If you don’t hear from me, it’s because I’m in Prison again (!)

watercolour of cell in Mountjoy jail by Alf Mac Lochlainn
Ailfrid Mac Lochlainn: “Cell 32 C, Mountjoy Jail (1923)”

Ok yes, I’m actually just giving an Artist-in-Prison workshop funded by the Arts Council – thankfully, I don’t have to stay in overnight.

But it’s an interesting experience, visiting Mountjoy.  First of all, there’s a lot of doors. You stand and you wait outside a steel door. Wary eyes look out at you through a little square window. You identify yourself, the door opens, you’re passed on to the next door, the same again and so it goes. I have to say that the Prison Officers are all very thorough but generally speaking, quite friendly.

drawing by Ailfrid Mac Lochlainn of Hanghouse, Mountjoy Jail 1923
Ailfrid Mac Lochlainn: “Hanghouse, Mountjoy Jail (1923)”

And on Monday, I walked past the old ‘hanghouse’ where Kevin Barry (among others) was hanged.  Yes indeed, I recognised it from my grandfather’s little painting of it. That’s a reproduction of it above from the Mountjoy Prison Museum – and the painting at the top of the page is another of his, one from inside his prison cell, number 32 on C Wing.

My grandfather Ailfrid Mac Lochlainn was held in Mountjoy during the Civil War and, while he was there, he painted small watercolours and made pencil sketches of his Republican comrades on little scraps of paper.

drawing by Alf Mac Lochlainn of Desmond Murphy
Ailfrid Mac Lochlainn: portrait of fellow prisoner D. Murphy, 2023

The originals were exhibited last year in Kilmainham Gaol in a special exhibition entitled: “Intervals of Peace”.  This exhibition was curated by Brian Crowley and it will soon transfer to the Pearse Museum in Rathfarnham. (My grandfather was related to Patrick Pearse).  There’s more about that exhibition on a previous post on Scéalta Ealaíne.

By the time you read this, I’ll hopefully be out of jail again.  I have to admit that it was a very moving experience this time, knowing that my grandfather (who I never met) had walked those corridors before me.  It doesn’t look like much has changed there in the last hundred years – except it’s now electricity instead of gas light – but the facilities for making art are probably much the same.  But isn’t art such a gift!  All you really need is a pencil.





  1. Brilliant commentary on both you passions Eoin. Art and Irish history. And particularly to have been allowed to visit and take art into the very environment your grandfather experienced and recorded in his own work. I imagine him being close to you during your attendance and happy to know a very close bond of family and appreciation of your reviving his story and Art.


  2. A lovely piece Eoin as always. Wouldn’t our Grandfather be proud that you are bringing art into that somewhat sinister space.


  3. The Irish have had a lonnnnng associations with prisons under British rule (at least from since Aodh Rua Ó Dónaill and the two O’Neill brothers escaped from Dublin Castle) and, as you referenced, under Irish rule too. Art can be another kind of escape and fair play for running the workshop.


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