This jail had a very authentic feel to it, and one of the few tourist attractions in Dublin that was not crowded. Before entering the jail, there was an exhibit which provided a ton of information about Dublin's history. A guided tour was included in the price of admission, as well as a short film about the jail's history. I really enjoyed my visit, and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in Irish history.
Kilmainham Goal opened in 1789 and was hailed as a forerunner in design for modern prisons. The design allowed for greater supervision of prisioners in that the circular ends of the building provided better vision for the guards. Many modern day prisions use this basic design.
The goal was used during the rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867, 1883, 1916. It was here that the 14 leaders of the Easter Rising were imprisioned and subsequently executed by firing squad.
Eamon de Valera was imprisioned here and released in 1924 shortly before the Goal closed permanently. Eamon was eventually elected President of Ireland.
During the 19th century famine years over 7,000 men and women were packed into the cells.
Entry to the Goal is cheap and includes a guided tour. We travelled to the Goal on the Hop On Hop Off Bus.
If you've any interest in history, and you must or you wouldn't be here...WOULD you?!?!...do yourself a favor and visit Kilmainham Jail. It's a bit off the beaten track, not a very short walk from midtown, but if you do manage to find it on your own, rest assured there are buses from around the corner which will easily deposit you back at Temple Bar in a heartbeat. It was built back in the late 18th century and was in use to some degree clear through to the 1920's. You don't even have to know a lot about it or anything about it really, before you go, you have to take a guided tour anyway and will emerge with your head stuffed with facts and figures fleshed out by real stories on real people. And when you get home, you'll have to put Michael Collins and In the Name of the Father on your DVD rental list.
One of the myriad of historical facts and figures you hear here, which you should definitely keep in mind as you cross the threshold on your way out: This intricately carved doorway with the fancy mythical creatures, this is the site of Kilmainham's gallows for a good many years. And you are there. Brrrrr.
Kilmainham jail remains one of the most poiniant reminders of the violent birth of the Irish nation.
The extreme group of nationalists responsible for the Pheonix park murders, known as 'The Invincibles' were executed here by William Marwood. This famous executioner (he would not use the term 'hangman') from Horncastle in Lincolnshire, UK relished his work. His 'calling card' can still be seen in the museum sextion inside the jail.
The leaders of the uprising of 1916 were also imprisoned here and faced the firing squad rather than the noose. The compulsory tour the jail dwells on the stories and row of cells that held these men.
In particular the tragic story of Joseph Mary Plunkett , the poet is told in some detail. He was at 28, the youngest to sign the declaration of independence at the GPO (general post office), and his fate was sealed. On the final night he married his childhood sweetheart Mary Gifford. His 'honeymoon' consisted of the grand total of 10 minutes in his cell - and even then they wern't left alone to consumate the marriage. It would be nice to think that a blind eye was turned - but I doubt it.
Kilmainham Gaol functioned as a rigorous house of punishment and correction from 1796 to 1924.Leaders of every Irish rebellion between 1798 and 1916 were incarcerated here.We took a 45 minute guided tour which shows you how the prison was run,the prisioners and conditions,there was no heating in the prison so take a jacket with you,some parts of the tour are awful they show you the yard where they executed them,there is also a museum showing letters the prisioners sent which was heartbreaking.
It is worth giving yourself extra time when visiting, the museum is three stories high and has some fabulous information inside it.
This is the only part of the whole building that you can explore alone, the rest is by guided tour.
On our tour of the Goal there were many places of interest were highlighted relating to the Easter Week rebellion.
Some of these were the cells where the prisoners were kept, the plaque detailing the names of those executed within the goal, and the Cross in the courtyard indicating where executions took place.
If ever there was a sterotype of how the inside of an old-fashioned prison should look, then Kilmainham jail fits the bill.
The cells extend over four stories or so, built around a central couryard. the room is glass lined, which gives great natural light inside. This design also means that prison warders can easily 'scan' the whole area in moments. The warders used the central broad iron staicase, to move around the jail, whilst the prisoners had a much more enclosed, narrow and steep spiral staircase to use. It really is a masterpiece of design.
It is therefore not surprising that the jail has been used in a whole range of films and TV programmes over the years. It features in 'The name of the father' and 'Michael Collins' but also rather more oddly in 'The Face of Fu Manchu'.
In one of my favourites films, 'The Italian Job' (the original, not the silly Hollywood re-make) the jail was used for the famous Jail scene where the Crime-world boss Mr Bridger (played by Noel Coward) accepts the praise of the prisoners banging their plates on the bannisters following the news that the heist in Turin was a success.
Mr Bridger had given the go-ahead for the raid from inside the jail with the words "Well I hope he likes Spagetti, they serve if four times a day in Italian prisons"
This unoccupied jail is something of a sobering experience, expecially as most people come here just before or after a visit from the nearby Guinness Brewery.
The site hosted many recent film shoot, notably "In the Name of the Father". The old Victorian building hosts an excellent exposition about the Irish struggle for freedom throughout the 19th and early 20th century. Some of the stories are harrowing and the fact that you're actually there, makes it all the more realistic.
It worth the effort of catching a bus from town and see a less romantic (but infinitely more realistic) part of Ireland's turbulent past.
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