Tour to Kilmainham Gaol and Collins Barricks By Eloise Downey - Room 28
On Wednesday 15th of March, my class and I went on a school tour to Kilmainham Gaol and Collins Barracks.
At first, we just saw Kilmainham as an old building with no interest but as we continued into the tour, we became more aware of how many people had passed through those gates and why they were there. The life in the cells. The different treatment shown towards particular prisoners. We were entranced. I can safely say all found it very riveting. When we arrived at Kilmainham, we were met by two tour guides, Niamh and Shauna. They led us into the chapel in which Joseph Mary Plunkett and Grace Gifford married just a hours before his execution at dawn. We learned that the poor couple only had three witnesses, the priest and the two guards who were escorting Joseph. Grace's own sister wasn't even permitted to attend although she was in Kilmainham after her part in the 1916 Easter Rising. After they were married, Grace was whisked away, without a kiss!! But a short time before his execution, the newly-weds were reunited for only ten minutes to say goodbye. Unfortunately, the minutes - watched carefully on a pocket watch by a guard - ticked quickly by. Even though Joseph and Grace had so much they wanted to say, they found that they thought of nothing. And all too soon, Grace was gone. We also saw the cells all around the Gaol, where many petty criminals were imprisoned, for example, the bread thieves and the pickpockets. We also found out why bars were in the place of windows. It was so the air could circulate around the building preventing disease. We saw the cells in which many of the 1916 Rebellion leaders were imprisoned - PH Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and Countess Markievicz. They are now known as the 1916 Cells. We got to see a very large atrium filled with 97 cells. Four of them are underground. Those cells were for the most serious offenders. When they were down there, they wouldn't be able to see anything as it was pitch black. There was a giant window in the ceiling. The Victorians did this so that there were less lighting costs. Clever Victorians - very energy-efficient.
Then we saw Mrs. Joseph Plunkett's cell from the Civil War in 1923. There was a lovely mural on the wall, which she painted while she was imprisoned there. We then proceeded towards the Execution Yard, passing the exercise yards in which men, women and children walked around, with their heads pointed down, for an hour each day. In the Execution Yard there were two black crosses, one at either end. We discovered how the firing squad picked random rifles, only one of which contained a blank cartridge. They wanted to make sure that no-one could be found guilty. James Connolly was positioned at the end away from everyone else as a result of his dying state and inability to stand, never mind walk. It felt so weird to be standing there where these people died over one hundred years ago.
Some other facts I picked up were... In the 1800s five year-old Matthew Rossiter was held there for stealing. Also, Countess Markievcz wasn't executed because she was a woman, but, instead, was sentenced to life imprisonment. She was released a few years years later, though she wasn't too pleased about that. We also found out that the treatment of prisoners could vary. When Charles Stewart Parnell was here, he got a private library, ordered food and furniture from his own home. This was because Parnell was a highly-respected politician. If ill-treatment occured, it could lead to great annoyance and unrest in the population, which authorities feared could lead to rebellion.
Then we went on to Collins Barracks. They had a special exhibit for 1916, where we got a detailed look at life back then with various film and audio clips of the time. There was so much to take in to understand what life was like back then. There was a giant board that listed the names of all the victims of the Rising. Amongst them were some as young as two years of age. There were also 20 unidentified casualties. It was extraordinarily sad seeing these.
We saw the actual flag that was flown on top of the GPO during the Rising. It was quite ripped at the sides, but in pretty condition for one of its age and experience. We also saw an original Proclamation that was received on Easter Monday 1916. Then we saw the exact table where the Proclamations were made and signed. It also happened to be the table that all the leaders had breakfast before marching out to rebel against the English government. We saw a large photo of Pádraig Pearse surrendering after realising that the Rebellion was responsible for the deaths of many innocent civilians.
After that, we went and looked at the ship, The Asgard, which brought guns from Germany - then at war with Great Britain - to aid the Rising. The Asgard was a given as a present to a newly-married couple a number of years previously. It was a large and spacious ship, but when filled with guns, it was a bit tight on space... Obviously after 100 years, it was a little bit shaky but many dedicated workers put many hours of work into it to restoring to its old beauty and they did! One side appeared how it would have looked as a cruise ship back in the 1900s and the other side displayed how it would have looked without the glossy white paint with a strip of red. It was plain and simple having just a normal varnish with the wood pegs like it would have been constructed back then. We got to see a clip that showed us the inside and how the construction workers kept to how it would have appeared with standard beds, mirrors and the other bits and bobs. We then were lucky enough to see an audio visual display showing us the immense amount of work that was put into it and, wow it was a lot!!! After that we got to see an exhibit which displayed fashion through the ages such as peasants in 1916 and rich people in 1850. It was amazing how styles can vary to such a degree. I was extremely pleased to have the chance to have such an experience. I will, hopefully, be back to Kilmainham Gaol and Collins Barracks in the near future with my family. I hope I have inspired you to go also.
Over the past number of weeks 6th Class have been focusing on debating in Literacy. We began the process in our own classes, where each teacher taught us how a debate should be structured and what language is needed. We spent a long time looking at well written debates and watching video clips of other children debate before we were allowed to write our own. It was really interesting and everyone was excited to get started on their own. We were then put in groups and given motions to debate. Here are some examples: · Children should wear a school uniform · There should be more P.E in the school week. · Children should have a television in their bedroom. · Children should have their own Smart Phone. · Homework should be given to all children. We began with several debates within our classes, where we debated against our classmates. Our teachers were encouraging us to present a strong argument with good content and lots of evidence to back up our points. They also wanted to see us speak loudly and clearly, making eye contact with the audience and using gestures to get our points across. For some, this was the first time they had presented to their class and as a result many were quite nervous. However, the teachers were extremely happy with the progress made over the course of the few weeks, ultimately making it extremely difficult to pick only 3 stand-out debaters per class. Alas, now we are at the stage where each teacher must pick only 3 pupils to represent their class in an Inter-Class Debate. Each class is required to send forward the said amount of pupils with the exception of Mr. Fitzpatrick’s who will send forward six to cater for the 7th class. Ms. Maher, the teacher who runs the debating team, will be observing all the participants’ arguments and subsequently pick the 6 best debaters in 6th class. For those of you who don’t already know, the debating team will be representing the school in several West Dublin School Debates in the hope of proceeding onto the Leinster competition and, if we make it, ultimately an All Ireland final. The fist inter-class debate will take place next Wednesday, 30th November. We wish all the students the very best of luck!! By Eloise Downey – 6th Class – Room 28