The Bigger Mystery
Synopsis: The Bigger Mystery concerns two versions of an alleged secret involving Professor Joseph W. Bigger, nephew of Casement’s Belfast friend Frank Bigger. In 1956 when René MacColl published his biography Roger Casement: a new judgment, he reported for the first time a ‘secret’ allegedly told to him in 1954 by an anonymous ‘well-known resident of Cork’. That ‘secret’ concerned further scandalous diaries allegedly found in 1916 and at once destroyed. However, MacColl’s story already had a secret history and was known in 1937 when it first emerged in curious circumstances.
René MacColl was a leading British journalist with the Beaverbrook press empire and was foreign correspondent with the mass-circulation Daily Express for 24 years. In 1956 he published a biography entitled Roger Casement; a new judgment, (Hamish Hamilton). In late March 1955, having completed his research and before sending his final version to the publishers, MacColl wrote to the Home Secretary to ask if the diaries actually existed. (HO 144/23453.) Early in April he received the standard reply that no comment could be made. His earlier requests to see the diaries had also been rebuffed. MacColl’s question to the Home Secretary reveals that he had found no evidence of the material existence of the diaries at any time since 1916. Nonetheless he proceeded with publication of his book and asserted the authenticity of those diaries without knowing if they existed in 1916 or in 1955. His book was a commercial success and enjoyed four editions until it was superseded by Brian Inglis’ Roger Casement in 1973.
The story below, which MacColl reports, is a mystery not least because it is a hearsay story from an anonymous source who, we are told, heard it from a person since deceased who had heard it from another since-deceased person. Moreover, it involves a chance encounter between two strangers and no part of the story can be verified. Nonetheless, MacColl describes it as a fact.
MacColl presents the story on page 284 as follows; ‘There was a second group of Casement homosexual diaries and account books. This fact has until now been a secret.’ MacColl explains that in 1914 Casement left a ‘tin trunk’ with his Belfast friend, the well-known antiquarian Frank J. Bigger. After the execution Bigger opened the trunk and was shocked to find ‘a voluminous diary, full of homosexual notations and reminiscences’. Bigger at once burned the diary (or diaries) and letters found in the trunk. MacColl then explains how Frank J. Bigger related this event at some later time to his nephew Joseph W. Bigger who ‘not long before his death’ in 1951 recounted the story of the destroyed diary (or diaries) to ‘a well-known resident of Cork’ who in turn related it to MacColl during an interview in November 1954. In his book MacColl declined to name his source without explaining the reason.
Joseph W. Bigger was a noted professor of preventative medicine and bacteriology at Trinity and Dean of the medical school; he was also a senator in the Seanad. He died of leukemia in August 1951. MacColl explains that the professor was dining at his club when he ‘fell into conversation’ with the anonymous resident of Cork and related to him the story which ‘had always deeply worried him’. Unlike his uncle who had known Casement well, Professor Bigger never knew Casement.
On 18 August, 1967 The Times published a letter from MacColl revealing the name of his source: John J. Horgan, the well-known coroner of Cork. Horgan died on 21 July, 1967. With MacColl’s death in 1971 the secret of the Bigger mystery also seemed to die.
There is much about MacColl’s hearsay story which is tenuous and which strains credibility. With regard to the unexplained anonymity, an astute reader could have guessed the identity of the source; in the Foreword, MacColl thanks various persons for interviews with him and among these is ‘Mr. John J. Horgan, the Cork Coroner’ and the only interviewee resident in Cork. On pages 124-5 MacColl writes disparagingly about Casement’s contacts with Horgan in December 1913 and January 1914 about the restoration of transatlantic shipping to Cork. Horgan’s name also appears in the Index and merits four lines in the biographical Appendix 1.
Besides Horgan in Cork, MacColl also interviewed Casement’s friend Bulmer Hobson in Connemara and his defence lawyer A.M. Sullivan in Dublin. Both interviews are dated (14 and 16 November, 1954) and reported in journalistic style with context, description and detail and both cite extensively the direct speech of the interviewees. But these are missing in his report of the Horgan interview and his memories and impressions of Casement are omitted. Not a word spoken by Horgan is reported.
MacColl’s locution ‘… fell into conversation with …’ means that the encounter with Bigger was by chance and that Horgan did not know him beforehand. MacColl’s story is that at the 1954 interview no-one but Horgan knew about the destroyed diary/ies of 1916. And that until Horgan’s alleged meeting with Bigger ‘not long before his death’, no-one but Bigger knew the story. MacColl reported a story which cannot be corroborated and which rests on a chance encounter between two strangers on an unknown date but not long before the death of one of these. In order to report this ‘secret’ MacColl conceals the name of his alleged source and omits all details of the interview so that nothing remains except the alleged revelation of the ‘secret’. That he resorts to further secrecy in order to reveal the ‘secret’ must be cause for maximum suspicion. MacColl does not explain why he chose to interview Horgan who had never been a friend, colleague or associate of Casement and who had met him only once some forty-one years earlier.
What further strains any minimal credibility in MacColl’s report of a ‘secret’ revealed but on conditions of almost total secrecy, is precisely what he does not provide – a means of external corroboration. Without such corroboration, Horgan’s ‘secret’ is not revealed at all but is merely transmitted by MacColl alone. Sensitive to this, he attempted to mitigate the tenuousness of his story by assuring us that his anonymous source ‘has no doubts about the genuineness of the story’.
Horgan’s purported conviction about the genuineness of the story must have followed a rather dramatic conversion during that chance encounter with Professor Bigger some years before. This is because Horgan had already publicly stated his conviction regarding Casement’s moral integrity. In his 1949 book Parnell to Pearse Horgan wrote the following testimonial: ‘Yet no one who knew him could believe the vile, and entirely unproved, suggestions which, with diabolical cleverness, were later made against his moral character by British propagandists.’ (p. 240) (1) MacColl’s report does not mention this book.
It is just possible that MacColl had not read Horgan’s book before the interview but it is not credible that in a conversation about Casement and the diaries, Horgan did not mention such a dramatic conversion and did not refer to his own published testimonial. MacColl’s report therefore asks us to believe that in 1954 Horgan spoke to him exclusively about the purported encounter with Bigger some years earlier, which encounter took place by chance in Bigger’s club. This, therefore, occurred in Dublin. Again by chance Horgan was a member of that same Dublin club although a resident of Cork. And yet again by chance they happened to talk about Casement.
‘This fact has until now been a secret.’ What MacColl here describes as a ‘fact’ is something which has not been verified and which is incapable of verification. That which is incapable of verification cannot be defined as a fact. Relying only on his reputation as a distinguished journalist MacColl begs the trust of the reader who cannot determine if the so-called fact is indeed a fact or if it has been a secret.
It is clear that all detail in the report which might identify Horgan has been omitted, ostensibly to safeguard his anonymity. Thus nothing is left of the interview which rests entirely upon MacColl’s word. From MacColl’s report we are to believe that Horgan, an experienced lawyer, listened to Bigger’s hearsay version of the story, believed it without evidence and in 1954 passed it to MacColl for publication, again without evidence but accepted MacColl’s assurance that his name would not be associated with the story. In safeguarding Horgan’s anonymity for unexplained reasons, MacColl is in fact safeguarding his story from all possibility of investigation.
On balance there are sufficient grounds for considerable suspicion about the veracity of MacColl’s report not least because no part of it can be verified. If indeed, Horgan was not the source of the story attributed to Professor Bigger of long destroyed diary/ies, then it follows that MacColl must have obtained it from another source.
William J. Maloney was a Scottish-born neurologist who moved to New York in 1911. During WW1 he served in the British Army Medical Corps and was seriously injured in the Gallipoli campaign. He became disaffected with Britain following the executions of the 1916 leaders and returned to the US. The execution of Casement particularly incensed him and by 1934 he had completed the investigative study which was later published in Dublin as The forged Casement diaries.
Maloney sent a copy of his typescript to Bernard Shaw in 1934 having been told that Shaw would show it to influential people in London who, Maloney hoped, would put pressure on the Home Office to issue a statement about the diaries. Shaw thought little of the proposed book which espoused the unfounded theory that the diary materials used to smear Casement in 1916 were in fact Casement’s handwritten translations of the obscene writings of a Peruvian criminal named Normand involved in the Putumayo atrocities; these translated pages, Maloney believed, had been sent by Casement to the Foreign Office in 1910-1911 and in1916 they were mistaken for records of Casement’s own behaviour. Maloney unwisely hoped that when the responsible Whitehall officials perceived their error, the government would investigate and issue a statement and apology. In this reasoning, Maloney was wrong and no statement was forthcoming. The Whitehall officials noted that the Normand theory of translated pages did not correspond with the three diaries and ledger then secretly held in the Public Records Office. No statement was necessary.
In the meantime, De Valera turned down the request to write a foreword for Maloney’s book on the grounds that “the British allegations against Casement have never been believed by Irishmen and so far as they are concerned no refutation is needed.” De Valera feared that publication “might only result in a renewal of the campaign of defamation.”(NLI Ms. 17,604.)
When Maloney finally published his book in late 1936, the Home Office officials faced a predicament. They knew that Maloney’s theory was wrong but knew also that the public could not know it was wrong unless a statement was made which demonstrated the physical reality of the diaries. Whitehall declined to make such a statement. The Home Office was not disturbed by the wrong theory but by the reasonable apprehension that the forgery claim itself would be believed. And many did believe in forgery albeit on the basis of a groundless theory.
One of those who believed Maloney’s thesis was W.B. Yeats who published his famous ballad in The Irish Press on 2nd February, 1937, so bringing the diaries controversy to tens of thousands of people. On March 1st, 1937 The Irish Times published a reasonably balanced review of Maloney’s book by former British diplomat and author Shane (Sir John) Leslie which conceded that there were serious questions which should be answered. It would have dismayed Whitehall officials to note that his neutral review did not quash the forgery claim and did not cast doubt on it. Moreover, Leslie was a cousin of Winston Churchill and had been assistant to Ambassador Cecil Spring Rice in Washington in 1916. Several items of his correspondence in NLI predating publication of his review reveal Leslie’s support for Maloney’s book and for Casement himself. (Ms. 17,604/5/8, Ms. 17,604/5/12, Ms. 17,604/6/14.) It is not credible that the Home Office officials were indifferent to the charge of forgery.
On 8 March, 1937 The Irish Times published a letter from the Irish writer and editor Francis Hackett who criticised Leslie for being too lenient on the British government and for overlooking Maloney’s distinguished career. (Maloney also held a doctorate in law and several military honours.) Hackett had little patience with Leslie or with the wealthy land-owning class to which he belonged. Hackett was a friend of Maloney and unsurprisingly his letter repeated the Normand story. Later in March Hackett received a ‘statement’ purporting to come from Professor J.W. Bigger of Trinity. It is not known if this document was typed or handwritten and to this writer’s knowledge no original is extant and only some copied extracts are available. At this point the Bigger mystery becomes even more confusing and mysterious because MacColl’s 1954 story of the destroyed diary/ies had a secret precedent in 1937.
Hackett was shaken and angered by the ‘statement’ and on 24 March he wrote to inform Maloney in New York. ‘Dr Joseph Bigger of Trinity has [given] Leslie and myself a statement for private consumption that Casement was a homo. You know this I assume. I’ll copy the statement.’ (NLI Ms. 17,604/9/5.)
On 25th April, having read the copy of the statement sent to him, Maloney wrote to Hackett; ‘It came safely, was very interesting but more so to me was your reaction to it… The proof offered to you is the good faith of your informant, Joseph W. Bigger. You think Bigger is telling the truth … he seemed a straightforward chap. But he offered no evidence beyond his unsupported word.’ (NLI Ms. 17,602.)
Maloney then quoted from the Hackett copy statement as follows; ‘My object in writing is to attempt to bring the controversy to an end because I am convinced that the British Government had and probably has diaries of Roger Casement which if published would establish beyond question that he was a pervert… I should be sorry to have publicly established Casement’s immorality as it would displace him from his present position of national hero and martyr, a position which he well deserved …’ (Italics added.)
The author of the above lines is purportedly Professor Bigger. This conviction concerning the reality of Casement diaries in government possession was then reported in the statement as being founded on Bigger’s purported experience of finding a scandalous Casement diary in his uncle’s Belfast home some 22 years earlier. The story, reconstructed from Maloney’s quotation from the text of the statement, is that the nephew Bigger had found the diary in his uncle’s home, that the uncle fainted with shock and that the diary was burned at once. No specific date for this alleged event is given in Maloney’s quotation from the copy of the statement. Maloney himself regarded the statement as ‘drivel’ and entirely false.
The following brief extracts given in italics indicate that those italicized phrases were present in the statement received by Hackett and then copied and sent to Maloney who reproduced them in his four-page typed reply to Hackett. The remaining phrases in normal type were Maloney’s own comments in the same letter.
Your informer states it was destroyed: “immediately … in the kitchen fire — it was late at night and everyone but ourselves had gone to bed.”
… I am sure he would not have “actually fainted.”
… as late possibly as September 1915 …”in the small room on the right of the hall at Ardrigh, which Mr Leslie may remember …”
The informer Bigger tells you that his uncle when Casement’s activities in Germany had become known (which was in October 1914) “feared a search by the military authorities and got rid of his (Casement’s) bags and old clothing.”
… as he says, resisted the temptation to steal it
Professor Bigger was a Unionist and he strongly favoured dominion status for Ireland. In 1948 he made a controversial two-hour speech in the Seanad debate opposing The Republic of Ireland Act which ended dominion status and took Ireland out of the Commonwealth. There is no record that he had ever shown any interest in the Casement controversy before 1937. It is unclear why he purportedly took such an interest following The Irish Times review of Maloney’s book.
There are grounds for doubting that the statement was written by Professor Bigger. The grounds for doubt derive from scrutiny of the following parts of the statement as cited by Maloney in his letter to Hackett of 25 April, 1937.
1 – ‘ … because I am convinced that the British Government had and probably has diaries of Roger Casement which if published would establish beyond question that he was a pervert.’
2 – ‘I should be sorry to have publicly established Casement’s immorality as it would displace him from his present position of national hero and martyr, a position which he well deserved …’
Here we have Casement described as a national hero and martyr and pervert. Bigger was a professor of medicine and the use of the derogatory term ‘pervert’ is improbable and incongruous. It is even more incongruous that Bigger, an anti-republican Unionist, should respect Casement’s status as hero and martyr since he gained that status by his efforts against the crown to which Bigger owed his first loyalty. That a convinced Unionist should entertain any respect for someone hanged as a traitor by his own monarch and whom he describes as a ‘pervert’ is beyond comprehension. The author states that Casement was an immoral ‘pervert’ who nonetheless deserves our respect and he does not wish to destroy his status as a republican hero. The incongruity expressed in these quotations is difficult to reconcile.
It is when those surviving parts of the 1937 statement are scrutinized that its incoherence is revealed; the author states his motive for making the statement as being a desire to ‘bring the controversy to an end’. However, it is difficult to understand how this could be achieved by sending a statement ‘for private consumption’ to only two people, private individuals who had not played any significant role in the twenty-year-old controversy. With the publication of Yeats’ ballad, the diaries question was made known to tens of thousands of people. It cannot be understood what either Hackett or Leslie could have done to terminate such a widely publicised controversy and there is no indication that they are asked to take specific action to that end. Therefore the motivation given for the statement is not credible and the true motivation remains to be discovered.
It is even less credible when one considers that the statement attributed to Bigger was intended ‘for private consumption’ which can only mean that it was not to enter the public domain. The author of the statement knows that there is no guarantee the recipients will respect his wish for privacy. The purported reason for not wishing to be publicly identified as author is given as a reluctance to be held responsible for damaging Casement’s status as hero and martyr. Therefore the author is someone who wishes to defend the diaries as the authentic records of a ‘pervert’ and who, at the same time, knows that denial will follow any publication of the statement.
It has been demonstrated that Bigger’s political pedigree makes it untenable that he was the author of the statement sent to Hackett. It has been demonstrated that the given motivation – ending the controversy – is false. Bigger was nonetheless an authoritative voice since he was the nephew of a well-known Casement associate, Frank Bigger, at whose home Casement had left various belongings before he travelled to the US in 1914.
On the hypothesis that Professor Bigger was not the author, an interpretation is possible which eliminates much of the incongruity. If the statement was falsely attributed to Bigger, it was made by someone who wished to communicate anonymously not to, but through, Hackett. The unknown author proposes that the British government holds Casement diaries which if made public by that government would destroy his reputation as hero and martyr. Support for this hypothesis of an unknown author comes from the ”for private consumption” condition with its implicit intimation of denial if not respected. In the event of the statement being made public, that denial would logically come from Professor Bigger himself as the purported author. The true author would in any case remain anonymous and unknown to Bigger. In 1937 the existence of the statement was made known only to a handful of people who continued to believe that Bigger was the author. Since the statement was not made public, Bigger himself never knew that his respected name had been ‘borrowed’.
In order to determine who ‘borrowed’ Bigger’s name it is necessary to examine both motive and method. The motive attributed to Bigger of ending the controversy has been discounted as untenable. The implicit hint that the statement will be denied if made public indicates that the unknown author is certain of Professor Bigger’s denial. That certainty of denial is in turn predicated upon the knowledge that Bigger is not the author.
It is not credible that Whitehall officials were indifferent to Maloney’s public accusation of forgery. They nonetheless felt it necessary to limit the damage and to indirectly assert the existence and authenticity of the Black Diaries. And at this point, the revelatory statement appeared – a private communication containing a shocking revelation purportedly from a respected professor of medicine who was the nephew of a close associate of Casement. It becomes clear that the purpose of the destroyed diary story was to assert the existence of the Black Diaries without having to publish them. Yet the only thing which would have the effect of appearing to ‘verify’ by default the Bigger revelation would be publication of the diaries.
Knowing that it was in fact kept secret by the recipients who believed the statement came from the purported author, the unknown sender ran no risk of being discovered. But a shocking revelation which intimates a risk of subsequent denial by its purported author merits maximum suspicion. The method is that of a false attribution to a known and respected name which conceals both the true motive and identity of the sender.
In the statement we discern a balance between Casement’s acquired reputation as hero and a risk to that reputation through publication of the diaries held by the Home Office. It is in this balance that the real motivation of the statement is revealed. The decoded message is that those who wish to protect Casement’s status as hero must renounce claims that the diaries are forged. Such a message could only have come from someone who was in a position to threaten Casement’s status as hero. If that someone was Bigger who ‘should be sorry to have publicly established Casement’s immorality …’ it is unclear how he (Bigger) could have proceeded to achieve what no-one was asking him to do. Obviously he could not constrain the British government to make a statement about the diaries or to publish them. Therefore Bigger could not damage Casement’s status as hero. The only person who could threaten Casement’s status was someone with certain knowledge of the Black Diaries held by the Home Office. Bigger did not possess that knowledge.
If we are to believe that Bigger related the story to Horgan in 1950-51 we are also required to believe either that Bigger did not tell Horgan about the 1937 statement he allegedly sent to Hackett reporting the destroyed diary/ies. Or if Bigger did tell him, we are to believe that Horgan did not tell MacColl. In either case, the 1937 statement is missing from MacColl’s report. If Horgan knew the 1937 story and told it to MacColl, then he suppressed it in his report. There is simply no evidence whatsoever to demonstrate that a chance encounter between Professor Bigger and Horgan ever occurred. Nor is there any evidence that Horgan related anything to MacColl.
However, the key which finally unlocks the Bigger mystery is to be found in one simple sentence; ‘This fact has until now been a secret.’ This sentence is unnecessary since it does not verify the Bigger story; by ‘secret’ MacColl means not in the public domain. Whereas this is true, MacColl could not know that it had not been in the public domain unless he had been informed by someone with inside knowledge. Sharing the secret privileges the reader who, trusting in MacColl’s reputation as a distinguished journalist, is compromised into believing it to be a fact.
The term ‘pervert’ used in the 1937 statement undermines the ‘well deserved’ admiration of Casement as ‘national hero and martyr’. Charged with negative moral judgment, the term betrays a contempt which is utterly incompatible with sincere admiration. Conversely, a sincere admirer would not use a term meaning sexual deviancy which at the time was a criminal offence. It follows that the author of that sentence was not a sincere admirer of Casement as hero and martyr but was someone who, with one word, revealed his distaste for Casement.
Hackett’s letter to Maloney states he has received ‘a statement for private consumption’ which can only mean that the content is ‘for your eyes only’. It has not been confirmed that Sir John Leslie also received an identical statement or if he received any statement but Hackett believed he had and that Leslie would send it to the Foreign Office. Nonetheless, the intimation of secrecy is explicit and is therefore motivated. “Private consumption” does not, however, exclude sharing the secret; rather it indicates that the statement is not intended for public consumption – not for publication. Both Hackett and Leslie were authors and had shortly before published about the diaries in The Irish Times. The phrase “for private consumption” is therefore an admonition that the statement ought to be kept in the private sphere. It is at once obvious to the true author that this cannot be practically enforced and that in the event of publication, the alleged author will deny authorship.
The phrase in MacColl’s report ‘ … not long before his death …’ is not strictly necessary since the chance encounter obviously could not happen after his death but the timing, although vague, does indicate that MacColl was aware of Horgan’s 1949 published testimonial. The alleged encounter had to be inserted in the period after publication between 1949 and 1951; otherwise the encounter might have occurred at any time between 1926 when the uncle died and 1951 when the nephew died.
MacColl asserts that the unverifiable story is a fact which has not been in the public domain. It is not clear how MacColl knows it has not been in the public domain but the unwary reader assumes that his un-named source assured him of this. A story the content of which cannot be verified is not a fact. Nor can it be verified that the unverifiable story came from MacColl’s un-named source. These two major weaknesses demonstrate that MacColl’s report rests entirely on the faith of the trusting reader.
It is axiomatic in journalism that a story, particularly if controversial, must first be corroborated before it will be published. MacColl’s story was constructed so that no corroboration was possible. MacColl was a prominent and experienced journalist but he did not follow the most basic rules of his profession.
Inglis, the most influential Casement biographer, also found the Bigger mystery confusing. In an appendix to his 1974 edition, we find the following; that MacColl’s ‘voluminous diary’ has become plural diaries, that J. W. Bigger has become professor of pathology rather than of bacteriology and more surprising that the professor is no longer the nephew of F.J. Bigger but has become his son. Inglis does not mention Horgan’s book but, following MacColl’s suggestion, he does assert that ‘Horgan did not wish his identity to be disclosed’.
Then in the Preface to his 1993 edition (2), Inglis retracted this assertion and finally admitted that the story of F.J. Bigger destroying Casement papers after the execution was ‘unauthenticated’. He does not explain this loss of faith in MacColl’s 1956 version but he does offer the following in compensation; Inglis refers to being contacted in 1973 or 74 by Ernest Blythe, then aged 86, who insinuated that the allegedly destroyed papers might have been scandalous rather than political. Blythe was an extraordinary character, a theatre lover, fluent in Irish, journalist, former government minister, founder of the fascist Blueshirts, self-educated and in early life a sworn member of both the Orange Order and the IRB at the same time, a fact he concealed throughout his life. During WW2, intelligence files described Blythe as ‘100% Nazi’.
There are grounds for believing MacColl was aware of Horgan’s 1949 published testimonial. There are grounds for believing that Professor Bigger was not the author of the 1937 statement. That MacColl does not refer to the 1937 statement invites us to believe that Bigger either forgot or concealed this from the un-named source at a chance encounter for which there is no evidence.
The basic ingredients of MacColl’s story – hearsay, scandalous secret, unverifiable, un-named source – are those of gossip. That a journalist of MacColl’s reputation and experience should report as fact a story indistinguishable from gossip is both remarkable and suspicious. And yet one aspect of his story can be verified; the story had not been in the public domain as demonstrated in preceding paragraphs. A skeptical reader would ask how MacColl can know this.
When the 1937 and 1954 versions are compared we note they have in common: 1 – the attribution to a respected name, 2- which attribution cannot be verified in either case, 3 – both rest upon conditions of secrecy, 4 – and both present anomalies and incongruities difficult to resolve.
There are two major discrepancies between the two versions; when examined, doubts reach a critical point.
1 – MacColl states that the discovery and destruction took place after the execution in August 1916. The 1937 version indicates that these events happened when Casement was in Germany in 1914-15.
2 – This concerns who was present at the discovery and destruction. The 1937 version clearly indicates that the nephew Joseph Bigger was an eyewitness. MacColl’s 1954 version states that the story was ‘related to him by his uncle’.
Both versions ostensibly have the same origin – Professor Bigger. It is not possible to reconcile these conflicting versions; to propose that one version is false requires proof that the other version is true. Neither can be proved true. These discrepancies are demonstrated to be fatal contradictions at the heart of the Bigger mystery.
The following hypothesis must be judged on its capacity to resolve all the incongruities and contradictions and also on its probability as a complete explanation of the Bigger mystery.
A – the 1937 statement was falsely attributed to Professor Bigger.
B – the 1937 statement was invented and written by agents of British intelligence.
C – MacColl was informed of the 1937 statement by British intelligence.
D – MacColl invented the chance encounter between Horgan and Bigger.
E – MacColl interviewed Horgan in order to attribute the false Bigger story to him.
The device of false attribution is a basic tool in intelligence work and it was used by Captain Hall for the Zimmerman Telegram and by MI5 officer Frank Hall for the Millar story as demonstrated in Chapter 9 of Anatomy of a lie. False attribution acts as a decoy which conceals the true source of the misinformation.
(1) It is worth noting that Horgan’s testimonial was not influenced by his politics which were radically opposed to those of Casement. Horgan had been a supporter of Redmond and he repudiated republicanism. Moreover, he abhorred the Easter Rising which he described as unwarranted, undemocratic and un-Catholic. Horgan favoured the British empire, the Commonwealth and dominion status for Ireland.
(2) The 1993 edition of the Inglis book is a facsimile of the text of the 1974 paperback edition and it includes the appendix with its reference to the Bigger story and the assertion that ‘Horgan did not wish his identity to be disclosed’. Inglis died while the 1993 edition was still in preparation. It appears that he was unaware that his new preface contradicted that earlier assertion.