Kilmainham Gaol Museum

I promised you a look around the museum at Kilmainham Gaol, and as this post is in effect Kilmainham Gaol Part Two, it comes fairly swiftly after the first. 

The museum at the gaol is a must, despite my sometime aversion to such places (which is really nothing to do with museums per se, and simply because I would rather be out in the field), and what’s more it is not too small, nor too big, so it doesn’t take too long to look around.  The following photos are some of my highlights.

This diary belonged to an unknown British soldier who spent the week of the Rising in Beggars Bush Barracks, getting in ‘over the wall’ on Monday 24th April (a day that started, as normal, with a route march), and remaining there for the week.  Note the S[inn] F[einn] Rising annotation in the margin.

The caption card accompanying the uniform on the left of this display,…

…visible top right in the photograph below, tells us the following: ‘Soon after the founding of the Volunteers a uniform sub-committee was formed. It reported on 12 August 1914, recommending that it be made of a grey-green serge material. The uniform was to consist of a tunic with rolled collar, breeches and puttees. Head dress could be either a peaked cap or a hat pinned up on one side (consciously modelled on the Boer or Cronje hat). For financial reasons, the Volunteer organisation was unable to supply a uniform to every member. Consequently members who could afford it had their uniforms made by their tailor, leading to considerable variation in colour and design.’

James Foran’s Irish Volunteer hat; Foran fought in the South Dublin Union during the Rising, and was sent to England for internment following his arrest.

On the right of the same display, another uniform, this one ‘Worn by Annie Cooney at the age of twenty while stationed at Marrowbone Lane during the Rising. She made the uniform herself, which she finished on Good Friday, three days before the Rising began. In the accompanying photograph (below) she is wearing her friend Con Colbert’s hat. After the Rising she was arrested and held in Kilmainham until 8th May. She was later to be one of the few women imprisoned during the War of Independence, serving one month in Mountjoy Prison in March 1921’, according to the caption.

The small booklet in the centre…

…is a Citizen Army member’s card, dated 1917-18.

You can enlarge all these photos to see items I have not commented on if you wish, but in the centre of this picture…

…is an undated mobilisation order issued by James Connolly to the Irish Citizen Army.  Connolly, you will remember from last post, was executed in the prison Stonebreaker’s Yard despite suffering from serious injuries received during the fighting at the GPO.

Irish Volunteers enrolment form.

The hat and gloves are part of the Cumann na mBan uniform belonging to Sheila Humphreys; bottom left, Cumann na mBan membership cards.  Cumann na mBan was an Irish republican women’s paramilitary organization formed in Dublin in April 1914, later, in 1916, becoming an ancillary of the Irish Volunteers.

Copy of the charge facing him, written out by Sean Heuston before his trial; ‘Did an act, to wit, did take part in an armed rebellion and the waging of war against His Majesty the King, such act being prejudicial to the Defence of the Realm and being committed with the intention and for the purpose of assisting the enemy.’

Artefacts relating to Joe Plunkett…

…including a lock of his hair in the centre, his wife Grace’s scrapbook on the right,…

…and his letter of proposal to her, dated December 1915.  Joe Plunkett & Grace Gifford were married in Kilmainham prison chapel the night before he was shot, and if you remember, last post we saw Grace’s cell in the gaol’s East Wing during her own incarceration in 1923.

Articles associated with the first three men to be executed, Patrick Pearse, Tom Clarke & Thomas MacDonagh, all on 3rd May 1916.  In the top right hand corner…

…an official copy, whatever that is, of Pearse’s last letter to his mother, dated the day of his death.

4th May saw the executions of Willie Pearse, Michael O’Hanrahan, Joseph Plunkett & Edward Daly,…

…and 5th May saw the death of John MacBride.

Four more executions took place on 8th May 1916; Eamonn Ceantt, Sean Heuston, Con Colbert & Michael Mallin,…

…and the final two executions at Kilmainham, those of Sean McDermott (top shelf – his name card is obscured in the photo) and the injured James Connolly, took place on 12th May 1916.

In the meantime, on May 9th 1916, a fifteenth man, Thomas Kent, had been executed by firing squad at Cork Detention Barracks, hence his absence from the display here.

The Catholic Bulletin for May 1916 published five blank pages for its editorial, mere words failing to express the grief felt at the executions.

The execution of Sir Roger Casement, the sixteenth and final man to die, took place when he was hanged at Pentonville Prison, London, on 3rd August 1916.

A scene in Stafford Jail in England after the Rising, a young Michael Collins, who had fought in the GPO, at the back, fifth from right.

Supporting the internees after the Rising.

In the centre of this display, an exercise book belonging to Joe McHenry, active in both the War of Independence & the Civil War, containing details of explosives equipment and the use of.  The little ring just above the book, inscribed ‘Dick, Peadar 21 Nov 1920’ belonged to the fiancée of Dick McKee who, along with Peadar Claney & Conor Clune, were killed on Bloody Sunday 1920.  Active in 1916, and throughout the following conflicts, May Gibney was imprisoned in Kilmainham during the Civil War; she wore the ring all her life.  The shoe and braces were worn by Sean Tracey on 14th October 1920, the day he was killed in a shootout with British intelligence officers and soldiers on the streets of Dublin.

Autograph books kept by Republican prisoners in Kilmainham in 1921.

The little photograph album belonged to Republican prisoner C. J. Daly and contains 67 photos illicitly taken between September & December 1921 with a smuggled camera.

Civil War death cards.

Eamon de Valera’s bedtime reading, Arbour Hill Prison, 1923.

Oh no he didn’t!  Proof reader required.  No, I don’t need one, but the museum certainly does!

Scapular taken from the body of Michael Collins after his death,…

…and a lock of his hair, removed at the post-mortem.

Book belonging to Hazel, Lady Lavery, containing a bloodstained letter written by Michael Collins to her which was removed from his body after his assassination.

The Dublin Evening Telegraph, 7th December 1921.

Left to right: Patrick Pearse’s mother’s copy of the Peace Treaty, dated 14th December 1921; Typescript of Michael Collins’s speech on the Treaty, 21st December 1921; Peace Negotiations document, June-September 1921.

Thompson sub-machine gun, serial no. 232 and dated 1921, one of the earliest of these famous guns.

British steel bullet proof vest, as worn by members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police between 1919 & 1921, and on the right,…

…hidden weapons.

Two detonators (centre & bottom right) used to set off an explosion during an attack on the military barracks in Dundalk during the War of Independence.  The other item on the right is a rifle rack for a bicycle taken from a British soldier who was stopped and disarmed near Mooncoin, County Kilkenny.

Keys to the Four Courts.

Model of Kilmainham Jail.  If you were with us last post, the Panopticon (East Wing) is at the rear to the left, and the Stonebreaker’s Yard in the foreground on the right.

Items, all dated 1909, associated with the rise of the women’s movement in Ireland,…

…including, in the centre, a booklet based on a lecture given by Countess Constance Markievicz.

Death mask of Robert Emmet, Irish nationalist, Republican and rebel leader, executed by the British for high treason in 1803.  It belonged to the nationalist and feminist campaigner Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, who was imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol during the Land War of the 1880s, and who would later hide the mask from the Black & Tans whenever her home was raided during the War of Independence.

This appears to be a piece of the original trapdoor from what is referred to as the ‘hanghouse’.  And what would a prison need quicklime for, I wonder – ah, making cement, of course.  Must be that.

We finish with a view of the River Liffey as it cuts its way through the centre of Dublin,…

…and one last look at Colonel Hally’s map, which I first introduced back in Part Three, and have been steadily adding locations to ever since.  Here’s the final version, with Kilmainham Gaol added in salmon pink, near Richmond Barracks, in the bottom left quarter.

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6 Responses to Kilmainham Gaol Museum

  1. Nigel Shuttleworth says:

    Terrific post Magicfingers – love it! The 4th image down from the top of a model of a yacht in the case, looks like the ‘Asgard’, the boat at the centre of the Howth gun-running incident in July 1914. The gaff-rigged Asgard was owned and helmed by Erskine Childers (author of that most prescient of novels ‘Riddle of the Sands’ pub 1903 – read it, one of the best spy novels ever, up there with The 39 Steps!) and it was those guns and ammunition which armed the Easter Uprising of 1916. Perhaps the more famous but unsuccessful gun running incident occurred during the Easter Uprising when Sir Roger Casement (ex British Diplomat who joined the Gaelic League in 1913, many of whose members went on to form the Irish Volunteers) tried to land 20,000 rifles, machine guns and ammo from the German freighter Libau on the beach at Banna Strand, just to the north of Tralee. The Royal Navy intercepted the ship and Casement was executed as a traitor. Sally and I walked the length of Banna Beach, behind which was a huge caravan site to rival anything at Skeggy called . . . Sir Roger Casement Caravan Park’. What ignominy!

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thanks very much indeed Nigel. Glad you enjoyed this one. I reckon you are right about the Asgard – well spotted. It seems the boat still exists:
      I bet Sally was delighted when you told her you were off to walk Banna Beach – were you there because of Casement, or just by coincidence?

      • Nigel Shuttleworth says:

        We were staying in a cottage in the middle of a bog just the other side of Tralee, and went to Banna Strand to see the Roger Casement monument. I have an abiding admiration for Eire, the countryside, the culture but above all the friendliest most welcoming people on whom us British have shat consistently and with determination for the last 370 years.

  2. Debby Orange says:

    Just read with interest your post on Kilmainham Gaol. Under the copy of Pearse’s last letter to his mother you say this is an official copy whatever that is. This would have been made my grandfather who was stationed there and was the records officer. It was his job to make copies of all the prisoners letters. He must have struck up something of a relationship with Pearse because he gave my grandfather the pen that he wrote all his communications with. Sadly my grandfather died quite young and the pen was returned by my grandmother to Mary Pearse.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Debby. Now that is most interesting. I much appreciate you taking the trouble. And now I know. Fascinating stuff, and thank you again!

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