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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Living History

One of the highlights of my week in Dublin was the visit to Kilmainham Jail. This was, of course the prison that held the ringleaders of the Easter 1916 uprising and it was here that 14 of them were executed.

The exhibition at the jail is packed full of information outlining its role in the developing social history of Ireland. Charles Steward Parnell was held here briefly, whilst the courtyard contains the graves of hundreds of prisoners, many of whom were victims of the great Irish potato famine in the 1840s and 1850s. The last prisoner to be held in the jail was Eamon de Valera in 1924.

What struck me, as I walked into the main cell area, pictured above, was how familiar it was. It took me only a few minutes to pinpoint it as a location for the filming of the Italian Job in 1969. Those who have seen the film will be able to picture Noel Coward descending the stairs to the acclaim of the other prisoners as news gets through of the successful heist in Turin. The jail was also used for filming "In the name of the Father" and "Michael Collins", though the latter was never held as a prisoner there.

The guide told us that the design of the cell area is considered to be a model for good prison architecture and was used as a template for many other prisons. It is open, well lit due to the glass roof and guards situated at ground level have a good view of all 99 cells. He also said that this template was used by architects as a model for shopping centre developments.

This I found hard to believe until I went into St. Stephen's Shopping Centre in Dublin (above) later that week. Astonishing!
Don't know which frightens me most, doing time in prison, or spending a day shoppping.
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