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  • Day7

    Kilmainham Gaol

    October 22, 2018 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    So after going to my cousins house last night, and sleeping amazingly well, I had an almost luxurious and highly relaxing morning. I was able to do laundry, thank goodness, have breakfast, and I even got in some reading. Now, I've been told by at least four people that I need to see Kilmainham Gaol, the historic jail in Dublin. It's so popular you actually have to book ahead, and I was fortunate enough to get a tour at 1:30, the earliest available. This is supposed to be one of the most interesting and informative places in Dublin, at least according to those telling me to visit. Even those who live locally come for the tours. Now this place is almost all the way on the other side of Dublin from my cousins house, so I figured, instead of crunching time by taking a bus I'll hop in a taxi, so I had to download the app (like a local) and make my way over with time to spare. Every taxi driver I've had while here has been extremely friendly, even pointing out landmarks along the way.

    Here are some of the things I learned while on the tour: Kilmainham is over 200 years old, and was an active jail from 1796 to 1924. While open there was no separation between types of prisoners, or between men women and children, many including political prisoners. The west wing is the oldest section of the jail, each room intending to hold one one person, but when it was most crowded rooms would have up to five. Gas lines were added to the west wing in late 1840's, and were first added in the infirmary in 1845. Kilmainham suffered severe overcrowding, partially due to the vagrancy act of 1847. Some of the youngest who were imprisoned were as young as five years old. Only the condemned man's cell housed one occupant at a time. The victorian wing opened in 1862 and overcrowding became less of a problem. The panopticon design was meant to let in light, said to be cleansing, as well as so they could all be watched at the same time. There even used to be carpet along the floor so prisoners couldn't hear the guards coming to check on them. After walking through the jail we were lead to the exercise yard. Early on in the history it was fairly easy to escape due to lack of security, or guards could be bribed; in fact, in 1921 three men were able to escape with the help of two guards and smuggled bolt cutters. The last place we saw during the tour was the stonebreakers yard, which is not visible from any windows from the jail, and that's perhaps why it was the chosen location for 14 executions after the Easter uprising. This was an amazing, highly informative, and incredibly somber tour.
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