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Restoration of Kilmainham Jail as a Historical Museum


Kilmainham Jail is at once a symbol and a memorial; a symbol of the centuries of tyranny exercised by an alien government over the Irish people: a memorial to the unconquerable spirit of patriot men and women who languished within its dungeons or who were executed beneath the shadow of its walls.


For some thirty-five years now this great grim building, empty and neglected, has been falling into serious disrepair. Though its stout outer walls have stood firm, there has been considerable damage .interiorly because of fallen roofs as well as the uncurbed growth of trees and weeds in the yards and other exposed areas. Kilmainham J ail was, becoming an unsightly ruin and a public eye-sore.



Over the years recurring efforts were made, with little apparent results, to arouse public support for the preservation of Kilmainham Jail as a national memorial. No real headway was made for the realisation of such a project until a small organising committee was formed in 1959, largely through the enthusiasm and persistence of the late Patrick J. Stephenson, Dublin City Librarian= beannacht De le n-a anam! This provisional committee was fortunate in securing the voluntary services of Mr. Dermot O'Toole, Architect, and Mr. Lorcan Leonard, Consulting Engineer, under whose expert guidance a draft scheme was prepared for the completion of the work of renovation

of the Jail within a period of five years by means of voluntary labour, the donations of materials by builders' providers and the subscriptions of funds by well-wishers in Ireland and abroad.


The provisional committee submitted the proposed scheme of renovation to the Minister for Finance, Dr. James Ryan, T.D., who, on behalf of the Government, gave it the necessary endorsement which resulted in the granting of a lease of Kilmainham Jail to Trustees, five of whom were nominated by the provisional committee and two by the Minister for Finance. On 21st May, 1960, the keys of the Jail were formally handed over to the Trustees and the big task was begun.


The story of Ireland's heroic fight for freedom from 1798 down to our own day could not be more vividly recalled than by a visit to Kilmainham Tail. Here surely would the youth of the present and future times be inspired to venerate the memory of those who strove "in dark and evil days" to free their native land.

Here were imprisoned United Irishmen like Henry Joy McCracken. Here Robert Emmet, dauntless and unafraid, spent the last hours before his death on the gallows. Here, too, the noble-hearted Anne Devlin patiently endured unspeakable mental and physical torturings rather than betray Emmet and his comrades. In these gloomy cells the men of the Young Ireland Movement of 1848 and of the Fenian Movement of 1865 and 1867 were incarcerated.

Charles Stewart Parnell was imprisoned here, as were many of the Land Leaguers, and during that period, too, the Kilmainham cells were to house the" Invincibles." Five of the" Invincibles " were hanged in one of the prison yards and were buried in quicklime beneath the gallows, their graves untended and unmarked.

And what Irishman worthy of the name could stand unmoved in the stone-breakers' yard where Pearse and Clarke and. Connolly and their comrades-in-arms fell before the firing squads in 1916, hallowing forever with their life-blood this memorable spot. Whose heart could not but be stirred by the chapel where joseph Plunkett was married to Grace Gifford a few hours before his execution.

There must be hundreds of men and women in Ireland today, and, alas, many in exile, who were imprisoned in Kilrnainham in the years succeeding 1916. They can recall the indomitable spirit of their


fellow-prisoners which this bleak and forbidding prison could not cow. Among the most memorable of the events associated with Kilmainham in those stirring days was the daring escape of Donnelly, Teeling and O'Malley.

So outstanding a reservoir of national memories is assuredly worth preserving as a historical museum.


The response of the volunteer craftsmen and other skilled workers to the appeal for help in the work of renovating Kilmainham Jail has been truly magnificent.

Handing over of keys

Given the necessary materials, there is every reason to hope that the volunteer labour corps will finish their task well within the estimated time of five years.

As time goes on and more of the required materials become available there will be need for the enrolment of additional workers.


The Organising Committee wishes to place on record its wholehearted appreciation of the generosity of those firms who have donated materials for the initial stages of the work and to others who have loaned tools and equipment.

There is, however, urgent need for more materials in order that the maximum use may be made continuously of the willing workers in the months ahead. Among the materials now needed are the following:- Timber! . glass, slates, cement, electric light fittings, electric cables, switch gear, etc .

. (Particulars as to specifications, quantities, etc., of the foregoing materials may be obtained from the Honorary Secretary, Committee of Management, Kilrnainham Jail Restoration Project, llO, Grafton Street, Dublin.)


Because of the magnitude of the project of renovating the Jail and preparing for its subsequent conversion into a Historical Museum, money is _1J.rgetitly needed for the purchase of materials which are otherwise unobtainable, and for the incidental expenses which so large an undertaking must necessarily involve.

It is, indeed, gratifying to be able to record that a number of generous subscriptions have already been received despite the fact that no general appeal for funds had previously been issued.

Cheques should be made payable to "The Kilmainham Jail Restoration Project" and either sent to the Honorary Treasurer at 110, Grafton Street, Dublin, or lodged with the National City Bank, Dame Street, Dublin. Cash or other donations may also be handed to any of the Trustees or members of the Management Committee. Official Receipts will be issued for all subscriptions by the Honorary Treasurer.

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The name's of all subscribers as well as those of the donors of materials and equipment and those of the volunteer workers will be permanently recorded in the Kilmainham

J ail Historical Museum.

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N ora Connolly O'Brien

Frank Thornton

Lieut.-Col. Matt Feehan

Eamon Martin

Sean Dowling

Joseph Groome

D. F. Stephenson.

Committee of Management:

Chairman: Sean Dowling Hon. Secretary: James J. Brennan Hon. Treasurer: Stephen Murphy

1. C. Leonard, A.M.I.R.V.E.

D. F. Stephenson, P.c., F.V.I" M.I.A.A.

Eamonn de Barra

Eoin O'Keeffe

Michael Noyk, Solicitor Peter O'Connor

Dermot O'Toole, M.R.LA.l, M.T.P.L

Office: IlO,GRAFTON STREET, DUBLIN Telephone: 74721-10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Telephone at Kilmainharn Jail after Office Hours: 55990 6