Casements flock to play about their great uncle


Casement family members at premiere of new play about Sir Roger Casement.

Casement family members at premiere of new play about Sir Roger Casement. L to R: Pauline Murphy, David Berry, Rod Rush and son Acland. Photo by Helene McNamara.

Brian Gillespie’s new play, Convicted on a Comma: The Trial of Roger Casement generated a deal of interestand many new patrons for Bloomsday. Among them were a couple who identified themselves as relatives. When a second couple did the same, it was assumed that parties were talking about the original family members, so it was a huge surprise that not two but four cousins descended from Sir Roger Casement’s brother, Charles William Adam Ball Casement and Minnie Balharry turned up in force.  They apologised for a fifth who was not able to attend. So, how did the Casements end up settling in Melbourne? One of the family, Rod Rush, kindly provided a genealogical chart and information  he had gleaned about Charles and Minnie’s progeny. Roger’s sibling had 16 grandchildren, and it was two lines, the Berrys and the Rushes we met at the play. It seems that the two brothers, Charles and Thomas were apprenticed as sailors in England aged around 15 (the younger was only 13).  Charles turned up in Melbourne by 1880 aged 18 and was in minor trouble with the police (‘insulting behaviour in a public place’). A bit later the same year, the younger brother sailed into town – family lore has it on the day Ned Kelly was hanged. Coming into some money after the death of their father, Charles and Tom followed a gold rush to Croydon (Qld., not too far from the Gulf of Carpentaria).  It was not long before they were back in Melbourne, living variously in  Hoddle St Richmond, Williamstown and Balwyn, but Tom went off the Boer War and subsequently in 1900 was appointed Commissioner of Mines and Native Affairs in the Transvaal. He didn’t ever return to Australia or have children, so the descendants all came from Charles’s line. He was older than Roger by just three years. Of the fifteen direct descendants still living, 14 remain in Australia and the fifteenth, the eldest cousin, Lesley McNaughton, settled in New Zealand, and continues to do  research on her great uncle. She recently laid a wreath on behalf of the family at Banna Strand to mark the centenary of Casement’s landing there.