So – how are your 1916 Centenary preparations going? Have you bought your Proclamation poster or sweatshirt yet? Or how about a ‘Rising Candle’, or maybe some 1916 Chocolate? Yes it’s certainly a race to the bottom in the Cashing-In Souvenir Department. And we haven’t seen the half of it yet.
A much more worthy spend in the run up to next April, or anytime of course, would be a visit to Kilmainham Gaol; read last letters written by prisoners, visit the church where Grace Gifford married Joseph Plunkett before he met his ultimate fate, stand in that foreboding stonebreakers yard where the 1916 leaders stood to face their executioners. Kilmainham is wonderfully restored, powerfully evocative and highly educational. Whether you wish to learn some Irish history, brush up on what you know already or gain a renewed sense of the feats and sacrifices of our founding fathers, you should absolutely go.
I did, this Summer. Along with huge numbers of foreign tourists. They spilled out of the open-top tour buses in amazing droves. I was impressed with their obvious appetite for and interest in our history. Millions are after all being invested in encouraging tourists via the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East, Love Dublin initiatives etc.
I read just last week that extensive upgrading works are taking place at Kilmainham; to the Courthouse part of the building. Also new ticketing prices and structures are planned for 2016. For the enjoyment and benefit of all visitors, I sincerely hope the upgrading works includes all of the following;
Multi Lingual Signage;
A single, English sign at the entrance gate explained the ticket booking and entry process. This was embellished by a handwritten sellotaped note, showing which tour time was next available. Periodically, a Tour Guide would address the snaking queue, in English. Only to be repeatedly approached by tourists asking various questions in various degrees of broken English…
Handheld Audio Guides
Once again, only an English language tour was available. The tour guides were as passionate as they were knowledgeable. But sheepishly had to ask non English speaking visitors to wait to put any questions – and only to anyone accompanying them. To stand on that imposing landing, or in the centre of that daunting yard without the sense of all that took place there, just so diminishes the experience. What must be a bewildering visit for some would of course be transformed by a handheld audio guide in your choice of language. Imagine if the Louvre only offered French speaking tours? Or the Vatican only Italian? You get the picture…
East Wing Landing – also captured in films ‘The Italian Job’ and ‘In the Name of the Father’
Kilmainham does not have its own website. It surely merits one. A perfunctory amount of information is available on the Heritage Ireland site. Including a link to what it says is the website, which instead links to a blog about a Kilmainham research project.
Kilmainham is well served by public and tour buses, as well as the Luas. There is also a good parking option. But not that you’d know it, from web info or local signage. There is ample parking down at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. It seems a bit of a spin, but affords a wonderful walk through the IMMA grounds, leading you out via the Croppies Acre (cemetery and memorial park to the men of the 1798 rebellion) and out the back gates – right to the doors of Kilmainham.
Maybe all of the above and more are planned for Kilmainham. I intend to find out in 2016. So should you.