Robert Erskine Childers was born in 1870 to an English father, Robert Caesar Childers, a famed professor of oriental languages at University College London, and his wife Anna, from the distinguished Barton family of Co Wicklow, Ireland. Both parents died from TB when he was a small boy, and Childers was brought up at his mother's family home. From Trinity College Cambridge, he went straight into the Civil Service as a House of Commons clerk, pursuing his first passion, for sailing, during the long parliamentary recesses. In 1899 he volunteered for service in the Boer War and wrote a popular account of his experiences, following this up in 1903 with The Riddle of the Sands. As a writer, he took up the cause of Irish Home Rule, and moved with his family to Ireland after distinguished service in the Royal Navy in the First World War. He was elected to the Dail, the Irish parliament, and was a delegate in the negotiations for the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1922. But the terms fell short of his hopes of full independence, and Childers joined the Republicans in the civil war that followed. He was arrested by the Free State government and court-martialled. He was executed by firing squad on 24 November 1922.