Roger Casement’s Bones Aug09

Roger Casement’s Bones...

It was one of those coincidences that happens to me every so often I think because I like to read. I picked up a copy of The Irish Times (Wednesday August 3rd 2016) and saw an article by Eileen Battersby: “Casement: romantic defender of the oppressed.” I knew a little about the man. He was a colourful figure, although that phrase “colourful figure” troubles me a little now as I write it. I always liked his face for some reason; it was the visage, I liked to imagine, of a man with compassion, a misunderstood man, maybe even a tormented soul. There was his involvement with the Rising of 1916, his gun-running, his subsequent arrest and execution. Hadn’t he delivered one of those masterful speeches while in the maw of destructive justice, akin to Robert Emmet? He’d served, I knew, as some kind of investigative civil servant in areas of the world still considered to be God-forsaken backwaters like Congo. His story read like a Hollywood script: a man going from being one of the Empire’s own to a wretched, traitorous homosexual with a complicated story. Battersby tells us that it’s been a hundred years since his death, “a horrible death.” He was hanged at Pentonville Prison in London at the age of 51 despite several very famous figures intervening on his behalf such as W.B. Yeats and George Bernard Shaw. Battersby predictably enough argues that his homosexuality probably didn’t help his case, being what she calls “a Victorian homosexual.” It’s hard to imagine she’s wrong. One thinks of Oscar Wilde and others who were treated shamefully because of their sexuality. Perhaps it didn’t matter that Casement was a humanitarian who exposed injustices in parts of the world most people at the time as...