Kilmainham Goal has one of the most visited tourist site in Dublin. When we relocated to Ireland, Gabriel said his friends have all visited Kilmainham Goal and that he wanted to visit. It would have been more than one year since arriving in Ireland that we would visit the Goal. There is a lot of history within the walls of the Goal. Visit is by guided tour only so you will need to get the tickets way ahead of time. Tickets can be bought from Heritage Ireland website.
I was told that the tour can be depression, so I was mentally prepared.
Maybe I should have brought a notebook to take notes. We are allowed to take pictures but not video or audio recording. The tour starts at the courthouse and it is based on the time slot we booked the ticket. We were there early, the earlier group was about to start their tour but we still had ti wait for our slot. This is the case of better be early than missing the tour.
The goal has 3 sections which are built at different era. The guide told us that the goal was the huge improvement from keeping prisoners in dungeons in basements. The goal was at that time a new thinking on punishment and isolation for prisoners. We were taken from the oldest part of the prison to the newest wing of the goal (the photogenic part).
The peak population of prisoners was during the famine where women and children were kept in overcrowding prison. Not only were they imprisoned for theft, it was also illegal to beg on the streets. Begging is how most of the children end up in the prison.
Kilmainham Goal is also the location where British executed 14 prominent leaders of the 1916 Easter Uprising. This incident caused the people to focus their attention on the fight for independence when previously their thoughts were occupied by the first world war. The Goal also housed the last letters and artefacts from the 14 who were executed. The letters to their mothers are really inspiring and yet at the same time sad. A memorial is built in the stonebreaker yard where they were executed
The most interesting story was of James Connolly. He was already injured and treated in Dublin Castle. He was brought to the Goal to be executed on a gurney. Since he could not stand, he was tied to a chair near the entrance to stonebreaker yard and executed.
The tour guide told focus his story on a few of the inmates, including the heartwarming story of Joseph Plunkett. He is one of the leaders in the 1916 uprising and was sentenced death in Kilmainham Goal. Hours before he was executed, he asked to marry his fiance, Grace Gifford. The were wed in the Goal chapel and spent the last few hours together in a cell. What do the lovebirds have to say to each other in the final hours? Apparently not much.
Grace was later imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol in 1923 for her involvement in the civil war. She drew a the now famous Madonna and Child in her cell, which has been well preserved till this day.
We pre-booked the tickets way in advance using the OPW heritage card. With the card, entrance and guided tour to the Goal is free. At the entrance, a staff will check the ticket I bought online on my phone. There’s no need to print out the ticket and they will check the email that’s sent to me. They also had a look at the Heritage Card and was let in soon after. There’s no fuss when using the card.