One rather uneventful Saturday Jessie, Nick, and myself decided to make the venture to the Kilmainham Gaol, the famous jail in Dublin that was first opened in 1796. The jail itself doesn’t look like much from the outisde with just a plain gray stone entrance. Even inside it doesn’t look like too much. But to hear the tour guide tell us the stories you would think he was describing a palace that once held Ireland’s greatest rebellion leaders. We got to see where Robert Emmet, Charles Parnell, and leaders of the 1916 Rising were detained before they were executed shortly one after another. While the jail became home to these important figures in history, the tour guide encouraged us to take a minute to think about the ordinary people who had once occupied the jail.
Turns out that during the potato famine people were so desperate for food and shelter from the freezing cold that they would commit petty crimes just to be placed in the jail in order to obtain meals and shelter. I cannot imagine a time where things could be so bad that you saw jail as the best option. They told us of a five year old who landed himself in the jail for petty crimes. Five years old. That was a shocking fact to hear.
The overwhelming amount of people in the jail for petty crimes such as stealing food caused overcrowding, with as many as 5 people in a single cell. This large quantity of people forced the jail to send many people to a jail in Australia.
Yet again, Dublin had amazed me with its rich history. A jail that had been opened from 1796 until 1924 held such ordinary, desperate people and also important figures who both have molded Irish history as seen today.