It may have cost Kerry Museum a pretty penny when they paid around €10,000 and change for it at an English auction last week.
But it brings to an end a century-old mystery about a document that had not been publicly seen since the destined-for-execution Sir Roger drew it on Easter Sunday 1916 after being shipped from Kerry to London. The former diplomat was detained after coming ashore from a German submarine at Banna Strand in Tralee Bay days earlier.
Apparently written while he was in custody, the pencil-drawn sketch depicts the fairy-fort where he was eventually captured, close to Currahane Moat near Ardfert. Above it, he wrote: “£50 in gold + silver.”
He scribbled alongside the drawing that there were a pair of binoculars and a lamp “under some fern bracken and bramble in the moat of the rath about 3 yards to right of path across the top of rath”.
Casement had given the information to his captors so someone would be sent to find the money, which he needed badly to mount a defence.
His defence was unsuccessful, as it happened, and in August 1916 he was executed for treason in connection with his links to the Rising, following a trial in England.
According to Kerry Museum curator Helen O’Carroll, the map had never been seen since he drew it, despite efforts of his solicitor to find out about it after his execution.
“In February 1917, a police search party made another effort and a report was sent back to say that they had found nothing,” she said.
But an accompanying note written by one of his interrogators, Major Frank Hall, outlines how the cache was distributed, including money for the local Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC).
“His binoculars were given to Basil Thomas/Gold sleeve links to DI Cheesman/‘Flag of Irish republic’ to RIC mess Phoenix Park/Cash to Sgt. & Constable RIC/3 mauser pistols to me. I gave one to [Major Ivor] Price who used it at Connie Marciewitz [sic] at the Castle & missed her,” Hall’s note reads.
The flag he referenced was known to have been taken from Casement when he was arrested.
It is currently on loan from Britain’s Imperial War Museum for an exhibition at Limerick City Hall, “They Dreamed and are Dead: Limerick 1916.”
Roger Casement’s ‘treasure map’ and the accompanying note will feature in Kerry Museum’s ‘Casement in Kerry’ exhibition being opened by President Michael D Higgins on April 21, and will also be used in the museum’s educational programme.