Irish nationalist, Robert Erskine Childers, author of Riddle of the Sands, arms smuggler, father of the fourth president of Ireland Erskine Childers is executed by Free State government for carrying an unlawful weapon. Childers supported the Anti-Treaty forces in the vicious Irish civil war which plagued the country from 1921-1923. Ironically, the weapon in question was allegedly a gift from one time friend and colleague Michael Collins. In his book The Riddle of Erskine Childers, Andrew Boyle states that Childers’ final words to his executioners, before he was to be shot were “Take a step or two forward, lads. It will be easier that way.” Although, the Free State government was within its legislative authority to execute Childers, it is often seen as a simple act of revenge for the killing of Michael Collins.
Although Childers vehemently disagreed with the signing of the Treaty by Michael Collins, he was still able to say positive things about “The Big Fella” during the vitriolic Treaty debate in December 1921. “I think everybody will agree that we have listened to a most able and eloquent speech. I most heartily agree to it, though I am in profound disagreement with the conclusions of the speaker. He has said many things which I admire and respect, he has said others that I profoundly regret. All of us agree, I think, that we have listened to a manly, eloquent, and worthy speech from the Minister for Finance.”