Sir John Randolph (Shane) Leslie, third baronet of Glaslough, county Monaghan, was born on September 24, 1885, at Stratford House in London. He was the eldest of the four sons of Sir John Leslie, second baronet, and Leonie Blanche, youngest daughter of Leonard Jerome of New York. Sir Shane's boyhood was spent in Ireland. He was educated at Eton College and at King's College, Cambridge. It was at Cambridge that he converted to Roman Catholicism and became an Irish nationalist. He then also began to use the Irish form of his name, Shane, and renounced the family estate entailed to him. From his early days, Sir Shane was in touch with luminaries such as Leo Tolstoy whom he met during his first winter down from Cambridge, while on a visit to Russia in 1907. He was also a first cousin of Sir Winston Churchill, whose mother, Jennie Jerome Churchill, was a sister of Leonie Leslie's, Sir Shane's mother. Churchill favored Home Rule for Ireland and showed interest in his cousin's political views by introducing him to John Redmond, leader of the Irish Nationalists in the House of Commons.
Inspired by Redmond, Sir Shane agreed to stand for Londonderry as a Nationalist in the 1910 election. He did not win the seat, but not discouraged, departed for the U.S. where he worked with Bourke Cockran, the Irish orator and friend of Churchill's, who like Sir Shane, was concerned with and sought to dissipate the hostile American Irish attitude toward England. During his visit to the U.S., Sir Shane met and married Marjorie Ide, youngest daughter of Henry Clay Ide, judge of the Vermont Supreme Court and later U.S. governor-general of the Philippines. Marjorie Ide was the sister of Anne (Mrs. Bourke) Cockran.
During World War I, Sir Shane's brother Norman Leslie, a captain in the rifle Brigade, was killed in action. At the time Sir Shane was attached to the British Ambulance Corps. However, on his way to the Dardanelles, he became ill and was transferred to a military hospital in Malta. There he wrote his first major autobiographical work, “The End of the Chapter,” published in 1916. From 1916 to 1917, Sir Shane worked in Washington, D.C., with the British ambassador, Sir Cecil Arthur Spring-Rice, who was also endeavoring to soften Irish American hostility toward England, and to convince the U.S. of the urgency of declaring war against Germany. Sir Shane's work included the publication of a journal entitled “Ireland,” as well as collaborating with Spring-Rice to establish a relationship between Washington and Westminster. Sir Shane's deep concern with the maintenance of Irish and British relationships was most clearly realized when he, unsuccessfully, petitioned Britain to spare the lives of 16 Irish leaders involved in the 1916 Easter uprising in Dublin. To the end of his life, Sir Shane believed that some day a united Ireland would coexist amicably with its neighbor Britain.
Throughout his life Sir Shane was also a prolific writer of prose and verse, including a second autobiographical work, “Long Shadows” (1966). In addition, he was a well-loved lecturer on Irish politics, culture, and ghost stories. His talks led him around the British Isles, particularly to schools, as well as across the Atlantic to the U.S. A list of Sir Shane's major published works was created in 1975 by David Hall (see Folder 78:2). This collection includes many of Sir Shane's works including fiction, verse, journal articles, both manuscript and printed. Besides his political interests, Sir Shane was a passionate advocate of reforestation. He led a campaign for more general planting and was well known in the organization “Men of the Trees.”
After the death of his first wife, Sir Shane married Iris, daughter of Charles Miskin Laing. Sir Shane died at his home in Hove on August 14, 1971. He was survived by his wife and children, John Norman, Desmond, and Anita (Leslie) King. The last was to follow in her father's footsteps to become a well-known writer and biographer. Sir Shane's eldest son, John Norman succeeded to the baronetcy.
Source: Dictionary of National Biography 1971-1980. Entry for Sir Shane Leslie written by Anita Leslie.