Ireland: Dublin, Day 3

Sunday, Dec 1, 2002

With an early start we headed to Kilmainham Gaol, the old jail in Dublin, setting for one of the saddest episodes in Irish history. The weather was overcast, cold and windy, with rain just waiting in the sidelines to make its entrance; fitting weather for our destination. The bus dropped us off in front of a thick stone building with a single massive black door that looks like it will swallow you and never let you go. The tour took us around the jail, starting on the East Wing, or the “new” wing. Built during Victorian times, it was meant to be a more humane setting for the prisoners, and it only seems that way when compared to the older parts of the jail. The roof used to be all glass, though parts have been covered with wood for protection (see the photo below). While we followed our guide, we could all hear a gut-wrenching wailing all around us, the bona fide cry of a banshee. It had everyone on edge, and when we finally asked the guard she compared it to a banshee as well. The wind gets through the wood and the old glass panes, making the awful sound, but in this jail, it is easy to believe that it is a banshee indeed crying for those who perished here.

Kilmainham Gaol’s “new” Victorian wing was
supposed to provide a humane environment for the
prisoners. Compared to the old area, this wing was a paradise.
Dec. 1, 2002

The tour took us to the old chapel, where we saw a video on the Easter Rising and the fate of the leaders, all of whom were executed at this jail. Heartwrenching was the story of Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford: Plunkett was one of the captured at the Rising, and sentenced to death at the jail. He had been engaged to Ms. Gifford to be wed later the same week as the Rising. On the night before his execution, Joseph and Grace were married in the little chapel at midnight. They were given 10 minutes alone, and at 3:30 am that same day, May 5, 1916, he was executed. Grace never married again. A sad story on any day, to learn about this as we are celebrating our honeymoon filled us with sadness without end; all we could do was hold on to each other as we walked out.

Next we were taken to the old jail wing, where the cells make street latrines look like palaces. From here we went out to the work courtyards, making our way to the most remote of them, where the executions took place.

Commemorative plaque to the martyrs of the Easter
Rebellion in the work courtyard in which all were executed.
Dec. 1, 2002

It is a place filled with pathos. Here the greatest leaders the independence movement had were all cut down in one fell swoop, but also here was born the desire to finally be free. It was here that the camel’s back broke, culminating six years later in 1921 with Ireland’s independence.

These men shall forever be remembered in the history of Ireland. Their death was a
great loss, but it kick-started the process that eventually led to the independence of Ireland.
Dec. 1, 2002

We left the jail drained of energy. There was so much sadness in those rocks. The wind and rain seemed to echo our mood, and we were suddenly very glad we had chosen to do the next destination after the jail. We were headed to the Guinness Brewery, just down the road.

In Ireland if you ask for beer you get Guinness, period. It’s not so much a drink as it is a way of life, part of being Irish, and they are fiercely proud of their stout. The brewery at St. James’s Gate is the old brewery, turned now into an exhibition that makes Arthur Guinness into a wizard, an alchemist who spurned the search for the philosopher’s stone in favor of the search for the perfect stout, giving Ireland a gift of happiness in a barrel, can or bottle. It is extremely sensationalistic, but a whole lot of fun. You do get to see the process, from the choosing of the ingredients, all the way to the packaging–old and modern–and the world-famous marketing campaigns. It is all topped by a cold pint of the Black Stuff at the top of the exhibition, the gravity bar, where one can see an awesome view of Dublin while drinking the wonderful gift of the gods and Arthur Guinness.

Danny at the Guinness Brewery exhibition. Mmm… Guinness.
Dec. 1, 2002

To you, Mister Sir Arthur Guinness… slainte!!!

Danny & Yvette outside the Guinness Brewery.
Dec. 1, 2002

After this we went souvenir shopping at Carol’s right across O’Connell Bridge, and then to dinner at Juice, another vegetarian restaurant (it was ok, a bit too pricey, and not as good as Cornucopia).