Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Abandon hope all ye who enter here" - Dante

Yesterday, Tom and I went to visit Kilmainham Goal, otherwise known as Kilmainham Jail. This was the place that I most wanted to visit in Dublin, and one that I was urged to visit by my Uncle Brian, the family expert on Ireland. I am almost intimidated to write about it, as there is so much to say. So much to say about things that mean so much. Let's see how it goes.

First, I want to mention that Tom took the day off yesterday, and we had a "date day". It went by too quickly, but it was really nice.

Kilmainham opened in 1796, and closed in 1924 and "more or less coincided with the making and the breaking of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland" (Kilmainham Jail publication). The prisoners included the poorest of people, the bravest of revolutionaries and the youngest of children.

From 1845-until 1852 during the Great Famine, many people found the deficient shelter and paltry food a better option than what they were experiencing and committed crimes to land themselves in Kilmainham.

Robert Emmet was jailed for high treason for his part in the 1803 rebellion. He famously declared: "When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth. then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written". His cell is marked and remembered in the jail today.

After the Easter Rising, the 6 day rebellion organized by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, 16 of it's leaders were executed by firing squad in the stonebreakers yard of Kilmainham Jail. Two Crosses mark where the men stood.

I am so grateful that this jail is maintained so that I can have some very small idea about what happened here, and why, and what it must have been like. The associations between the Jail and the Irish Rebellions are remarkable, and a wonderful way to learn about them. I have included just a couple of tidbits, but be sure readers of this blog, you have not heard the word Kilmainham for the last time!

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