Below are some photos from what is also known locally as The Women’s Gaol
Cork City Gaol, up in Sunday’s Well was built around 1822, it opened its doors around 1824 and operated as a prison until 1923. Imprisoned there were the famous and not so famous, some famous for their daring deeds in the Republican Struggle and others simply forgotten about, like the poor, who in many cases were imprisoned there for being poor!
Like most prisons, its main use was for the State to keep the poor in line, its was also used to imprison those with seditious ideas. Members of groups like the Young Irelanders, Fenians, IRA and ICA (Irish Citizen Army) were all held here at various stages of the struggle. Denny lane, Brian Dillon, John Sarsfield Casey “The Galtee Boy” , Countess Markievicz and Frank O’Conner to name but a few.
The horror stories that you hear of in the Gaol are frightening, people were gaoled for stealing cloth, buttons, food. Many were subjected to beatings and torture, it wouldn’t be a British Prison without Beatings and Torture!
Edward O’Brien was jailed for a month for stealing two buttons, to be whipped twice a week, he was later sent to a ‘reformatory school’ for 5 years!
“The Women’s Gaol”
The Gaol became known as the Women’s Gaol after Women had been imprisoned here in 1878, men were then transferred to Cork Gaol on Western Road, however it also had male and female prisoners in the 1820’s when it opened first.
During the Tan War it became a place of detention for members of the Cumann Na mBan. Some were imprisoned for handing out Leaflets, while others were imprisoned for collecting for the Prisoners’ Dependent Fund. Mary Bowels was imprisoned here having been arrested trying to hide a Lewis gun in Clogheen while also carrying two loaded revolvers during a raid, Dolly Burke from Tipperary escaped here when her visitors produced revolvers and locked up two wardresses!
Mary-Ann Twohig was imprisoned for Stealing a cap, and got two months, because she was pregnant, she gave birth in the Gaol hospital and was brought with her baby back to her cell two days later.
The Young Irelanders that spent time here were Denny Lane, Ralph and Isaac Varian, and Terence Bellew McManus who was transported from the City Gaol via Spike Island to Van Diemens Land, now Tasmania. James Mountaine of the Young Irelanders and Later the Fenians (he was James Stephens Contact in Cork) was also held here.
The two probably most well known Fenians Imprisoned in the Gaol were Brian Dillon and “The Galtee Boy” John Sarsfield Casey. From Cork City Gaol to Mountjoy, handcuffed to John Lynch on the crossing to Holyhead, and from then to Pentonville Prison and then to Woking Prison, Brian Dillon was to suffer a terrible time at the Hands of the British Prison System. John Casey was later transported among the 62 Fenians to Australia aboard the Hugoumont.
Writing on the walls
In a number of cells there is a fair bit of Republican Graffiti, the lines below are from John L. O’Sullivans Book Cork City Gaol
In 1923 Civil War Prisoners from Kerry escaped , John and Denny Reen from Rathmore, it took them two weeks to reach home, using a rope ladder and bed clothes they got out over the wall!
Following its closure as a prison in 1923 it later became used as a radio station in 1927 until 1958 and it even had armed security! After the Radio Station moved to Union Key, it was then used by the Dept. of Posts and Telegraphs for training and storage purposes until finally being partially restored By Diarmuid Kenneally and it is now open to the public thanks to his efforts.
Sources: Cork City Gaol by John L O’Sullivan.