Kilmainham Gaol and another look at Dublin

The view out the window of our AirBnb room on George’s Quay, in central Dublin, right on the River Liffey.

Tara and I got up early and caught a city bus to the other side of downtown Dublin. On our second day Tara was feeling better so we could explore together, unlike yesterday. Our first brave thing on this trip had been taking the express bus from the airport and finding our way to the apartment without copping out and hiring a taxi. Our second brave thing was to take the city bus from the apartment to Kilmainham Gaol. We found out the bus we needed, and the stop, by using Google maps. But we didn’t know the fare. While we waited for our bus, we saw fares posted on the outside of a different bus, with a note to use exact change, which we didn’t have! So we hustled back to the main street, found a convenience store and asked for change for the bus, which the shopkeeper graciously complied with, no questions asked. Then we ran back to the bus stop just as our bus was arriving, and hopped on. We used the map on my phone to track our progress and hit the button to stop when we got close. As we thanked the driver, he pointed the direction we should walk for Kilmainham Gaol, and viola! We arrived on time, produced our tickets, and were ushered directly inside.

The Kilmainham Jail opened in 1796 and is important in Ireland for multiple reasons. First of all, it was the first jail to offer individual cells, men separated from women and children, and with a design of cells surrounding a central open area. Our guide explained that this was following the Panopticon design idea from Bentham, in which cells were arranged to make inmates more visible to the jailers.

The outside of Kilmainham Gaol
Walking the hallways inside.
Artwork done by famous inmate Grace Gifford Plunkett.
The open center of the jail – unlike any jail built before it.
Looking into the cells ringing the center.

The jail is currently most famous for its association with imprisonment of political activists, and with the execution of 14 men following the Easter Uprising in 1916. Prior to the trip I had been trying to educate myself on Irish political history and learned about the drastic turn of Irish public sentiment from predominantly neutral on the question of Irish independence, to predominantly in favor. This was because British Troops came in and rounded anyone up that was vaguely associated with the rebellion, or that they simply felt threatened by. They held courts-martial in secret and condemned 90 people to death. Then they began executing them, a few each day, in Kilmainham Jail. One of the Irish Republican leaders, James Connolly, was so injured and sick that he could not hold himself up, and had to be tied to a chair in order to be executed. The public became more agitated each day as they heard about the murders, and finally a stop was put to the executions because elections were coming up and this was not going to help current leaders get re-elected. Our tour guide said that in her opinion, the fallout from the Easter Uprising was the event that changed the tide of Irish history.

And there we were, in the very place where it happened.

Courtyard within the jail complex.
This is the wall at which 13 men were executed in May 1916.
Except for the flag, this is what they saw before they died…if they were not blindfolded. Connolly, the 14th man, was executed down at that end, since it would have been too much trouble to drag him from that door (where he arrived in a stretcher from the hospital) all the way to this end.

We ended the tour in a wonderful museum inside the grounds, and finally went out into Dublin once more. We caught a different bus back to the room, quite comfortable with public transportation already. 😉

I found it amusing to have a farm truck on the streets of Dublin.
Attractive bank building.
Temple Bar – don’t know why it’s famous, but lots of people were having their photos taken here.

We wandered the streets in the Temple Bar area, since that is the area around our room. We stumbled upon Dublin Castle, and passed on the tour, but happily explored the garden nearby.

Dublin Castle tucked out of sight between city blocks.
Tara in the garden behind Dublin Castle.
Dublin Castle from the garden.

While we were in the garden it began to rain pretty hard and we got wet and even colder. The temperature had been in the low 40s all day and we had about had enough. By the time we got back to the apartment, my fingers were so frozen I couldn’t feel them, and Tara had to get the key into the lock for me. We sat there and dried out a little while, then went back to Mulligan’s for a pint. This time we got to chatting with the bartender and enjoyed ourselves so much we stayed for a second. A patron gave me a hard time for not having a Guinness, and he said if I was going to have one anywhere in Ireland, I needed to have it there. I asked why, and the bartender explained (it has a lot to do with freshness, and exceptionally clean lines). We had earlier decided we weren’t hungry enough to have a Guinness because the beer is so heavy it makes us too full. But after the explanation, Tara and I were convinced.

Oh. I stand corrected. Guinness is a whole new thing if you have it from Mulligan’s. It’s a completely different drink. It’s not even beer, it’s so amazing. It’s a creamy, delicous liquid that’s in a whole separate category. It went down so easy. Yum. I can’t believe the stuff in the states can be called by the same name.

We ended the night playing around on Tara Street.

Do have a pint at Mulligan’s.
Tara at the Tara House, on Tara Street.

16 thoughts on “Kilmainham Gaol and another look at Dublin

  1. Looks like you and Tara are having fun, even visiting a gaol, Crystal. Bone would have liked that. And you are right about Guinness. An Irish pub is definitely the place to drink one. –Curt

    1. Bone would fit in here, and particularly in a couple of places we’ve visited, with interred bones on site.

      It was a good call, having a Guinness at Mulligan’s in Dublin. Today in Cork we had a couple of pints of Beamish in Cork. We’re embracing the culture where we are, of course.

  2. Good day. The prison is certainly worth a visit. Guinness in Ireland is a delight wherever, so different from Guinness in the UK. I always drink more of it than I really should!

  3. What a delightful day. Glad to hear Tara is feeling better. The painting at the Goal is packed full of emotion. I enlarged the photo and stared at it for a long time. I am in awe of the detail put into the architecture too. The visible support “brackets” for the second tier is beautiful. Perhaps not for prison but certainly for a museum. I wondered how cold it was there for you. Now I know. Thanks for freezing your fingers in order to provide such lovely photos for us to enjoy! Especially, Tara posing in front of Tara House on Tara Street. Loved it!

    1. Yes, Tara is getting a little better each day! They feel good now, but still dealing with a lingering cough.

      After we got to Cork, the temperature was much warmer. Less rain and temperatures at least 10 degrees warmer in this part of the country.

      Grace must have had a lot of emotion the entire time she was there. Her story is incredible. Her fiancee Joseph Plunkett was an activist and sentenced to death (for his part in the 1916 Easter Uprising) while a prisoner in Kilmainhaim Gaol. Grace managed to talk officials into letting them get married in the prison chapel a couple of hours before he was killed before a firing squad. Prior to that, Grace had no particular interest in politics, but after her husband’s death she educated herself about the fight for Irish independence and became committed to the cause. That resulted in her own imprisonment in 1923. She was released that same year.

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