Annual Commemorations

2021 Casement Wreath Laying

The 2021 commemoration of the execution of Roger Casement on August 3rd was as well attended as last year with about 70 people present. As has been customary in recent years the event took place outside the house, marked with a plaque, where Casement spent his childhood on Sandycove Road, Dun Laoghaire. The strong attendance may have reflected the groundswell of support for the patriot’s memory that has been growing in the area in anticipation of the statue which is to be unveiled next year.

The format was that long time Dun Laoghaire activist Margaret Brown officiated and introduced the musician and speakers. First up was piper John Lamb whose atmospheric playing was roundly applauded. Councillor Lottie McCarthy (Labour Party), current Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council spoke on Casement’s human rights campaigns in Africa and South America and his contribution to the national cause. She conveyed the pride with which the statue project is being prepared by the Council.

Next was a reading by myself of the Ash Tree of Uisneach, a poem by Alice Milligan about Casement. Before reading the poem, I made the following explanatory remarks.

Roger Casement noticed Alice Milligan in the courtroom during his trial and conveyed to her a wish that she “write a poem about it all”. When first published in 1917 it was heavily censured. The full version was published in the Irish Press on August 3 1933. It has not received much attention since then and has been retrieved by Angus Mitchell.

The poem is addressed to Alice Stopford Green, Casement’s friend who acted with George Gavan Duffy to prevent Casement from being executed without trial. It tells the story of the trial. His “accuser” who “feigns to sleep” refers to the prosecutor, Lord Birkenhead, who had been actively involved in unionist resistance to Home Rule. Birkenhead pretended to sleep when Casement gave his speech from the dock. “Their old pretender” is, I believe, King Billy.

Following the reading the piper played a few more tunes, a minute’s silence was held and wreaths were laid. The wreaths were from the Roger Casement Summer School, the 1916 Relatives Association, Casement supporters in Belfast and Fianna Fail. Among the audience were Cormac Devlin TD and Councillor Michael Clarke who laid the wreath on behalf of Fianna Fail. Former Labour Party Minister, Niamh Breathnach was also in attendance, as were members of 1916 Relatives Association and Mairead Toibin of the Aontu Party.

The poetry reading was phone-videoed and posted on Manus O’Riordan’s facebook page. It received a number of views on YouTube. The expectation is that the statue will be in place before next year’s commemoration which, hopefully, will be where it takes place.

Dave Alvey

2020 Roger Casement Wreath Laying Ceremony

The anniversary of Roger Casement’s execution by the British in 1916 was marked at a well attended ceremony in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin on August 3rd. The wreath laying took place in Sandycove at the site of the house where Casement spent the first twelve years of his life, and was enhanced by the music of a piper. The main speaker was Cllr Una Power (Green Party), current Cathaoirleach (Chair) of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council. The other speakers were Margaret Browne, a long term local Fianna Fail activist, and Roger Cole, Chair of the DLR (Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council) Roger Casement Summer School and Festival.

In recent years the anniversary has been commemorated as an outreach activity of the Summer School which normally takes place in late August/early September in the theatre of Dun Laoghaire’s new public library, the Lexicon. This year’s ceremony, however, was different in having a relatively large attendance of over sixty people. Those in attendance included members of the 1916 Relatives Association (who laid a separate wreath), officers from the 1916-23 Club, and figures from the trade union and political worlds, in addition to the organising committee of the Summer School.

The wreath laying was referred to in an article by Sarah Slater, “Casement statue for Dun Laoghaire jetty to be unveiled in April” (Herald, 4 August 2020). Slater quoted Roger Cole saying “the wreath laying ceremony is in its third year due to the demand to mark Casement’s legacy as a nationalist and humanitarian”. The unveiling of the statue next year is likely to attract national attention.

Dave Alvey