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Scared Straight at Kilmainham by Ann Treacy
December 10, 2007, 6:46 pm
Filed under: Dublin

Saturday we had a very fun lunch at the GastroPub, the same place we ate on Friday night. We went with everyone – including Fearghal and Irish Grandma. It was nice and sunny. The atmosphere was very relaxed and the food was excellent, again. (The picture below is Kate eating – or rather not eating – a mussel.)

Then we ventured to part two of the scariest tours in Dublin. We went to Kilmainham Gaol. Just to provide the backdrop… it was a dark and stormy night. Actually it wasn’t too stormy or night – but it was a dark, cold evening. We just made the last tour of the jail, which started at 4:45.

Kilmainham is/was a jail built in 1796. Prior to Kilmainham jails were just big rooms where they put everyone who was arrested. The goal at Kilmainham was to keep the prisoners separate, silent, and supervised. Originally I think it was built for about 77 people – with one person per cell. In it’s height there were 8 people in each cell.

Their busiest times historically were during various Irish uprisings and during the famine. During the famine some people went to jail because they thought they would be fed. Some were arrested for crimes such as stealing bread. Eight apparently was the age of reason; at age eight you could work and go to jail. I told Kate if it were 1847 she’d have only 2 months of freedom left.

Sadly 183 people were executed at Kilmainham. I won’t go into details but public executions were made illegal here in the mid1800’s.

The most famous prisoners at Kilmainham were the leaders of the 1916 uprising. Many of the Irish leaders were executed there by the British. Those executions really turned the public opinion of the uprising.

The prison was closed in 1924 and is now run as a museum. The tour guide we had was fascinating. There was/is no heat at Kilmainham. There are no glass windows. It was built on top of a hill so that the wind would whip right through it – the though being that would also kill many of the germs.

Each cell is small and creepy. Each cell has a peep hole so that the guard could watch the prisoners at any time of the day or night. (In the museum they have a demo cell with a peep hole. When you look through it you see a prisoner who seems to interact with you. I’m pretty sure that was the cause for the nightmares last night. It was eerie!)

The Victorian Wing (the newer wing) was built above the kitchen so it was warmer than the old wing. Silence was maintained and the prisoners never saw each other but they figured out a way to tap to each other (using Morse Code?) over the water pipes. This part of the prison has been used in several films, including In the Name of the Father and Michael Collins.

Patrick is not allowed to choose our Sunday destination for at least a month. Although I must admit I found the jail very interesting.

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[…] do much today. We managed to get it together to have lunch in Dun Laoghaire. We ate at the GastroPub. Once again Kate considered eating a mussel through the whole meal. Once again she didn’t do it. […]

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