It cost a fiver to go in, that includes a browse round the museum and then a guided tour of the prison. The tour lasts around an hour or so and it was really interesting tour, and although a lot of Irish history came up I thought the tour guide did a pretty good job of keeping it as simple as possible for all those furriners who know nothing :)
Of course, a jail isn’t really the most cheery of places, especially one that has seen quite a few executions, both hangings and shootings. We were shown into the exercise yard where the 1916 executions happened, and I’ll admit to wondering where all the bullet holes in the walls were. But we got an explanation, the soldiers would put sandbags behind the man to be shot, and these would absorb the 11 bullets.
And then of course there was the “oh-so-cheerful” story of Joseph Plunkett. I’m guessing that most of you non-Irishers out there haven’t heard of him?
Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford had planned to be married in Easter 1916, a date that was put in danger when Plunkett went for surgery just days before. But it was not his terminal disease that cancelled the wedding, instead it was the 1916 Rising. Instead Plunkett was sentenced to death for his part in the rising.
Hours before his execution was to be carried out Grace and Joseph were married in Kilmainham gaol’s small catholic church. No guests or witnesses were allowed to attend, save the soldiers, who kept Plunkett’s hands bound at all times apart from when he placed the ring on his wife’s finger. The couple were not allowed to say anything to each other, only their wedding vows.
After the wedding had taken place the couple were escorted to Plunkett’s cell, where they were allowed ten minutes together, under the supervision of two officers. With another soldier outside to keep track of the time.
There was a slight chance that Plunkett was to be reprieved, so after she left the gaol Grace remained in the area, waiting. If all remained quiet it meant that Joseph still lived. But she heard the shots that meant that he had been executed.
In later years Grace herself was held prisoner in Kilmainham Gaol, as a prisoner of the Irish government during the Civil War.
Now, I better go decide where I’m visiting next.