The last of the Easter Rising rebels was executed in Britain on this day in 1916.
Sir Roger Casement was an Irish-born diplomat who served in the British foreign service. He reported on human rights abuses in the Belgian Congo and investigated the exploitation of the Putamayo Indians in the Peruvian rubber trade. In 1904 he joined the Gaelic League and grew increasingly sympathetic to the movement for Irish independence. Casement’s career of humanitarian work resulted in a knighthood in 1911 before his retirement in 1913.
While in Germany Casement tried unsuccessfully to raise an Irish Brigade from Irish prisoners-of-war taken by the Germans. He also negotiated successfully the transfer of weapons that were to be used in the Rising of 1916.
Although initially against the Rising, he travelled to Ireland in a German U-boat and was captured as he landed on Banna Strand in County Kerry. His German arms, aboard the Aud Norge, were also intercepted by the Royal Navy forcing her captain to scuttle her. It was a double disaster and Casement was moved to London for trial.
His three-day trial took place at the Old Bailey between June 26 and 29. He was prosecuted by Edward Carson, the Orange bigot, who years earlier had hounded Oscar Wilde into prison. He was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death by rope. Calls for mercy were heard from such famous figures as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, George Bernard Shaw and W.B. Yeats. But they were ignored by the British and Sir Roger Casement, the Irish Patriot was hanged on this day August 3rd 1916.
From the dock Casement spoke: “Where all your rights become only an accumulated wrong; where men must beg with bated breath for leave to subsist in their own land, to think their own thoughts, to sing their own songs, to garner the fruit of their own labours—and even while they beg to see these things inexorably withdrawn from them—then surely it is a braver, a saner, and a truer thing to be a rebel in act and deed against such circumstances as this than tamely to accept it as the natural lot of men.”
In 1965 his remains were removed from Pentonville Prison and returned to Ireland. He was given a state funeral, attended by the last surviving commandant of the Easter Rising, President Eamon de Valera, and was buried in front of the appropriately named Republican Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, the resting place to some of Ireland’s most famous patriots.