There is a separate area in the Kilmainham Jail Museum where the last words uttered by the 14 leaders of the 1916 Easter Uprising who were executed, plus some photographs and documents.
The first sentence and last sentence spoken by the leader, James Connolly.------------I do not wish to make any defence except against charges of wanton cruelty to prisoners.-----------I personally thank God that I have lived to see the day when thousands of Irish men and boys, and hundreds of Irish women and girls, were ready to affirm that truth, and to attest it with their lives if need be.
MacDiarmada wrote the following words one hour before his execution---------------I, Seán MacDiarmada, before paying the penalty of death for my love of Ireland, and abhorrence of her slavery, desire to make known to all my fellow-counrtymen that I die, as I have lived, bearing to malice to any man, and in perfect peace with Almighty God. The principles for which I give my life are so sacred that I now walk to my death in the most calm and collected manner. I meet death for Ireland’s cause as I have worked for the same cause all my life.
Joseph Plunkett who married his sweetheart a few hours before his execution told the priest---------- “Father, I am very happy. I am dying for the glory of God and the honour of Ireland.
Thomas Clark's final words to his wife were for the Irish people------------I and my fellow-signatories believe we have struck the first successful blow for Freedom. The next blow, which we have no doubt Ireland will strike, will win through. In this belief we die happy.
Thomas Macdonagh issued a final statement----------------I have been actuated by one motive only, the love of my country, the desire to make her a sovereign independent state. I still hope and pray that my acts may have for consummation her lasting freedom and happines
The 14 leaders of the Easter Uprising in 1916 were all sentenced to death for their part in it. All 14 were shot by firing squad between the 3rd and 12th May 1916. James Connolly was the leader of the uprising and he was the last to be shot, but due to his wounds he was unable to stand up so he was tied to a chair. Actually these executions were a turning point in the Irish struggle for independence as public opinion quickly moved to support the independence movement as most of the Irish were disgusted by the executions. You can see the cross where Connolly was shot at one end of the prison yard. Most of the others were shot at the other end. Some of the members of the firing squad were given blanks so they could rest easier, thinking that they were not the ones who actually killed the prisoners. Plaques can be seen on the wall with the names of the executed men. The bodies were not returned to the relatives but they were thrown in a hole and lime thrown over the top to destroy them.
Unfortunately the East wing was closed for renovation work but the guide opened the door for a few minutes so we could look in and take a photograph. The East wing opened up in 1864 and was based on the design of Pentonville Prison, a 3 storey high, barrel vaulted space, lined on either side with a network of iron galleries and catwalks. Several movies were made here, including
The Quare Fellow, 1962
The Face of Fu Manchu, 1965 (starring Christopher Lee)
The Italian Job, 1969
The Mackintosh Man, 1973
The Last Remake of Beau Geste, 1977
The Whistle Blower, 1987
In the Name of the Father, 1993
Michael Collins, 1996
The Escapist, 2008 (starring Brian Cox)
The Wind That Shakes the Barley, 2006
The Adventures of the Young Indiana Jones (2000)- Love's Sweet Song
Perhaps Kilmainham Jail's most famous prisoner was Eamon de Valera who was in the prison three times. He was one of the leaders who struggled for Irish Independence, but was actually born in New York to an Irish mother. When his mother died when he was two his uncle took him to Ireland and in 1913 he joined the Irish Volunteers, but in 1916 he was court martialled and sentenced to death for his role in the Easter Uprising. His sentence was commuted and had to serve penal servitude for the rest of his life. He was the only leader of the rebellion that was not executed, possibly because he was a United States citizen. From Kilmainham jail he was sent to three different jails in England and later released in 1917 because of an amnesty. After that he was in and out of jail a couple of times, also spending some time in America but he eventually became the last political prisoner to walk out of Kilmainham Jail in 1924. He later became Prime Minister then President of Ireland. You can still see his name on the cell door today.
It was very interesting to see the cells where the prisoners were kept and they must have had a terrible time as it was dark and claustrophobic with damp corridors. At certain times the jail was overcrowded with 5 or more people in the small cell which was roughly 4 ft by 8 ft , if i remember correctly. Many famous political prisoners were held here but there were also young boys, women and girls who were sent there for stealing bread or minor crimes, particularly during the times of hunger. There was a hole in the wall where the gas light used to be kept, a small hole in the door so the guard could look in and inspect the prisoner.
Prisoners were allowed to spend a few minutes in the chapel with the priest before they were hanged. Notice that in the photo there is a door behind the altar where the prisoners would leave from before they were hanged. Many prisoners were hanged in public and sometimes taken to different parts of Dublin for their punishment. Later on some prisoners were hanged privately.
One of the famous stories is about Joseph Plunkett who was one of the planners of the Easter Uprising, although he was in hospital shortly before the uprising started, but he struggled out of bed, still in his bandages and took his place beside his compatriots at the post office. After the surrender he was arrested facing a court martial in Kilmainham Jail and sentenced to death by firing squad when he was only 28 years old. He was given permission to marry his childhood sweetheart in the chapel who was a converted Protestant to Catholicism. Unfortunately the marriage was not consummated as they led away his wife, Grace Gifford after the ceremony.
These were the scales that weighed the food that was given to the prisoners at Kilmainham Jail. Often the food was not enough and was not the best quality. Sometimes the food was rationed if the prisoners caused trouble, and often it was small quantities of meat, root vegetable, tea and jam.
As you enter Kilmainham Jail take a look above the door and you will see five snakes in chains that are intertwined. They are known as the five devils of Kilmainham and they either represent control or there is one snake for each crime that is punishable by death (according to our guide).
Kilmainham Jail was one of the places on my list that i planned to see when i was in Dublin, and i was not disappointed as visitors can only walk round the jail with a guide who gave some historical information and some interesting little stories too. The jail is one of the largest unoccupied jails in Europe and you will be told of the terrible events that took place in Ireland from 1780-1920. There is also an audio visual show that is well worth seeing. Unfortunately part of the jail was closed for renovation so the entrance fee was reduced to 4 euro (3 euro with senior citizen discount), but even so it was a bargain. There is a museum there too which is included in the fee and it is easy to spend an hour there, especially if you are familiar with the Irish Independence movement. The tour takes around 45 minutes so allow an hour and a half for a visit, even longer should you wish to have a snack in the cafe. Tours take place every 20 minutes (if i am remember correctly) and can be very popular so try and arrive early to avoid waiting so long.
Open all Year
April - September: Daily 09:30 - 18:00 (last admission at 17:00)
October - March: Mon -Sat 09:30 - 17:30 (last admission at 16:30)
Sunday: 10:00 - 18:00 (last admission at 17:00)
The Kilmainham Museum can be accessed before or after the guided tour of the jail. There are some truly amazing exhibits and some extremely poignant ones as well.
Here you will see letters written by some of the prisoners to their families before they were executed. There are some memorabilia concerning Michael Collins who was one of only two Rebellion leaders not to be held in Kilmainham Jail.
There are many fine examples of artistry, by some very talented prisoners and most especially some very witty cartoons on display. I could have spent many hours going through it all ( and I guess I did, although not as long as I would have liked).
The whole Kilmainham experience is well worth any effort one might make to get there and see it. the entry fee is really quite reasonable as well.
Kilmainham Gaol today enjoys a certain "celebrity status" as its guest register since it opened in 1796 and closed in 1924 boasts most of the famous political heroes of the fight for Irish Independence.
Names such as Eamon De Valera, Joseph Plunkett, Mrs Joseph Plunkett amongst many others can be found over cell doors throughout the prison.
The history of Kilmainham and the stories that are recorded there make for an extremely interesting tour and the gaol is perhaps amongst the most popular tourist attractions in Dublin.
April - September: Daily 09:30 - 18:00 (last admission at 17:00)
October - March: Mon -Sat 09:30 - 17:30 (last admission at 16:30), Sunday: 10:00 - 18:00 (last admission at 17:00)
Average Length of Visit: 1.5 hours
Closed on the 24th, 25th & 26th December
Don't be put off by the long queue as it moves reasonably quickly.
Kilmainham Jail or Kilmainham Gaol as it is known in Ireland is a former prison where the main rebellious leaders of the Irish Revolution were incarcerated. There is a small museum where you can look at various artefacts from people who were imprisoned. Unfortunately you are not allowed to wonder around the prison on your own, you must take a group guide. The guides are very knowledgable and cram a lot of information during the tour. There was also a lot of films and television programmes filmed in Kilmainham Jail. I would highly recommend a visit if you ever find yourself in Dublin.