Lost to History: An Assessment and Review of the Casement Black Diaries

Author: Paul Hyde

"Nothing[1] that has taken place should be lost to history.”—Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History”[2]

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 the 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 center of the Casement story.


I. 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[3] in Oslo 1914.

5. What was the reaction of Casement’s friends, colleagues, and 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 Her Majesty’s Home Office after their release in 1959? Not known.

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

10. What were the results of the 1959 tests? Not known.

11. What were the results of the 1970s tests? Not known.

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

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

14. Where can the results of these tests be seen? For tests 10, 11, 12 not known. Test 13 unpublished but the text can 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 and typescript “copies” of allegedly incriminating extracts were shown to influential persons in both the UK and USA.

17. Were the bound volume diaries now in UK National Archives shown to influential persons in 1916? There are no verifiable record of these diaries being shown to influential persons in 1916.

18. Where are the original photos and typescript “copies” which were shown to influential persons? Not known.

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 either one which fails to provide the information sought in the question or one 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 tests already done, the results of three are unknown and appear not to be in the public domain. The test 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 section I of this article. Any answers so far given have their sources in explanations offered 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.


II. Forensic

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 in 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.


III. The 1993 Test

This test was carried out by Home Office expert Dr. David Baxendale and was featured in a BBC Radio documentary.[4] The result was decidedly cautious if not ambiguous. Dr. Baxendale stated: “the bulk of the handwriting in there is the work of Roger Casement.”[5] 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.”[6] 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 three 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.[7]


IV. The Giles Report

In 2002, The Giles Laboratory in Amersham, Buckinghamshire was commissioned by a Professor W.J. McCormack to examine the five bound volumes known as The Black Diaries held in the UK National Archives. The diaries were examined in the Giles Laboratory outside London, which means that permission was given for the release and transport of state-owned historical documents from the National Archives to a private company for expert examination. Given the politically sensitive nature of the diaries, it is reasonable to think that the decision to send them to a private person was taken at the highest government level. It is also reasonable to think that any official apprehensions were allayed by the fact that Dr. Giles had a long employment background with the Metropolitan Police.

The initial proposition given to document-examiner Giles was that she authenticate the questioned documents; “The Steering Group have set the initial proposition to be that the documents at Kew known collectively as Roger Casement’s Black Diaries are genuinely written in his hand throughout.” [8] This instruction is already biased and the commission should have been refused. The fact that it was accepted compromises both the examiner and the subsequent examination and renders the result scientifically worthless. For this reason alone, the report would not have been accepted by any court of law.

Giles should have pointed out that examination of handwriting in questioned documents has its limitations and that it might not be possible to reach a conclusion about the questioned writings. But she did not do so. Ergo having accepted the commission she proceeded to fulfill the commission by authenticating the documents and duly did so. But it is axiomatic that scientific investigation seeks falsification, not verification. The dominant paradigm or theory is put to the test by looking for weaknesses, contradictions, anomalies. Therefore the Giles investigation cannot be considered to be scientifically valid because it started from compromised premises. Further, the report itself does not fulfill the requirements of a forensic report to be presented and demonstrated in a court of law because it lacks scientific detail, lacks definitions and clear parameters. Quite simply, the conclusion is not demonstrated.

Furthermore, there is an astonishing statement by Giles to the effect that certain tests were not done because she had already foreseen the results of those tests without performing them. “We could go ahead and carry out analysis of the inks, there are some problems there. There has to be a recognition that if indeed the Diaries are substantial forgeries, then they would have been produced at about the same time as the documents are dated or not long afterwards. So they are going to be produced using materials of the age, so I doubt whether in the end any close analysis of the ink is going to tell us a great deal about them.”[9] This statement alone (containing at least three non sequiturs) is sufficient to convince the “forgery theorists” that the entire Giles/McCormack enterprise was planned as a media event and was not intended to be an impartial scientific investigation. It perfectly demonstrates the error of seeking verification rather than falsification of a thesis; the examiner uses only those tests and methods which will produce the desired result. In this case the methods used were confined to those of comparative handwriting analysis which, by admission of Giles, are subjective: "Handwriting examinations are necessarily to some extent subjective. It relies on my judgment to determine whether features are the same or different.”[10]

Nowhere in the instruction given to Giles was it stated that the tests had to meet specific forensic standards. There is nothing in the Giles Report which independently guarantees the authenticity or quality of the control documents—the unquestioned writings. In the case of The Giles Report, no instruction was given to The Giles Laboratory to prepare a forensic report for use in any court. It is not, therefore, a forensic report and was never intended to be such. If anything, The Giles Report raised more doubts in more people’s minds than existed before. Marcel Matley, a US document examiner, stated:  “Even if every document examined were the authentic writing of Casement, this report does nothing to establish the fact.”[11] Apart from the scientific inadequacy, the media publicity including two TV documentaries gave cause for doubts that the entire enterprise was a political/publicity stunt masquerading as a scientific/historical investigation. This impression was compounded by the press misreporting of the results; news reports claimed that ink, pollen, and DNA tests had given definitive conclusions of authenticity when no such tests had been done.

When the Giles Report was peer-reviewed by US document examiner James Horan, he recommended non-publication, stating: “As editor of the Journal of Forensic Sciences and the Journal of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners, I would NOT recommend publication of the Giles Report because the report does not show HOW its conclusion was reached.”[12] Mr Horan also commented: “Because of the controversial nature of the case Giles should have been requested to prepare a detailed report that could be presented to a jury. To the question, ‘Is the writing Roger Casement’s?’ on the basis of the Giles Report as it stands; my answer would have to be I cannot tell.”[13] Indeed, the Giles Report was not published and therefore was not deposited in major libraries as promised. Its fate was much the same as the earlier tests save that the media campaign proved successful in perpetuating not only the official thesis of authenticity but also of regenerating that untested thesis as definitively tested and proven. To doubt the “conclusive tests” became heresy. Thus scientific investigation had become political propaganda.

Leading US forensic experts including Andrew Sulner, (Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, a lawyer and former state prosecutor) and Dan Simon have recently explored the topics of cognitive bias and flawed forensics. Mr. Sulner has pointed out that too many forensic handwriting experts still steadfastly believe that proper training and experience somehow shield them from the biasing influences that have been proven to impact the accuracy of visual observations and decision making on the part of human beings in all other walks of life.[14] In a paper called “Cognitive and Motivational Causes of Investigative Error”  presented to The American Academy, 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).[15]

The Giles Report is afflicted by all three defects: selective framing, selective exposure, and selective stopping. 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.[16] No one would suggest incompetence as an explanation for what might appear to some as sophistry even if 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.”[17] 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. The presence of so many lethal defects constitutes, by itself, a demonstration that the questioned documents are forgeries. 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 behavioral 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.[18]

On March 12, 2002, McCormack in his address to the press conference held at Goldsmith’s College declared with categorical certainty the outcome of the Giles investigation. 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, McCormack’s impartiality 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.”[19]


V. Earlier tests[20]

The test conducted in 1959 was carried out by Dr. Wilson Harrison. Very little is known about this test save that Dr. Harrison was Director of a Home Office Forensics Laboratory and that he undertook not to give press interviews. The location of the results remains unknown. Since so little is known or is in the public domain, this test might as well be non-existent. Certainly, it cannot be determined if it meets international forensic standards. Nor can we know what instructions were given to the examiner or by whom or even what documents were examined.

With regard to the tests done in the 1972, even less is known. We know neither the time nor location. It is doubtful if the two persons involved were in any way qualified as document examiners. No formal results were published and there is only an imprecise anecdotal account in the public domain.[21] We do not even know what documents were examined or which methods and instruments were used. Those involved were Peter Singleton-Gates[22] and Letitia Fairfield. The former is said to have been a journalist and some sources suggest he might also have been at one time a British intelligence agent but this has not been verified.[23] Certainly 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 person of some authority” in 1922;[24] many now think that this figure was Casement’s former CID interrogator Basil Thomson,[25] or someone acting for him.[26] 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[27] states: “Mr. Gates […] admitted that he had been “guilty in the past of literary fraud.”[28] 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.”[29]

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 “test,” Singleton-Gates was eighty-one years old and Dr. Fairfield was eighty-seven 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 test with those done by the Home Office as being of no practical use to an impartial enquirer.


VI. Corroboration

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.[30] 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 affidavits and it is probable that these were solicited by British authorities, although these could play no part in Casement’s prosecution. Therefore, the motive for seeking these 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 gather for the purpose of furnishing affidavits unless they were invited to do so. It is improbable that Olsen travelled to London at his own expense. It is unclear why eight affidavits were made when Olsen’s alone would have sufficed.

Casement’s vessel, the SS Oskar, docked at midnight of October 28, 1914 at Oslo. MacColl reports in his 1956 book that Casement left the vessel at 1:00 a.m. and reached his hotel at around 2am. 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 4:00 a.m. that morning, and that the Naval Attaché, having risen from his slumber at 4:00 a.m., could not wait a few hours until morning and that Olsen, the Chief Receptionist, acceded to his urgent wish that Casement be disturbed at 4:00 a.m. in the morning.  It is verified that Casement left Oslo at around 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. on October 30th by train for Germany.[31] 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, equaling 15 hours. It was therefore during these 15 hours that the Norwegian “witnesses” 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 15 years, these Norwegians also conspired to silence when faced with “unnatural” behavior.  Only some twenty-one months later when they jointly decided the time had come to “speak out” did they agree to furnish affidavits to officials of a foreign government.

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.”[32] 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 postmortem anal probe: this was effected by the prison doctor immediately after the inquest to ascertain death. The doctor’s written report to Ernley Blackwell[33] identified anal dilation and stated that such a condition was solid evidence of homosexual activity.[34] 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 skeptical 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.


VII. 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 that were shown in 1916 to either Alfred Noyes[35] by Stephen Gaselee or to Ben S. Allen[36] by Admiral Hall.[37] Allen reports that he was shown a roll of buff-colored sheets of paper and Noyes states that he was shown typed papers.[38] Neither saw bound volumes. The fact that neither saw bound volumes might mean that such volumes:

a) were not in British possession at that time, or

b) did not exist at that time, or

c) were in British possession but they preferred to show typed papers and photographs, or

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 a diary or diaries could be a reference either to 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,[39] received a letter dated June 3, 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.[40] A further written reference to a single diary was made by Ernley Blackwell after the trial.[41] 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,[42] Casement’s prosecutor, in the House of Lords where these were kept in the archives.[43] 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 writing, 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 year 1915 which is called variously the German or the Munich or the Berlin Diary. It contains no sexually incriminating writings. This diary is referred to by Brian Inglis[44] 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.”[45] 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.


VIII. 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 section I 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 in his book of 1956. [46] 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.[47]

The term misinformation might imply human error. But the better term for MacColl’s story is “a mis-truth.” He did not seek to verify his story in any way, and 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 (August 18, 1967) and duly identified the alleged source of his own mis-truth—a J.J. Horgan, onetime resident of Cork.[48] With all three alleged sources dead, the story could not be verified or refuted and so it passed unquestioned into the dominant theory.


IX. Prima Facie Case

“[…] we have an obligation to the dead. It is our duty to tell the truth about them.” Carlo Ginzburg.[49] 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.”[50] 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 thirty years to conceal the alleged degeneracy “discovered” by the British authorities 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 convert belief into 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.”[51] 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.[52]  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.”[53] It is intended that this research be examined by a tribunal of impartial jurists for their verdict.

The dominant thesis, tacitly endorsed and never denied by British governments for decades, is that the Black Diaries are entirely authentic. This is, therefore, the dominant paradigm which is being tested by seeking to falsify its claim. It is 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.[54]


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

[2] Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” in Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 254. (Though this particular translation differs slightly: “nothing that has ever happened should be regarded as lost for history.”)

[3] Mansfeldt de Cardonnel Findlay (1861-1932) was Minister at British Legation in Oslo 1914. He made a written offer of half-a-million sterling (in today’s value) to Christensen for information leading to the capture of Casement.

[4] “Document—The Casement Diaries,” BBC Radio 4, 23 September 1993.

[5] Quoted in Roger Casement, The Amazon Journal of Roger Casement, ed. Angus Mitchell (London: Anaconda, 1997), 25.

[6] Ibid.

[7] See, for instance, Angus Mitchell, “The Casement ‘Black Diaries’ Debate: The Story So Far,” History Ireland 2, no. 9 (Summer 2001), http://www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/the-casement-black-diaries-debate-the-story-so-far/.

[8] See Matley to Mannerings and Bradley, Re: “Black Diaries” Attributed to Roger Casement, The Audrey Giles Report,” 21 April 2002”; for a digital version of the report, see https://archive.org/stream/020310A/020310-A#page/n0/mode/2up.

[9]  Quoted in “Black Diaries Debate Will Go On,” An Phoblacht, 21 March 2002, http://www.anphoblacht.com/contents/8559.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Matley to Mannerings and Bradley, Re: “Black Diaries.”

[12] James Horan, “How Did the Giles Report Investigate Casement’s Handwriting?” British Association for Irish Studies Newsletter 31 (July 2002), http://aubanehistoricalsociety.org/casement.php.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Andrew Sulner, “Examining Sources of Bias and Illustrating Their Impact on Handwriting Opinions and Expert Testimony of Forensic Document Examiners” (paper presented at the 66th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Seattle, Washington, 17 February 2014).

[15] Dan Simon, “Cognitive and Motivational Causes of Investigative Error” (paper presented at the 66th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Seattle, Washington, 17 February 2014).

[16] See Matley to Mannerings and Bradley, Re: “Black Diaries.”

[17] Francis Bacon, “The New Organon: or True Directions Concerning the Interpretation of Nature” (1620); for full text in translation, see http://www.constitution.org/bacon/nov_org.htm.

[18] See Committee on Identifying the Need for the Forensic Sciences Community, National Resources Council, Strengthening Forensic Science in the U.S.: A Path Forward (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2009), https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/228091.pdf.

[19] W.J. McCormack, Roger Casement in Death, or Haunting the Free State (Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2003), 18.

[21] Roger Sawyer, ed., Roger Casement’s Diaries 1910: The Black & the White (London: Pimlico/Random House, 1997), 22.

[22] Peter Singleton-Gates, born 1891, was a 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 March 1, 1959, Singleton-Gates said: “I’ve faked stories before.” See Peter singleton-Gates, Sunday Press, March 1, 1959. Quoted in Roger Hugh, “Casement: The Public Record Office Manuscripts” Threshold 1, no. 4 (Summer 1960).

[23] There is no confirmation of this. Thomson had more than 100 agents and informers; there is no explanation why Thomson gave the diary typescripts to a young, unknown journalist.

[24] See Mitchell, Amazon Journal, 22.

[25] Basil Thomson (1861-1939) was 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. Cited in Angus Mitchell, “Phases of a Dishonourable Phantasy” Field Day Review 8 (2012), 97.

[26] See Singleton-Gates Sunday Express Press. By not identifying the donor by name, Gates acknowledges that he knows the name with certainty which excludes an intermediary.

[27] 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 fifty-five years; most subsequent Casement studies avoid them.

[28] See Hugh, “Pubic Record Office Manuscripts.”

[29] Ibid.

[30] Cited in Séamus Ó Síocháin, Roger Casement: Imperialist, Rebel, Revolutionary (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 2008).

[31] Cited in B.L. Ried, The Lives of Roger Casement (New Haven: Yale UP, 1976), 217.

[32] See some of the psychiatric reports in Ó Síocháin, Roger Casement.

[33] Ernley Blackwell, 1868-1941, was 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”; see Alfred Noyes, The Accusing Ghost, or Justice for Casement (London: Victor Gollancz, 1957), 18.

[34] Cited in Mitchell, “Dishonourable Phantasy,” 26n; see also Ó Síocháin, Roger Casement.

[35] Alfred Noyes, 1880-1958, was a poet and professor of literature, and a believer in the authenticity of the diaries until the 1950s. 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; see Noyes, Accusing Ghost, 27.

[36] Ben S. Allen was a U.S. representative of the Associated Press. Hall refused Allen permission to take the incriminating papers to Casement for verification.

[37] Admiral William Reginald Hall, 1870-1943, was head of naval intelligence, close colleague of Thomson and co-interrogator of Casement. He was considered to be the brain behind the smear campaign, and is said to have been involved in the forged Zinoviev letter of 1924. That Hall had a role in the Zinoviev forgery is widely reported; see, even, his Wikipedia entry, “William Reginald Hall.”

[38] See Noyes, Accusing Ghost, 27.

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

[40] See Angus Mitchell, Casement (London: Haus Publishing, 2003), 134.

[41] See Blackwell’s comment in Noyes, Accusing Ghost, 109.

[42] F. E. Smith Birkenhead, 1872-1930, was a 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” (in a speech made in Bradford on March 14, 1914) and the successful smuggling of twenty-five 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”; see Boston Post, Jan. 14, 1918.

[43] See Fr. Patrick Doyle, Bureau of Military History Witness Statement 807, http://www.bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie/reels/bmh/BMH.WS0807.pdf.

[44] Brian Inglis, 1916-1993, was an historian, author, and television presenter; see Inglis’s Roger Casement, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd., 1973).

[45] Inglis, Roger Casement, 439.

[46] René MacColl, 1905-1971, was a journalist and author. An 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 (1956) 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; see Inglis, Roger Casement, 396. 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.

[47] See René MacColl, Roger Casement: A New Judgment (London: Hamilton, 1956), 284.

[48] MacColl, letter to the editor, The Times, 18 August 1967.

[49] Carlo Ginzburg, interview with Trygve Riiser Gundersen, “On the Dark Side of History,” Eurozine, July 11, 2003, http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2003-07-11-ginzburg-en.html.

[50] See Mitchell, “Dishonourable Phantasy,” 105.

[51] Correspondent to the author, July 20, 2015.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Quoted in Angus Mitchell, Sir Roger Casement’s Heart of Darkness: The 1911 Documents (Dublin: Dublin Irish Manuscripts Commission, 2003), 216.