Thursday Doors

This week’s Thursday Doors tour of Cork City Gaol features some interesting characters, such as these two warders playing cards while they are off-duty. In those days a warder, along with his wife and children, would have all lived in this one room. It might have been okay as a bedsit but it was certainly a tight squeeze for a family.

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I bumped into the prison doctor as I left the West Wing but he didn’t have time to stop for a chat. He was on his way to attend a sick prisoner. One of the warders was escorting him.

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Doctor Beamish spent many years tending sick prisoners in the city gaol. By all accounts, he was underpaid and overworked, treating everything from minor infections and fevers to small pox, typhus and even malaria at one time. An outbreak involving almost 1,000 cases occurred in Cork in the mid 1800’s. It was believed that infected soldiers brought it back when they returned from the Crimean War and it was transmitted by local mosquito populations.

One famous person to have been incarcerated in Cork Gaol was Countess Constance Markievicz, known as the ‘Rebel Countess’ here in Ireland.

 

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She was passionate about equality and women’s rights and was dismayed at the great disparity between rich and poor in Irish society. This was in spite of her being born into a family of landed gentry and having lived a privileged life on their extensive estate, ‘Lissadell’ in Sligo. The Countess set up food kitchens for the poor, assisted in their education and rescued children from the slums in which so many lived. She went to great lengths to ensure those children had clean clothes and food on their plates every day.

Constance also supported Jim Larkin in the Labour movement against the exploitation of workers. When James Connolly founded the Irish Citizens Army to defend workers against police brutality Constance was among the first of his supporters. She later became an officer in the Irish Citizens Army.

During the Easter Rising of 1916, the Countess was second in command under Michael Mallin and proved fearless under fire, fighting alongside the men. After their defeat, Constance Markievicz marched at the head of her company. She was tried for treason to the Crown and sentenced to death. However, this was commuted because she was a woman and she resented being discriminated against because of her sex. All of the other male leaders of the rising were executed, except for Eamon deValera, who was spared because he was an American citizen. Over the next seven years the Countess was incarcerated for various lengths of time in quite a few prisons in the UK and Ireland, one of which was Cork City Gaol.

It was during her stay in Holloway that Constance Markievicz became a Sinn Féin candidate and the first woman ever to be elected to British parliament. She refused to take her seat, as was the party policy at the time. After her release in 1919 she became a member of the first Dáil Éireann as minister for Labour.

The Rebel Countess died at the age of 59 on 15th July 1927, of complications related to appendicitis. She had given away the last of her wealth and died among the poor in a public ward of a Dublin hospital.

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Last week I posted this photo of a prisoner’s clothes outside his cell door. The reason they were there was because he had been caught trying to escape. When a prisoner did this, all of his clothes were taken from him at night to prevent any more attempts at absconding. The thinking was that he would not be so quick to do so if he was stark naked. Pretty chilly punishment at any time of year in an Irish prison.

I’ll be posting the last of the photos from Cork City Gaol in next week’s Thursday Doors. Thanks for stopping by and if you take a trip over to Norm’s blog you’ll find a great selection of international doors waiting for you.

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About Jean Reinhardt

Author of 'A Pocket Full of Shells' an Amazon International best seller, Jean writes young adult and historical fiction. She has been known to shed a tear over Little House on the Prairie.
This entry was posted in Historical buildings, History, Ireland, Writers Resource and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Thursday Doors

  1. socialbridge says:

    Fascinating, Jean. Don’t know why I’m surprised about Constance being incarcerated there.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Norm 2.0 says:

    A tough rich hottie with a gun: my kinda gal 😛
    Right about now I think the world needs a few more like her; willing to stand up for equal rights and just plain fairness for all.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. jan says:

    The Countess sounds like a wonderful woman. What a fascinating story.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jennie says:

    Incredibly interesting. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ireland has amazing history, and thank you for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. joey says:

    Fascinating tale of the woman warder.
    Interesting about the prisoners’ clothes, too!
    Great photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fascinating history Jean! I would have never guessed why the clothes were outside the door!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. jesh stg says:

    The rooms look nice and clean (or have they been updated?) Impossible to be a medical doctor back then! The feisty countess makes me smile:) Was watching yesterday a series about Queen Victoria – no mater in which time, there are the woman who were leaders, and the ones who were sheep.
    Again, the punishments were grave at that time (referring to the loss of clothes), but …there was probably also less crime. Again, a great piece of history Jean!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Candy says:

    Thanks for this terrorific history lesson 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a fascinating story, Jean.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. prior.. says:

    I am sure doctors were way less paid than they are today – and more overworked.
    and those darn pesky mosquitoes – problems for years now….
    very interesting about the clothes – and i bet it deters them

    Liked by 1 person

    • I imagine it was really difficult for doctors back then as they made so many home (or prison) visits. Researching the Victorian era I discovered that many doctors caught the illnesses they were treating because they had to go into so many infected homes and institutions that were unhygienic and badly ventilated.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. treerabold says:

    I enjoyed reading about the “Rebel Countess”
    What a compassionate heart she must have had. Thank you for sharing a piece of her story.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Sue C. says:

    What an interesting post. It looks well worth a visit, bringing history to life. I bet children love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There were two young children there with their mother and every time I saw them they had their mouths open in amazement. I loved bringing my children to historical sites when they were younger. They so appreciated our nice warm humble abode when they returned to it. 🙂

      Like

  14. Love the history and doors of this prision and the Countess seems like the kind of leader the world needs now!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. klara says:

    fascinating piece of history.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. pattimoed says:

    Fascinating, Jean. I love how you recounted Constance’s life. I never knew about the Rebel Countess before.

    Liked by 1 person

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