Of the three locations I recently visited in Cork, Cork City Gaol is my favourite and a must for any tourist to the city. It is approximately a half hour walk from Patrick’s street and is only an €8 entrance fee for adults. With this fee you receive a free map to guide you on your tour around the Gaol. We spent just over two hours there, that included taking a lot of pictures and reading all the information available, as well as visiting the lovely little gift shop. It’s a place I’d happily tour alone, being a history lover, but it’s also a good day out for families with children, after all many schools visit the Gaol. As it was November when I visited, I’d recommend you wrap up warmly as it was freezing during some parts.
When you enter and pay you get your entrance ticket, mine read: INMATE NO: 168665 SENTENCED TO SERVE TIME AND CHARGED! I love these little touches, it’s similar to when visiting the Titanic Museum and your ticket lets you know if you survived or not. Then I opened up my very informative two-sided map and visited and read about each numbered location. As there are 27 different locations, I’ll just mention some of what I thought to be the highlights of the tour.
At 5: you can see how the gas lighting worked in the cells. In the 1860’s a system was introduced where one gas lamp would light two cells.
At 7: you can try a cell. Here you can walk into the cell, close the door, and you can even try the bed if you wish.
At 9: Mary-Ann Twohig was just 16 years old and pregnant when she was sentenced to two months imprisonment for stealing. She gave birth to a baby in Gaol.
At 11: Republican Prisoners. Here you can see some original writing on the walls left by the prisoners. Short story writer, Frank O’Connor, was one such prisoner. From his later writing we learn about the dreadful conditions the prisoners experienced.
At 15: Edward O’Brien. Here we learn that a 9-year-old had been sentenced to three weeks in the Gaol where he would also be whipped.
When you pass Edward O’Brien’s cell have a look down the wing on your left.
At 21: You can see a model of the Gaol. A smaller building at the back known as the Debtor’s Gaol stood out to me. Wealthy people who could not pay their debts would be sent there. However, these prisoners had a much easier time. They were allowed wear their own clothes, had food delivered to them and could even have a day off if they could get a family member to take their place for the day. This was 19th Century Ireland, considering a lot of bankers/business people in Ireland in more recent times have not been held accountable for their debts it appears the punishment for such crimes has gotten even more lenient.
At 25: This was my favourite part of the Gaol. An audio-visual presentation documenting both the history of the time and some of the prisoner’s stories. While we may all have heard of Countess Markievicz and Frank O’Connor, it was very sad to listen to some of the stories from the less known prisoners who ask you to remember them too.
At 27: you can check out a microphone used by President Kennedy when he visited Cork in 1963.
There was also a 1916 exhibition on display during my visit, this may be temporary. Some very interesting documents could be read here.
Overall, I really enjoyed my visit here as did my Italian guest Chiara. Chiara was not familiar with all the Irish history or with some of the personalities mentioned and so enjoyed the learning experience. I hope you’ll enjoy your visit too.