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Dundalk Gaol hosts first Easter commemoration since 1928
history and heritage |
Friday April 29, 2011 02:47 by Ciaran C - Republican Network for Unity
First Easter ceremony is held in prison for 83 years.
Tonight, Thursday the Dundalk 2016 committee held a moving and extensive Easter commemoration within the wing of Dundalk prison.
The last time such an event was held within the walls was in 1928 when republican POWs and internerees were still being held captive before the Gaols final closure in 1931.
In a very moving ceremony, participants in period costume (representing members of the Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, the Citizens Army and indeed the British Army), read the Proclamation of the Republic and re-enacted the British courts marshals which sentenced the leaders of the rising to death.
The names of all of those Volunteers who died in the rising were read out and significant mention was also made of the civilians and indeed British Army personnel who died that week.
The ceremony was interspersed at intervals with melodies and songs from local musicians who performed vocally, on the Uillean Pipes and on the flute.
Dundalk Gaol played host to many hundreds of IRA prisoners during the rising / tan war / Civil War period and beyond.
Famously in July 1922, 105 IRA prisoners broke free from the Gaol (then under Free State control) when the local Forth Northern division IRA acting under orders of GHQ blew a hole in the Vincent avenue wall using a gelignite bomb powered by a passing electric wire connected to the mains.
The attack which took place at 7.30 am is said to have 'rescued Frank Aiken from the Jaws of execution'.
Previous to the escape, 6 POWs were taken from the prison for execution by the Free State army, they included; Thos. McKeown, Piedmont, Bellurgan ; John McNulty, Carromannon, Balleeks, Co. Armagh, and Thomas Murray, Kilcarn, Navan, who were shot on a charge of being in possession of firearms. Little over a week later (Jan. 22nd), three more also paid the supreme penalty at the Military Barracks. They were Jas. Melia, Bridge Street, Dundalk; Thomas Lennon, Dowdallshill and Joseph Ferguson, Gyles' Quay. The two former had been captured with arms at Dowdallshill on 7th January, and Ferguson was found in possession of a revolver at Lordship Hall on the same date.
The following year in October 1923 over 200 republican POWs underwent hungerstrike in Dundalk Prison.
The bodies of the six executed IRA man were taken from Dundalk Gaol in October 1924 and re interred in the towns republican plot, the funeral was attacked by the Free State army who rushed the crowd with bayonets and fired live rounds in an effort to arrest a firing party determined to pay tribute to these fallen POWs.
Other historical characters who were portrayed were the mother of Padraic and Willie Pearse, and W B Yeats whose poem 'Easter 1916' "a terrible beauty is born", was read out in its entirety.