Roger David Casement and Adoption
1864 - 1916
Irish diplomat and patriot
Casement was born into a mixed-religion family near Dublin. While the children were young the family lived in Ireland (then still under British control), France, Italy and Jersey, but his mother died in childbirth in 1873, while his father died in 1877. Young Roger was made a ward of his uncle and lived with him in Northern Ireland, attending boarding school in Ballymena. After leaving school in 1880 he spent 12 years working for a shipping company, then in 1884 he moved to Africa.
His career then was with foreign commercial companies and the British government. He held several diplomatic posts and also investigated the conditions of "native" workers in Africa, Europe and South America. Increasingly, he became drawn into the Irish nationalist (independence) movement, and this led him in 1914 to visit Germany (at that time at war with the United Kingdom) on behalf of the nationalists. On his return to Ireland (in a German war vessel) he was arrested, tried, convicted and hung for treason.
There was cause made for his reprieve, but the British government successfully used his private diaries, which contained detailed descriptions of his homosexual activities, to turn almost all his champions against him. The authenticity of the diaries was disputed for many years, with many claiming that they were British government forgeries made to discredit him, but extensive forensic tests in 2002 finally have proven them to be genuine.
In the intervening years homosexuality has become less controversial, Ireland became independent, and Catholic emancipation was achieved; and Casement has been rehabilitated, with his reputation now assured as both a martyr of Irish independence an icon of gay rights. [Last updated: 24 January 2005]
Dictionary of National Biography Martinac, Paula. "OutSpoken: Roger Casement." [Includes portrait]. Available at: www.outuk.com/content/features/casement [Last visited: 21 June 2004] Mitchell, Angus. Casement. (London: Haus, 2003) Weale, Adrian. Patriot Traitors: Roger Casement, John Amery and the Real Meaning of Treason. (London: Viking, 2001) © Roger Ridley Fenton