THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: From the News Letter of May 1956

Silence still on Casement papers

Friday, 7th May 2021, 11:40 am
Crowds outside Bow Street court for the trial of Sir Roger Casement. Picture: PA/PA Wire
Crowds outside Bow Street court for the trial of Sir Roger Casement. Picture: PA/PA Wire

During this week in May 1956 Mr W F Deedes, Home Office, Under Secretary, had remarked in the House of Commons that the events surrounding the death of Sir Roger Casement were “remembered in Ireland with pride and bitterness”.

Refusing to break the 40 years’ official silence on the controversy over the Casement diaries, he said that the events of 1916 were still in some minds “a concern of passionate partisanship”. “Whatever the truth, and if we were to reveal it, the result would to stimulate and not to mollify those passions. Where to break silence can only stimulate memories bitter and bloody, then it is better to remain silent.”

Mr Deeds was replying to request by Mr Montgomery Hyde, Unionist MP for Belfast North, during adjournment debate, that the diaries should be examined by a committee of experts to decide whether they were genuine.

There were cries of “shame” from the Opposition benches when Mr Hyde said that he had copy of memorandum to the Cabinet of July 17, 1916, wherein were the words: ‘It would be very much wiser to allow the law to take its course and use the diaries to prevent Casement obtaining martyrdom’.”

Lifeboat stationed outside City Hall

The Cloughey lifeboat,the Constance Calverley, had been stationed in front of the City Hall, Belfast, during this week in 1956 on the occasion of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s flag day.

The News Letter reported that the lifeboat “attracted a great deal of attention”.

“Throughout the day groups of people, many of them children, gathered around it,” noted the News Letter’s correspondent.

In the morning the Lady Mayoress, Mrs R J R Harcourt, accompanied by Commander Oscar Henderson, chairman of the Belfast branch, inspected the lifeboat and the following crew were presented to her: Walter Semple (coxswain), George Young (second coxswain), George Young (mechanic), John Donnan (bowmain), and John Gibson (assistant mechanic). Colonel G W Ross, district organising secretary of the RNLI and Lieutenant Commander H H Harvey were also present.