From Fragments to a Whole: Homosexuality and Partition in Cries from Casement as his Bones are Brought to Dublin, by David Rudkin

Author: Mariana Bolfarine (University of São Paulo)


The radio play Cries from Casement as his Bones are Brought to Dublin (1974), by David Rudkin, an English playwright of Irish parentage, draws together polemical subjects such as homosexuality and British imperial policy in Ireland. This article focuses on two main aspects of the trajectory of the Irish revolutionary Roger Casement: it aims first to pinpoint the way in which the character of the metafictional Author reassembles the different fragments of Casement’s identity in an attempt to make sense of the whole man, underscoring the role that his homosexuality played in his transformation into a nationalist, which has been kept at the sidelines of both history and literary studies. Secondly, it grapples with the controversy over the repatriation of Casement’s remains, which is seen here as an allegory of a fragmented Ireland dealing with the consequences of partition subsequent to the formation of the Irish Republic. I argue that Rudkin’s piece seeks to promote the reconciliation of Ireland with both the past of the 1916 Easter Rising, and with the present time of the Troubles, the outcome of which could be the end of what Antonio Gramsci terms an “interregnum” and the hope for “new arrangements,” namely an Ireland where Casement’s remains would be welcome in Ulster.



I saw the noose. The lever. The trap. For me. I stepped on the trap. I saw that I was taller than them all. Ellis strapped my ankles together. He threaded the noose below my jaw. I said, Lord Jesus receive my soul. I heard the lever pull (Silence).

—Rudkin, Cries from Casement as his Bones are Brought from Dublin [1]

Theater critic Marilyn Richtarik has asseverated that Northern Irish playwrights have long faced the challenge of working in the context of an often violent and still unresolved political conflict.[2] In order to illustrate this point, Richtarik draws on Stewart Parker’s perspective, according to which, quoting Parker:

“The raw material of drama is over-abundant here, easy pickings. Domestic bickering, street wit, tension in the shadows, patrolling soldiers, a fight, an explosion, a shot, a tragic death: another Ulster Play written. What statement has it made? [...] Such a play certainly reflects aspects of life here. But it fails to reflect adequately upon them.”[3]

To Parker, being continuously exposed to the effects of the conflict in Belfast makes it easy for writers to fall into the trap of meaningless sensationalism. Such an art form would, as he states, be restricted to “reflecting” the conflict without promoting adequate “reflection” upon it. In this regard, in order to avoid what Ritchtarik terms “cliché-mongering,”[4] playwrights have opted to approach the Troubles in Northern Ireland obliquely, through symbolism, allegory and metaphor.

To a large extent, this is the case with David Rudkin, who was born in London in 1936, of Irish parentage, and spent long periods of his childhood and youth in County Armagh.[5] Much of Rudkin’s work, like Ashes (1974) and Saxon Shore (1986), delves into the delicate situation in Northern Ireland in an allegorical form. This is also the case with his radio play Cries from Casement as his Bones are Brought to Dublin, written in the 1960s when he was commissioned by the BBC to contribute to a series on historical rebels. Despite being based on the biography of Roger David Casement, the piece, which was first published in 1974, is actually concerned with the issue of partition and was first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in February 1973, one year after the bogside massacre. This tragic incident, also known as Bloody Sunday, took place on January 30, 1972 in Derry, Northern Ireland, and resulted in the death of twenty-six civil rights protesters by the British Parachute Regiment. Against such a dramatic backdrop, Rudkin would affirm that the radio as a medium for this play conveyed the physical distance between the stage and the audience, who he believed could become aggressive, and who could “withdraw whatever good will they came with.” [6] In addition, radio was appropriate since the action was supposed to be set in a box and, for this reason, it was meant to be heard from a box.

This essay provides a close reading of excerpts from the 1974 published version of the script of Cries form Casement as his Bones are Brought to Dublin and takes its guiding idea from Ian Rabey’s premise that Rudkin fragments his subject, Roger Casement, “in order to see him whole, in an imaginative proposition where style is self-consciously part of the narrative itself.”[7] On the one hand, according to Richard Kearney, “narrative disordering,” such as in Rudkin’s piece, is one of the main traits of the “fragmentary character of postmodern writing” that risks compromising “narrative attempts to link the present with a remembered past and future.”[8] On the other hand, as stated in Kearney, Paul Ricoeur argues that this fragmentary quality of postmodern texts can be interpreted as “an invitation to the reader actively engage with the text in order recreate some new kind of narrative sense, to recompose the text which the author has decomposed.”[9]

Along these lines, fragmentation is present in Cries from Casement as his Bones are Brought to Dublin both in form and in content, as most of the eleven sections that constitute the piece refer to different times, places, and facts about Casement’s life; it is the function of an active reader to join these fragments and create a whole image of the man. In a postmodern fashion, key events of Casement’s life and afterlife in Britain, the Congo, the Amazon, Germany, and Ireland revolve around the main narrative axis which is both the exhumation of Casement’s personified bones from the lime pit in Pentonville Prison in England and the subsequent reburial in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

Thus, this study is focused on two main aspects of Casement’s life arc that are tackled in the play. It aims first to pinpoint the way in which the character of the metafictional Author joins different fragments of Casement’s identity in an attempt to make sense of the whole man, given that the role of his homosexuality in his transformation into a nationalist has been overlooked in both history and literary studies. Secondly, it grapples with the controversy over the repatriation of Casement’s remains, which is seen here as an allegory of a fragmented Ireland dealing with the consequence of partition as well as attempting to promote the reconciliation of Ireland with both the past of the 1916 Easter Rising and with the present time of the Troubles. I thereby argue that, in Cries from Casement as his Bones are Brought to Dublin, Rudkin creates a hypothetical situation where the conflict in Northern Ireland can be interpreted—as Joe Cleary has done—in terms of what Antonio Gramsci calls a moment of “interregnum,” a period of transition between two different reigns or regimes. In such context, the end of the Troubles would coincide with that of the “interregnum,” allowing the emergence of “new arrangements”—that is to say, “new and more emancipatory political relationships” between the two parts involved, the North and the South, whereby Casement’s remains would be granted a third burial in Murlough Bay, and, hence, in the grounds of a united Ireland.[10]


From Imperialist to Nationalist: Who is Roger Casement?

It is important to note that although Roger Casement is the protagonist of Cries from Casement as his Bones are Brought to Dublin, there are several other characters—either fictional or based on historical figures—whose speeches are uttered with different accents demarcated both on the playwright’s directions and within the script, where dialogue is written in a vernacular style. At the outset, for instance, the playwright assumes that the audience might not be aware who Roger Casement is; hence, the following line is spoken by an actor with a “neutral” accent:

An actor with a neutral voice: Who’s Who. Sir Roger Casement: QM, CMG, Knight. Born County Dublin eighteen-sixty-four, father a soldier, Ulster Protestant, mother a secret Catholic. School, Ballymena. University, none.[11]

This opening excerpt in Section I—which seems to allude to an entry in Who’s Who, the famous biography of notable Britons[12]—provides a brief summary that encapsulates Casement’s split life. He was born out of a mixed marriage in Dublin, raised in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and, finally, after earning the titles of Quartermaster and Companion of St. Michael and St. Jorge, was knighted by King George V for being a diligent and humble servant of the Crown.

In the introduction to his biography of Casement, B.L. Reid suggests that “no one who goes into the story at all can fail to be haunted by the way in which Casement’s history incarnates not only the motives of 1916 but the same passions deadly and alive today.” [13] The idea that there is a correlation between Casement and Ireland is also corroborated by Roger Sawyer,  who affirms that at the time of Casement’s death, in 1916, Casement “had passed through many shades of ambivalence: familial, physical, religious and political, and in all of these areas, even in the physical, he seemed to reflect in an unusual way the problems of identity suffered by Ireland as a whole.”[14] Curiously, however, there is no entry for Casement in Who was Who after his death at the gallows of Pentonville Prison, on August 3, 1916.[15]

Thereafter in the play, still in Section I, the character of the Crier announces an event that will function as the main thread holding the narrative together:

Crier: [...] at an appropriate time there shall be dug up for dispatch to Dublin [...] a box of sulphura’ed and potassified remains, to which we shall affix the label ROGER CASEMENT![16]

The Crier then thanks God that England knows the meaning of mercy, and that with this gesture:

Crier: [...] we shall at last have washed our ’ands of the problem of Ireland forever?

Man in the Street: If you want to do that, mate, put all the Irish in a box, shove it aht to sea and sink it![17]

The excerpts above establish the time of the main action: 1965, the year Casement’s bones were exhumed from the lime pit of Pentonville Prison, in England, and reburied in Glasnevin cemetery, in Dublin, a matter that will be dealt with in more detail in the second section of this article. In this passage, however, the playwright reveals the delicate relation between England and Ireland at that particular moment in history, a consequence, namely, of the outbreak of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, for which the dispatching of a box containing Casement’s bones would metaphorically solve the “Irish problem.”

What follows in the play is an attempt to understand why Casement represents this stumbling block in Anglo-Irish relations, such that the metafictional character of the Author goes on a quest to uncover and then reassemble the most important fragments of Casement’s identity. Accordingly, Section III starts with the character of the Author drafting a play on Casement and doing research at the Public Records Office in London, “wrestling with the riddle of the man”:

Author: A turnabout. Inside that consular Victorian imperialistic shell, what hidden rebel seed? And what touch quickens it? What brooding makes an egg of it? What hatches it?[18]

The opposing facets of Casement’s identity—a rebel hidden under an imperialistic shell—gradually come to light while the Author reads Casement’s five personal travel journals, and the Author subsequently imagines Casement as a character enacting some of these excerpts. The creative process of the play is thus disclosed to the audience/reader in a metafictional form as the fragments of Casement’s life are juxtaposed and reassembled by the Author to create the whole man. First, Casement is a diligent employee of the Crown in Africa discussing an article he had read in a European newspaper criticizing Members of Parliament at Westminster on hiring incompetent employees:

Casement: What was the headline? “England: the land of Sport and Cant.” Funny notions about us some nations have. Secretly, of course, they envy us, our integrity. Our honour.[19]

This quotation points to how, at the beginning of his career, Casement was a staunch defender of European territorial occupation and expansion accompanying the ostensible social and economic development of the colonies, as agreed by the Berlin Conference in 1885. However, in 1903, rumors began to reach Europe of atrocities committed against natives in the Belgian Congo ruled by the absolutist monarch Leopold II, where Casement had been employed from 1884-1886. In the face of such appalling circumstances, Casement, then British Consul in Boma, was assigned the task of reporting the truth about the Congo Free State:

Casement: […] King Leopold of Belgium, pink throned pig. In your own person vested all this Congo State. You fatten on its gold. Its rubber is this black flesh. I see your Belgic Majesty gorge in a gulp the total harvest of this one fellow’s only, butchered life, to spend him in one royal fart.[20]

By this time, Casement had become deeply involved with reporting the ill-treatment suffered not only by West-African British subjects but also by other natives in the region. In this excerpt, Casement’s unveils the mode of operation of the Congo Free State, which he describes elsewhere as “preposterous and [a] form of ‘legalized piracy.’”[21] Here, he explains that the rubber, known as black gold, was the reason why the personal wealth of Leopold II, the pig who kept getting fatter and fatter, continued to increase at the expense of the natives’ black flesh, a clear allusion to their deaths and mutilations. According to anthropologist Séamas O’Síocháin, the impact of the time spent in Africa on Casement’s consular career, and his initial turn against the empire, is made clear in a letter addressed to his friend, the historian Alice Stopford Green, in which he states that “[...] finally when up in those Congo forests where I found Leopold I also found myself—the incorrigible Irishman. [...] I realized I was looking at this tragedy with the eyes of another race […].”[22] In the end, this experience proved fruitful as Casement “gained understanding of how the State system of operation worked” (10).[23]

The Congo mission was successful, and Casement’s report was published as a Blue Book. On the strength of his work in the Congo, Casement was assigned another investigation in 1909, this time on the Putumayo, located in the heart of the Amazon forest, a disputed frontier region between Brazil, Peru, and Colombia. There, he reported atrocities committed against the Indians who were also rubber gatherers for the Peruvian Amazon Company, run by the London-registered Arana Brothers. First, however, he served as British Consul in Brazil for seven years in Santos, Rio de Janeiro, and Pará. This previous experience in South America made Casement the right appointment for the mission, as he already knew both Portuguese and Spanish, and he was accustomed to warmer climates. Casement’s break with the empire—still only theoretical because in practice he was in the pay of the British crown—would come to motivate his future engagement with the Irish nationalist cause:

Author: From Pará, the notepaper on which Casement writes has a new letterhead, designed by himself: Consulate of Great Britain and Ireland. A crack in the Kingdom.[24]

In Roger Casement in Brazil (2010), Angus Mitchell includes a passage in which Casement underscores Ireland as being separate from Great Britain in a letter addressed to Alice Green, in 1908.[25] This indication points to the fact that during this period, despite being away from Ireland most of the time, Casement was already involved in the Irish Revival, as he secretly supported the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Gaelic League, which would culminate in his indirect collaboration in the 1916 Rising through the formation of the Irish Brigade in Germany. This “crack” between Ireland and Britain, to which the Author refers, reveals that the strength of Casement’s initial belief in British imperialism began to weaken from the moment he started to become aware that the empire’s civilizing mission was little more than an excuse to explore the natural and human resources of the so-called dark continents. 

Furthermore, Casement’s travels and duties as an imperial surveyor and Consul exposed him to different sides of the dilemmas that Ireland was facing at that time; he went so far as to relate the plight of the Amazonian Indians to the Irish suffering from typhoid fever in Connemara, whose cause he felt was even more urgent than that of the Africans.[26] Consequently, to recall Roger Sawyer’s argument, in political terms, Casement was as divided as Ireland, since for many years he had been disillusioned with the British Empire; but it was only much later that he managed to sever the umbilical cord which connected him to the Crown and began to follow his own convictions.

In relation to sexuality, Sawyer argues that on the outside “Casement echoed Ireland’s adulation of celibacy,” where a patriot could only be either a celibate or a heterosexual.[27] Nevertheless, the contrary is revealed in the intimate so-called Black Diaries, whose authorship has been accredited to Casement and which was supposedly found in his 50 Ebury Street lodgings in London. These sodomite journals—in which the diarist writes about satisfying his sexual yearnings with male partners from lower orders of society or from the colonies—were used by the Foreign Office to prevent a reprieve of the death sentence for treachery that was placed upon Casement after his arrest in 1916 for his seeking German support to arm the Irish Volunteers in their fight for the independence of Ireland. In the play, Casement’s homosexuality is re-signified inasmuch as his becoming an anti-imperialist coincides with the outcome of the process in which he recognizes himself as a homosexual:

Casement: I see another man. No conqueror, no burner nor torturer with axe nor flail; no master. But a man, [...] a Casement who would touch these ebony curves of Adam-flesh, ay, wants them whole, to touch, feel; kiss... [...] Casement wants these Congolese slit knackers and whole; for milk, for me […].[28]

Here, Casement feels he is no longer a malevolent colonizer. Rather, he is in love with the natives and their bodies; he wants them whole and healthy, not mutilated and flogged. As Rudkin asserts in “The Chameleon and the Kilt,” a review of Brian Inglis’s The Biography of a Patriot who Lived for England, Died Ireland (1973),[29] this excerpt alludes to the assumption that Casement’s homosexuality was not only essential to his nationalist politics, but that it also catalyzed them.[30] According to Rudkin, it was Casement’s homosexuality that enabled him to idealize the natives as superior beings, and project into them a “certain political romanticism,”[31] clearly described in the Amazon Journal (1997) when Casement secretly wishes to arm the Indians against the Peruvians.

Nevertheless, while the metafictional Author believes that Ireland mythologizes Casement, rejecting those aspects that do not seem fit for a hero, he tries to prove that the whole man is more of a hero even than his Irish part:

Author: Through horror, sickness, danger, sodomy, farce, he hacks out a new definition of himself. For that, he is a hero: and not for Ireland only. For Ireland today, of course, he has a more immediate, pressing relevance: with which of us, Ireland or England, must the Ulsterman Protestant in the end throw in his Red Hand? [...] That act, courageous, at times humiliating and absurd, transcending poetry and lust and death, makes Roger Casement a hero for the world.[32]

The comprehensive view of the man put forth by the Author in Cries for Casement as his Bones are Brought to Dublin illustrates the ways that Rudkin’s play formally echoes Richard Kearney’s notion of a postmodern poetic imagination, according to which the “logic of the imaginary is one of both/and rather than either/or. It is inclusive and, by extension tolerant: it allows opposites to stand, irreconcilables to coexist [...].”[33] By opting for a “both/and” representation rather than an “either/or,” Rudkin creates a character that eludes the essentialist categories commonly associated with Casement, either as a nationalist, or as a homosexual, or as a traitor.

Nevertheless, we are left to consider to what extent Casement’s ambivalences influenced his afterlife, that very question posed by the Author above:  “[…] with which of us, Ireland or England, must the Ulsterman Protestant in the end throw in his Red Hand?”[34] This question also raises the issue of the partition of Ireland, and the following section of this article aims to demonstrate the way in which the Troubles—the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland whose outset is contemporaneous to the writing and broadcasting of the play—influenced the way the repatriation of Casement’s bones was carried out and, thus, how this fragmented Casement depicted by Rudkin is an allegory of a still divided Ireland.


Casement’s Repatriation and Ireland’s Partition

It is widely known that, due to the controversy over the sodomite Black Diaries, Irish officials viewed with uncertainty the figure of Roger Casement as a national symbol. The reclaiming of his remains became known as the “penultimate Irish problem,”[35] (where the ultimate “problem,” was, of course, partition). By the 1930s, Éamon de Valera, who as a young teacher at Tawin Islands had met Casement,[36] was the first political leader who had made several appeals for the re-interment of his remains. Nonetheless, Casement’s repatriation would only be achieved in the 1960s under Taoiseach Sean Lemass, who sought to improve Anglo-Irish relations and attempted a neighborly policy with respect to Ulster.

After several meetings and discussions over how to proceed with Casement’s exhumation, it was agreed that Irish officials would have to concur that anything handed over “would have to be accepted as a token,”[37] for the government of Harold Wilson could not guarantee that after so many years the remains would be Casement’s. Moreover, as part of the agreement, the burial site would have to be Glasnevin, Dublin, and not Murlough Bay, near Margherintemple—Casement’s family house in Co Antrim. Eventually, the exhumation was accorded to take place on February 23, 1965, when Casement’s bones were removed from the lime pit of Pentonville Prison, in England, and flown to Dublin on an Aer Lingus chartered plane.

It did not take long, however, for rumors to circulate that the bodies of Casement and that of Hawley Crippen, a doctor who was hanged for poisoning his wife, shared the same lime pit and that at the time of the exhumation the bones of both men were dug out and labelled as Casement’s. In Cries from Casement as his Bones are Brought to Dublin, these bones are personified and become characters, adding a humorous, and at the same time ironic, tinge to the dialogue. In the play, it is Crippen’s bones who tell Casement’s that he is going to be taken to Ireland:

Crippen: No marriages in Paradise, mate [...] we’re to be pa’ed. [38] You’re going back. They’re sending you back.

Casement (heart leaps): To Brazil –?

Crippen: Hey, ey, enough of that. None of your nice young tropical fun-pals where you’re going. Ireland, friend. They’re coming this morning. To dig you up.[39]

It is Crippen’s bones who again warn Casement’s bones that they had indeed arrived in Ireland. Nevertheless, they were not exactly where they were supposed to be:

Crippen: We ought to be on a plane for Belfast, not Dublin. Hey, Fruity, Casement, wake up again, we’re on the wrong bleeding plane—

Announceress: Quiet! Please! We can’t bury Casement in Antrim, that’s Northern Eyeland, part of the UK: it would be most impolitic. He’s going to Dublin, Glahsneevin, a plot marked out for him by his sister forty years ago. We’ll have to hope he doesn’t notice.[40]

Once the coffin lands, Crippen realizes that Casement’s wish to be buried in Ulster would not be granted for the reason that he was considered a traitor in Northern Ireland for seeking Germany’s support against England during World War I in order to form a Brigade with Irish Prisoners of War that would take part in the struggle for Irish independence.

As the coffin reaches the military cemetery of Arbor Hill, Dublin, Casement’s bones awaken  and realize that his funeral, which lasted four days, was still being held. The fact that he was buried with military honors and had a funeral oration delivered by the then president of the Republic of Ireland, Éamon de Valera, was certainly a way to pay tribute to Casement’s services to the national movement and to the Irish language. Nonetheless, the fact that his remains do not lie in the Republican Plot amongst other rebel martyrs but rather at the entrance of Glasnevin cemetery under tons of concrete and constant surveillance is a way to reassure that he will be kept in that place, so that old rifts between North and South will not be reopened.   

This matter is addressed in Section X of the play, in which several ghosts approach the newly buried Casement. Among these ghostly figures is that of Patrick Pearse, one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising who, after naming the fourteen Irish martyrs buried in Arbor Hill, poses the following question to Casement:

Pearse: Pearse, Plunkett, MacDonagh, MacDiarmada, Ceannt, Connolly, Clarke, Colbert, Daly, O’Hanrahan, Mallin, Heuston, Pearse, MacBride. Shot at Easter, laid in lime. And even I, Patrick Pearse, part English. Casement, where are you in these? What symbol are you, in this dance of death? What is your relevance?[41]

It is curious that it is Patrick Pearse who questions Casement about his own relevance in the “dance of death” that was the Rising. It is true, of course, that Casement and Pearse were contemporaneous to one another, and each was aware of the other’s moves: both had taken part in the formation of the Irish Volunteers,[42] and both were selected representatives for a public meeting held in Limerick in January 1914. Furthermore, Casement had given financial support to St. Enda’s, the Irish speaking boy’s school funded and run by Pearse.  

And yet, the fact that Pearse’s ghost asks Casement at his Arbor Hill funeral where he stands among the Irish martyrs distances the two historical figures, the implications of which are two-fold. First, it highlights the controversial nature of Casement’s efforts in gunrunning and in forming the Irish Brigade to fight in the Easter Rising. Second, it distances the image of Casement from Partition and associates him with the rebels. According to Kevin Grant, it is believed that Casement embodied the humiliation of partition for Irish nationalists, in the sense that, at the same time they lacked the power to repatriate Casement’s body to Antrim, they were also unable to seize the six northern colonies of Ulster that remained loyal to the British Crown.[43] This moment with Pearse, then, further frames the complicated status of Casement’s historical image of which this play is so interested.

Grant additionally suggests that the significance of Casement’s remains being repatriated in the year of the fortieth anniversary of Ireland’s partition has been overlooked. If the dispute over the location of Casement’s body had its origins in Anglo-Irish colonial conflict and Ireland’s politico-sectarian divide, then in this regard, he argues, the decision of Lemass’s government to bury Casement in the Republic of Ireland could be considered a symbolic submission to the partition and British postcolonial domination.[44]

The submission of Ireland to partition, however, is challenged in the play after Casement is buried right at the main entrance of Glasnevin cemetery where he encounters the ghost of the Youth, a young patriot not yet born, bleeding, maimed from an explosion, and speaking with a Northern Irish accent. The Youth explains to Casement that Casement’s body is unwanted there because the Barrister and Irish unionist politician Edward Carson had managed to defeat Home Rule in Ulster and his body is still a reminder of a divided country:

Casement: Why am I here? Buried forever, far from home...

Youth: We’ll have to dig you up again [...] Carson and them ones won [...] there is a border. Where you’ld lie is on that other side. Our side.

Casement: Now I understand. The job is not done. Relevance on relevance, me in my life a symbol of Ireland’s seceding, a token of her fracture in my death: an exile even in my grave. Am I to have no rest from this paradoxical significance? Have I to be exhumed and buried yet again?[45]

The spectral Youth that speaks to Casement foreshadows the Troubles that were soon to commence with the founding of the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1966—one year after Casement’s exhumation in 1965—and that would last for about thirty years, until the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The Troubles were known to be a time of social and political impasse, which Joe Cleary, quoting Antonio Gramsci, terms the “interregnum,” a concept applied to partitioned societies that have undergone periods of uninterrupted turmoil, as was the case with Ulster.[46] For Gramsci, the interregnum is all about the ruling class losing its consensus, “no longer ‘leading’ but only ‘dominant,” exercising coercive force alone.”[47] What follows, Gramsci argues, is that after the interregnum, societies undergo a moment of drastic change, one in which “‘the great masses have become detached from their traditional ideologies, and no longer believe in what they used to believe previously.’”[48]

In Cries from Casement as his Bones are Brought to Dublin, the unborn Youth becomes a symbol of this period of stagnation, for one of the chief effects of the interregnum is that, “‘the old is dying and the new cannot be born,’”[49] in the sense the middle path—that which would be necessary for both parties to trail in order to reach a consensus—still needed to be built. Meanwhile, the Youth is still lost and afraid, for he does not know which road to take. His name is James Anderson, namesake of an Ulster paramilitary loyalist who, being aware of the sectarian divide, feels unwanted in Dublin and asks Casement what to do. To this, Casement replies:

Casement: [...] One colour fears another, fears its extremeness. But colours mix. First they must meet. Ireland, Ireland, transcend this trauma. Sons of Ireland, cease looking for your sunrise in the west. Tear this old bitch Erin off your backs [...] James Anderson, in that red dawn, come you then down through the Gap of the North. You do not come unendowed. [...] Let me lie quiet now. Work for that dawn. Then come with spades, and bring me Home.[50]

This last speech alludes to the aftermath of Gramsci’s interregnum or, in this case, the Troubles. According to Cleary, this moment of change posterior to the interregnum may carry with it negative as well as positive potentials. In the abovementioned excerpt, Casement points to the future and his cries are a claim for Ireland to look forward to modernity instead of backwards, to the idealistic concept of a traditional Ireland in the West.

Accordingly, it is implied in this quote that, while he encourages the Youth to come down from the North and fight for a united country, the ghost of Roger Casement acknowledges that he is not in favor of, in Cleary’s parlance, the “restoration of the old” order but is, instead, hoping for “new arrangements”—in other words, “new and more emancipatory political relationships” between the two parts involved.[51] These new arrangements, to which I believe Casement implicitly refers in this passage, are in fact concerned with working through the trauma of partition in favor of unity. The “new” order, therefore, would be symbolized by a country where the colors orange and green in the Irish flag will mix, one in which there will no longer be the need for the peaceful white stripe to separate them.

Hence, to use Reid’s language, Rudkin views Casement as a “Body of Fate” that was “indeed a kilt upon which his colouring altered bewilderingly, chameleon-wise,” (xv), like the Ireland he wished for, dynamic, ever-changing, surpassing its traumas, and accommodating the new orders that would come.[52] Although the Peace Process was signed in 1998 and is, according to Cleary, an attempt to bring the preceding interregnum to an end in order to enable the creation of a new Ireland and promote the reconciliation between the two parties involved, there is still a rift that lies open between them. This article has shown that, while Casement still lies in Glasnevin, he will be a token of this rift. In a nutshell, the open-ending left by the playwright in Cries for Casement as if Bones are Brought to Dublin indicates, however idealistically, that there is still hope that Casement’s bones will be at last welcomed in Ulster.



I conclude by recalling Ritchtarik’s argument that in order to produce meaningful plays about the conflict in Northern Ireland, playwrights have resorted to devices that have enabled them to tackle the issue indirectly. David Rudkin’s Cries from Casement as his Bones are Brought to Dublin is no exception, as Casement’s ambivalent life and fragmented body can be read as an allegory of a fragmented Ireland and as an attempt at reconciliation, both with the legacy of 1916 and with the present time of the Troubles. To this end, the play’s metafictional Author is of central importance as he attempts to create the whole image of the man by revealing how Casement’s awakening homosexuality coincides with his becoming an Irish nationalist. So, too, is the Youth, the patriot not yet born, whose struggle could have resulted in the end of the interregnum and thus “new arrangements” whereby Casement’s remains would be granted a third burial in Murlough Bay—in other words, in an Ireland where the partition could have been an emblem of the past.


[1] David Rudkin, Cries from Casement as his Bones are Brought to Dublin (London: British Broadcast Corporation, 1974), 68.

[2] Marilynn Richtarik, Across The Water: Northern Irish Drama In London,” South Carolina Review 33, no. 2 (Spring 2001): 121-127, accessed March 25, 2016,

[3] Ibid., 121; original, Stewart Parker, Dramatis Personae (Belfast: John Malone Memorial Committee, 1986), 18-19.

[4] Richtarik, “Across the Water,” 121.

[5] See ibid.

[6] Rudkin. Cries from Casement, 81.

[7] Ian Rabey, David Rudkin: Sacred Disobedience: An Expository Study of His Drama 1959-96 (Abingdon: Routledge, 1997), 50.

[8] Richard Kearney, The Wake of Imagination: Toward a Postmodern Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988, 314.

[9] Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative: Volume 3. Translated by Kathleen Blarney and David Pellauer. Chicago and London: The Chicago University Press, 1988; quoted in Kearney, Wake of Imagination, 315.

[10] Joe Cleary, Literature, Partition and the Nation State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 9.

[11] Rudkin, Cries from Casement, 7.

[12] Who's Who and Who Was Who are the first biographical books of this kind and have been published annually since 1849; see, for example, Who’s Who 2016,

[13] B.L. Reid, The Lives of Roger Casement, xvi.

[14] Roger Sawyer, Casement: The Flawed Hero (London, Boston, Melbourne and Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1984), 1.

[15] According to D. George Boyce, Casement’s “Who's Who entry was not transferred into the Who Was Who volume after his death. He became in this sense a non-person, which was a measure of the hatred that he inspired in the British establishment”; see  “Casement, Roger David (1864–1916),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004); online edition accessed Sept. 28, 2014,

[16] Rudkin, Cries from Casement, 9.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid., 11.

[19] Ibid., 13.

[20] Ibid., 14-15.

[21] See Séamas O’Síocháin, Roger Casement: Imperialist, Rebel, Revolutionary (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2007), 147.

[22] O’Síocháin, The Eyes of Another Race (Dublin: UCD Press, 2004), vi.

[23] Ibid.


[24] Rudkin, Cries from Casement, 24. [Original emphasis]

[25] Angus Mitchell, Roger Casement in Brazil: Rubber, the Amazon and the Atlantic World 1884-1916, ed. Laura Izarra (São Paulo: Humanitas, 2010), 60. As follows, this is the original excerpt from the letter from Roger Casement to Alice Stopford Green: “All one’s thoughts are really with Ireland – if only one could see daylight […] Remember my address is: Consulate of Great Britain and Ireland, Santos – not British Consulate!!” (Casement to Green, R.M.S. Nile, 21 September 1906).

[26] O’Síocháin, Imperialist, Rebel, Revolutionary, 242.

[27] Sawyer, The Flawed Hero, 1.

[28] Rudnik, Cries from Casement, 14-15.

[29] Brian Inglis, The Biography of a Patriot who Lived for England, Died Ireland, New York: Hardcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1973.

[30] David Rudkin, “The Chameleon and the Kilt,” Encounter (August, 1973).

[31] Ibid., 76.

[32] Rudkin, Cries from Casement, 24.

[33] Kearney, Wake of Imagination, 368.

[34] Rudkin, Cries from Casement, 24.

[35] Chris Reeves, “The Penultimate Irish Problem: Britain, Ireland and the Exhumation of Roger Casement,” Irish Studies in International Affairs 12 (2001): 151-178.

[36] See Reid, The Lives of Roger Casement, 450.

[37] Ibid., 167.

[38] In Rudkin’s vernacular stylings, “pa’ed” means “parted.”

[39] Rudkin, Cries from Casement, 10.

[40] Ibid., 45.

[41] Ibid., 74.

[42] See Joost Augusteijn, Patrick Pearse: The Making of a Revolutionary (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

[43] Kevin Grant, “Bones of Contention: The Repatriation of the Remains of Roger Casement”, The Journal of British Studies, v.41, 3, July, 2002, 329-53.

[44] Ibid., 353.

[45] Rudkin, Cries from Casement, 77.

[46] Joe Cleary, Literature, Partition, 8-9.

[47] Ibid., 8.

[48] Gramsci, quoted in ibid.

[49] Gramsci, quoted in ibid.

[50] Rudkin, Cries from Casement, 74.

[51] Cleary, Literature, Partition, 9.

[52] Reid, The Lives of Roger Casement, xv.