Magazine article The Spectator

A Cousin across the Water

Magazine article The Spectator

A Cousin across the Water

Article excerpt

SHANE LESLIE: SUBLIME FAILURE

by Otto Rauchbauer

Lilliput Press, £35, pp. 356

ISBN 978 1 84351 1564

Though he was to live at Castle Leslie in Co. Monaghan, Sir John Randalph (later Shane) Leslie, cousin of Winston Churchill, was born at Stratford House, London, in 1885 though baptised at Glaslough with Lord Randolph Churchill as godfather. After Eton and King's, Cambridge, Shane, at Churchill's bidding, stood as a Home Ruler for Londonderry City in both the 1910 general elections. He lost each time by about 100 votes to the Unionist Marquis of Hamilton, who succeeded to the Abercorn dukedom in 1913, and was first Governor of Northern Ireland 1922-1945.

But Shane also consorted with the likes of Patrick Pearse, executed by firing squad in May 1916, and Roger Casement, hanged in Pentonville for treason in August 1916.

Shane at first believed the Casement homosexual diaries were forged. His mother Leonie attended the trial and was an avid collector of Casement garrulities. She wrote to Shane of lunching at Downing Street when 'Mr Asquith told me of the Diary and he wanted Casement to be proved insane so as to escape the death penalty'.

In 1921, with Winston and Lloyd George invigilating the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Shane wrote to his father:

Collins asked me what I thought of the proposed oath of allegiance. Naturally I approve as it seems to offer a good loophole for people as different as myself and yourself to remain as citizens of a Free Irish State while not renouncing the allegiance which you in honour and I in preference would rather not give up. …

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