with the police.
A detachment of the King’s Own Borderers had been mobilised and while returning to Barracks via Bachelor’s Walk opened fire on a crowd who were jeering them and this resulted in the deaths of two men and one woman, 35 were wounded; two of those wounded sustained bayonet wounds. While these events were happening in Dublin Connor O’Brien had transhipped his cargo of arms and ammunition to the ‘Chotah’ which now lay at anchor in Wales and he arrived off Bray head that morning. Rumours that the Volunteers had landed arms along the coast were rife and a large force descended on Dalkey Harbour waiting for the ‘Kelpie’ to sail in. But when no Volunteers arrived and several hours had elapsed, it dawned on the watchers that they had been duped and they left immediately, leaving a token force to guard the Harbour.
A watch was put on Bray Harbour, Greystones, and in Dun Laoghaire; all vessels at anchor there were boarded and searched but nothing was found. As news about the shootings in Dublin spread down the coast the initial reaction was that the story was a fabrication and yet another rumour put out by the Volunteers, but when special editions of the Dublin newspapers appeared this disbelief changed to one of outrage and horror.
The immediate effect of the successful Howth operation was that coastal surveillance was stepped up and daily the warships ‘Liverpool’ and ‘Forward’, which were based in Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire), sailed up and down the coast stopping and searching vessels at random by day and night. At night time, in the absence of radar which had yet to be invented, the vessels swept the seas with their searchlights looking for the vessel which they expected would try and sneak through the blockade under cover of darkness. They did not know that the ‘Chotah’ was lying at anchor in Wales waiting to carry out the Kilcoole operation.