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