Summary

This is a copy of the last letter from Roger Casement (1864-1916) to his sister Nina (1856-1954). In the letter he expresses deep regret for the way he treated his sister and neglected her in recent years. He talks about his time in Germany and the justification for his actions, describes his joy at landing on Banna Strand, asks to be remembered to friends and mentions his cousins, Elizabeth and Gertrude Bannister (d.1950), with affection and gratitude for their support. He also expresses thanks to his friend, Alice Stopford Green (1847-1929). He signs off as Roddie, 'or as you always called me Scodgie'.

Sir Roger Casement was a humanitarian and Irish Nationalist. Casement believed that an Irish insurrection would be crushed unless it received substantial assistance from Germany. He spent eighteen months in Germany, arriving first as an envoy of Irish-American leaders, attempting to encourage Germany to support Irish separatist aspirations by providing arms. Casement succeeded in securing limited German support but his attempt to form a brigade of Irish soldiers in German prisoner of war camps to fight against Britain was largely unsuccessful. When it became clear that adequate help would not be forthcoming he travelled to Ireland by submarine. Casement landed and was arrested at Banna Strand, County Kerry on Good Friday 1916. He was tried in the Old Bailey for treason and subsequently executed by hanging at Pentonville Prison on 3 August 1916.

Categories

  • Last Letters Before Death
  • Easter Rising Ireland 1916

Collection

Institution: Military Archives of Ireland
Collection: Bureau of Military History Contemporary Documents, George Gavan Duffy Collection, BMH CD/45/2/24

Citation & Contributors

Roger Casement. "Letter from Roger Casement to Nina Casement, 25 July 1916.". Letters of 1916. Schreibman, Susan, Ed. Maynooth University: 2016. Website. http://letters1916.maynoothuniversity.ie/explore/letters/1092.

The following people contributed to this letter:

  • Bryanbru
  • Rayraybarrett
  • Philcostel
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From: Roger Casement
To: Agnes 'Nina' Casement
Date Sent: 25 July 1916

Subject: Letter from Roger Casement to Nina Casement, 25 July 1916.
COPY.
My dearest, dearest Nina,

This may be, probably it will be the last letter I shall write you. I have put off writing, because the things I wish to say to you are so hard to say for others to read. I had hoped that a chance might yet come before I died to tell you with my lips what now I can say only in this way. It wrings my heart to leave you, beyond all else on earth, and to leave you thus, without being able to show you all I feel for you, and all the keen and bitter sorrow I feel at having left you, neglected you, and gone from you without a word. Oh! had I known I should never see you again how differently I might have acted! For I always meant to tell you that I was very very sorry I had not been gentler to you and kinder to you in these last years. Now the memory of my neglect of you, dearest, loving, faithful one as you always have been to me, cuts my heart in two and sends me from this Oh! that I could tell you all I think of you, and how in my heart I have always cared for you more than for anyone else. Every time I was rude to you, or spoke roughly to you, I was sorry for it afterwards, and often I came back to tell you so, but some little word turned me inwards on myself, and I kept silent, and so that time passed and the next - and the next, and you never knew that all the time I was calling myself a brute and a coward. Especially have I reproached myself - always and always - for that day in Berkshire when I said such unkind things to you in your cottage. Oh! dearest of my heart, forgive me forgive me and believe that I have bitterly repented - not once - not to-day only but a hundred times. Often and often in Germany the memory of that day came upon me, and my heart nearly suffocates me with pain. You said once I was all that you had to love, and I left you without a word and now you are alone and I can never see you again to tell you how much I loved you even when I scolded you. It was my pride, my sinful cowardly pride, that kept me from you or from confessing, each time my conscience reproached me, and now the eternal separation has come, and I must face the agony of death with this bitter agony at my heart that I was unkind and forgetful and rough to you, not once but many times. From the deep of my heart I yearn to you now, dearest, faithfulest friend of my life, all the years roll away from me and I stand beside you just as I did a little boy when you comforted me and took me by the hand - and so I would have you think of me now at the last, for you always are the same. No words I can write can tell you what I feel for you and what anguish fills me to think I shall never see you again or be able to tell you, and to show you my sorrow. For your sake now I would undo all I have done - unsay all I have said - humiliate myself beyond belief and be a gibe and a jeer to all men, anything if I could make you happy in your old days and let you know that always, always deep in my heart and soul, I sorrowed when I hurt you by look or word, and that now there is no reproach I do not lay upon myself and feel for having left you alone and been the cause of your flight and exile. Oh forgive me dearest Nina, and believe that I shall die thinking of you, praying for you, longing to God and His infinite mercy to comfort you and sustain you, and if he will it to bring us together where we shall indeed be both little children once more. Now dearest do you know what I feel for you? My eyes are blinded with tears and I can scarcely write. All my selfishness has passed away, and I see you plain and clear - your face - your eyes - your heart, and I can only sob and say that you are more to me than all else on earth, and to undo, and to aid you and to comfort you there is nothing I would not do, but alas! alas! it is all too late and I must go from you without a word. The bitterness of death has been upon me now these many days, but nothing like to-day and the bitterness is in this vain remorse at all my neglect of you and leaving you alone in the world when you had only me to help you and protect you. God may forgive me my sins - I can never never forgive myself this sin of neglect and coldness - and I love you all the time - there is the mystery of transgression - we wound what we love and shun what we long for and go on our cold and lonely path, thinking there is plenty of time to go back to the loved ones - and Death comes and cuts us down.

Now that I have only these few days to live - that a cruel fate has brought me to the grave so far from you I bow my head in your lap, as I did when a little boy, and say Kiss me and say Goodnight. Were life spared me, I should live for you, but God wills my death. I prayed for death often and often in Germany, I was so unhappy and months before I started to return to Ireland, coming as I knew straight to death, I was fixed on it and begging for death. For I had lost all hope, something had broken in me, and I walked about as if in a dream and every day the future whispered here's but death. I was so lonely, and I could do nothing and go nowhere. Often I tried to get away. All last year I was trying again and again. Twice I tried in the spring and winter. In January I set out for Norway at the end but had to turn back. In March and April I planned another route, but could not carry it through, (and this was the time I was said to be be at Limburg!) And then in July I actually again set out and got a passport to go but had to return to stand by those poor chaps and help them altho' it was not I recruited them or "tempted" them at all. I never saw one of them (or only one of them) in my life until I found them enrolled by others, and I could not help it or do anything but take all responsibility on my own shoulders. In September an appeal was made to a certain quarter (a high one) to help me get away - but it failed and so on twice more to December last. I sought to go if possible, and then gave up the hope, until in February of this year it was revived, when I was ill in Munich, and perhaps you know about that, because a friend, a woman, went over then with a message to you. I hope you saw her - Mary was her name, a good friend and true.

And then when I was waiting for the result of that attempt to go to you, came the call to Ireland and I went, intending to go alone. The friend who came with me, came by his own insistence, because he would not let me come alone, and I could not stop him, and he brought Bailey at the latter's wish too. When I landed in Ireland that morning (about 3 a.m.) swamped and swimming ashore on an unknown strand I was happy for the first time for over a year. Although I knew that this fate waited on me, I was for one brief spell happy and smiling once more. I cannot tell you what I felt. The sandhills were full of skylarks, rising in the dawn, the first I had heard for years - the first sound I heard through the surf was their song as I waded in through the breakers, and they kept rising all the time up to the old rath at Currahone where I stayed and sent the others on, and all round were primroses and wild violets and the singing of the skylarks in the air, and I was back in Ireland again; as the day grew brighter I was quite happy for all I felt all the time it was God's will that I was there. The only person alive - if he be alive, who knows the whole story of my coming, and why I came, with what aims and hope, is Monteith. I hope he is alive and that you may see him and he will tell you everything, and then you will know that the very thing I am blamed for, and am dying for, was quite what you would have wished me to do. It is a cruel thing to die with all men misunderstanding - mispprehendingand to be silent for ever. I left a letter with a friend that will tell you a great deal of the truth - not all - but part of it some day and perhaps some of it you know already. There was a young German came to see me off - a friend whom I am grateful to - and I hope his name too has reached you. He was the only one. If I could only tell you the whole story, but, that too, is part of my punishment - of the strange inscrutable fate that has come to me - that I am not only being put to death in the body but that I am dead before I die - and have to be silent and silent just as if I were already dead - when a few words might save my life - and would certainly change men's view of my actions. Long ago, years ago, I wrote these lines of another - but they are my own - my epitaph on my own fate perhaps more than on that of the man I penned them of:"In the mystery of transgression is a cloud that shadows Day, For the night to turn to Fire - showing Death's redeeming way".

Will Death bring for me the reedeeming way? I sought it thus - and now I stand on the shore, wondering, with clasped hands and blinded eyes, and no path opens in the waters any my heart is cold with sorrow and pain and numb with longing for a peace that will not come. If only I could have kissed you again and asked your pardon and told you with my lips and tongue how dear you always were to me. But I tell you now and I pray that God Almighty may soften the hearts of all around you and give you friends and friendship and loving care and you may be sure that dying I shall be near, very near to you and thinking of you stedfastly, as my truest and loving companion of years ago. Had I years of life I would give them all for you now dearest. Tell all my friends around youyou know the principal ones - that I grieve much that I was such a nuisance to them. They were far too good to me. For the old friend, my affection and gratitude for all he tried to do for me - and for all he did; and for the one with the two children and the doggie - my sincerest greeting. Old Father Gerald too - all of them and Father John and so many more. They were true and staunch friends - I would I were worthy of their friendship. Ask the friend with the two children and the doggie to never forget me and let the children go on and pray for me just as they did of old. You know we were all baptised on 5th August 1868, in the Catholic Church at Rhylyour name first mine last. I had the record looked up.

Some unknown friend sent me from the Court House at Bow Street a little book "The Imitation of Christ". You know it - with the beautiful inscription from the unknown friend. I will leave it to go to you with the priest here, and will ask for it to be allowed - also my Crucifix that Brigid sent me. And now, I must tear myself away - it is God's will, dearest Nina - I am going to lie down, it is late and my last thought to-night will be of you. Charlie I hope is coming home, and I have left a letter for him and begged him to see you if possible before he returns.

Goodbye, Goodbye and may the friendship of Christ be yours, may His blessing be yours and His pardon and peace be mine and bring us together in the land where He dwells and where pardon comes to the sorrowful.

Your loving brother - loving you, I hope, far
more deeply hereafter, when the grace of God has cleansed
his heart, than he ever did on earth, but loving you now
with his best heart beats and so to the end.
Roddie - or as you
always called me Scodgie.