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The Irish Adventure Continues: Kilmainham Gaol

Posted by Deirdre Murray on

This week, the Irish adventure continues for Ward, Mary and the family. On New Year’s day, they all set off for Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin. For those of you who don’t know, Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced ‘jail’) is one of the oldest prisons in Ireland. It was built in 1796. Many public hangings took place in front of the prison but by the 1820’s, very few hangings were taking place publicly. There was a cell inside for that job. There was no segregation of prisoners; men, women and children were incarcerated up to 5 in each cell, with only a single candle for light and heat. Most of their time was spent in the cold and the dark, and each candle had to last for two weeks. The cells were roughly 28 square meters in area. Kilmainham Gaol is most famous for it’s role in the 1916 Easter Rising - a rebellion with the aim of freeing Ireland from British rule. The main leaders of this rebellion were caught and incarcerated here before being executed by firing squad in the courtyard of the jail. Leaders executed included Padraig (Patrick) Pearse, Constance Markievicz, James Connelly, Thomas Clarke and Joseph Plunkett. Today the building symbolizes the tradition of militant and constitutional nationalism from the rebellion of 1798 to the Irish Civil War of 1922-23.

So anyway, Ward, Mary and the family explored the prison on New Year’s day (quite a feat if I do say so myself - getting up early to take in something like that after Irish New Years? Fair play to them!) Here are some pictures from their tour…


 This is the main area of the prison from which all the cells are off. Each prisoner would have passed all of their fellow rebels on his or her way to the firing squad.



The courtyard in which the many of the Leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising met their fate by firing squad.

Inside a cell, along with a mural of the Virgin Mary and child painted on the wall of Grace Gifford’s cell. (She was Joseph Plunkett’s wife and another driving force in the rebellion - executed at Kilmainham Gaol not too long after her husband.)

The Proclamation of Irish Independence that was read in the GPO (General Post Office) in Dublin at the beginning of the Easter Rising.

There is so much history in this building as it serves as a very popular spot to truly understand the fate of those who stood for Irish freedom. Well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Dublin. Be sure to book your tickets in advance as the prison is often booked solid - even on New Year's Day.

I will leave you with a letter written by Joseph Plunkett to his love Grace the day he was captured and brought to Kilmainham Gaol. They were engaged at the time. A few days later, when Grace found out that Joseph was to be executed - she brought a ring and priest to the jail. They were married in the jail on the night of May 3rd. The following morning at dawn Joseph was executed.

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