Dublin · Eastern Rising · Kilmainham Gaol

Dublin: The Dark History of Kilmainham Gaol, Part 2

Initially, the Irish public were against the 1916 rebellion, but when they heard of the conditions of how the rebels were treated and executed, the tides turned.

Other stories: 

One of those captured were the Pearse brothers. The elder Pearse was the one who declared that Ireland should be a Republic, and he knew he would have the harder, harsher sentence. His younger brother, William, played a smaller role. In his letter to his mother (a goodbye note), he wrote that she should not worry, and that William will take care of her if something happens to him. William was promised to see his older brother in prison before his execution, but as he was making his way to the cell, he heard the shot that killed his brother. The next day, William Pearse was put on trial, and was also sentenced to death.

Possibly one of the saddest stories, and one that could have turned the rebellion sympathies their way, was O’Connelly’s story. He was the poor injured man taken to Dublin Castle to be treated. When the doctors deemed it a useless case, it was decided to go ahead with his execution. Many of his fellow rebels were taken out behind the jail in a yard surrounded by the high stone walls of the prison, forced down to their knees. Some feet away a firing squad were ready, 6 standing and 6 kneeling. The prisoner would have a white cloth on his heart to indicate the target.

Because of his injury, O’Connelly couldn’t even kneel properly. He was put on a chair, but even then,  he could not sit straight. He was then roped to make him sit still on the chair before the squad were given the signal.

New Extension of
the prison

These are some of the stories. Moving on to the newer part of the jail, it was more spacious, airer, and give the guards a more observant perch. One of the cells was where Grace Plunkett was put in, as she was anti-treaty (the treaty that divided Ireland). She was an artist, turned propaganda artist in her political belief. In her cell, she drew the Virgin and her baby. In one of the other cells, was one future president of Ireland. This part of the jail was run by the Irish— possibly the only time they did. They were sympathetic to the prisoners though. The enviroment was much better, with prisoners given freedom to go to the loo outside of their cells. There was also chapel and the one hour mandatory exercise.

Exercise Yard 

The prison was closed after the Irish civil war was over in 1924. The jail was a symbol of horrific stories and the dark times that overtook Irish history. It was reopened in the 1960s, with a small group of volunteers were convinced that the place may have had bad memories to the Irish, but because of it, it was a treasure in Irish history.

A former prisoner of Kilmaingham Goal, and then president in the 1980s commemorated the opening the jail again as a tourism site.

I think I mentioned earlier– this was one of my favorite places because it made me understand Ireland a little better, and it made me sympathize and love this place a little more. Their history is always filled with gaining their own independence from England, and they only did it not so long ago. I haven’t even seen the beautiful places, or the nearby cities or towns, with their hospitable people and their yummy homemade breakfasts- and I look forward to going there again. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *