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Museum of Cork City Gaol

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by Shikainah Champion-Samuel (subscribe)
A great believer in exploring the off beat, non-touristy things hidden inside every city. For my professional practice check
Published May 31st 2019
Going to prison voluntarily
Cork, jail
Entrance to the gaol

It's 2019 (of course) and I am just about enter Cork city gaol. My charge(s): 10 Euro.
My prison sentence
The consequence: I am entitled to a tour of this gaol turned museum, replete with guide book etc al.

Of course had it been anywhere between 1823 and 1923, my opening sentence would have been the sounding of a certain death knell for me.

When the prison was operational, you could have been put in there for sedition against the Crown (Ireland was not a free state until 1922) or for relatively minor offences like stealing cloth or picking oakum ( a type of rope used for ships). There's a recorded entry of a 10 year old girl being imprisoned for the latter crime.

The central area, as can be seen from the picture, strongly reminiscent of scenes from the award winning Shawshank Redemption.

Shawshank redemption
Reminscent of Shawshank redemption

Only when one goes in and is locked up (as I was) the ominous silence of what it means to be in solitary confinement actually hits home. In the pic below you will see that there is a wall covered with glass. That is to preserve some of the pencil etchings by former prisoners.

cell, jail
Inside a typical cell

It is interesting to note that at one point, conditions in the outside world were so bad (during the Irish potato famine of 1845-1852) that people were committing crimes just to be warm and fed inside.

The museum also depicts the lives of other people like the prison doctor, chaplain, wardens and governor. Whilst the building ceased to be a prison in 1923, it seems to have morphed into various avatars over the years- ranging from a radio station to a wedding venue.! Yes, you read correctly. The website has some definitely unique wedding pictures of the central prison area being laid out with red carpet and a beaming bride et al entering the forbidding looking fortress.

Forbidding windows

The USP seems to be 'if you are looking for something unique, then try us'.

All in all it makes for a sobering reflective time, but something that I would definitely recommend you do at least once.
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Why? It's something everyone must do sometime
When: Check website for opening hours
Phone: 021-4305022
Where: Cork, Ireland
Cost: 10 Euro
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