Roger Casement Papers

Repository: Clare County Archives

Identity Statement

TitleRoger Casement Papers
Archive ReferenceIE CLCCA /PP/1
Web Link to this Entry
Creation Dates1913-1916
Level of DescriptionFonds
Extent Medium2 boxes


Creator(s): Roger Casement; Fr Crotty

  • Administrative History ↴

    Roger Casement was born in Dublin on 1 September 1864, the son of a Protestant father, also Roger Casement (1819-1877), and a Catholic mother, Anne Casement (née Jephson, 1834-1873). Casement’s mother passed away during childbirth when Casement was aged just nine years, followed by his father four years later, leaving behind four children, Casement, his sister Agnes and two brothers Tom and Charles. The children were taken in by their Uncle John in Antrim and Casement attended Ballymena High School. On leaving school, Casement was employed by the Elder Dempster Shipping Company in Liverpool until 1883 when he experienced his first taste of Africa, working as a purser on board an African trading vessel. Casement secured other positions in Africa during the 1880s and in 1892, was recruited by the British Foreign Office to serve in the Oil Rivers Protectorate at Old Calabar. Casement’s consular work took him to Mozambique, Angola, the Congo Free State and Brazil, and he gained international respect for his reports exposing the atrocities inflicted on native workers in the Congo and the Amazon, by European traders. Casement’s humanitarian work was rewarded in 1911 with a knighthood. He resigned from the Foreign Office in 1913 due to ill health and returned home to Ireland. With his arrival in Ireland, Casement turned his attention towards matters closer to home, renewing friendships with nationalists and considering the issue of Irish independence. A man of strong nationalist sympathies, Casement helped to form the Irish Volunteers in 1913. The following year, Casement travelled to New York to deliver lectures and collect funds for the new organisation. With the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Casement saw the need to keep the Irish out of the war and to get assistance from Germany and the United States to provide arms for the Irish Volunteers in preparation for the fight for independence. By late September, Casement was in talks with the German military about the formation of an Irish Brigade made up of Irish prisoners of war held in German war camps. Casement left the United States in October and began his journey to Berlin, Germany. His mission was supported financially by a sum of $3000 in gold, provided by Clan na Gael. Casement travelled under the name ‘James Landy’ to Christiania, Norway, steering clear of British warships, and reached Berlin on 31 October 1914. He was accompanied by Richard Meyer, a representative of the German Foreign Office, and Adler Christensen, a Norwegian sailor who was to become his servant and travelling companion. As Casement engaged in discussions with the German Foreign Office, he began to put his plans in place for an Irish Brigade, assembling Irishmen from different prison camps at Limburg, a special camp in the Lahn Valley. Casement recognised the need for priests to provide for the spiritual care of the prisoners, requesting an Irish priest if possible. Three priests were located, Father John Thomas Crotty, a Dominican, Father John Thomas Nicholson from Philadelphia, and Father Canice O'Gorman who came through Clan na Gael. It was Father Crotty who was to become an invaluable source of help and support for Casement. Casement began to call for volunteers from the Irish prisoners of war to join an Irish Brigade and fight for Irish independence, however, the results were not positive, and often hostile. Casement was also concerned with locating more suitable military officers and even turned to the United States in his quest, however, only one man got through, Robert Monteith. Relations between Casement and the men continued to deteriorate in 1915. His relationship with the German Foreign Office was also considerably cooler as Casement's efforts to build an Irish combat unit yielded little results. Casement realised that the Germans had little interest in Ireland or her liberation. By 1916, it was clear that the Germans were only willing to send a small consignment of arms to Ireland as a feeble gesture to keep their Irish-American friends happy, and to perhaps cause a military diversion. Only one ship, the Aud, would be sent to Tralee, carrying a cargo of 20,000 rifles captured from the enemy instead of the requested 100,000. Casement became increasingly concerned about the prospect of an armed rising without sufficient military cover. Greatly opposed to the plan, Casement now focussed on how to reach Ireland before the rising scheduled to take place on Easter Sunday to call off the rebellion. Casement eventually persuaded the Germans to allow him to travel to Ireland by submarine prior to the sailing of the Aud and the planned rising. The U-19 carrying Casement, Monteith and Irish Brigadier, Daniel Bailey, arrived at Tralee Bay on 21 April 1916. Roger Casement was captured and subsequently sentenced to death by the British authorities. He died in Pentonville prison on 3 August 1916.
  • Archival History ↴

    The papers were received as a gift by the late Ignatius M. Houlihan, Solicitor, Ennis, in 1969. The papers were deposited in Clare County Library and transferred to Clare County Archives in October 2003.
  • Immediate Source Acquisition ↴


Content & Structure

  • Scope & Content: Roger Casement; Fr Crotty ↴

    Much correspondence in the collection reveals Casement’s feelings on the war, as he notes in a letter to Blücher ‘The only cheering thing is that the Irish are not enlisting. That is killed anyhow – & the 200,000 men they had expected from Ireland to cut the German throat will not come up to the knife’ (12 January 1914). The collection also reflects Casement’s passionate dislike of British Ambassador in Norway, Mansfeldt Findlay. Casement was determined to reveal that Findlay had attempted to bribe his Norwegian companion, Christensen, to hand over Casement for the sum of £10,000, even supplying him with a receipt. Casement states ‘…even with the evidence already in my possession…I could make out a case against the Br. Govt. that would gravely impair its moral prestige in English-speaking communities’, referring to the British Government as a ‘conspiracy of criminals’ (3 December 1914). A number of letters in the collection address the subject of Father Crotty including letters between Casement and Count Georg von Wedel, Chief of the English Department in the German Foreign Office, Richard Meyer, also of the German Foreign Office, and Countess Blücher. These documents refer to issues such as funding, securing a permit to visit prisoners, finding a place of worship, and the prospect of leaving Germany. Two letters from Crotty to Casement are included in the collection. In addition, an extract from one of Crotty’s letters copied in Casement’s own hand, is of particular interest, providing an insight into the relationship between the Dominican priest and the Irish prisoners of war. It states ‘…I should regret leaving the poor boys who assure me that Germany could do them any greater injury than to deprive them of my ministrations. They would live on bread and water and work night and day if I should be left with them to the end. The poor fellows cried like children when I announced to them the news of my recall…’ (4 February 1916).

    Possibly one of the most intriguing documents in this body of material, however, is a letter from Casement to Countess Blücher, which addresses the subject of keeping a diary, ‘You know the charm of a diary is its simplicity. Its reality and the sense of daily life it conveys to the reader depends not on style, but on truth and sincerity. It should tell of things – but still more of the writer and his (or her) outlook on those things…I kept one for the first three months or so of my stay in this country, & then I gave it up because I became too personal! I found myself writing things best left unwritten – even unthought – & since I could not tell the truth, even to myself, I dropped the [pen] – a year ago!’ (1 February 1916).

    The Roger Casement Papers document one of the most exciting periods in Irish history, the period leading up to the 1916 Rising and Ireland’s claim to political independence. The collection provides us with a glimpse of the Irish-German background of the Easter Rising. The letters date from Casement’s arrival in Germany in 1914 to the very month he leaves Germany in 1916 on the U-19 bound for Ireland. The documents address a range of different subjects including the enlisting of Irishmen in the First World War, the appointment of an envoy from England to the Vatican, the Findlay affair, the work of Father Crotty in German prison camps, writing articles for the press, keeping a diary, and the desire for peace. Casement’s concern for the spiritual welfare of Irish prisoners of war in Germany is reflected very clearly in this part of the collection, as is his contempt for the British Government and his desire to see it undermined. In addition, moments of loneliness and paranoia are expressed, as Casement became increasingly isolated from Irish nationalists and the German Foreign Office. His deteriorating health is also referred to. What comes across particularly strongly, however, is Casement’s inextinguishable passion and drive for the cause of Irish independence, reflected also in his writings from the period.

  • Appraisal Destruction ↴

    Permanent Retention
  • Arrangement ↴

    Divided into three sections, the collection has been arranged according to document type. The documents are then arranged chronologically within each section.

Conditions of Access & Use

Access Conditions The collection is accessible to all bone fide researchers. Access by appointment.
Conditions Governing ReproductionReproduction is not permitted.
Creation Dates1913-1916
Level of DescriptionFonds
Extent Medium2 boxes
Material Language ScriptEnglish
Finding Aids Descriptive list Archive Web Link →

Allied Materials

There are no Allied Materials

Descriptive Control Area

Archivist NoteRoisin Berry; Rene Franklin
Rules/ConventionsISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.
Date of Descriptions2006