Home > Bookish Things > Ireland – Kilmainham Gaol

Ireland – Kilmainham Gaol

Tuesday, 26 October 2004 Leave a comment Go to comments

Kilmainham Gaol was our first tourist destination. Though no longer in use, the gaol has a fascinating history. It is the largest unused gaol in Ireland. Dating from 1796, it was in use at times and closed at others, but finally closed in 1924. Looking into the tiny cells and imagining being stuck in there for years was very sobering. Then imagining them with up to five people in them during the famine was appalling. (Though apparently many people tried to get put in jail during the famine because they were assured they would be fed.) There was also a time in history when children as young as eight were incarcerated there as well. The cold wind blows right in and must have kept the prisoners very chilly as there is no heat in the prison.

Many leaders of the various rebellions during Ireland’s quest for independence from Britain were jailed there. The leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were executed there; one just hours after his marriage, and another whilst sitting in a chair because he could not stand because of an injury. On plaques over the doors of many of the cells are the names of famous rebellion leaders imprisoned there. Much of Ireland’s political history has ties to this prison. The last prisoner released from Kilmainham was Eamon DeValera, who escaped execution for his part in the Easter Uprising only because he had been born in America. DeValera was Taoiseach (their version of a Prime Minister) of Ireland and after that President, and actually officiated at the opening of the Kilmainham Gaol as a tourist destination. He certainly came a long way and must have had some very interesting emotions at that opening!

Excellent tour.

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Categories: Bookish Things
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