On Monday 1st April 2019 the three 5th classes travelled to Dublin to visit Kilmainham Gaol, having spent some time learning about the 1916 Rising and the Irish War of Independence. We left school at 9am on two buses and took an all important pit-stop in Apple Green on the M11 for some treats!
On arrival to Kilmainham Gaol we noticed that it was situated very close to Pheonix Park in Dublin City. We met our tour guides, Mick and Adam who led us straight to the church where Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford got married before Joseph was executed. Here we are in the chapel:
In the chapel we learned about how Kilmainham Gaol actually opened far before 1916. It opened in 1796 and it's walls have witnessed several Irish rebellions, the Great Famine, the 1916 Easter Rising and the War of Independance, as well as the Irish Civil War. That's a lot of prisoners...
Kilmainham Gaol held both political prisoners and also criminal prisoners, meaning both people on strike, standing up for their country and thieves were punished together in one jail.
In the chapel, we also learned that Kilmainham Gaol housed both adults and children. The youngest ever prisoner there was only 5 years old. As we walked around the prison we noticed that the heavy cell doors had peep holes at adult level but also at a lower level so that the guards could check on the children.
As we began our walk around the prison, we noticed that above some doors there were names of very famous Irish people. Some cells have been positively identified to have held certain people. Here are some cells that we found:
We found out some very interesting facts about some of the famous people that were held and/or killed in Kilmainham Gaol including;
James Connolly was the last leader to be killed, sitting down as he was very ill at the time. He was never actually held in Kilmainham Gaol.
Countess Markievicz was held but not killed in Kilmainham Gaol as she was a woman. She went on to join the Sinn Féin political party and became the first female politician ever! She was the first female politician to ever sit in Westminster, London.
James Larkin & James Connolly were people who faught for workers rights & alongside trade unions. They became members of the Irish Citizens Army, like many of the Rising leaders.
Padraig Pearse actually had a brother who was also involved in 1916 Rising and was held in a cell right next to Padraig in 1916. His name was Willie. Padraig was a great lover of the Irish language, he was a writer and a poet. Pearse wrote in both Gaeilge & Béarla. He founded a school in Ranelagh, Dublin in 1908 along with other leaders. He created the seanfhocal (proverb) that we still use today: Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam. This means that a country with no language is a country with no spirit.
We also learned that Charles Steward Parnell was held in Kilmainham Gaol for 8 months without any trial. However, his cell was a lot different to the cells of other prisoners.
From these pictures, we can see that Charles Steward Parnell's cell had a fire, gas lighting & a lot of furniture.. He must have known the guards!
It is very different to this cell in the old block:
There are a lot of different types of corridors in Kilmainham Gaol and we learned why. There were very small narrow corridors in some of the older parts and also some very old staircases made from concrete. We found these hard to walk on as they were uneven.
In a newer area of the prison there were corridors that part of the floor was actually made from a very strong wire gauge. We wondered why this was and our fantastic tour guide Mick was able to tell us that this was a new idea at the time. The wire flooring allowed one guard to stand on the ground floor and be able to see all 16 cells on his own floor but also the 16 cells above him. We thought that this was a very clever idea because it allowed for less guards to be employed at the time.
This was actually a very famous corridor too. People like Padraig Pearse, Joseph Plunkett, Countess Markievicz, Willie Pearse & Tomas Clarke were all imprisoned along this corridor.
The newest type of corridor in Kilmainham is probably the one that we are most familiar with. It is more of a huge room than a corridor and is a lot bigger that the rest. This is the panopticon.
From a certain spot on the bottom floor of the panopticon the guard would be able to keep watch over all 96 cells. Another very clever idea!
It was in this newly built hall that Eamon De Valera & Grace Gifford were held.
Our part of the tour was outside, first to the exercise yard and then to Stonebreakers Yard.
In the exercise yard Mick instructed us to walk around in a circle, one after the other. He said that we must be at least 3 feet apart and look down at the shoes of the person in front the entire time. Mick said that all of this exercise must be done in silence. When we stopped Mick told us that this is how the guards used to make the children in Kailmainham Gaol exercise everyday for at least 1 hour, in complete silence. Here we are demonstrating:
We walked through a gate to Stonebreakers Yard where we had to be very quiet & solemn. This is where many people were executed and so we had to make sure to show complete respect.
We immediately saw that there is a tricolor flying in Stonebreakers Yard.
We were surprised that it was not very big. Two black crosses stand in the ground at either end.
The cross nearest to the outer walls of the prison is where James Connolly was killed on . He was never held in Kilmainham and was brought straight from hospital to Kilmainham and shot sitting down as he was so ill and weak at the time.
At the opposite end we could see where all the other leaders had been killed. These men were: Padraig Pearse, Thomas Clarke & Thomas McDonagh on 3/5/1916. Joseph Plunkett, Edward Daly, Michael O Hanrahan & Willie Pearse on 4/5/1916. John MacBride on 5/5/1916. Con Colbert, Eamon Ceannt, Michael Mallin & Seán Heuston on 8/5/1916. Seán MacDiarmada & James Connolly on 12/5/1916.
When we were finished with the tour Mick brought us to the museum where there are three floors and we had a little while to look around. This museum was very modern and had lots to listen to and read, including an original copy of Poblacht na hÉireann. This is now worth €250, 000! When we finished in the museum we walked back to the bus and made the journey home. It is safe to say that we learned a huge amount on our trip to Kilmainham Gaol. We had learned all about it before we left but we think that actually seeing this historical place made it easier to understand what happened in 1916. We found it great that we had a real tour guide that we could ask questions to, they knew so much about the history of our country! We would definitely recommend to a friend!
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