Yesterday, we went to Kilmainham Gaol and I learned so much more in that hour-long tour than I ever have in my entire life. I can totally see why this is an option for a mobile seminar. When we arrived at the jail, we were able to tour the museum and then got to go on a guided tour throughout the jail. The museum was full of old letters and information about certain prisoners and the circumstances they were under. However, during the guided tour is when we learned all of the information. We learned about how horrible the jail conditions were. Meaning, the floors, walls and cells were wet due to the fact they used limestone as building materials. On top of that, the cells were overcrowded and they were only allowed to sleep on planks with straw on top. Also, some of the areas were so crowded, mainly the male sections that they had to go out into the hallways to sleep.
Another interesting thing we learned was that no artificial light was allowed in the jail until later. So the prisoners had to eat their last meal early in the day so they could see what they were doing. Most of the prisoners were starving since they ate so early in the day and their meals were not substantial at all.
Our tour guide also talked to us about the story of Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford, who were both prisoners in the jail. He talked to us about how they had both been thrown in jail, but were dating. The pair got married inside the jail, but nobody was allowed to come to the ceremony. Even Grace’s sister, Nellie, who was also a prisoner could not attend. Just hours after Grace and Joseph got married, he was taken to the gallows to be hung. I thought that was a really sad story, and it stuck out to me out of everything he said.
Finally, when we got to the ‘newest’ wing of the gaol, the Victorian Wing, I was shocked at how big it was. It looked literally like it was from am movie, and we were able to go into the cells and see the conditions that they lived in. This area of the gaol was designed so that all of the guards could see 96 prisoners and each other. They would also be able to hear them, even a whisper. The area was huge, and the cells even had wooden furniture, so they were not the worst things ever. It really scary to be inside the cells that people were in 100 years ago and see their graffiti on the walls. Overall, it was a really educational and interesting experience and I learned so much about the past of Ireland and how bad the conditions actually were.