Roger Casement

Roger_Casement

The 3rd of August will mark the centenary of the death of Roger Casement, last of the leaders of the Easter Rising to be executed.

Born in Sandycove, Co. Dublin in 1864 to an Anglo-Irish family, Casement was largely raised by an uncle in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim. (Both of his parents died before he was ten.)

At age twenty, Casement travelled to the Congo, working first for the African International Association. He later joined the British Colonial Service, and in 1891 became a British Consul. In 1905, The Casement Report was released, detailing his investigations into the horrific conditions faced by workers on the rubber plantations in Africa. He later travelled to Peru, where he found  that the natives there were facing nearly identical brutality, also at the hands of the barons of the rubber industry; his exposure of these conditions earned him a knighthood in 1911.

After twenty years as a consul, Casement retired to Ireland in 1913 with a drastically altered view of imperialism. He now viewed his native land as one oppressed by the very government he had spent the better part of his life serving. He became involved in the Republican movement, joining the Irish Volunteers, and traveling to the United States in order to raise funds for the cause. As the plans for the Easter Rising began to take form, Casement sailed to Germany via Norway, where he obtained  a supply of rifles and machine guns. The Germans provided a trawler (the Aud) to transport the arms to Ireland, with Casement following by submarine.

The Aud was intercepted by the HMS Bluebell in Tralee harbor and scuttled. Casement was set ashore and captured by the British on Banna Strand, 21 April 1916, and charged  with treason, sabotage and espionage.

During his imprisonment and trial, there was a widespread effort to appeal for clemency on behalf of Casement. The British government successfully routed this effort by photographing and distributing what were purported to be pages from Casement’s diary. These pages described in detail Casement’s secret life as a homosexual, which eroded support for him both in Ireland and the United States. Casement’s journals became known as The Black Diaries, and have been the subject of debate amongst forensic document examiners, academics and historians even to this day.

He was sentenced to death and hanged on 3 August, 1916, at Pentonville Prison, London England, where his body was buried in quicklime. Efforts to have his remains repatriated to Ireland continued for decades. Finally, in 1965, Casement’s remains were returned to Dublin. After laying in state for five days at Arbor Hill, he was given a burial with full military honors at the Republican plot in Glasnevin Cemetery.

“If there be no right of rebellion against the state of things that no savage tribe would endure without resistance, then I am sure that it is better for men to fight and die without rights than to live in such a state of right as this. Where all your rights become an accumulated wrong, where men must beg with bated breath for leave to subsist in their own land, to think their own thoughts, to sing their own songs, to gather the fruits of their labour, and even while they beg, to see things inexorably withdrawn from them–then, surely, it is a braver, a saner and truer thing to be a rebel, in act and deed, against such circumstances as these than to tamely accept it, as the natural law of men.”

—Roger Casement, in his speech from the dock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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33 Responses to Roger Casement

  1. Monochrome nightmares says:

    An excellent post,
    and so very telling.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. oglach says:

    Many thanks for reading. I always appreciate your comments.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Monochrome nightmares says:

    I always enjoy your posts.
    I’ve started to delve into your archives.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. skat says:

    Quite a story. I don’t know how many folk outside of Great Britain and Ireland would have even heard of him. I think a film would be quite timely. How are you at script-writing? I can even see the Irish actor, Adam Fergus playing Casement. Very good piece, and truly enlightening.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. benmadigan says:

    Thanks Oglach – a very timely article. Casement belongs very much to NI, doesn’t he? he’s the emblem of divided loyalties – Working for the Imperial british colonial Service, shifting wholeheartedly towards Republicanism given the evidence of his own eyes when he saw how the system worked. He was pilloried for being gay (as so many still are in NI, thanks to the DUP). Northerners and others can still learn a lot from him today –

    Liked by 2 people

    • benmadigan says:

      forgot to add – he’s become the pre-eminent northern leader of the 1916 rising- making sure we take our rightful place in the republic – though that is very under-played today

      Liked by 3 people

      • oglach says:

        Do you mean to say that the north is not recognised as having played an important role in the establishment of the republic as it stands today, or are you talking about a future united Ireland?

        Liked by 1 person

  6. oglach says:

    Yes, he requested that his final resting place be Antrim, but Harold Wilson released his remains on the condition that he not be buried in the north because he thought that would stir things up. (As if they weren’t already.) I would think that being a gay man in his time and place played a large part in his empathy towards those he saw oppressed for other reasons, and I would hope that he stands as an example to others today. Many thanks for reading.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. benmadigan says:

    “Do you mean to say that the north is not recognised as having played an important role in the establishment of the republic as it stands today”,
    yes I think the role the north played in the establishment of the Republic is not/has not been recognised or very much under-recognised, or even ignored as much as possible by the dublin govt.
    Consider also whatever the north did was against much greater odds and a heavier weight of Unionist opinion etc than elsewhere in ireland. At that time and even today
    It does seem that the north’s contribution has been air-brushed out of history – for example did you know that George Russell (AE) was a Lurgan man, pacifist and socialist, who spent years bringing collectively organised dairies (Creameries) into being in the south? Connolly entrusted his family to Russell on his death-bed. I didn’t know all this until the other day! I thought AE was some airy-fairy, 3rd rate mystic poet wandering round in the celtic twilight wearing an itchy tweed suit!!

    “or are you talking about a future united Ireland?”
    a future re-united ireland has yet to be accepted by the South. As does the role of northerners in it. I get the impression (correct me if I am wrong) that the Dublin govt has long been happy with the status quo. Its state takes its place among the nations of europe and the world (Emmet’s dream). It is happy being England’s new best friend in a pre- and post- Brexit era, Let’s hope it remembers all its irish citizens in the north (Paisley’s mates among them now), wises up and realises it has 26 allies in the EU who are definitely not the UK’s latest best friends.

    Liked by 1 person

    • oglach says:

      I agree with your view that the role the north has played has been under-valued, and well aware that the struggles faced were/are against overwhelming odds.
      It’s true that reunification is not a foregone conclusion by any means and I agree that Dublin would indeed prefer to keep things as they are, if possible. But if you look at the latest polls (and yes I realise that they are just polls) a large majority of citizens want a united Ireland (or at least a border poll on the issue). Even the Bel-Tel poll showed that. I think the reason is because the common person in the street can see the writing on the wall. Continuing with the status quo is simply no longer a viable option, which will become more apparent to everyone, including the govt., and they will have to act accordingly. Sooner would be better than later.
      (P.S. Thanks for the bit about AE; I had no idea about his role in the organisation of creameries in the south. And a large portion of my family are dairy farmers. Learn something new every day.)

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Thank you for this. I had no idea about his early service

    Liked by 2 people

    • oglach says:

      You’re very welcome. Very few people seem to know about his early career, even though he is sometimes called “the father of human rights.” Thank you for reading and commenting, Derrick.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. You know what they say about great minds…. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A very interesting read. I enjoyed.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. oglach says:

    That’s very kind. You’re right, it’s not easy. I prefer writing fiction, but the ability and inspiration comes and goes, you know. A couple of very short stories I wrote that you might like are “Thoughts from the Bridge” and “Taps”. They’re on my blog, somewhere. I’m not above shameless self-promotion. 🙂 Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dead Donovan says:

    I like his mustache! So, England granted him a knighthood, and then hanged him five years later. I guess being a knight doesn’t exempt one from execution. I wonder too, if his sexuality wasn’t discovered, he may have been granted leniency.

    Liked by 1 person

    • oglach says:

      I’ve often wondered about that myself. I don’t think his knighthood would have saved him; I think that made them want to kill him even more. But you see, the outcry for leniency was coming from Ireland and the States. England didn’t care what they Irish thought, but they were trying desperately to get the U.S. involved in WWI at the time, so they just said—look! He’s gay! Can you believe it?! And the Irish in America said, God, how dreadful! Well, go on and hang him then, and we’ll be over to help you in a moment, you’ve been so good to us all these years.
      Isn’t history fascinating?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Even *if* the “Black Diaries” were authentic, their use to erode support for clemency was despicable. Homosexuality was criminalized back then, but it was definitely not a capital crime.

        Liked by 2 people

      • oglach says:

        Using Casement’s homosexuality in an effort to ensure swift passage to the gallows was indeed a despicable act. Although some of his contemporaries (Yeats, Shaw, A.C. Doyle and others) stood by him, it wasn’t enough. In any case, “Black Diaries” or no, Casement’s fate was a foregone conclusion, I believe. I also believe he knew this from the outset, and his speech from the dock, read in full, bears evidence of this.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I had never heard of Roger Casement before, so thanks for posting this. He was incredibly well traveled and documented abuses of workers in both Africa and Peru. Amazing person, and how tragic they way his courageous life ended!

    Liked by 1 person

    • oglach says:

      Yes, it was tragic. His story was seldom mentioned when I was a kid and if it was, well…he was not exactly put on a pedestal. I think the man did the best he could and gave his life for what he thought was right. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. So grateful for the history lesson…Your blog makes me wish I still got notifications of your new posts (for some reason I do not)…I have to remember to get over here more often!

    Liked by 1 person

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