Roger Casement’s notorious Black Diaries are genuine, claims writer
Since his execution at Pentonville prison, London, 83 years ago next week**, Sir Roger Casement has been at the centre of a historical controversy involving spies, treason and homosexuality.
Now fresh evidence has been unearthed suggesting that Casement’s so-called Black Diaries, detailing the Irish nationalist leader’s promiscuous homosexual affairs, were in fact genuine.
A Belfast-based writer has discovered a new letter, written only days before Casement died on the gallows, which he claims confirms the existence of a mysterious homosexual lover, alluded to in the Black Diaries as Millar.
The revelation is bound to provoke outrage among nationalist historians, who regard the allegations as slurs conjured up by British intelligence during the Irish war of independence.
The Casement controversy remains so powerful that Bertie Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister, ordered an investigation earlier this year into the authenticity of the diaries.
The Millar letter was written by an MI5 agent to the Home Office four days before Casement was hanged for treason. It was uncovered in the Public Record Office at Kew in London earlier this year by Jeff Dudgeon, an Ulster gay activist who sued the British Government in the European Court of Human Rights 20 years ago over discrimination against gays in Northern Ireland.
Dudgeon points out that in the Black Diaries of 1910-11, Casement allegedly makes a number of references to having sex with Millar. On 8 August, for instance, Casement is supposed to have written: ‘Leaving for Belfast. To sleep with Millar. In at once.’ Three days earlier Casement supposedly wrote: ‘Letter from Millar. Good on for Tuesday. Hurrah! Expecting!’ The diary entries also include references to the two men spending the night together on the day the Titanic sunk.
The agent who wrote the Millar memo, Frank Hall, discovered that Millar was Joseph Millar Gordon, a 26-year-old employee of the Belfast Bank in Donegall Square.
Hall tells his boss, Sir Ernley Blackwell, the chief legal adviser to the Home Office, that he was able to track Casement’s lover down via a motorbike which he bought for Millar for £25.
Hall noted that Millar Gordon lived alone with his mother at Carnstroan, a large Victorian house in Myrtlefield Park in south Belfast.
Four days after the memo’s postmark, Casement was hanged for his part in enlisting German military support for the 1916 Easter Rising.
At least five members of the British war Cabinet, including Home Secretary Herbert Samuel, had known Casement personally when he worked for the Foreign Office. Casement had investigated allegations of slavery and human rights abuses in the Congo and Peru on behalf of the British Government.
Dudgeon points out that the memo, which was only made available to the public at the end of 1998, was secret and would not have been used at the time in the propaganda campaign against the Irish republican icon.
‘Why would the British forge an internal MI5 memo? This letter puts flesh on the bones of the Millar referred to in the diaries. Nobody could have invented him, because he is so well documented. He was a living person from Belfast whom I believe definitely had a relationship with Casement,’ he said.
Dudgeon denied that being a gay unionist has coloured his year-long research programme into the Casement diaries. ‘I came to this subject with an open mind. It has to be said that the diaries, as well as being an important part of Irish history, are also a vital part of gay history in the twentieth century. They are the only body of written evidence of intense gay sexual detail from this time.’
However, Angus Mitchell, author of the most recent book on Casement, insists the Black Diaries are forgeries. Mitchell, who published The Amazon Journal of Roger Casement in 1997, said: ‘You should remember that the diaries came out of the Home Office, too. The diaries are forgeries, of that I have no doubt. So what if there really was a Millar? There are hundreds of others referred to in the diaries who Casement describes and who can be traced as well. It proves nothing.’
Eoin Neeson, the author of a recent book on 300 years of republicanism, Birth of a Republic, claims: ‘No one who knew him believed the allegations and [they] are unanimous about his extremely high sense of moral integrity… The virtual impossibility of his practising the gross degeneracies at all, let alone with the frequency alleged, is demonstrable.’
Dudgeon, who is writing a book based on his research, promises to reveal more material which he claims will prove that subsequent Irish governments covered up evidence to support the authenticity of the diaries.
Millar Gordon, the alleged lover, died in Dublin in 1956, three years before the diaries were first published.
Irish Legal Heritage: Hanged by a comma
Irish revolutionary Roger Casement, the ‘father of 20th-century human rights investigations’, was knighted in 1911 for his investigations into human rights abuses in the Congo and Peru while he worked a British Consul.
An Irish Republican, Casement went to Germany in 1914 in an effort to secure German military support for Irish independence. However, suspicious of the Germans toying with him when they provided significantly fewer arms than they promised, Casement left for Ireland in April 1916 with the hope that he could convince Eoin McNeill to call off the Easter Rising.
Casement travelled to Kerry in a German submarine, but had been suffering from malaria that he had contracted while working in the Congo and was too weak to travel further than a few miles from the coast. Three days before the beginning of the Easter Rising, Casement was arrested by the Royal Irish Constabulary at a site now known as Casement’s Fort near Tralee.
Casement was brought to London where he was tried in the High Court for high treason, contrary to the Treason Act 1351. Since the crimes he was accused of had occurred in Germany, much of Casement’s case hinged on statutory interpretation of the Treason Act 1351, which had been translated from Norman French to state: ‘if a do man levy War against our Lord the King in his Realm, or be adherent to the King’s enemies in his Realm, giving to them aid and comfort in the Realm, or elsewhere, and thereof be probably attainted of open deed’.
It was argued that this meant that the offence of treason included levying war against the king in his realm, or supporting the king’s enemies (located in the Realm, or elsewhere) by giving them ‘aid and comfort’ in the realm.
However, the Court omitted the comma after ‘Realm, or elsewhere’, and interpreted the statute to include a third offence of giving aid and comfort to the King’s enemies outside Britain.
As such, Casement was sentenced to death by hanging after being found guilty of ‘High treason by adhering to the King’s enemies elsewhere than in the King’s realm to wit, in the Empire of Germany, contrary to the Treason Act, 1351’.
** The article is from 1999.
- Outcry As Secret Gay Life Of Irish Hero Is ‘Proved’, The Guardian, 26 July 1999, by Henry McDonald https://www.theguardian.com/uk/1999/jul/25/henrymcdonald.theobserver
- Irish Legal Heritage:￼ Hanged By A Comma, Irish Legal News, 10 September 2018, by Seosamh Gráinséir https://www.irishlegal.com/article/irish-legal-heritage-hanged-by-a-comma