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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Kilmainham Gaol


Kilmainham Gaol
Victorian Wing
Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol (sometimes spelt Kilmainham Jail) is a former prison, located in Inchicore in Dublin, which is now a museum.

Kilmainham Gaol has played an important part in Irish history, as many leaders of Irish rebellions were imprisoned and some executed in the jail. The jail has also been used as a set for several films.

When it was first built in 1796, Kilmainham Gaol was called the 'New Gaol' to distinguish it from the old jail it was intended to replace - a noisome dungeon, just a few hundred metres from the present site. Over the 140 years it served as a prison, its cells held many of the most famous people involved in the campaign for Irish independence. The leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were held and executed here, and the last prisoner held in the jail was Eamon de Valera.

Children were sometimes arrested for petty theft, the youngest said to be a seven year-old boy, while many of the adult prisoners were deported to Australia.

Kilmainham Gaol was abandoned as a jail in 1924, by the government of the new Irish Free State. Following lengthy restoration, it now houses a museum on the history of Irish nationalism and offers guided tours of the building.

Source: Wikipedia

Exhibition links friends who shared cell in Kilmainham

A MAJOR exhibition currently taking place in Kilmainham Jail has strong Carlow connections. “Kilmainham Suite”, an exhibition of paintings by Sally Smyth, which was opened by Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands Minister, Sile de Valera, on October 20, features works by the well known painter, whose mother, May Gibney, was a prisoner in the jail during the Civil War in 1923.

As a child, in l938, Sally was brought round the East Wing of the prison by her mother who pointed out her Civil War cell on the first floor. Sixty years later the memory of Sally’s mother became the catalyst for the exhibition.

A large number of people from Carlow attended the opening of the exhibition, including Mr. Michael Purcell, son of the late Esther Purcell (nee Snoddy), who shared a cell in Kilmainham with the artist’s mother. Following her release in 1923, May travelled to Carlow to meet with Mrs. Purcell and fellow Cumann na mBan members. On one such visit she met Lar O’Neill, an officer in the Carlow Brigade of the IRA, whom she had previously met during the Easter Rising. In 1929 they married and moved to Dublin.

Over the years she lost touch with Mrs. Purcell and another Carlow woman, Bridie Ryan (nee Brophy), Tullow Street, who had also been imprisoned in Kilmainham. It wasn’t until 1981 that Mrs. Purcell and May Gibney, met in Carlow for the first time in 58 years.

That came about following a chance meeting in the National Museum between Mrs. Gibney and another Carlowman, Padraig O’Snodaigh, the then keeper of antiquities in the National Museum. She had gone there to correct the 1916 Roll of Honour for those who had occupied the GPO during the Easter Week Rising.

Shortly afterwards, May died and the Cumann na mBan flag made in Kilmainham jail by Mrs. Purcell and others during their imprisonment was used during her military funeral. Six years later Mrs. Purcell died, thus ending the living link with those who had been imprisoned there during the Civil War.

Also at the launch of the exhibition was Carlow historian Seamus Murphy and his daughter, Ann. For many years Seamus was custodian of the flag before he presented it to Kilmainham Jail in 1996 where it now hangs alongside Sally Smyth’s exhibition

Source: Phil Cleary


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