Roger Casement, the forgotten hero

The Story of Roger Casement, Part I

One man recanted what he wrote about Casement years later

Roger Casement is best known for his ‘Black Diaries’ which in my opinion have overshadowed the history of his  previous life in the British government as a humanitarian.   A man respected and loved by family and friends, he was not abandoned at his trial as the media and history books would have us believe.

In fact one man recanted what he wrote about Casement years later. Unfortunately, it came too late and Casement was executed. The real Casement story takes place years before the Easter Rising. He deserves more notoriety showing his contributions to his country and to society.Roger Casement

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10 Funny Lines from the Easter Rebellion

10 Funny Lines and Events from the Easter Rebellion

Part I

There is  nothing funny about war, executions, a city destroyed, arrests, or risking one’s life but human beings have always found laughter in the most stressful of situations. Perhaps it helps them deal with a stressful situation, make them feel they are in control of something that is uncontrollable. The Easter Rebellion was no different. Add to this the fact that Irishmen are usually looking for a good laugh and you have funny lines or events that ..yes… happened during the Easter Rebellion.

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Why did the Easter rising fail?

Why did the Easter Rising of 1916 fail?

Or did it?

Success or failure in anything at all depends on 3 factors:

Timing,

Point of view,

Long term affects.

Easter Rising CommenorationLet’s look at the facts.

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Unlikely Anglo Irish Heroes

Most Anglo Irish throughout history, have a cruel heartless reputation with historians. The native Irish, who were thought by the English to be barbaric imbeciles unable to govern themselves, were dispossessed of what remaining lands they owned, not already occupied by foreigners,  and replaced by English  settlers under Queen Elizabeth I . Thus began the legacy of the Anglo-Irish landlords. What followed was heartbreaking. A legacy of religious persecution,  forced emigration and evictions, famine and ruin of the native Irish by their neighbors, the Anglo Irish or landed gentry.Eviction

Not every Anglo Irish landlord was  heartless and cruel though it may have been the norm and easy to see how the stereotype difficult to dismiss over all Anglo Irish gentry. One  family dared to defy their peers. They were the Gore-Booths of Lissadell in County Sligo. Their ancestry  goes all the way back to  those first colonists given land by Elizabeth I.

Born in London the most famous of the Gore-Booths was Constance, who would later be called The Rebel Countess, or Lady Markievicz.  She grew up with governesses,  spoke multiple languages,  was a poet, a painter, and skilled horsewoman. Fearless and a philanthropist even in childhood, she often missed meals and lessons for she was a frequent visitor of the houses of the poor. She would later be best known for her part in the 1916 Easter Rising.                                                                                                             001-constance_with_dogBecause Constance was a Patriot and one of the few women known for her part in the War for Irish independence, there is much written about her. In fact most of my facts come from a very thorough biography ‘The Rebel Countess’ by Anne Marreco. What strikes me about Constance most is not her combativeness, which is what  most history books will talk about but her devotion to the poor of Dublin. She gave everything she owned to them, carried bags of coal up multiple flights when she was ill herself, and opened a soup kitchen at Liberty Hall when a city-wide lockout deprived thousands of men and women of a way to feed their families. One only has to look at the funeral procession to see how many people mourned her when she died, many of them the lowest of Ireland’s social class at the time.

Funeral-of-Countess-Markievicz

But Constance would not have become  strong-spirited, fierce in her convictions, generous and independent, if not for her father, Henry, and her grandfather, Sir Robert Gore-Booth. Both men were rich landlords.

Sir Robert Gore-Booth is best remembered by the local Irish in two very different shades of light. Both  stories show the power of the landlord.

Lissadell Estate, Home of the Gore-Booths

Lissadell Estate, Home of the Gore-Booths

In 1833 Sir Robert bought land called the Seven Cartrons, a township inhabited by fishermen and small landholdings. In the mood of the time, Sir Henry began to make clearances of his property. His choice of an agent fell on a man called Dodswell, famous for his ruthless evictions.  It  may have been the single worst decision Sir Robert ever made in his life, perhaps one he never stopped trying to correct. Dodswell  offered the hapless tenants plots elsewhere but the land was so poor that they took the alternative offer of compensation and passage money to America instead. (it is stated that the compensation was generous for the time, no doubt a stipulation by Sir Robert). Now we come to a sad misrepresentation of what happened to those passengers.

A story circulated that the passengers  drowned soon after leaving a port in Sligo; the ship was called the Ponoma.This was not the ship carrying Lissadell’s tenants (its possible there were 2 ships by that name or likely was  assumed they were Gore-Booth tenants) and people loving a good story and eager to believe the worst, the inaccurate tale circulated and stuck. In fact, the ship carrying Gore-Booth tenants sailed ten years earlier. It has been proved Sir Robert had no connection whatsoever and would be known to be a benevolent landowner who spent thousands of pounds on food for his people in the Famine. For more information on this story read this post from Lissadell House.

In 1881 the London Times stated Sir Robert spent 40,000 pounds on relief for the starving Irish. In 1903 he was one of the first to sell a large part of his estate to his tenants. He died in 1876.

In 1879 was another potato failure and terrifying since many still remembered the Great Hunger of the 40s.  At Lissadell, the Gore-Booth family stored food in their house, doling it out to the poor from morning to night. (an event unique at that time in Ireland.) The new Baronet, Sir Henry became known as the good landlord. He reduced rents by as much as 18-40% or forgave them completely. He allowed his tenants to cut thorn  from his property for fencing and granted turf cutting rights.  He was also remarkably unprejudiced towards Catholics. One night when Sir Henry was visiting a neighbor, he heard a great clatter outside. When he looked out the door he saw hundreds of people from the surrounding countryside, torch lights in their hands, lead by a local Temperance Band. As he stood in the door cheer after cheer went up for Sir Henry Gore-Booth.

Sadly, the Gore-Booths were not typical of Anglo-Irish families  but were it not for those of their social class, Ireland might not have won her freedom at all for from this Anglo Irish family sprung the most well-known heroic woman of them all, Constance Markievicz,  lover of the poor and devoted patriot.

For more little known facts about Ireland, read 100 Things  You Didn’t Know About Ireland, or subscribe to this newsletter.

Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin Ireland

When I walked through the narrow corridors of Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, Ireland, the first thing I noticed was how cold my feet were. As I walked,down a narrow corridor I felt  the damp air snake up through the hard stone floor,  like spikes  through my shoes,  sending a frigid chill into my blood and bones, all the say to my shins. And this was early October!

Imagine, if you will, what it would have been like as a prisoner at kilmainham and you’ve been sent  here as a child.

You’re scantily clothed, perhaps a thin linen dress or knickers with no stockings. And you have no  shoes. You could be very old or very young or even sick. During hard times and especially during the famine years, people committed crimes  just to get arrested   to get food.  You might have stolen a loaf of bread to fee yourself or your family. The youngest prisoner in Kilmainham Gaol was only eight years old!!!!

Kilmainham Gaol Door
Not very inviting is it?

Walking single file for that is all that can be managed, you look up. The next floor is made up of metal grates and iron railings, the echo of British boots hard over your head.

As you pass each cell, the gaslights flicker above and all around you like fireflies in hell. The fast encroaching walls of thick limestone seem to grow thicker with every step, robbing you of oxygen. Smells of vomit, rotting flesh and feces  drift past from each cell,  punctuated by muffled sobs  and cries of despair. Each cell holds 5-6 people. They have no toilet, no sink, no electricity, with only a small window, high off the ground with bars. Each heavy metal door is recessed into the dark yellow or green wall, which is painted grey around the door like a picture frame. There are 2 holes in each door: one about the height of a man. Guards often would watch prisoners in solitary confinement through a hole shaped like a human eye. The constant surveillance by the enemy drove them mad . A  long metal hinge  covers the door horizontally; at the edge hangs a heavy padlock like the tongue of a dragon.

Grace Gifford Painting on Kilmainham Gaol

Painting in Kilmainham Gaol cell by nee  Grace Gifford, wife of Joseph Plunkett.                Joe  was executed after the 1916 East Rising.

Many of the women were kept in cells off  the Victorian Room which is large and spacious to accommodate exercise.The kitchen is below the floor and the heat  flows up through large metal gridded manholes, similar to road man holes here in America. In one cell, a painting by Grace Gifford/ Plunkett can be seen from the eye hole in the door. Grace was the bride of Joseph Plunkett, one of the Easter Rising Rebels of 1916. They were married in Kilmainham Gaol  just hours before he was executed. Joseph was already dying of tuberculosis but was shot by firing squad just the same, thus making him a martyr to the Irish people, something the British didn’t count on.

The Victorian Room at Kilmainham Gaol.

Chapel in Kilmainham Gaol

Before the British decided firing squads were much easier, hanging was the preferred execution and the gallows was right behind the altar of the chapel.  How convenient eh?

Beware of the Risen People
And Held Ye
Ye that have, bullied and Bribed, By P. Pearce

Patrick Pearce was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916. He was a teacher and a poet. He believed a blood sacrifice needed to be made by his generation in order to free Ireland from British Rule. He was right. Before and during the Easter Rising, there was little support from the local Irish. In fact it was actually supposed to happen on Easter Sunday with a load of munitions coming from Germany. The ship sunk and the Rising was canceled but not everyone was in agreement and the Rising of 1916 happened on Easter Monday.

There was not much support of the Rising at first. Shawlies, (ladies in black shawls) demonstrated outside the GPO. They were convinced they were being deprived of their support checks coming from sons and husbands fighting in WWI and they were furious! When it was all over, people jeered and threw vegetables at the Rebels as they were marched through the streets on their way to Kilmainham Gaol. But the Irish bitter taste  for their countrymen didn’t last long.  With the executions of the Irish Rebels,  the Irish were completely stunned.especially when several of the men were already dying. James Connolly had suffered gangrene in his leg during the fighting and had to be strapped into a chair to be shot!  Public opinion drastically changed, siding with the demand to end British rule and enforce an Irish Republic.

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