Dundalk Gaol 1853-1931, now home to Louth County Archives
The Governor’s House was joined to the prison’s two cell blocks through an inspection hall and is now home to the Garda Síochána. The A wing of the Gaol which was formerly the Women’s block is now home to Louth County Archives, and the B Wing which housed the male prisoners is now home to the Oriel Centre. The Gaol and its surrounding buildings were enclosed by a 20ft stone wall. The surrounding area of the Gaol originally contained grass and tillage plots, gravel areas, and additional buildings including the Gaol hospital. The old layout of the Gaol and its surroundings can be seen in the map below.
During the period that the Gaol housed political prisoners, many well known figures were interned here in Dundalk. These figures included- Frank Aiken (who later became a Government Minister for Defence, Finance, and External Affairs), Austin Stack (who later became the Minister for Home Affairs), Seán Treacy (leader of the Third Tipperary Brigade of the I.R.A during the War of Independence) and Diarmuid Lynch (who is said to have married Kathleen Quinn in Dundalk Gaol before his deportation). Amidst the Anglo-Irish struggle, a hunger strike took place in the Gaol which Stack led and Treacy took part in. During the Civil War there was a successful attempt made to rescue anti-treaty prisoners. On 27 July 1922, a mine was placed on the perimeter wall on the Ardee Road. This blew a hole in the stone wall and was followed by a grenade attack on the Gaol. It is estimated that 105 prisoners managed to escape during this attack, having previously been alerted to the plan. Many of the escapees were later recaptured. Frank Aiken was amongst the men who managed to escape. The destruction on the perimeter wall caused by the explosion can still be seen on entering the Archives building from the Ardee road. Details of the prisoners who escaped can also be seen on the Gaol Register, a copy of which is held here. A transcript of the escapees is also available on our website-http://www.louthcoco.ie/en/Services/Archives/Archive_Collections/.
In 1999 refurbishment work began on the Southern cell block of the Gaol in order to transform the building into a suitable premise for Louth’s Archives Service. A considerable amount of restoration work was carried out in order to accommodate long term preservation strategies. The Gaol’s solid stonewalls were painted with a special white and lime wash mix to allow them to breath. The old ventilation outlets were sealed and a dual air handling and heating system was installed to control the interior environmental conditions. The original features of the Gaol that had survived such as cell doors, number plates, and windows were restored. After approximately eighteen months of construction work, the building was transformed and the Archives service was opened. The collections now have secure and environmentally controlled storage while the public can access the Archive’s collections in our reading room.
Louth County Archives holds a small collection relating to Dundalk Gaol. Items can be viewed on display or in the reading room. The Archive has a historical cell which is open to the public and holds a display of photographs and artefacts from the collection. A drawing of the Gaol layout (P408) was donated by the Dundalk Gardaí. This was designed by Jeremiagh J Hayes and is dated 1914. This is on display in the Archives. There is a Jail Register dated from 1917-1931 which is held in the National Archives. Louth Archives holds a microfilm copy of the register which can be viewed in our reading room. The image below (NAI/PRIS/1/16/1) is a digital copy of a page from the register. This copy was sent by the National Archives and we would like to acknowledge the Director for giving us permission to use this image. The entries show the names and descriptions of the prisoners and also detail the offence which they committed. The image below contains the entry for Frank Aiken and notes the day of his escape- "Rescued from custody 27.7.22". Other items included in this story box feature a photograph (PP256) showing the Gaol building from the front, looking at the Governor’s house. This was donated by the Old Dundalk Society. There are also two images from an autograph book (PP11_005) held here which was compiled by Packie Flynn who was a prisoner in the jail during 1918. The final image shows the historical cell located in the Archives building.
Louth County Archives is open to researchers Monday to Friday 9am-4pm by appointment only. Readers can come in to see the historical cell, the items on display in the entrance, research our collections in the reading room, or come into our exhibition space which currently holds the ‘Our Louth Volunteers 1914-1918’ exhibition. For further information please visit our website - http://www.louthcoco.ie/en/Services/Archives/.
We would like to acknowledge the Director of the National Archives for granting permission to use the image from the Jail Register.
We would also like to acknowledge the Old Dundalk Society for the use of the photograph of Dundalk Gaol.
The Irish Film Institute and the National Library of Ireland are collaborating to preserve and catalogue the archive of Liam O’Leary (1910-1992); a founding member of the Irish Film Society, actor, writer, film researcher, historian, archivist and overall film fanatic. O’Leary laid the foundation stone of the Irish Film Archive, in April 1992, where his film collection is now preserved. The Liam O’Leary Archive, which was donated to the National Library of Ireland in 1986 comprise O’Leary’s papers relating to his research into Irish film, filmmakers and cinemas, and his personal collection of correspondence and film memorabilia.
More information on the collection can be found on a regular blog for the IFI; http://www.ifi.ie/liam-oleary-blog-4
Liam O’Leary was also involved in making some films in the 1940s-1950s in Ireland, including the party political film ‘Our Country’ for Clann na Poblachta and the public service films ‘Mr. Careless Goes to Town’ and ‘Safe Cycling’; which are both on the IFI Player. http://ifiplayer.ie/mr-careless-goes-to-town/; http://ifiplayer.ie/safe-cycling/
The films were produced by the National Film Institute for the Department of Local Government in 1949 and directed by Liam O’Leary.‘Mr. Careless Goes to Town’ shows the dangers and consequences of drunk driving while also showing how to drive well on city and country roads. ‘Safe Cycling’ is a more light-hearted film illustrating the history of the bicycle (including the penny-farthing and the bone-shaker) and how to stay safe, cycling on Irish roads. The films are a great chance to see Dublin city in 1949; with images of the Theatre Royal Cinema (no doubt a nod from Liam O’Leary to his love of cinema), and tramlines around the city.
Horgan Brothers Collection and the IFI Player
The Horgan Brothers’ films (1910- 1920) are some of the earliest moving images made in Ireland. Brothers George, James and Thomas Horgan began their careers in the late 19th century in Youghal, Co. Cork as shoemakers and photographers. They ran magic lantern shows in Youghal and in the surrounding villages and townlands. From 1900, following the success of their photographic studio and magic lantern shows, James Horgan began to use a motion picture camera to capture current events and their local community.
In 1917 the brothers opened the purpose-built 600-seat cinema The Horgan Picture Theatre in Youghal, where they screened The Youghal Gazette – their local topical newsreel featuring events of local interest – along with contemporary international feature films. This practice was not uncommon among early cinema owners – who would frequently film events (such as fairs and processions) which were well-attended by locals thereby guaranteeing a full house of people keen to see themselves on the big screen.
The Horgans experimented with photography and models and the collection at the Irish Film Archive includes the earliest surviving Irish animation which dates from about 1910. It features the Youghal Town Hall Clock standing on its head and pirouetting in place.
This collection was donated to the IFI Irish Film Archive by Jim Horgan, who is the grandson of James Horgan. Soon after acquisition, the nitrate rolls were transferred to modern safety stock. Although most of the reels had suffered the ravages of time and all were incomplete – enough had survived to provide an invaluable moving image record of what appeared on screen a century ago in a rural Irish cinema.
Established in 1935, the Irish Folklore Commission pioneered a revolutionary new approach to the collection of folklore in Ireland. Looking to collect and preserve the country’s oral tradition, the Commission hired full-time collectors from across the island to record and transcribe native tales, legends, traditions and customs, many of which faced extinction owing to the on-going effects of emigration, language decline and urbanisation. Focusing first on Irish language-speaking rural areas, the work of the Commission soon expanded to include English-speaking regions, both rural and urban. Here below we see three of our collectors at work, where for the first time they were recording tales and memories verbatim, that is word for word as spoken, so as to preserve as authentic a representation of the oral tradition as possible. Significantly, they also collected valuable contextual data on their informants and materials, allowing future scholars the opportunity to engage creatively with the raw data, discerning distribution patterns, migratory patterns and so on.
As a result of the boundless zeal and dedication the Commission’s full-time, and later part-time, collectors over 2000 volumes of manuscript material was collected and this is now held by the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin, a successor to the Commission. Encompassing popular oral literature in the form of narrative tales, songs and poems; in-depth descriptions of Irish material culture and vernacular architecture; descriptions of calendar customs and cultural history, the collection is recognised as one of the richest in western Europe, covering all aspects of human life. Here below is a sampling from those early manuscript materials
The transcribed manuscript volumes held by the National Folklore Collection are further complemented by its rich photographic archive, as well as its audio and film collection, its specialist library and its breath-taking art collection. Enjoy a few samples below from these collections, depicting a number of key aspects of Irish folk life and tradition – music, religion, livelihood and festival customs
But folklore is not simply a matter for the history books, it is a living tradition and the work of the National Folklore Collection continues. Currently there are two new folklore collection projects underway – the Irish Traveller History Project and the Irish Protestant Folk Memory Project – both intended to document these two under-represented traditions in Irish life. Why not stay up-to-date with the archive’s activities by liking them on Facebook (facebook.com/NationalFolkloreCollectionUCD) or by following them on Twitter (@bealoideasucd)