Last Monday, Ms Broderick’s class visited Kilmainham Gaol. Our tour started at the front gates of Kilmainham Gaol. Here we were met by our friendly guide called Mick.
Mick began the tour by bringing us to the chapel inside the Gaol. Here he told us the captivating story of how Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford were married just hours before Joseph was to be executed due to his participation in the 1916 Rising. Following this, we were led through the old and new parts of the Gaol.
As we walked through the Gaol, we were able to experience a real feeling of what life was like for a prisoner in Kilmainham. The cold and dampness that the prisoners must have felt was evident as there were many windows and no proper heating system in the prison at the time. Our guide informed us that prisoners mainly survived on porridge, bread and stew. He also told us that prisoners were kept in their cells for 23 hours per day and were only allowed one hour to exercise and empty their chamber pots!
When we reached the East Wing of the Gaol, many of the cells were open. There were many plaques stating the prisoners’ names that would have slept in these cells during the 1916 Rising. Some of these were Joseph Plunkett, Eamon De Valera, Edward Daly and Countess Markievicz. The children were fascinated to see the size of the cells.
Another famous cell inside the prison is that of Grace Gifford. She was imprisoned during the Civil War, after her husband’s death, for her promotion of Sinn Féin policies through her work as an artist. The cell in which she slept contains a painting of the The Blessed Virgin and the Christ Child.
Our tour ended in the Stonebreakers’ Yard. Our guide explained to us that it was in the Stonebreakers’ Yard that fourteen of the leaders of the 1916 Rising were executed in May 1916. Today this is commemorated by a plaque and two crosses in the Yard.