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The last words of Erskine Childers

The last words of Erskine Childers

Robert Erskine Childers (1870 – 1922), was a prominent Irish nationalist and the author of the novel Riddle of the Sands.

He was executed at the Beggar's Bush Barracks in Dublin by the authorities of the Irish Free State during the Irish Civil War. His last words, to the firing squad about to shoot him, were:

Take a step forward, lads. It will be easier that way.

Source: The Riddle of Erskine Childers, Andrew Boyle, 1977.

Background to Erskine Childers' last words

Robert Erskine Childers, universally known as Erskine Childers, was born into the English upper-middle classes and served as a patriotic soldier of the English Army in the Boer War and First World War. His mother was Irish and since childhood he had been interested in the cause of Irish Home Rule, which he took up seriously after WWI ended in 1918.

The apparent ambiguity of an Englishman being prepared to fight against the English state in order to remove them from power in Ireland proved too much to accept for the powers that be in the British Empire.

He was described by Winston Churchill as 'a great patriot and statesman'. On another occasion, Churchill also said of him that "No man has done more harm or done more genuine malice or endeavoured to bring a greater curse upon the common people of Ireland than this strange being, actuated by a deadly and malignant hatred for the land of his birth".