Manufactured Evidence

 

The Millar entries in the 1910 Black Diary have attracted much attention from Casement’s biographers and have been cited as irrefutable evidence of the diary’s authenticity. In brief, the entries for late May 1910 relate an ongoing affair between Casement and someone called Millar. Corroboration of the Millar relationship appeared possible because the entries allege a continuing liaison on ‘home ground’ and on specific dates rather than a casual encounter; moreover, the typescript ledger for June 1911 alleges that Casement paid a large sum to gift a motorcycle to Millar. Although the diary entries are quite explicit, they reveal no personal details about Millar.

Rather than being evidence of authenticity, the following scrutiny of this dimension demonstrates how the Millar evidence was manufactured early in 1915, then secretly ‘verified’ in 1916 and thereafter the purported verification was locked into official silence for another 82 years, almost 40 years longer than the Black Diaries. Only in 1995 was Millar’s identity revealed and only in 1998 were details of the motorcycle revealed. That manufactured evidence was routine practice is verified by the report proposed to British Intelligence by an un-named agent in Germany dated 8.8.15 cited in Anatomy of a Lie.

That Millar was a real person is undisputed; he was born in Larne in 1890 and died in Dublin in 1956. That he knew Casement is undisputed although there is no evidence outside the diary and ledger that he knew Casement in 1910 or 1911. The external evidence for his knowing Casement consists of a letter written by Millar to Casement in November, 1913; this letter is now in the National Library of Ireland. This external evidence is, significantly, not mentioned by Major Frank Hall of Military Intelligence in his secret letter to the cabinet legal advisor Ernley Blackwell dated 31 July, 1916 which ‘confirmed’ the identification of Millar as J.M. Gordon, a bank employee resident in Belfast. The text of the 1913 letter is entirely innocuous (see Appendix) and refers to Millar buying two water-colours on Casement’s behalf at a Belfast gallery exhibition of paintings by his friend Ada MacNeill. That the original letter is now in the National Library of Ireland indicates that it was deposited there by Gertrude Parry as part of her 1950 donation of Casement papers. That it was in her possession indicates that she received it from Gavan Duffy in 1916 after the execution when Basil Thomson sent Casement’s possessions to him; “… when we had returned everything except a diary and a cash book to his solicitors, they wrote to complain that some of his property had been detained.” That it was in Thomson’s possession indicates that it was found in one of Casement’s trunks in police custody from early 1915.

It was the responsibility of Frank Hall to report on all of Casement’s known contacts in Ireland. Hall began his investigations in early November 1914, within days of Casement’s arrival in Berlin. It will here be demonstrated that Hall used the 1913 letter and not, as he claimed, the ledger entries for the identification of Millar. Phase 1 of Hall’s operation began with the finding of the Millar letter in Casement’s trunks early in 1915. Phase 2 led quickly to the identification of J.M. Gordon in Belfast and his motorcycle. Phase 3 followed with Hall discovering from the registers held by Essex County Council that Cyril Corbally of Bishop’s Stortford was registered as a previous owner of the motorcycle in May 1910. Phase 4 comprised the manufacture of the liaison for the diary typescript and the linking of Casement and Corbally for the typescript ledger. Phase 5 came in 1916 after the police typescripts had been shown when Hall wrote to Blackwell to ‘verify’ those entries by identifying the enigmatic Millar.

These are the 1911 ledger entries:

June 3 – “Cyril Corbally and his motor bike for Millar. 25.0.0”
June 8 – “Carriage of Motor Bike to dear Millar. 18/3.”

It is at once evident that these entries alone do not contain enough information to lead Hall to the motorcycle registration F3044 cited in his letter to Blackwell. The motorcycle itself had to be located in Belfast and that could not be done without already knowing Millar’s full name, since J.M. Gordon alone used that machine. Therefore, even if the ledger was an authentic document in Hall’s possession, it could not lead to the identification of Millar as J.M. Gordon; this was achieved via the 1913 letter & the art gallery. It would have been a routine matter to identify the gallery in Belfast which hosted the 1913 exhibition. An inspection of the gallery’s sales register for the Ada MacNeill exhibition would reveal the full name and address of the purchaser of the two pictures named in Millar’s letter to Casement. Normal police enquiries would thereafter establish Millar’s age, his bank employment, his single status and that he owned a motorcycle. Upon identification of Millar, Hall would note the motorcycle’s Essex registration number and obtain from Essex County Council the name Corbally as a previous owner– and the 3.5 horsepower Triumph registered to him in 1910. Therefore, Hall’s claim in his letter that Millar was identified through the motorcycle is false; only when Millar had been identified from the 1913 letter was the motorcycle identified.

Hall would not miss the fact that Millar is a middle name and not the surname. Millar would at once be cleared of any suspicion of subversive sympathies especially since he was a signatory of the Ulster Covenant in 1912 against Home Rule. Hall would not miss the fact that he now had irrefutable evidence that Casement was on friendly terms with a young single man in Belfast in 1913 who nonetheless appeared to have no political ground in common with him; this would naturally lead Hall to ponder the nature of the relationship between the forty-eight year-old Sir Roger (in 1913) and the unknown twenty-three year-old bank clerk. In November 1914, Hall had written with reference to the allegation in Findlay’s ‘memo’; “I am awaiting further information on this point, and also as to his habits (natural & un-natural!)”. This clearly indicates the orientation of his enquiries and of his thinking. An intelligence officer’s natural suspicion and Hall’s clear conviction of Casement’s ‘un-natural’ habits would dispose him to perceive this unexplained relationship with young Millar as being exactly what he was hoping to find. The absence of evidence concerning the nature of the relationship could be overcome by the manufacture of suitable evidence, a process already under way with the invention of the diary narratives for the typescripts.

The advantage of framing Millar as a Casement partner was that Hall and only Hall could identify him as a living person with a verifiable Belfast address and occupation but, most importantly, Millar could not be identified from the diary entries. From the 1913 letter, Hall could not know that Millar was not a surname but only a middle name. Only when Gordon was identified would Hall understand this, and that identification could not be made from a middle name only. Once identified, Hall would note that Gordon’s use of his middle name offered a degree of anonymity and therefore security. Gordon would not be identifiable in the diary or ledger from the name Millar. The framing of Millar (and therefore of Casement) was thus achieved without revealing his full identity as J.M. Gordon. The identification of J.M. Gordon could only be made via the 1913 letter which unambiguously reported his transaction in a Belfast art gallery.

Vehicle registration documents at Essex County Council show that the transfer of the motorcycle to J.M. Gordon is recorded for 10 July 1911. This is the date given to the Essex motor registry office by the person who transferred ownership of the motorcycle to Millar. There is no evidence that Corbally sold the vehicle to Millar. Indeed, extensive research has not determined how Millar located the machine for sale or the identity of the vendor. Most probably the unknown vendor advertised in one of the popular motorcycle magazines of the period; there are no private adverts in those publications bearing Corbally’s name in the period April to early July for such a motorcycle. Several corresponding motorcycles were advertised in those magazines by motor traders in that period. Motor traders do not advertise the name of the previous owner because the vehicle when advertised belongs to the trader. Therefore, if Millar’s motorcycle was sold by a trader, Corbally’s name would not appear and Millar would not see his name until after the transaction when he would receive the vehicle logbook listing Corbally’s name and address. At a date soon after 10 July, Millar received the motorcycle in Belfast and only then wrote his own full name and address into the logbook and posted it to Essex for registration as required by law. 10 July defines the day on which the motorcycle left the unknown vendor’s care and responsibility.

The June 8 ledger entry shows a specific sum of 18/3 allegedly paid for transport of the machine to Belfast. This is approximately 102 sterling today and it indicates that whoever wrote that figure in the typescript ledger knew there was a considerable distance between the vendor and Millar. Since Corbally’s address in the Essex register is the Bishop’s Stortford golf club, where he was secretary from 1910 when he acquired the motorcycle, it can be inferred that the machine was dispatched to Millar from a location within Corbally’s area including London. However, the machine did not leave the unknown vendor until 10 July which leaves an unexplained delay of a full month after the alleged payment in June.

Having served as the means of identifying Millar, the innocuous letter of 1913 was of no further interest to Hall and would have been returned to Casement’s possessions in Thomson’s custody. J. M. Gordon aka Millar would never know before his death in 1956 that his middle name had been secretly used in the campaign against Casement. Nor would anyone else until 1995. That apparently mysterious identity as Millar in the 1910 typescript diary and ledger would enjoy a fake but secret verification one day before Casement’s hanging, precisely timed for the last cabinet meeting and intended to overcome hesitancy about the political expediency of an execution. The false verification passed to Blackwell in 1916 was known to some of Casement’s biographers from a brief unsigned summary accompanying Hall’s letter but his original letter remained secret until 1998. The text of Hall’s letter cites the five dates of the typescript entries concerning Millar but, significantly, it does not cite the precise date of the transfer of the motorcycle.

“Dear Sir Ernley, re Casement’s diary: I have ascertained that the individual referred to as “dear Millar” in the entries under date May 28th/29th 1910, May 13th/14th & June 3rd 1911 is a young man named JOSEPH MILLAR GORDON aged 26, a clerk in the Donegall Sq. Branch of the Belfast Bank who resides with his mother at CARNSTROAN – Myrtlefield Park Belfast. We traced him through the Motor Cycle which Casement gave him. (One Cyril Corbally registered a TRIUMPH Motor Cycle F3044 in 1910 and in 1911 the number was transferred to J.M. Gordon.) Gordon has not been interviewed but if it was considered advisable to approach him on the subject we could easily arrange to have it done discreetly. Yours very truly, Frank Hall.” TNA HO/144/1637/139.

Hall was a native of Warrenpoint, County Down, former secretary of the UVF and a key conspirator in the successful secret gun-running operation to arm loyalists in 1914. The 1910 entries concerning Millar show a familiarity both with idiomatic speech and with locations in Northern Ireland which Hall certainly possessed. Two of the most disputed diary entries, those of 28-29 May, refer to alleged episodes in his native Warrenpoint, a fact which perhaps amused Hall as if he wished to leave some evidence of authorship. Hall’s interest in the Casement matter was also and inevitably personal and not confined to intelligence gathering; he was also present at the 1916 Scotland Yard interrogation.

Thus the Millar story in the typescript diary and ledger had the unique virtue of being tailor-made for ‘authentication’ by means of verified facts about J.M. Gordon and his motorcycle. But outside the typescript diary and ledger there is no evidence that Casement knew Millar in 1910 or 1911 and no evidence that such a substantial gift was ever made. Millar’s innocuous 1913 letter indicates that Casement knew Millar’s mother and that Casement’s request to acquire the paintings discreetly was addressed to the mother and not to the son. This in turn suggests that Millar’s mother might have been a friend or acquaintance of Casement’s friend Ada MacNeill, someone who understood the delicacy of Casement’s relations with MacNeill. In short, Casement knew the Gordon family, mother and son, through Ada MacNeill.

The second sentence in Hall’s letter contains eleven words of which only the first three are true. “We traced him through the Motor Cycle // which Casement gave him.” Whereas both clauses are false, the first would have been sufficient, although part true and part false, but Hall added the second clause to insinuate his silent meaning which was that the ledger entries were true. Yet Hall did not witness Casement making any payment and did not witness Casement writing the ledger entries. Nor did Hall trace Gordon through the motorcycle as has been demonstrated. Therefore, Hall deceived Blackwell who in turn misled the cabinet. That Hall felt it necessary to deceive Blackwell in August 1916 indicates that Hall’s letter was the outcome of a plan he had initiated at an earlier time, a plan to which he was fully committed. His 1916 letter was the fulfillment of his decision in early 1915 to frame Millar.

Two further important considerations reveal the Millar story as manufactured evidence. Hall had one simple option for a definitive verification of the ledger entries; he did not interview Millar in Belfast for obvious reasons, but he could easily have obtained confirmation of the alleged payment from Corbally himself in nearby Bishop’s Stortford. It can be excluded that the omission of this obvious step was an oversight by a senior intelligence officer. In addition, Hall had access to Casement’s bank account where evidence of such a substantial payment would be recorded but he did not produce bank evidence of the alleged payment. Such evidence would also have been definitive.

To conceal one thing, two things must be concealed; first, the primary item itself must be concealed and second, that anything is concealed must also be concealed; the cover-up must be covered up. The primary item was the 1913 letter and the second phase came when the ledger entries replaced the concealed letter. Yet, by concealing the 1913 letter as the true source of Millar’s identification, Hall betrayed his intent to deceive Blackwell and the cabinet. The deception was necessary because it privileged the ledger as the only possible source of the verified fact of Millar’s real existence. Since truth cannot be derived from falsity, Hall attributed the illusion of truth to the typescript ledger. But his concealment of the true source is Hall’s inadvertent acknowledgement that Corbally’s name in the ledger plays a deceptive role.

The Millar story is a text-book set piece of manufactured evidence with the false and the true poised in an illusory equilibrium. The illusion derives from failure to perceive that the verified fact does not entail what it appears to entail. Millar’s ownership of the motorcycle verified by the Essex document does not entail that any gift was made; it merely entails that Millar owned a specific motorcycle. Any determination about this alleged gift with unknown motivation must exclude the typescript ledger as evidence because it is the only document alleging that a gift was made, and the authenticity of the ledger is questioned. In short, a disputed document cannot corroborate an undetermined circumstance. Without the questioned ledger, nothing testifies to a gift ever being made. The suppression and disposal of the Millar letter of 1913 indicates the necessary concealment of the crucial document which led Hall to Gordon’s identification which inspired the false Millar story.

In conclusion the following balance sheet presents the facts discovered in the above analysis of the Millar evidence.

In favour of authenticity:

  • handwriting resemblance and Hall’s word in his 1916 letter.

Against authenticity:

  • no external evidence to support the transaction reported in the ledger,
  • No confirmation from Corbally of receipt of money from Casement,
  • No confirmation of payment from Casement’s bank accounts in possession of British intelligence,
  • Evidence of Hall’s hostile motivation.
  • Hall’s opportunity to manufacture evidence over many months.
  • Hall’s concealment of how he identified Millar.
  • Unexplained time lapse of motorcycle transfer after alleged payment on June 3 until July 10.
  • Hall’s letter kept secret until 1998.

A balance sheet reports verified facts, not opinions or conjectures. The impartial reader is invited to assess the above facts and to decide if the typescript ledger entries are true or are false. The impartial reader should bear in mind the Inglis dictum of 1973; “… and if one was forged, all of them were …”.

Appendix

 

Text of 1913 Millar letter:

“My dear Sir Roger, I went to the exhibition about the pictures and have secured a pair by Miss MacNeill which I think will please you. There were none of hers above £2=2=0 in price, most of them being small ones from 10/6 up to £1.1.0, but there was this pair and another pair each picture being £2.2.0 so by taking two I was able to approximate to the amount you mentioned. The titles of the two pictures are “Evening on the Moor” and “A Grey Day in the Glen” both extremely nice & the tone very well done probably the dull effect in each case suggested by the titles. They are both Irish scenes and I shall find out the exact places and let you know. The man in the place was not sure of that but can find out.
“The other two pictures were “White Lines on a Sullen Sea” – an impression of a rough bit of sea with a rocky shore & the waves coming in with white crests – and some coast scene in India. They told me Miss MacNeill had been in India some little time ago and painted this while there. I chose the other pair for two reasons first the scenes are Irish and I know you would like that best & second the frames and mount are much nicer being gilt & well finished whereas the others are stained wood of some kind and rather coarse.

“The pictures must remain in the Exhibition till 15 Dec. as if everyone took away his picture as he bought it towards the end there wouldn’t be any exhibition! But I suppose you are not in any particular hurry for them & you can just let me know where you want them sent to & I’ll look after them you may be sure. It’s a jolly nice show, quite small you know, but some very nice little pieces of work. There are one or two little Egyptian scenes, I forget by whom at the moment, one of a bridge of boats, which is very nice. There are also some bas reliefs or mouldings apparently of some kind of clay. There are an astonishing number of works sold already, a red star on each one sold & you may be surprised at the number of red stars.

“Mother was unfortunately not able to go with me as some friends arrived unexpectedly and prevented her but I told her all about it & she concurs with what I have done. Excuse the writing but I am doing this down town. With every kind thought & hoping this will please you. Of course I did not give your name, but my own. Ever yrs, affectionately Millar.”