Lost to History

“Nothing that has taken place should be lost to history” – Walter Benjamin. Theses on the Philosophy of History

Roger Casement was a pioneer investigator of the abuse of human rights and today we are all heirs to his moral legacy. Before his execution in 1916, his international prestige was comparable to that later enjoyed by Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. Today his reputation is still controversial essentially because of his active commitment to radical Irish nationalism and the notorious ‘Black Diaries’. The controversies have distorted the deeper significance of Casement’s pioneering work which was his revelation of a causal nexus between imperialism and abuse of human rights. That deeper significance is what has been lost to history. And something else has been lost – the human rights of Roger Casement.

Casement had exposed the moral foundations of European imperialism as corrupt and murderous. By the time of his knighthood, he was already profoundly disaffected with empire and on the way to rebellion against British domination in Ireland. His active involvement in founding the Irish Volunteers persuaded the British that this Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire had become a renegade of ‘clear and present danger’. The British authorities responded to this insult to their empire with a plan to subvert his moral reputation as a man. To a considerable degree the British plan was successful both short and long term. But the host of discrepancies, contradictions and anomalies nourished suspicions among many people that the plan to destroy Casement physically as an active renegade and morally as a degenerate was based on lies and deception. Thus, the Black Diaries remain at the centre of the Casement story.

Casement was indifferent to the honours bestowed upon him; this packet contains the CMG awarded in 1905.  It was never opened and the seals remain intact. (Courtesy Irish Military Archive)

Reasonable Grounds

Are there reasonable grounds for the suspicion that the Black Diaries might not be authentic? Reasonable grounds would arise from unsatisfactory answers to reasonable questions posed by a reasonable and impartial enquirer.

1 – How were the diaries found? Not known – various conflicting accounts.

2 – Who found the diaries? Not known – various accounts.

3 – When were the diaries found? Not known – various contradictory accounts.

4 – Who first raised the issue of homosexuality? British Minister Findlay [1] in Oslo 1914.

5 – What was the reaction of Casement’s friends, colleagues, associates to the allegations of homosexual activity? Astonishment and disbelief.

6 – What was the purpose of the post-mortem medical exam on Casement’s body? To furnish evidence of past homosexual activity.

7 – Why were the diaries kept secret by the British authorities until 1959? Not known.

8 – Why were the diaries accessible only to persons pre-vetted by HM Home Office after their release in 1959? Not known.

9 – Have any exhaustive forensic tests & analysis been carried out on the diaries? Uncertain if any investigations carried out to date meet forensic standards – i.e. court standards.

10 – What were the results of the 1958 investigation? An opinion of 93 words which failed to identify authorship.

11 – What were the results of the 1970s investigation? The investigation was non-professional & unofficial.

12 – What were the results of the 1993 investigation? Unclear, ambiguous.

13 – What were the results of the 2002 investigation? Claimed authenticity of diaries.

14 – Where can the results of these investigations be seen? For 10 see HO 144/23481; for 11 & 12 not known. For 13  the text can only be found in the 2005 Royal Irish Academy book on Casement.

15 – Have the British authorities now released all Casement documents to public access? No.

16 – How did the British authorities exploit the diaries in 1916?  Photographs of typed pages and typescript pages alleged to be copies were shown to influential persons in both UK and USA.

17 – Were the bound volume diaries now in UK National Archives shown to influential persons in 1916? No verifiable record of these diaries being shown to anyone in 1916.

18 – Where are the original photos and typescript ‘copies’ which were shown to influential persons? Photographs believed destroyed; typescripts held in UK National Archives and National Library of Ireland.

19 – Who were the sources of the original allegations of homosexual activity? The sources were all British Crown Officials and all hostile to Casement.

20 – What was Casement’s reaction to the allegations? He was not allowed to see any of the materials in circulation. When verbally informed by one of his legal team, Casement indignantly denied the allegations.

If one accepts that these questions are reasonable, one must then decide if the answers are satisfactory or unsatisfactory. An unsatisfactory answer is one which fails to provide the information sought in the question or which leads to further uncertainty. If, on balance, the answers are held to be unsatisfactory, it follows that there are reasonable grounds for suspicion concerning the diaries.

Concerning the investigations already done, the results of two are unknown and appear not to be in the public domain. The investigation of 2002 (The Giles Report) is not a forensic test and was not intended to be. It is an expert opinion based on subjective handwriting comparison only and is without any impartial authentication of the control documents. It does not contain sufficient scientific detail for a definitive conclusion.

Those who believe in authenticity must be able to give credible and verifiable answers to the questions posed in Reasonable Grounds. Any answers so far given have their sources in explanations given by the British authorities whose explanations cannot be independently verified.

Therefore, almost one hundred years have passed without an impartial and exhaustive forensic examination of the questioned documents. Assuming that such an examination is indeed capable of determining the status of the questioned documents, it follows that the truth about the Black Diaries has not been revealed: belief is not knowledge.


The term ‘forensic’ does not mean scientific and is not a synonym for scientific. The term ‘forensic’ means related to law (Latin – forensis) and a forensic report or evidence is a specialist report or evidence presented in a court of law to help determine the outcome of a legal dispute. Such reports are not binding on the court. Forensic reports and evidence must meet specific standards and they are prepared and presented by professional experts who must explain and demonstrate to the court how their conclusions have been reached. Many but not all such forensic experts are scientists or technicians qualified in the exact sciences. All must have specific training and experience of forensic reporting to courts. Their reports and evidence have the status of an impartial expert opinion and their conclusions are expressed in terms of probability. Therefore a forensic report can only play a conclusive role if a court of law decides that it plays such a role. Outside a court an expert opinion has no legal (forensic) status and its role and significance are decided by private persons for their own purposes. For an expert opinion to become a forensic report, it must be prepared to precise court standards otherwise it will not be accepted by the court.

The forensic expert owes a duty of truth to the court and not to the party who commissions and pays for the expert opinion. It follows that if a report is not presented in a court, it does not have the juridical status of a forensic report and there is no duty of truth. This remains the case even where the expert opinion is prepared in accordance with forensic standards.

The 1993 Investigation

This was carried out by Home Office expert Dr. David Baxendale and was featured in a BBC Radio documentary. The result was decidedly cautious if not ambiguous. Dr. Baxendale stated: “the bulk of the handwriting in there is the work of Roger Casement”. With reference to alleged interpolations he stated: “the handwriting of all the entries which were of that nature correspond closely with Mr Casement’s handwriting”.  This caution might be explained by his awareness of the Hitler Diaries fiasco of some years earlier in which some sixty two diaries were forged in only two years by Konrad Kujau and subsequently were authenticated by handwriting experts and eminent historians before the fraud was discovered by Dr. Julius Grant, a forensic paper expert, and by the West German Bundesarchiv.

 In plain terms, ‘the bulk of’ means the greater part of the handwriting is Casement’s; and ‘correspond closely’ means almost identical or very similar to. In either case the ambiguity remains. It is reasonable to expect that a skilled forger would produce almost identical writing otherwise there would be little point in the exercise. It is reasonable to deduce from ‘the bulk of’ that the remainder is not identified as Casement’s writing and is therefore the writing of someone else. In neither case has forgery been excluded. It is said that Dr. Baxendale signed a Home Office ‘secrecy declaration’ before his examination but this has not been confirmed and its purpose is unknown.

The Giles Report

In a paper called “Cognitive and Motivational Causes of Investigative Error”  presented to The American Academy,  Professor Simon has explained how errors can compound upon each other and has demonstrated various dangers in forensic investigations, such as selective framing (in which an inquiry is framed in terms designed to influence the outcome), selective exposure (in which the information provided is chosen to influence the outcome), and selective stopping (in which the inquiry is ended when the hypothesis appears to be confirmed, but all possibilities may not yet have been considered).

The Giles Report is afflicted by all three defects: selective framing, selective exposure and selective stopping. Dr. Giles noted differences in the questioned writings but did not classify these differences as significant differences which would require to be explained reasonably.  She did not offer any explanation of what constitutes a significant difference. No example is offered of what it is that makes a difference significant. It appears that she did not find the same or similar differences in the unquestioned writings. But their absence in the unquestioned writings constitutes sufficient reason to consider the differences found in the questioned writings as being of significance – as significant differences.

The Giles Report, described by one document examiner as “forensic junk science” and by another as failing to meet court standards, raises false questions about the author’s competence. No-one would suggest incompetence as an explanation for what might appear to some as sophistry even if Dr. Giles announces that she is a Doctor of Philosophy. Therefore, the only remaining explanation is that the report’s failures are due to what in cognitive science is known as confirmation bias – an unconscious predisposition to seek confirmation of a proposition and to disregard data which refutes. The English philosopher Francis Bacon described it in his Novum Organum in 1620: “The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion … draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects or despises, or else by some distinction sets aside or rejects.”This is the only plausible explanation for the report’s abysmally low quality; its conclusions cannot be demonstrated because they are false. Instead of lucid exposition, what precedes the conclusion is verbal camouflage composed of ambiguity, repetitions, irrelevant data, false trails, banalities, omissions, ex cathedra pronouncements and disinformation none of which belong in a scientific investigation. Those lethal defects are the sine qua non for the bogus conclusion of authenticity.

It is now increasingly recognized in the US forensic science community that forensic experts have been reluctant to acknowledge the possibility of mental contamination of evidence in the form of cognitively biased forensic evaluations. As highlighted in the 2009 National Academies of Science report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the U.S: a Path Forward, empirical research in the fields of behavioural science and information obtained from reviews of forensic practitioner errors in several high-profile cases have clearly established the adverse impact that contextual and motivational biases can have on human judgment and the accuracy of forensic evaluations of evidence.

On 19 April 2002 Professor McCormack in his opening address to the Casement conference declared his indifference to the outcome of the Giles investigation before announcing the result. The diaries were authentic – at long last. The press duly reported that the question was conclusively closed. In his later book Roger Casement in Death that indifference was largely compromised by his description of those who were unconvinced by the Giles Report as ‘Casement vindicators’ whom he associated with perpetrators of ‘clerical child abuse, prime-ministerial corruption, and paramilitary terror’.

Earlier Investigations

The investigation conducted in 1958 was carried out by Dr. Wilson Harrison. Very little is known about this investigation save that Dr. Harrison was Director of a Home Office Forensics Laboratory and that he undertook not to give press interviews. The results remained secret for many decades but can now be found buried in a 200 page file at the National Archives; HO 144/23481.  That file clearly reveals a) Home Office dissatisfaction with the brief opinion which failed to securely identify authorship and b) fears of a second, contradictory report. Certainly its 93 word opinion does not meet international forensic standards. Nor can we know what instructions were given and there was no authentication of the control material.

With regard to the investigation in 1972 even less is known. We know neither the time nor location.  The two persons involved were not qualified as document examiners. No formal results were published and there is only an imprecise anecdotal account in the public domain. We do not even know what documents were examined or which methods and instruments were used. Those involved were Peter Singleton-Gates [2] and Dr. Letitia Fairfield. The former is said to have been a journalist and his name is well known in the Casement controversy since he was co-author of the 1959 book which claimed to publish the diaries for the first time. By his own account, he obtained the material for his book from “a figure of some authority” in 1922; many now think that this figure was Casement’s former CID interrogator Basil Thomson [3], or someone acting for him. But this has not been verified and Singleton-Gates refused to identify his source while conceding that his source was dead.  Very little is known about Peter Singleton-Gates. In his 1960 article on Casement, Roger McHugh[4] states: ‘Mr. Gates …admitted that he had been “guilty in the past of literary fraud.” (Sunday Express, March 1, 1959). McHugh adds: ‘In 1921, representing himself as “Lieutenant Colonel Singleton,” Mr. Gates faked a news story about the finding of Lord Kitchener’s body. A few years later he was severely censured by a judge for trying to obtain money by confessing to this.’

Dr. Fairfield was a well-known public figure, a medical doctor and a lawyer, with Irish connections who had a long-term interest in the Casement affair. At the time of their investigation, Singleton-Gates was 81 years old and Dr. Fairfield was 87 years of age and neither had formal training in or experience of document examination. With so little known and with no verifiable results, it is reasonable to place this investigation with those done by the Home Office as being of no practical use to an impartial enquirer.


In 1916 a number of attempts were made by the British authorities to corroborate the degeneracy allegedly detailed in the diaries. Three of these demand some scrutiny. The first regards the only alleged eye-witness account of a homosexual act involving Casement. The alleged incident took place in the Grand Hotel in Oslo where the Chief Reception Clerk Olsen claimed to have witnessed Casement and his manservant Christensen in a compromising homosexual act. Some two hours after Casement’s arrival in the hotel, the German Naval Attaché asked for him at the reception desk. By his own account, Olsen went to Casement’s room, knocked and entered at once without waiting for an answer. It is unclear why Olsen did not wait for a response since he believed Casement was in the room. This is highly improbable behaviour from senior hotel staff in a high-class, capital city hotel. Secondly, Olsen did not report the alleged crime to the police. Thirdly, the ‘offenders’ were not asked to leave by hotel management ergo Olsen kept silent and so became an accomplice. Fourthly, it is improbable that the Chief Reception Clerk would have gone in person, leaving his desk, rather than instruct another staff member or more simply make a telephone call to Casement’s room.  Olsen could have easily directed the German official to the room especially since he was allegedly resident in the same hotel.

There is no independent corroboration whatsoever of this alleged event. Some 21 months later in July 1916, Olsen travelled to London to see Inspector Sandercock and from a photo he identified Casement as ‘Landy’ – Casement’s cover name. Olsen and seven others made formal statements to British officials although these could play no part in Casement’s prosecution. Ergo, the motive for seeking these alleged affidavits remains unclear. (An affidavit is a voluntary statement of alleged facts made under self-administered oath; the signature of the author is witnessed by an authorised person who does not verify the statement content. The veracity of an affidavit can only be established by a court and false affidavits are commonplace.)

It is improbable that eight Norwegians would concern themselves 21 months after the alleged event/s to spontaneously furnish statements and from the files at The National Archives (HO 144 1637 311643 140) it is clear that they were invited to do so. It is improbable that Olsen travelled to London at his own expense. It is unclear why eight statements were made when Olsen’s alone would have sufficed.

Casement’s vessel the SS  Oskar docked at midnight of 28th October 1914 at Oslo. MacColl reports in his 1956 book that Casement left the vessel at 1.30 am and reached his hotel at around 2 am. (see Note 12.) It is claimed that the compromising event allegedly witnessed by Olsen took place around two hours after Casement’s arrival in the hotel. This means that both Olsen and the German Naval Attaché were awake and on duty at around 4 am that morning, and that the Naval Attaché, having risen from his slumber at 4 am, could not wait a few hours until morning and that Olsen, the Chief Receptionist, acceded to his urgent wish that Casement be disturbed at 4 am in the morning.  It is verified that Casement left Oslo at around 5.30 pm on 30th October by train for Germany. Allowing time for Casement’s two visits to the German Legation, for packing and trip to railway station, for sleep and for meals we can estimate circa 24 hours for these activities and deduct those hours from his total time spent in Oslo since arriving in the hotel which amounts to 39 hours. Thus we are left with 39 less 24 hours = 15 hours. It was therefore during these 15 hours that the Norwegian ‘witnesses’ allegedly noted the compromising behavior. At the time, however, they preferred to say and do nothing; rather like the many dozens of persons known to Casement over the previous 20 years, these Norwegians also conspired to silence when faced with ‘unnatural’ behavior.  Only some 21 months later when they jointly decided the time had come to ‘speak out’ did they agree to furnish formal statements to officials of a foreign government. Scrutiny of these so-called affidavits reveals that none are in fact affidavits; several lack the jurat, several are reported hearsay and gossip, four come from one source and those allegedly sworn are not sworn by the deponent. Even CID chief Basil Thomson admitted “not much in them”.

The full Olsen story has two conflicting versions, one invented by Findlay in March 1915 and the second by the Metropolitan Police in July 1916. These are examined in Anatomy of a Lie which will be published on this website.

A second attempt at corroboration was made by appeal to two psychiatrists during Casement’s detention. The doctors reported that they were shown “copies of the diary”. It is not clear if these ‘copies’ were the typescript papers which were in circulation at the time. The use of the plural ‘copies’ suggests typescript pages rather than a single bound volume diary. If the authorities possessed the bound volume, why was this not shown? The motivation of this exercise is not clear. The purported author of the incriminating writings is obviously a seriously disturbed person – why was a doctor’s confirmation needed? For whom was the report intended? It is therefore unclear what exactly was shown to the doctors. Casement did not write the typed pages which were circulated as being copies of his diaries; the typed pages were prepared by the authorities and there is no independent verification of these being authentic copies of anything written by Casement.

A third attempt at corroboration involved a post-mortem anal probe: this was effected by the prison doctor immediately after the inquest to ascertain death. The doctor’s written report to Ernley Blackwell [5] identified anal dilation and stated that such a condition was solid evidence of homosexual activity. The prison doctor was not a pathologist and there is no evidence that he had ever performed this type of examination before. Indeed, there was no witness who might verify that such an examination was in fact carried out. It is probable that sudden death by hanging has an immediate negative impact on the autonomous nervous system which could cause dilation in the parts examined. It is known that death by hanging produces sphincter dilation. Ergo, the doctor’s report is at best uncorroborated evidence of dilation only which, in the circumstances, would not be sufficient evidence of repeated homosexual activity. Once again the motivation for this medical examination is unclear. Possibly some in the British authorities required further evidence because they were sceptical about the diaries. What other use was the doctor’s report?

It is unclear why the authorities felt it necessary to carry out the above operations given that they claimed to hold the incriminating diary/ies and given that there was no plan to prosecute Casement for homosexual offences. What is noticeable about all three operations is that they have a retrospective aspect which was intended to provide witness ‘evidence’ of long-term homosexual activity. Thus these operations appear to contribute to a rigorous investigation into the background so that the allegations do not rest only on the suddenly discovered diary/ies. This strategy would allow the authorities to feign their own incredulity along with the general incredulity at the revelations. It is reasonable to think that the authorities were aware that the timely coincidence of the arrest with the convenient discovery of the diary/ies would be seen as weak if not suspicious, the more so since Casement had been in their service for more than two decades, had an outstanding record and a worldwide reputation for integrity. Thus these three operations appear firstly to validate the alleged authenticity of the diary/ies and secondly to disarm the inevitable doubts of others and thirdly to enhance the ‘integrity’ of the investigating authorities.

Diary vs. Diaries

The Giles Laboratory examined writings contained in five bound volumes – the diaries – released by the Home Office to the then Public Records Office in 1959  (now The National Archives). But these are not the materials which were shown in 1916 to either Alfred Noyes [6] by Stephen Gaselee or to Ben S. Allen [7] by Admiral Hall [8].  Ben S. Allen reports that he was shown a roll of buff-coloured sheets of paper and Noyes states that he was shown typed papers. Neither saw bound volumes. The fact that neither saw bound volumes might mean that such volumes

  1. a) were not in British possession at that time, or
  2. b) did not exist at that time, or
  3. c) were in British possession but they preferred to show typed papers and photographs, or
  4. d) were in British possession but contained no incriminating text.

 If the volumes were in British possession and contained incriminating text, forged or genuine, it is unclear why these volumes were not displayed to Allen and Noyes. Indeed, there is no verifiable record of anyone being shown the bound volumes during Casement’s three month detention in 1916. If the roll of handwritten pages shown to Allen was also a diary, any reference to diary/s could be a reference to either those pages or to the volumes. This would explain why references to these are both singular and plural. What has never been explained is the extraordinary decision in May 1916 to set about the laborious typing of  alleged transcript copies of the diaries instead of simply photographing the original pages of the alleged diaries which would have been quicker, easier and, above all, much more convincing.

Casement’s solicitor, Gavan Duffy [9], received a letter dated 3 June 1916 from journalist Mary Boyle O’Reilly stating that less than a month earlier in Whitehall a group of US journalists had been shown a diary allegedly written by Casement which contained incriminating material. A further written reference to a single diary was made by Ernley Blackwell after the trial. It is unclear why only a single diary was mentioned if there were five volumes in British possession from April onwards.

The first verifiable account of bound volume diaries being shown to non-HM government persons occurred in February 1922 when two volumes were shown to Michael Collins and Eamon Duggan by permission of Lord Birkenhead [10], Casement’s prosecutor, in the House of Lords. Before that date there is no verifiable record of any bound volume being shown to any non-HM government person. By 1921 five and a half years had passed since the diaries had entered the Casement story during which time only alleged photographs, typescript pages and a roll of handwritten papers had been seen by journalists, doctors, religious and political figures. After the execution, these documents disappeared as did the (unseen) bound volumes – with exception of the above cited showing – and it was only in 1959 that bound volumes appeared again. But this time there were five.

There are two diaries for the year 1910, often referred to as the Black Diary (containing incriminating writings) and the White Diary without incriminating writings. The Black Diary is one of the five bound volumes held in the National Archives in London. The White Diary is held in The National Library of Ireland. The existence of two diaries for the same year has created further confusion and conjectures. The White Diary or The Putumayo Journal was sent by Casement to a Parliamentary Select Committee in 1913 after which little is known of its whereabouts until its arrival in The National Library of Ireland in 1950 as part of a donation by Gertrude Parry shortly before her death.

A further diary exists for the period when Casement was in Germany. It contains no sexually incriminating writings. This diary is referred to by author Brian Inglis [11] in his popular book of 1973 as follows: “Of the other two surviving diaries, one was written while he was in Germany, under constant police surveillance, he would have been unwise to include any compromising material.” The logic of the Inglis statement obviously betrays his presumed impartiality. The innuendo is that the compromising acts were performed despite constant police scrutiny but Casement did not write these acts into his diary and thereby protected himself from prosecution. Ergo police scrutiny functions as an incentive rather than a deterrent to criminal activity. Inglis implies that the police will only act to prevent crimes if they post facto find the crimes recorded in a diary. There are other examples in the Inglis book of his lack of respect for those of his readers who, having reached the age of reason, have developed their analytical and logical powers sufficiently to enable them to dismantle his verbal legerdemain.

Dominant Theory – Authentic

A dominant theory is dominant because it is widely accepted that it provides a maximum of explanatory power – it explains more than other theories. But the dominant and ‘official’ theory of the authenticity of the Black Diaries, in force for almost one hundred years, has almost no explanatory power whatsoever. It fails to answer the most basic and persistent questions such as those listed in Reasonable Grounds above. Rather than an explanatory theory it is a secular dogma and its acceptance is not optional for the faithful. There are only believers and heretics.

In the 1950s the secrecy protecting the dominant theory came under pressure from several quarters, not least from MPs in the House of Commons. To bolster the official version of authenticity, a number of attempts were made to put apparently corroborating information into the public domain. Amongst these was a story published by René MacColl [12] in his book of 1956. This story alleged that an old Belfast friend of Casement had found yet another incriminating diary in 1916 which he had immediately destroyed. According to MacColl, Casement’s friend had related this event to his nephew who in turn had related it to “a resident of Cork” who was interviewed in 1954 by the author for his book.

The term misinformation might imply human error. But the better term for Mr MacColl’s story is ‘a mis-truth’. He did not seek to verify his story in any way, nor could he since the only persons who could verify or refute – friend and nephew – were both dead in 1954 as MacColl well knew. But since his alleged interviewee-source was still alive in 1956, his identity had to be concealed so that he could not refute the story attributed to him. And predictably within weeks of the death of the alleged source in July 1967, MacColl wrote to The Times (18 August 1967) and duly identified the alleged source of his own mis-truth – a J.J. Horgan, a prominent resident of Cork. In both his book and his letter MacColl omitted to relate that Horgan had published in 1948 a statement of his esteem for Casement and his total repudiation of the scandalous diaries. With all three alleged sources dead, MacColl’s story could not be verified or refuted and so it passed unquestioned into the dominant theory.

Prima Facie Case

“ … we have an obligation to the dead. It is our duty to tell the truth about them.” Carlo Ginsburg.

In April,1999, Bertie Ahern promised that: “… in justice to the memory of Roger Casement, there is now a compelling, prima facie case for a new and rigorous enquiry … using modern forensic and analytical techniques.”

The “new and rigorous enquiry” promised sixteen years ago has never taken place. Our duty to tell the truth about Roger Casement remains unfulfilled. Those who believe in authenticity do not have their belief supported by a rigorous, impartial forensic test. Belief is not knowledge. Knowledge requires proof, belief requires faith.

Those who oppose the forgery conspiracy have overlooked that conspiracy’s logical prerequisite – an earlier ‘conspiracy’ among Casement’s friends, colleagues, associates and enemies in three continents and which included senior government officials, lawyers, doctors, journalists, businessmen, police officers and detectives, politicians, diplomats, informers and spies, ministers of religion, military generals and officers, cabinet ministers, authors and academics, all of whom must have ‘conspired’ over 30 years to conceal the alleged degeneracy ‘discovered’ by the British authorties upon his arrest in April 1916.

Those who believe that the Black Diaries are forged do not have their belief supported by facts proven beyond reasonable doubt. Only rigorous in-depth analysis can provide the facts required to replace belief with knowledge. The meaning of Casement’s lifework, including his ‘treason’, will only be understood when the Black Diary controversy is removed. That removal cannot happen unless the veridical status of the documents is definitively established.

 In July 2015 the Chief Executive of The National Archives confirmed in writing “that further analytical testing will not reveal new evidence to our understanding of the case.” He also confirmed that The National Archives are “satisfied with the investigation” which he wrote was “state-of-the-art” and was carried out in 2005. [13]  However, as there was no test in 2005, one assumes that the Chief Executive was referring to the privately financed Giles Report of 2002 which was no more than a handwriting comparison and the opinion of one person.

Therefore, there will be no further ‘forensic testing’ of the Black Diaries. However, further analytical research has been undertaken by in-depth comparative analysis of the 1910 Dollard Diary and the Putumayo Diary held in the National Library of Ireland. Just as The Giles Report was a private initiative, this too is a private initiative. This analysis, which has never been done before, is now complete. The results do “reveal new evidence to our understanding of the case”.

The dominant thesis, tacitly endorsed by British governments for decades, is that the Black Diaries are entirely authentic. This is, therefore, the dominant paradigm which is being analysed by seeking to falsify its claim. It is the claim of authenticity which is being tested because it is the veracity of this claim which is questioned.

“ … the cause of human freedom is as wide as the world …” Roger Casement. April 1911.

Paul R. Hyde

The author acknowledges advice given by Dr. Angus Mitchell concerning Roger Casement.


[1]. Findlay, Mansfeldt de Cardonnel, 1861-1932, Minister at British Legation in Oslo 1914. Made written offer of half a million sterling (in today’s values) to Christensen for information leading to capture of Casement.

[2]Singleton-Gates. Born 1891. Journalist and co-author of 1959 edition of The Black Diaries. Circumstantial evidence suggests he might have been one of Thomson’s many informers. In The Sunday Express and The Sunday Press on 1st March 1959, Singleton-Gates said: “I’ve faked stories before”.

[3] Thomson, Basil, 1861-1939.  Head of CID Scotland Yard. Thomson already possessed compromising information on high-placed homosexuals provided to him by disreputable police informer Arthur Maundy Gregory for whose ‘newspaper’ The Whitehall Gazette Thomson wrote anti-Semitic articles under the pen-name of ‘Gellius’. Thomson gave several conflicting accounts of how the diaries came into police custody. Reasons for his resignation/dismissal in 1921 remain unclear but it is verified in a letter by General Horwood (PRO HO 144/23425) that he stole large quantities of official papers from police custody.

[4] Roger McHugh’s 1960 article, now difficult to find, remains the most lucid exposition of the arguments about the veridical status of the Black Diaries. The points raised by McHugh have still not been adequately answered after 55 years; most subsequent Casement studies avoid them.

[5] Blackwell, Ernley, 1868-1941. legal advisor to the Cabinet. “I see not the slightest objection to hanging Casement and afterwards giving as much publicity to the contents of his diary as decency permits, so that at any rate the public in America and elsewhere may know what sort of man they are inclined to make a martyr of.”

[6] Noyes, Alfred 1880-1958:  poet & professor of literature, believer in authenticity until 1950s. Author ofThe Accusing Ghost or Justice for Casement 1957.  It was falsely claimed that he had circulated the alleged typescript ‘copies’ of the diaries when in fact he never had these pages in his possession.

[7] Allen, Ben S. Dates unknown: US representative of Associated Press. Hall refused Allen permission to take the incriminating papers to Casement for verification.

[8] Hall, Admiral William Reginald, 1870-1943. Head of naval intelligence, close colleague of Thomson and co-interrogator of Casement.  Considered to be the brain behind the smear campaign. Said to have been involved in the forged Zinoviev letter of 1924.

[9] Duffy, Gavan, 1882-1951. Casement’s solicitor who assembled the legal team for his defence.

[10] Birkenhead, F. E. Smith, 1872-1930, staunch Unionist, avowed enemy of Casement and state prosecutor at trial; supporter of Carson’s Ulster Provisional Government which Churchill described as “a treasonable conspiracy” (14 March 1914) and the successful smuggling of 25 thousand guns from Germany into Ireland for the UVF to fight Home Rule.  “ … after the trial of Sir Roger Casement I threatened to resign from the Cabinet unless this traitor was executed… I gave them choice of Casement or myself. Nothing gave me greater delight than the execution of Casement.” Boston Post, Jan 14, 1918.

[11] Inglis, Brian, 1916-1993 historian, author and television presenter. Roger Casement, 1973.

[12] MacColl, René 1905-1971, journalist and author. Associate of Singleton-Gates, he was a high-profile journalist in the Beaverbrook empire with strong connections in the British establishment, the world of intelligence and with experience of propaganda work.  MacColl wrote his book Roger CasementA new Judgement after being asked to do so; unconfirmed reports say he was given access to Casement materials by senior British intelligence officers including Sir William Wiseman.  The above cited story is an example of ‘grey-black’ propaganda. Casement’s arrival at the Grand Hotel at 2am is reported at page 141 in the above cited book.

[13]  Letter from UK National Archives to author dated 20 July 2015.

Maundy Gregory

None of the main studies of Casement mention Maundy Gregory who according to Thomson himself first suggested the idea of compromising diaries while Casement was still in Germany. Gregory, one of Thomson’s many informers, was a businessman, impressario, fraudster, convicted criminal, hotelier, blackmailer, MI5 agent, multi-millionaire and murder suspect who operated the ‘honours for sale’ racket.

F. E. Smith

Another man of ‘strong convictions’, in his imperial delirium he was  considered extreme by fellow reactionaries.  “…it is for us, who, in our history have proved ourselves a martial … people… to maintain in our own hands the adequate means for our own protection and … to march with heads erect and bright eyes along the road of our imperial destiny.” 7 Nov. 1923.

Did You Know?

In the later months of 1910 Casement was in the Putumayo area investigating human rights abuses worse that those he had experienced in the Congo. For around three months he was in the company of five Englishmen who were employed by the Peruvian Amazon Company registered in London. Their names were Barnes, Bell, Fox, Bertie* and Gielgud and they were experts in various aspects of the company’s business. Casement was cordial terms with them and saw them frequently, often playing Bridge with them in the evenings.

In July 1916 Casement was already condemned to death and efforts for a reprieve were under way in Britain, Ireland and the US. CID Chief Basil Thomson was seeking corroboration to strengthen the moral condemnation of Casement which was the result of showing the alleged copies of the infamous diary (or diaries). He sought this corroboration in Oslo where Casement had spent a mere 39 hours in late October 1914 while en route to Germany. In a very short time Thomson obtained what have been described as eight affidavits from various Norwegians but he was somewhat disappointed with these because they were little more than gossip. (See Appendix to The Casement Secret for some details of these ‘affidavits’.)

It remains to be explained why Thomson sought testimony from foreigners who did not know Casement and who lived in a city where he had spent a mere 39 hours. It would have been more logical to seek testimony from the group of professional Englishmen who certainly knew Casement and who had spent much time in his company. There is no record in the public domain to show that these Englishmen were consulted by Thomson who, therefore, might be guilty of negligence in this respect. That Thomson was negligent is improbable given his anxiety to obtain corroboration against Casement. That his anxiety was urgent is demonstrated by his soliciting testimony from foreigners who did not even know Casement. The impartial enquirer asks why Thomson sought testimony from unknown Norwegians when he could more easily have obtained the testimony of five English gentlemen who had known Casement very well over several months.

That there is no record in the public domain does not mean that Thomson was negligent in not consulting the five Englishmen. If he did consult them, then there are three possibilities:

  1. Thomson obtained testimony damning to Casement but he suppressed it.
  2. Thomson received a ‘no comment’ from all five and he suppressed it.
  3. Thomson received unacceptable testimony and he suppressed it.

The first of these is not credible and can be dismissed.

If Thomson was indeed convinced that Casement was guilty of the behaviour depicted in the Black Diaries then he would certainly have sought corroboration from those Englishmen whose word would have counted a great deal more in England than the imprecise gossip and hearsay of unknown hotel staff, a self-declared ‘gentleman’ and a tax inspector in Oslo, none of whom knew Casement. If he did not consult the Englishmen, it suggests that he knew any consultation would be futile since he knew Casement was not guilty.  If he did consult them, he suppressed the second or third result of the consultation.

*Colonel Bertie withdrew from the company commission early due to illness.

Did You Know?

Michael McDowell, noted barrister, politician and former Attorney General, gave a lecture on Casement to an invited audience of legal professionals in Green Street Courthouse, Dublin, on 4 May, 2016. The lecture covered many topics legal, biographical and historical which might well have been familiar to such a learned audience. Casement was given the now standard kaleidoscopic identity treatment, the enigmatic hero-martyr with a hidden and once-unspeakable secret. McDowell closed with a generous ‘free-for-all’: “In the end, each of us is left at liberty to imagine and even to judge his real character as we choose.” [Italics added] In other words, make it up as ye go along.

In Part 9 of his lecture McDowell goes astray when he reaches Oslo and the Findlay Affair and thereafter, not surprisingly, he loses his bearings with the Black Diaries. Indeed most who tackle these interlocked aspects flounder quickly into confusion and error; the result is always more misinformation rather than analytical clarity. Perhaps he does not understand how poisoned the Casement story has been since 1914 and how he, misguided, continues to perpetrate the misinformation intentionally created by earlier Casement ‘experts’. It is however clear that the former Attorney General has done no original research and without such critical exploration, he inevitably garbles the versions generated by others and now believed by many. The result is a confused but politically correct version which is not guided by a scrupulous passion for truth.

McDowell relies upon Ó Síocháin’s discussion of The Black Diaries in his Appendix.* While this is more descriptive than analytical it certainly presents a persuasive case for authenticity but only for those who have not studied the question in depth. Ó Síocháin relies heavily on the Giles Report as being a definitive conclusion giving scientific certainty. Here he makes the same mistake as Giles herself; both seek to confirm a specific thesis – authenticity. Hence the only evidence considered is that which appears to confirm. This self-confirming approach excludes evidence which might negate the favoured thesis. Scientific investigation seeks to disprove a dominant thesis, not to confirm it.

McDowell cannot be blamed for failing to note Ó Síocháin’s errors of approach, logic and fact since he makes enough errors of his own. The errors of approach and logic are all-embracing and invisibly condition Ó Síocháin’s treatment. Errors of fact are more visible. For example, on page 493 Ó Síocháin writes; “Further evidence concerning this episode arrived in London in July 1916 as part of the prosecution’s preparations for the trial.” Since the trial ended on 29 June the alleged evidence arrived too late. The alleged evidence could not be used by the prosecution since it concerned allegations of ‘unnatural relations’ which were not part of the charge of treason against Casement. The evidence Ó Síocháin refers to is what he calls “affidavits, eight in all …” concerning ‘unnatural relations’. But none of these statements are affidavits and the principal one, that of Olsen, does not even contain the jurat which is fundamental to an affidavit. Even Basil Thomson, who solicited these after the trial, recognised their uselessness when he commented: “Not much in them.”

Every paragraph in this last section is woefully misinformed and corrupted by errors of fact, by intentionally imprecise language and unsupported conjectures. Although he is a barrister, McDowell fails to grasp the purpose of Smith’s tactics. He misreports Mary Reilly as being shown ‘diaries’ and typescripts being given to Morgan. Clearly the former Attorney General has never seen the so-called affidavits of 1916 and it is reasonable to suspect that he has not read the discredited Giles Report. Findlay did not claim that Christensen made statements concerning homosexuality and Findlay did not send corroboration from Norwegian sources to London in 1914 because there was no such corroboration at that time.

McDowell’s error is the same as that made by Ó Síocháin and many others; he fails to distinguish between the typescripts and the bound-volumes held in the NA and the role these have played in the long controversy. This failure to distinguish means he is unable to understand the relationship between them. It is a verified fact that the typescripts existed during Casement’s lifetime; it has not been verified that the bound volumes existed in that period. The former Attorney General speaks of a preponderance of evidence in favour of authenticity without realising that the evidence he has selected is false evidence. The material existence of the bound volumes before Casement’s execution is a presumption based exclusively on the material existence of the typescripts which he presumes are copies. But there is no proof that they were copies.

With magnificent contempt for verified facts McDowell throws away any claim to informed scholarship by inviting us “… to imagine and even to judge his real character as we choose.”

*Séamas Ó Síocháin. Roger Casement: Imperialist, Rebel, Revolutionary. 2008.