lunes, 4 de julio de 2016

Irene Pantoja Joaristi: Wicklow Gaol

Wicklow Gaol

On Saturday morning we went to Wicklow Gaol, an old prison located in Wicklow. In there, we learnt about the famine years in Ireland, which started in the 1700's, and the poor conditions the prisoners had to support in there. 

The gaol opened its doors in 1700's when the rebellion began, with the purpose of housing the rebels and the local criminals. Initially the prisoners were all together into one room with no toilet, no fresh air and no heating. The gaolers were paid twenty-three pounds a year. The prisoners had to pay for food or to get a private chamber, nothing was for free there. Some people brought with them chickens, dogs or pigs into the prison. 

Arson, robbery, burglary, fraud or rebellion were some of the crimes that sent them to the prison. The penalty for this crimes was mutilation, execution, burning, torture, prolonged cold bath or go to Australia. Sometimes the tortures were outside the gaol, for example, the 'pitch capping' which consist in pouring molten hot pitch into a paper hat and pressing it down over the man's head. Inside the gaol the tortures were, for example, the 'solitary confinement', meet the 'travelling hangman', who throw a noose around the prisoner's neck and hang them across his back until they were dead, and the 'treadwheel', which consists of a cylinder with wooden steps and this rotated, at the same time the prisoners had to stepping along the planks as fast as the treadwheel because if someone stopped stepping, he died. It was know as 'The Everlasting Staircase' and it's only purpose was torture. 

Inside the gaol the conditioners were very bad, so there were a lot of diseases. The smell was putrid. The most famous disease and the biggest problem of the gaol was the 'Gaol fever' (now known as typhus), which had no cure at the time. Other diseases were also cholera and tuberculosis. The sexually transmitted diseases were common. Some prostitutes made crimes only to go to the Gaol's infirmary. In the infirmary the medical attention were the highest standard. Various diseases were treated in the hospital attached to the prison. 

The industrial labours were divided in:  
- Shoemaking: three males.  
- Cooking: one male.  
- Prison duty: five males and three females.  
- Attending lunatics: two males and one female.  
- Sewing: three females.  
- Painting: two males.  
- Pumping water: four males.

The children had the same tortures as an adult. By the 1850's, the gaol began to include an education programme for children. The classes were from one o'clock to three o'clock for males and from half past twelve to half past two for females. There were not trained teachers and the subjects were centered around the 'three R's' (reading, writing and arithmetic). 

Some famous people in the prison were, for example, Eliza Davis, who was transported to Tasmania and she suffered epilepsy; Billy Byrne, known as the rebel, who was famous for riding into the war camps and shouting 'Up Ballymanus'. He was executed and the oldest prisoner, Ellen Walsh, who was arrested for not paying her taxes. 

The gaol is also famous for its paranormal activity. Lots of groups with their professional equipment went to the gaol to investigate these kinds of activities. People thought that the spirits of the dead prisoners were still in the prison. Some examples of the paranormal activities are the appearing of a ghost walking downstairs all the time or the feeling of  being pushed by a person who was not there. It's called one of the most haunted places in Ireland.Wicklow Gaol was closed in 1924.

From my point of view, this trip was one of the most interesting here. Inside the prison there were a lot of information and all the prison's history was very well explained . You can go inside the chambers and watch how they lived and the things that they had. It was a great experience. 

By Irene Pantoja Joaristi

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