An auction in England recently sold documents relating to Roger Casement’s trial, as well as several documents detailing plans of the 1916 Easter Rising, just in time for the commemorations this Easter.
English auctioneers Chorley’s held their Easter sale on Tuesday March 22, just days before the official Easter Rising commemoration, and fittingly had a very special lot up for grabs for all Irish history buffs.
A collection of documents, plans and artifacts from the Easter Rising was offered for sale by a descendant of Major Frank Hall, a founding member of the Ulster Volunteer Force.
In fact, Hall is famous in his own right as he was to go on to become the first “Q” at MI5. This codename was later to reach high levels of fame as it was used for a character in the Ian Fleming James Bond series.
Before this, however, Hall was involved in the interrogation of Roger Casement regarding the 1916 Easter Rising, prior to Casement’s high-profile trial in England and his subsequent execution for his part in the attempts to acquire weapons for the rebellion in Ireland.
Ironically, as a member of the UVF, Hall was himself involved in gun running to Ireland and he interrogated Casement about an act that he too had committed. Born into Irish landowning stock and educated in Harrow before serving with the Royal Artillery, Hall became involved in the Unionist cause on leaving the army.
Reviving the Unionist Clubs and being a founding member and military secretary of the UVF, Hall is perhaps best known for diverting the attention of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the British during the Larne gun running. Hall was one of just 12 people to know the details of the gun running in April 1914 when 25,000 rifles and a large amount of ammunition were acquired from German arms dealers and smuggled into Larne and other locations with military efficiency. His role required short circuiting telegraph and telephone lines to keep authorities in the dark.
Hall had been keeping tabs on Casement and other revolutionaries since 1914. Casement worked in the British Colonial Service for many years and was knighted in 1911 for his investigation into Human Rights abuses in Peru. It was on his retirement in 1913 that he became increasingly involved in the struggle for Irish home rule.
When the First World War broke out, Casement hatched a plan to gain German assistance for home rule. He traveled to Germany in late 1914 to negotiate terms and to try and recruit Irish men held as German prisoners of war. On Casement’s departure to Germany, Hall told London, “I have never met Sir R Casement but was invited to do so by a mutual acquaintance last June who then described him as a 'sincere nationalist'. I declined the honour and said I was a 'sincere imperialist'".
When the Germans received confirmation that the Rising was to happen, they offered 20,000 rather ancient rifles and ten machine guns to the Irish in the hopes of distracting the British on the Western Front.
Convincing the Germans to send him to Ireland with the weapons in a U-boat, Casement planned to halt the rebellion as he feared the number and nature of the weapons they had procured would ensure the failure of a military action.
The mission to deliver the weapons was farcical, however, and they were intercepted by the Royal Navy and Casement was captured on 21st April, just hours after landing. Casement’s hopes of calling off the Rising were dashed.
One particular document of interest in the lot was a map drawn by Casement while he was being interrogated by the British on Easter Sunday 1916 following the failed gun running. During his interrogation, Casement revealed where he had hidden a cache on landing in Ireland. After drawing a map to direct his interrogators to the exact spot, those questioning him came across pistols, binoculars, gold and silver, the spoils of which were divided between them. This particular lot alone reached $9,942 (£7,000).
Another item up for auction was a silver box presented to Captain Frank Hall by “Friends in the Old Town Hall, Belfast, Xmas 1914,” the Old Town being the headquarters of the UVF and under the lid are engraved the facsimile signatures of twelve prominent UVF members including their commander Sir George Richardson who oversaw the Larne gun running. This item reached $2,272 (£1,600) at auction.
The small lot of documents, letters and plans relating to the Easter Rising went up for auction also and included a telegraph sent to America two days prior to the Rising, appearing to announce that the operation performed on one of the Rising’s main masterminds, Thomas Clarke, just days before was a success.
“Tom operated on successfully today,” the telegram reads.
The telegram reached $8,521 (£6,000) at auction.