A new, permanent exhibition will open at the end of this month on Spike Island to commemorate the crew of the gun-running ship, the Aud.
The botched 1916 plot by the Germans to ship guns into Ireland to be used in an insurrection against the British will form part of the ever-expanding exhibitions being housed on the island.
Cork County Council, which runs the island’s exhibitions centre, has drawn up plans for a further €6.5m investment there. Conor Nelligan, the council’s heritage officer, said it is only fitting that the history of the Aud be part of the island’s story.
“Spike Island was the only Irish soil that the crew set foot on in 1916 and it is therefore seen as most fitting that an exhibition be launched on the island in honour of this part of our shared collective history,” Mr Nelligan said.
The Aud sailed from the Baltic port of Lubeck on April 9, 1916, its hold containing 20,000 rifles, one million rounds of ammunition, 10 machine guns, and explosives. Most of the rifles were Russian-manufactured, and were captured by the Germans during the 1914 eastern front battle at Tannenburg.
British Naval Intelligence knew the guns were on their way to Irish Volunteers, but didn’t know exactly where or when they would be landed. Extra British patrols were put out to sea to intercept the gun-running ship.
On April 20 she arrived in Tralee Bay to rendezvous with Roger Casement, who had already been captured by the British.
With the plan now in chaos Captain Spindler decided to make a run for it, but was intercepted by two British warships and escorted to Cork harbour. Spindler scuttled the Aud near the mouth of the harbour using pre-set charges of explosives in the aft hold. He and the 22-strong crew were taken prisoner and held in cells on Spike Island.
Seven years ago two anchors were removed from the wreck of the Aud. One is on display at the heritage centre at Cobh railway station and other artifacts from the ship are in Cobh museum.
The new exhibition on Spike Island is being supported by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. It’s yet another attraction which the council hopes will boost visitor numbers to the island. It’s hoped to have 100,000 visitors per year there by 2020.
The council is proposing a number of new plans to bolster tourist visits. These include a new ferry to run from Cobh to Spike; a road train on the island to bring people from the pier into the fort; and the development of a children’s playground. The project also includes the creation of a reception area and shop and additional interpretive centres detailing the island’s military occupation, its role as a prison and a site for convict transportation.
Learn more about Spike Island and plan your visit at the website, http://www.spikeislandcork.ie/.