March 28 800 pm
Today was just non stop, plus I spent the entire day with David, so I felt it might be a little rude to pull out my notebook and start writing rather than talking to him, lol. I’ve just showered and now I’m sitting in my bunk bed attempting to write it all down before I go to sleep and forget everything I’ve done today.
This morning I slept in as much as I could, until some rowdy Germans in my room woke me up. I left for the gaol around 1030. I ended up walking the entire way, which took around 45 minutes and led me through some neat residential areas of Dublin.
The Gaol was incredible. Over 200 years old, it still stands monolithic over the bustle of the surrounding area (hilton hotel included), dark and forbidding. The entrance resembles something from a medieval dungeon, and two different colored stones flank it, set high in the stone wall where two long posts once jutted out for public hangings.
I arrived within ten minutes of the next tour, and spent the time meandering through the museum. There was a plethora of information on the history of the jail, but I didn’t pay too close attention, knowing my guided tour would be all that and more.
Quick sidenote–some forty year old foreign man just came in the room wearing only a button down shirt and shoes. NO PANTS. He then proceeded to wander aimlessly around the dorm room muttering to himself in a foreign language, pausing to contemplate the walls. Yeah. That just happened.
I learned an amazing amount about Ireland’s troubled past during my hour long tour. The guide welcomed us in the Irish language, which was very atmospheric. We visited the chapel and learned of one of the rebel leaders of the 1916 uprising, who upon hearing he was to be executed, pleaded for the British government to allow him to marry his sweetheart (Their names are escaping me. I heard a LOT of names on this tour, please forgive me.) So 4 hours before his execution they were wed in the little chapel of the prison and immediately seperated for two hours. After that time apart, they were allowed ten minutes time together in his cell under the watchful eye of several British soldiers, one of whom held a pocket watch and counted down each minute. After ten minutes she was forced to leave, never to see him again as he was executed just two short hours later. She never remarried.
We visited the wing of the prison where all approx 15 of the rebel leaders were housed after the Easter uprising of 1916. A few were eventually pardoned due to the nature of the last execution (I’ll get to that) but many were executed.
The main wing we visited was created in a form of prison shape that I can’t remember the name, but it means ‘all seeing eye’. It’s basically a gigantic room with 3 levels of walkways with cell doors opening off the walks. A guard could stand at the bottom in the center and look all around, seeing everything at once. It was a magnificent place in size.
Quick story of the last execution–James Connolly. Connolly was wounded in the uprising, his leg shattered. He was arrested and quickly his leg became gangrenous, and he began to die anyway. But the British kept him alive to make an example of him. On the day of his execution, he had to be wheeled in a cart to the firing squad yard of Kilmainham (he had been housed at the hospital until this point). He couldn’t even stand on his own, he had to be strapped upright in a chair to be shot. When British aristocrats heard of this, they put an end to the executions, deeming them inappropriate and barbaric.
There were three major uprisings against the British, as well as the infamous Potato famine during the time of Kilmainham Gaol. It was a happening place that saw many criminals in horrible conditions, being subjected to busy work like seperating the strands of rope dipped in tar (as the ‘devil gives work to idle hands’). During the famine, people who lost their potatoes and subsequently couldn’t pay their rent, therefore losing their homes, were committing crimes just to be arrested. At least in jail, they were guaranteed shelter and a meager portion of food.
There were men, women, and children in the gaol. Until one Puritan, Briget Frey, got into an uproar about the conditions of females in prisons, the women in Kilmainham were exploited for sex. The children could be in there for their actions, like one young girl who stole a shawl to stay warm and was placed in Kilmainham for five months. If a child’s only caretaker(s) were arrested, the child went to gaol with the parents, since (s)he had no place else to go.
Needless to say, Kilmainham Gaol saw a lot of horrors, death, despair, and sickness in it’s time, due to poor conditions and violent rebellions. At one time during the famine, the 101 cell gaol (each cell meant for one prisoner, and thus that in size) held 9000 people. Just walking through the dreadfully cold, ill lit, echoing monstrosity is enough to send chills through to your soul. Thanks to the knowledgeable tour guide, who obviously cared enormously about his country’s past and heritage, my experience was deeply moving and infinitely sad. I felt the terror of the inmates sentenced to death and the helplessness of the children stuck in a place so hideous because of their parents. I love history, even the sad parts we all wish had never happened. To be so intimately involved in stories from Ireland’s past was the most amazing feeling I’ve had on my trip thus far.
I met up with David after a bus ride back to the hostel, and we ate a quick lunch at Subway. Yes, more American food, lol. What can I say? It reminds me of home. Then we walked to Grafton St which is a bit like a shopping district, and I got a cheapie Samsung ‘mobile’ as they call them here. Its a prepaid deal that’s gonna come in handy for my trip and using a phone card to call back home…i.e. to call Andrew
We went all the way to the Chimney Viewing Tower at Jameson’s (around 15 blocks) only to find it closed due to maintenance. Whoo hoo, one hour wasted. So we hopped a back street and took pictures of two beautiful cathedrals on the way to the Garden of Remembrance. It was quite beautiful but closed, lol. We took a couple pictures through the fence since we’d gone all the way there.
We rested on a bench on O Connell St (I’m getting to know the areas around O Connell St ridiculously well) for a while, both wore out from walking for over three hours straight. We headed back to Temple Bar and ate dinner at the Bad Ass Cafe–funny name, KICK ASS cheeseburger. While sitting in the Cafe, I noticed out the window a girl. She was wearing bright purple tights and a lime green see through skirt that resembled a tutu. I’m all about individuality and dressing how you like and such, but really? I wish I had taken a picture, it was heinous. We wandered Temple Bar a bit more and I returned to my hostel before the sun had even set, ready for bed.
Tomorrow, I’ll be taking a detour out of Dublin for the day to see a bunch of historical sights just north of the city. That narrative on Kilmainham? Unfortunately, I’ll probably be doing the same thing for four different sights tomorrow, lol. I’m pretty excited.
Now, to sleep!