Graffiti: Locations and Origins

The graffiti located in the West Wing of Kilmainham Gaol clearly, and repeatedly, articulates the women’s enduring connection to the local areas, and to Ireland and their ‘Irishness’. The graffiti most often centres on the city or county level with numerous references to ‘Up Kerry’, ‘Up Tipp’, ‘Up Dublin’:

Graffiti located in a cell on corridor 1 of the top floor

Graffiti located in a cell on corridor 1 of the top floor

as well as a simple, but frequent, ‘Up Us’

Graffiti located in 'Patrick Pearse's cell in Corridor 1 of the Middle Floor

Pencil graffiti (over whitewash but under later engraving) located in ‘Patrick Pearse’s cell on Corridor 1 of the Middle Floor

These enduring connections are also mirrored in the autograph books where similar sentiments can be located. Many of the women sign their name providing their home address, prison record and often sign off with a celebration of their county. Furthermore, there are a number of pages that are used on a communal level to gather the signatures of women who come from the same locality. This includes a paper containing the names of those imprisoned from Tipperary:

Found in Jenny Coyle's Autograph Book (Kilmainham Gaol Archive)

Found in Jenny Coyle’s Autograph Book (Kilmainham Gaol Archive)

and the more provincial grouping of ‘Sligo – Leitrim – Tir Connail Column’:

Found in Jenny Coyle's Autograph Book (Kilmainham Gaol Archive)

Found in Jenny Coyle’s Autograph Book (Kilmainham Gaol Archive)

This connection with geographical origins and military organization – as with many guerilla organizations cells were kept small and local – takes more than a material form in the prison. Often women grouped together with those who they knew prior to their incarceration and shared cells with their comrades-in-arms from the ‘real world’. There are frequent mentions of the ‘Co[mpan]y’ and ‘Brigade’ that they belonged to, referencing their role within the women’s organization that many of them belonged to, Cumann na mBan.

 

Including this example of engraved graffiti created by Annie Sinnott that twice referenced the 'Kerry No 1 Brigade' located in a cell on Corridor 3 of the middle floor.

Including this example of engraved graffiti under whitewash created by Annie Sinnott, which twice referenced the ‘Kerry No 1 Brigade’ located in a cell on Corridor 3 of the middle floor.

The naming of individual cells by the women prisoners is found throughout the prison system and often followed tradition of celebrated heroes, dead comrades or geographical features with mentions of the ‘Limerick Section’ and ‘Kerry Section’ in autograph books but few examples left in the West Wing that have not been repainted (if indeed they always took material form).

Of course there are also many celebrations of a wider Irish identity and this frequently includes the drawing of Irish symbols throughout the Wing. There are frequent examples of harps:

A harp drawn with pencil over whitewash located in a cell on Corridor 2 of the Top Floor with a reference to 'DeValera' referenced within.

A harp in pencil over whitewash located in a cell on Corridor 2 of the Top Floor with a reference to ‘DeValera’ on top.

shamrocks:

A shamrock under whitewash that was located on Corridor 3 on the bottom floor.

Shamrocks peering through whitewash, located in a cell on Corridor 3 of the Bottom Floor.

Tricolour flags:

Two Tricolour flags (with a harp and 'IRA') located in a cell on Corridor 1 of the Top Floor.

Two Tricolour flags (with a harp and ‘IRA’) located in a cell on Corridor 1 of the Top Floor.

combinations of various traditional Irish symbols:

Collection of 'Irish' symbols including round tower and harp located in cell on Corridor 1 of Top Floor.

Collection of ‘Irish’ symbols including round tower and harp located in cell on Corridor 1 of Top Floor.

and slogans:

Slogan painted in green over whitewash 'Long Live the Irish Republic' located in cell on Corridor 1 of Top Floor.

Slogan painted in green over whitewash ‘Long Live the Republic’ located in a cell on Corridor 1 of Top Floor.

The graffiti and autograph books reveal that origins – be they as a nation or a locality – were incredibly important to the women held in the West Wing of Kilmainham Gaol and continued to be emphasized whilst they were imprisoned.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s