Besides his involvement in the cultural life of Achill, Darrell Figgis, became entwined in the political activities there too. Like Emily Weddall and Anita McMahon he also took part in the Land Wars of 1913 taking the tenant’s side to help them gain a fair deal with the Achill Mission Estate.
In November 1913 The Irish Volunteers, was founded in Dublin. Darrell Figgis joined and was given the job of the drilling the Achill Battalion. At the time there was about fifty volunteers on the Island, quite a lot for a relatively small population. According to local legend these drill took place on the beaches of the Island and became a common sight there were also rumors that they hid weapons, at Annagh, on the north side of the Island, a place that was and still is only accessible by foot.
Less than a year later in the summer of 1914 Rodger Casement, was appointed him to go to Hamburg to purchase arms for Sinn Fein. Along with Erskine and Molly Childers, Mary Spring Rice, Gordon Shepard and two fishermen from Donegal, he traveled to Hamburg on the yacht Asgard. They collected the 900 rifles and 29,000 rounds of ammunition, and sailed back to Howth, where they unloaded the ‘cargo’. It did not take the authorities at Dublin Castle too long to find out and send in the Dublin Metropolitan Police to disarm the Volunteers.
As a result there was a clash between the police and volunteers on Bachelor’s Walk, which resulted in fatalities. Figgis came to the attention of the authorities and was well scrutinized by them from then on. These guns were used in the 1916 Rising, an event that he did not directly take part in but was implicated anyway.
Centenary of Howth Gun Running. July 2014