You can smell the terror in the air as the gate clangs shut and the gaoler turns the key. Somewhere, a prisoner groans, there are screams, footsteps echo. In these poky cells within the thick granite walls of Wicklow’s Historic Gaol you could easily be forgotten. Except that, remarkably, prisoners haven’t been.
Matron Mary remembers - Wicklow Gaol memories

Matron Mary remembers

Matron Mary remembers
From 1702 to 1924, the brooding edifice on Kilmantin Hill shut away people deemed on the wrong side of history – rebels from the 1798 Rising, convicts to be transported to colonies in America and Australia, desperate women and children who stole simply to feed themselves during the 1840s famine.
Mannequins on a treadmill in Wicklow Gaol yard
Wicklow Gaol
Mannequin in Wicklow Gaol cell
Left: Mannequins on treadmill in Wicklow Gaol yard. Middle: Wicklow Gaol. Right: Mannequin in cell
Hidden they may have been, but they weren’t silenced.
You can see their graffiti and read thoughts they left in a notebook only rediscovered in 1923. You can hear their stories from costumed characters, soundbursts of voices and dramatic exhibits. 
Wicklow Gaol - prisoner James Doyle's grafitti

Prisoner James Doyle grafitti

Prisoner James Doyle grafitti
There’s defiant rebel Billy Byrne or eight-year-old Thomas Pitt sentenced to flogging for stealing a few coins. That infamous gaoler and the hangman have their say too. The cruelly nicknamed Everlasting Staircase, a treadwheel that was just one punishment meted out, is maybe beyond words. 
An actor rattles keys in the role of a jailor at Wicklow Gaol
Wicklow Gaol re-enactment of a child prisoner screaming from a cell
Left: An actor rattles keys in the role of a jailor. Right: Re-enactment of child prisoner screaming from cell.
An actor plays the role of Billy Byrne, bouncing a ball in his Wicklow Gaol cell
An actor depicts Wicklow Gaol's Matron Mary and her lantern
Left: An actor plays the role of Billy Byrne, bouncing a ball in his cell. Right: An actor depicts Matron Mary and her lantern
Joining those aboard HMS Hercules – there’s a scale model – that transported convicts to New South Wales seems a world away from the cheerful scene of pleasure cruisers and fishing boats in nearby Wicklow Harbour today.
An actor captures the desolation of a female prisoner on Wicklow pier
An actor captures the desolation of a female prisoner on Wicklow pier
But don’t be fooled. All these tales are still live. Descendants of Irish settlers abroad come to trace their roots in the gaol’s Genealogy Room. And on a night tour of the gaol, one of Europe’s most haunted buildings, you just might catch cries or children’s voices whispering. Some spirits have never left and they won’t let their stories be forgotten.
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Visit Wicklow's Historic Gaol

Kilmantin Hill, Wicklow Town, Wicklow