Thursday Doors – Dundalk Gaol

Welcome to my second Thursday Doors post of 2023 and this one is from Dundalk gaol or jail depending on what century you live in and the version of English you speak, lol.

The prison was built in 1853 at a cost of £23,000 and opened in January 1854. Men were incarcerated in the wing pictured above and women in a similar but seperate building. I featured it in the second book of my Irish Family Saga where one of the saddest scenes in the whole series took place. Most of the twenty five prisoners held there at any one time served less than two years. By the 1870s Australia was refusing to take in any more convicts from Ireland and overcrowding in gaols here became a major problem. An 1877 Royal Commission report recommended that more prisons be constructed and even suggested portable iron gaols.

I’m pretty sure this was the prison infirmery which now houses the County Louth Civil Defense headquarters. Would you like to have a peek inside the men’s section of the gaol?

If you think they look like bar stools on the right of the above image you’d be correct.

Yes, there is a bar in the gaol and it’s not an iron one. In 2008, Louth County Council presented the men’s wing of the gaol to Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Éireann to house the Oriel Cultural Centre. The facilities are now a fabulous addition to the local community, I’ll leave a link at the end of the post for you to have a look round yourself.*

This is where I sat to listen to a talk on cancer while having some coffee and biscuits but as I looked upwards the image of watery gruel and stale bread came to mind. I didn’t do a full tour this time, that’s for another day and while I’m at it I must check and see if any of my ancestors served time there. It’s quite possible as I found some of them in an old archive being fined a shilling or a sixpence at Petty Sessions for offences like:

Being in charge of a donkey on a public road while under the influence of alcohol.

Allowing an animal to graze on the roadside unaccompanied. (Must have been Constable Doolittle who got the name and address of its owner). We call this ‘grazing the long acre’ as many people didn’t have a field to keep their goat, cow or donkey in.

An argument with a neighbour over a front door. (My ancestor was the claiment in this one).

Being found drinking on the premises of a public house after closing time.

Thanks so much for viewing my post and Dundalk Gaol, there are lots more Thursday Doors over on Dan’s blog.

The Oriel Centre*


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 dundalk, Historical buildings, History, Ireland, Thursday Doors, Travel, victorian ireland and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Thursday Doors – Dundalk Gaol

  1. This is an interesting post with great pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dan Antion says:

    This is a great post, Jean. I’m guessing the prison looks a little better today than it did in the 1800s. Interesting to see that “driving under the influence” precedes the invention of the automobile.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. JT Twissel says:

    Being in charge of a donkey while drunk? Ireland must have some nasty donkeys!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Duane McClung says:

    Interesting and thanks for sharing, including a bit of your family history.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sherry Felix says:

    Lovely doors post.

    Liked by 1 person

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