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The Clare Journal

Monday Evening May 1 1916 - Part 3


His Moods and Whims



A Londoner who has been acquainted with Sir Roger Casement for the past 20 years has given to the “Daily Sketch” the following record of Sir Roger’s characteristics and activities.
My first meeting with Roger Casement was in an isolated place in Central Africa. That was 20 years ago, and he had just given up a position as purser in an Elder-Dempster boat to become British Consul for the district in which we met.
In appearance he was the most disreputable Consul I had ever met, and I have never since seen a Consul dressed as he then was. He was positively ragged. Hatless, his trousers so frayed, and his coat so well worn that they were fit only for a scarecrow, and with a pair of rough rush shoes encasing his feet, he was indeed the weirdest type of British representative I had ever met.


But I had only been in conversation with him a few minutes when I realised that he was not a man to be judged by this clothes.
He is quixotic. In whatever part of the world he has found himself his activities have always been on behalf of the bottom dog.
His latest unfortunate and misguided action is but a development of the real Casement spirit. For what he believed to be the good of Ireland he would stop at nothing, whatever the risks or consequences. My own view is that the very risk of death which attended his latest deplorable mission was an added inducement to him to “strike a blow for Ireland,” as he would doubtless describe his conduct.
“Casement has often been foolish and misguided, but no man I know has ever been more sincere on behalf of any cause he has taken up. There never was any middle course with Casement; his intense sincerity was his great failing, for the reason that the attainment of his object was the only thing he saw.


However much we have to deplore Casement’s activities since the beginning of the war there is one thing I will never believe of him. I am confident that he never went into this unfortunate adventure with a desire to make a penny piece for himself. He cared nothing for money. What he had he gave away, and I have more than once encountered him in London without the price of a meal upon him. Perhaps when he had come out earlier in the day he had had ample funds upon him, but the sight of a poverty stricken wretch he could never stand.
He could not keep money. He gave every penny away, and I will venture to say that beyond whatever money he might have had on him at the time of his arrest he has nothing else in the world.
Some time ago it was reported that the Kaiser had given Casement £2,500 as a first payment for bringing about a revolution in Ireland and that he had promised to hand over a larger sum on the completion of that work.


This is my reply to that story. If any man in Germany or elsewhere had offered Casement any money for work for that kind Casement would have shot him dead.
It was his intense desire to further Ireland’s interests that blinded him to the danger or the wickedness of his methods. When he appealed to the Irish prisoners at Limburg to forewear their allegiance to King George and form an Irish battalion, I don’t for a moment believe he thought he was asking them to perform a traitorous act.
Here is an instance of Casement’s self sacrifice for which I can vouch. A certain person was appointed British Consul for a place in which that individual could not possibly live. Casement knew it, and as there was no one else to take over those duties he accepted the position himself, and this meant a sacrifice of £300 a year in salary, to say nothing of the great risk he ran in enduring a climate that he knew could have killed his friend.


As a British Consul I would not say that Casement was a success, but as an investigator of matters which required remedying he had few equals in the British Consular service.
His working habits were irregular. He had no regard for official hours. He would be at his office day and night for several days; then for several weeks he would disappear, and nothing would be heard of him. Cablegrams might be for days on his office desk, and messages would be despatched in all directions. When eventually he was located he was generally immersed in the problems of some investigation concerning the conditions of one of the lower strata of the population among whom he lived. Or he might be found miles away discussing folk-lore with the natives.
All his work of the past six years has been carried on under acute physical pain. He has been a victim to rheumatic arthritis, and it is not too much to say that the movement of every joint caused him more or less suffering.


To his own friends Sir Roger Casement has been a mystery since the year 1911 – three years before war broke out – when he published a traitorous pamphlet in New York. Since then his friends have received letters from him which induced the more indulgent of them to consider him in the charitable light of a man suffering from mental disorder. That he would go to such lengths as he has gone, few imagined.

Outline of German Plot
(From the “Daily Chronicle”)

Lord Lansdowne imparted to the House of Lords on Wednesday a brief outline of the German plot which designed to land Sir Roger Casement and some of his fellow conspirators on Irish soil and simultaneously to supply arms and ammunition to his deluded followers by means of a German vessel with false papers and disguised as a neutral trading vessel.
The “Daily Chronicle” is now able to fill in the details of what was certainly an elaborate scheme, worked out with all German thoroughness. That it did not succeed, that it was indeed a pitiable failure, we owe to the unfailing vigilance of the navy and to an Intelligence Department from which few enemy secrets are hidden.
But to begin with, it should be made quite clear that the enterprise, futile as it must appear in British eyes, was seriously meant. The suggestion had been made that it was in part a stratagem to get rid of Casement, whose presence was no longer desired in Germany, and that the submarine commander had orders to dump him on Ireland and leave him to his fate. That is quite a mistaken view of German psychology, which still cherishes the notion that Ireland can be roused to serious rebellion if the proper instrument is employed. Sir Roger Casement was regarded as this instrument, and it is probable that he was able to impress the German government with an exalted idea of his influence and of the number of his followers if he could be placed at their head. There is something almost pathetic in the infatuation which has now been dispelled by the fiasco of the “landing” and its aftermath.
The drama opened with the report spread through the easy medium of the German Press Bureau that Casement had been arrested in Germany for an offence not indicated and was awaiting trial.
This, very likely, was a clumsy device to suggest that Casement was not longer persona grate with the German Government, and that if England ever had any cause to fear his activities, it no longer existed.
It was at this time, or perhaps a little later, that Casement, with two companions, was taken on board a German submarine, to be conveyed to a chosen spot on the Irish coast. Earlier still a little steamer disguised as a harmless merchantman and manned by a crew of 20 picked officers and seamen of the Imperial navy, had crept out of a German port, and hugging the coast within territorial waters had made its way in the leisurely manner of a … steamer due north. Its papers were all in order, its cargo, on the surface, was entirely innocent. The ship was quite prepared to undergo inspection; it had apparently nothing to conceal.
The Intelligence Department works in a mysterious way, and the wonders it performs are not so wonderful after all when its methods are disclosed. No more need be said than that this apparently innocent little vessel was never lost sight of on its voyage north to the Shetlands, almost to Iceland, and when it turned south on its mission. But is was not molested, or at any rate no more than was sufficient to give the officers of the Aud, as we may call it, the impression that they had successfully hoodwinked the British Navy.
And so we come to the day when at one of the western inlets of Ireland the drama unfolded itself a little more. All this coast, is, of course, carefully patrolled by land and sea. Suspicion was aroused by the presence of a powerful motor car in a region which tourists do not usually frequent. It put the guards more on the alert, if that were possible. And then vigilance was rewarded. A small boat, apparently coming from nowhere, was seen making for the shore. Two men were at the cars, three others sat in the stern. The boat grounded and the men got out. Their arrival had been watched by the coastguard, and they had no sooner set foot on shore than they were presented with the alternative surrender or a bullet. They had no difficulty in making the choice, and all were made prisoners.
The officer in charge of the patrol thought he recognised one of them; possibly he had some aid to memory. “You are Sir Roger Casement,” he said. “I am,” said the prisoner, not without pride. “I have come to do my duty.”
Casement is said to have greatly changed in appearance since he made his dramatic appearance as the exposer of the Putumayo rubber atrocities. He does not in the least resemble the portrait which was published in the “Daily Chronicle.” His full beard has been shaven down to whiskers of the ‘mutton-chop’ variety, and he has greatly aged. The debonnaire dandy of other days has changed to an elderly gentleman of an old-fashioned type. During his swift conveyance to England and subsequently to the Tower, where he is now a military prisoner, Casement made several admissions with regard to the men acting in concert with him in Ireland. To those who came in contact with him he gave the impression of supreme vanity, suggesting that he was the head and front of any rebellion that was possible, and without him it must speedily collapse.

The 1916 Rising in the Clare Newspapers