We had a lovely evening with some of my oldest friends at the weekend. Sorry, I should rephrase that. I mean I’ve known them for years and years but we’re all still quite young… Anyway, we were talking about the old times, as we do, and we talked about Kilmainham Jail and my father’s role in its restoration. And then young Dave says: “but shur, you know that it’s all on the internet now man” (That man Dave is a fount of knowledge – dates, music, computers, you name it).
But there’s a little film clip in the RTÉ (television) archives of my father Piaras being interviewed by Cathal O’Shannon and he talks about how Kilmainham Jail was being restored by ordinary people on a completely voluntary basis. It gives me a lift every time I see it. Here’s the link below – but don’t forget to return here for the rest of the story:
Now, for a long time, I never knew that this clip existed. My father died in 1969, when I was only ten years old. Kilmainham Jail was always a very special place for us growing up, not least because we could see my father’s handiwork there. He was the first keeper of the museum and all the memorabilia of 1916 that was on display in the glass cases (see top photo) had handwritten labels attached, handwritten by Dad. So there was this part of him still there, long after he had passed on.
But then the OPW did a big job on it, modernising the displays, and doing away with all his handwritten labels. That was quite a shock for us, as you can imagine. The East wing of the Jail was emptied out and new audio visual displays were installed in a more contemporary development in another part of the building. (Now, of course, they’re redeveloping it again for 2016).
Anyway, I was there in the jail/museum, about 1998 and I heard this voice on a television monitor. “…as a tribute to our glorious dead”, it said – and there was me Dad, in black and white, my Dad who had died thirty years before. I think my heart actually skipped a beat.
Long years have passed since then, I went back many times to see that clip – but now, anyone can see it right here on my blog! (n’fheadar céard a cheapfadh Dad faoi sin – I wonder what Dad would think of that) And then I had a solo exhibition in the jail in 2005 – but that’s another story, I’ll keep it for another day, perhaps… but here’s a couple of the works below.
Your comments are always welcome. Just click on the little brown speech bubble up at the top right of this blog and put your comment there. There’s more about my exhibition in Kilmainham on my website at:
Slán go fóill, eoin