This coming August 3rd marks the 93rd anniversary of the execution of Roger Casement by the English. Claiming citizenship of a then once-and-future Ireland, Casement asked what right the English had even to try him, an Irishman.
I first heard of Casement in the mid-70s when I heard an old recording of 'the Lonely Banna Strand.' Knowing the Mixolydian melody to which it was sung, I was fascinated with the radios, submarines and other such elements rarely to be found in the safer and much older material popular then among young antequarians such as myself. That's how I found Casement and found a far more complex, intriguing and heroic man than the song dared portray.
In the early 1990s I began painstakingly to deconstruct and reassemble 'the Lonely Banna Strand' with as much factual veracity as possible. Notice I titled my version 'a Ballad of...' and not 'the Ballad of ...' The enigma of Casement makes a definitive ballad almost impossible. But more than that, despite the whispered family fact that two of my relatives fought in the General Post Office during the Rising, I am British. It is not my right to make the definitive ballad of Ireland's hero. I am free only to make it the best.
As an aside, I have to say I was greatly flattered when I sang the song a few summers back at Castle Markree in County Sligo and was gently chastised by an elderly Irishman. "I like your Casement song," he told me. "But you have to remember how the English felt at the time. They were at war." He took me for an enthusiastic Irish American. My father, on the other hand, was not gentle when he criticized my paen for a terrorist and therefore, all terrorists. My only defense was Casement's defense. Casement came ashore at Banna Strand to avert bloodshed, to call off the Rising of which he is now a hero.
His is a tale of colonial atrocity, racism, violent homophobia and —in that context— patriotism. As a revolutionist he was poorly skilled. But that did not deter him. Nor was he blind to that failing. He was a very brave man. He was hanged for a comma, so they said (and that's another story, the story of his trial). He did not weep, as he feared he would, when they hanged him.
There seems to be a lot of interest in Casement on Youtube. So, I thought I would slap an iMovie video together for my song. How hard could that be? It was very time-consuming. I don't have that much time to spend on learning the new craft of motion picture editing. But it was a very enjoyable task.
There is a high resoltion version to be seen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukOyQ3bwBTw&feature=related
And a low resolution version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ww7tnrJQ7c&feature=related
Tell me what you think.