As Easter draws near, I think of Arthur Conan Doyle and the Easter Rising.
An Irishman born in Scotland, Conan Doyle was a British imperialist all of his life. But an old Irish friend of his, Sir Roger Casement, was part of an attempt in August 1914 -- at the dawn of World War I -- to reach an agreement whereby Germany would provide guns and military leaders to the Irish in return for the Irish making war on Britain. That didn't happen.
Later in 1914, Casement -- a British diplomat who had been Conan Doyle's ally in the latter's campaign against atrocities in the Congo -- traveled to Germany in a move to secure weapons and raise an Irish brigade of prisoners of war to fight against Britain. Two years later, the Germans finally sent a limited number of guns, but they never arrived because the ship carrying them was intercepted.
Two days before the Easter Rising in 1916, Casement was arrested and charged with treason. Conan Doyle joined with his old antagonist George Bernard Shaw and the Irish poet William Butler Yeats in arguing that Casement was "a man of fine character" who had gone mad.
Conan Doyle also contended that Casement's execution "will certainly be exploited by every enemy of England from Dublin to San Francisco" and that making a martyr out of the Irish nationalist "is not in Imperial interests." The British authorities did not find those arguments persuasive. Casement was hanged.
Sherlock Holmes had a more hands-on role in the Easter Rising, according to Kieran McMullen. Read about it in his book Sherlock Holmes and the Irish Rebels. Many historical Irish characters appear in it. What's your favorite story combining Holmes and history?
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