By Dave Crazy Rainbow

Sir Roger Casement, Kt. CMG, (1st September 1864 - 3rd August 1916), was born in Doyle's Cottage, Sandycove, near Dublin, to the Protestant, Captain Roger Casement Sr. of The King's Own Regiment Of Dragoons, and Anne Jephson of Dublin. Captain Casement had served in The Afghan Campaign in 1842, and later volunteered to fight in The Hungarian Uprising of 1848, but he arrived too late, after the surrender at Vilagos. Sir Roger's mother's origins are unknown, and she died when her son was nine years old. Captain Casement died four years later in Ballymena, following a period of poverty, during which, he was dependent upon his relatives for Charity. After the death of his parents, Sir Roger was looked after by his father's relatives in Ulster, and was educated at The Diocesan School in Ballymena, later to become The Ballymena Academy, until he took a job with a Liverpool shipping company, Elder-Dempster, when he was sixteen years old.

Sir Roger was appointed as British Consul, first to Congo in 1901, where he gained renown for his reports of, and campaigns against Human Rights abuses of slaves. Later, in 1910, and then again, in 1911, he came to Iquitos, as the regional capital of The Loreto District, and campaigned heavily against the treatment of The Putumayo Indians by the rubber barons. After a brief career as Consul in Para and Santos in Brazil, and later promoted to Consul-General to Rio de Janeiro, Sir Roger was appointed as representative of The Consulate in Peru to a commission investigating the barbaric treatment of slaves by the British rubber suppliers, The Peruvian Amazon Company, which at the time was controlled by the sadistic and murderous rubber baron, Julio Cesar Arana, and his brother. This investigative commission was set up after public outrage following the publication of articles in the British magazine "Truth", in 1909. Sir Roger acquainted himself with The Putumayo Indians and worked among them for some time during his two visits to the region. On 17th March 1911, he filed a report to The British Foreign Secretary, in which he outlined the methods of punishment for the Indian slaves, particularly concentrating on the misuse and overuse of "stocks". Here is an excerpt from that report:

"Men, women, and children were confined in them for days, weeks, and often months. Whole families were imprisoned, fathers, mothers, and children, and many cases were reported of parents dying thus, either from starvation or from wounds caused by flogging, while their offspring were attached alongside of them, to watch in misery themselves, the dying agonies of their parents."

After returning to Britain, Sir Roger continued campaigning for the rights of both the Congolese and Putumayo Indian slaves by founding The Anti-Slavery Society and sending representatives to intervene in this region, which was, at the time, disputed between Peru and Columbia. Some of the perpetrators of the crimes who he exposed, were charged accordingly, while others fled. Conditions for the slaves clearly improved after Sir Roger's activities, however, it is ironic that Julio Cesar Arana was never prosecuted. It would seem as though his wealth had bought him immunity, because he went on to have a very successful career in politics. He even became a Senator, and did not die until 1952, in Lima, aged eighty-eight. After his work for the benefit of The Putumayo Indians, Sir Roger Casement was knighted, having already been appointed as "Companion of The Order of St Michael and St George" for his work in Congo in 1905.

Sir Roger was an Irish nationalist, and a patriot, having joined Sinn Fein in 1905, when on leave from Africa. He was also a poet. During The Great War, Sir Roger met many top German officers and politicians, in an attempt to negotiate a treaty for The Irish, and to raise support for The Irish cause against The British. Eventually, after a U-boat journey, and some time on a German supply ship flying Norwegian colours, which was subsequently blown up and scuttled by The British Navy, he was arrested in Ireland. Following Sir Roger's arrest, after putting ashore at Banna Strand, in Tralee Bay, County Kerry, in the early hours of April 16th 1916, he was charged with Treason, Sabotage and Espionage against The Crown for his wartime activities on behalf of The Irish. These involved trying to recruit prisoners of war for an Irish Brigade to fight The British, helping to

organise The Easter Rising, and specifically concerning his arrest, for organising a German shipment of arms, 20 000 Mosin-Nagant 1891 rifles and ten machine guns with ammunition, to Ireland. Sir Roger is quoted as saying:

"I came here for one thing only, to try to help national Ireland, and if there is no such thing in existence then the sooner I pay for my illusions the better."

Sir Roger was soon rewarded for his "illusions". He was "hanged until dead", and buried in quicklime in the cemetery, in Pentonville Prison, London, only three and a half months later, upon his conviction for Treason, despite pleas for clemency from such acclaimed people as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, WB Yeats, and George Bernard Shaw. At his highly publicised trial, The Crown Prosecution nearly failed because The Treason Act of 1351 applied only to activities undertaken on British soil, however, the court decided that the text of The Act should have incorporated a crucial punctuation mark, and they interpreted it as such, allowing for the term "or elsewhere" to be added to the relevant phrase. This has led to the famous saying that Sir Roger was hanged on a comma! In his last letter, written in Pentonville, he wrote this:

"It is a strange, strange fate, and now, as I stand face to face with death, I feel just as if they were going to kill a boy. For I feel like a boy, and my hands so free from blood and my heart always so compassionate and pitiful, that I cannot comprehend how anyone wants to hang me."

In 1965, Sir Roger's body was exhumed and taken to Ireland, where he was buried with full Military Honours in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin, after laying in state at Arbour Hill for five days. It is said that over half a million people visited his body during this time, a mark of the high esteem in which he is held by The Irish People. There were thirty thousand people at the burial ceremony, including Eamon de Valera, The President of Ireland. Although Sir Roger wished to be buried at Murlough Bay in North Antrim, The British Government, under Harold Wilson, only allowed his body to be exhumed on the condition that it was not taken to Northern Ireland.

The good character of Sir Roger Casement was somewhat besmirched during his trial by the existence of some diaries he reputedly wrote and kept. The authenticity of these diaries has always been hotly disputed, and they are said to reveal him as "being a promiscuous sex-tourist, having a liking for young men and boys". One of the diaries is particularly graphic in nature, and it describes the extraordinary proportions of an Iquitos boy's private parts. Copies of these diaries were distributed to Sir Roger's supporters during the period of his arrest and trial, which had a detrimental effect upon his case, and greatly undermined his support. Thus, he was finally executed with little more than a murmur of protest from his supporters. Although it could be thought that the diaries were faked for the purpose of propaganda and to help the prosecution's case against Sir Roger, they were examined in a detailed forensic investigation in 2002, which confirmed they had indeed been written by Sir Roger. Of course, there are those who would still contend that The British Government had a hand in the forensic investigation, which was funded by the BBC and RTE, and conclude that, unwilling to appear as conspiratorial fiends, the government also "concocted" the findings, which were announced by the team of Professor Bill McCormack of Goldsmith's College, The University of London. The "Black Diaries", as they came to be known, were declassified for public inspection in 1959, a full forty-three years after Sir Roger's execution, and are now held at The British National Archives at Kew.

A BBC documentary was aired in March 2002, after Professor McCormack published his team's findings. It was called "The Secrets of The Black Diaries", and a two-part RTE documentary called "The Ghost of Roger Casement" was broadcast at the same time. One day, while dining with a friend at a restaurant in Iquitos which no longer exists, the editor of a local newspaper was concerned that a group of people seemed to be taking more than a passing interest in his friend, the late Iquitos resident, Wally Lloyd. When he challenged them about this, they explained that they were making the aforementioned documentary and that Wally's resemblance to Sir Roger was uncanny, and that they wanted him to play the part. Wally agreed, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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