And Then We Went To Jail…

So after the Guinness Storehouse we decided that it would be fun to hotwire a car and drive around the Irish countryside. 

Or not.

We did go to jail – or gaol – but it was on our own accord.  We just walked right up to the front entrance as asked to be let in.  The made us pay, but that’s all part of the experience.

Are you properly confused yet?

Another sight to see in Dublin is Kilmainham Gaol.  It’s a former prison turned museum, and we had an adorable red-haired guide whose name had about 18 vowels in it and was pronounced Rory.

As you can expect, the Gaol doesn’t have a shiny-happy history.  The early history of the jail is rife with over-crowding – jailing people for all kinds of petty crimes.  The youngest inmate was said to be 5 years old, and was probably jailed for stealing food.  Male, female and children were pushed together – sometimes 5 to a cell.  Each cell had a single candle, which was supposed to provide heat and light for 2 weeks.

Walking the halls

Walking the halls

Ireland has a LOT of history, and a lot of the conflicts centered around the fight for Independence from British rule.  One of these conflicts was the Easter Rising, which took place during Easter weekend of 1916.  The fighting only lasted for 6 days, but it brought Irish Republicanism back into the political spotlight.

A plaque in the courtyard of Kilmainham Gaol lists the names of the 14 men who were jailed after the Easter Rising.  Also listed are the dates that they were executed at the Goal.

The names of the Easter Rising Leaders who were executed.

The names of the Easter Rising Leaders who were executed.

Those 14 men were all killed between May 3-12.  In the courtyard of the Gaol there are crosses that mark where the deaths took place:

Where most of the men died.

Where most of the men died.

A cross for James Connolly

A cross for James Connolly

The cross near the door is where they killed James Connolly.  He had been wounded in the fight and was so ill that had he not been sentenced to death, he would have died a day or so later (and yet they still sentenced him to death).  He had to be transported from the hospital to the jail, carried into the courtyard and tied to a chair in order to be shot.  It was his death that caused shock and outrage, and caused the British Prime Minister to call for an end to executions.

The Gaol also housed Grace Plunkett, who married Joseph Plunkett (one of the Easter Rising leaders) in the jail’s church, hours before he was executed.  While she was not arrested during the Easter Rising, she was later active in the Irish Civil war and jailed in Kilmainham Gaol.

Her cell remains with a plaque above the door, and the painting she did of the Madonna and Christ Child is still on the wall.

Looking into her cell.

Looking into her cell.

No one will say that Kilmainham Gaol’s history is a happy one, but it is an interesting one and well worth the visit.

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