THIS May why not travel back in time for a unique experience of life in Downpatrick’s old gaol?
Down County Museum is holding a series of special events which brings to life different aspects of the old County prison at The Mall in Downpatrick.
On Sunday 5 and Monday 6 May, visitors to the Museum can soak up the unique atmosphere of one of Ireland’s surviving Georgian gaols and meet some of the characters who inhabited the prison in times gone by.
The County Gaol opened in 1796 and held hundreds of prisoners convicted of a range of offences from highway robbery and treason to pickpocketing, insurance fraud and vagrancy. Over the period from 1796 to 1830 an extraordinary collection of people were held here from leading United Irishmen such as the Rev Samuel Barber to child prisoners like James Smith who was sentenced to death for forgery, and Jane Armstrong who was transported to Australia for theft.
The Gaol was also the site of public executions and those hanged at the doors included William Gaddis, in 1818 for murder and theft; Margaret Cleland hanged in 1830 for fatally wounding her sister-in-law; and Thomas Russell, the Gaol’s most famous prisoner, a United Irishman, hanged in 1803.
Living history events have proved a very popular way of bringing the stories of prisoners and gaolers to life and during the bank holiday weekend staff from the Museum will be re-enacting the experiences of some of the more colourful inmates of the gaol in presentations that will be held regularly from 1.30pm to 4.30pm. This is sure to be an informative and enjoyable event for all the family and will provide visitors with fascinating information on how the gaol operated and how prisoners were treated in the past. Admission to the event is free and is suitable for all ages.
While the living history events are based on real life stories of prisoners and gaolers the Museum will be presenting a more light hearted look at gaol life on Saturday 11 May with a special murder mystery event.
Visitors are invited to solve the mystery of a dastardly murder in the old gaol by investigating a series of clues. During the course of the event participants will meet various shady characters and uncover the secrets that make them all suspects in the case. This event is sure to guarantee great fun and is suitable for over 16’s. The cost is £20 per head which includes refreshments in Justine’s restaurant. Pre-booking for the murder mystery is essential and it begins at 7pm. Groups are welcome!
For further information contact Linda McKenna at Down County Museum, The Mall, Downpatrick, Co Down, BT30 6AH or telephone 028 44615218.