New exhibition tells the story of 1921 rebels held at Spike Island

The new exhibition entitled ‘Imprisoning a Nation’ tells the story of 1200 prisoners held at Spike Island during Ireland’s War of Independence.

A brand new exhibition telling the story of 1921 rebels held at Spike Island has been opened by Mayor of County Cork, Cllr Mary Linehan Foley.

Entitled ‘Imprisoning a Nation’, the new exhibition will open on Cork’s Spike Island. It will tell the story of the 1200 prisoners who were held on the island during Ireland’s War of Independence.

Ireland’s troubled past – telling their story

The new exhibition tells the stories of rebels held at Spike Island.

The brand new exhibition, which tells the story of 1921 rebels held at Spike Island, is the outcome of over a decade of research by the island heritage team.

During Ireland’s War of Independence, common law in the six counties of Munster, and Wexford and Kilkenny, completely broke down.

The British authorities then declared Martial Law or Military Law to restore order, resulting in thousands of arrests. Many were convicted of ‘levying war against the King’, while thousands more interred without trial.

Many of those arrested were held in the fortress at Spike Island. It had previously been used as a prison during the time of Oliver Cromwell and again during the famine. The fort was at one time the largest prison in the world, holding 2300 convicts.

An insightful exhibition – stories and artefacts

The exhibition will feature various artefacts.

The new exhibition not only tells the story of 1921 rebels held at Spike Island. Rather, it also contains various new artefacts donated by the families of the men held on the island.

Artefacts on display include coins shaped into badges and pins, prisoner carved wooden artefacts, and several of the mens’ diaries and autograph books.

These artefacts offer a unique insight into what life was like on the island. In their diaries, the men shared their feelings towards the struggle, their imprisonment, and daily life.

One of the most incredible artefacts on display is an audio cassette recording made in the 1980s. In the recording, internee Jeremiah Herlihy details his experiences of life in the prison.

Decades of work – an incredible result

A new exhibition tells the stories of rebels held at Spike Island.

The new exhibition telling the story of 1921 rebels held at Spike Island will run until the end of 2021. After that, it will join the island’s permanent ‘Independence’ exhibition.

One of the exhibition’s leading creators is historian Tom O’Neill who has worked on the island since the 1990s. His enquiries about the lives of the men held on the island led him to conduct further research into archives held in Dublin and London.

After a decade of research, 99% of the 1200 men held on the island will have their names and imprisonment details displayed in this new exhibition.

Mayor Linehan Foley commented on the opening of the new exhibition. She said, “It is wonderful to see the lives of these individuals remembered and retold, in their own words.

The exhibition provides a fascinating insight into the minds of these often young individuals. They were under tremendous pressure and danger, fighting for a cause they believed in.”

Find out how to get tickets for the exhibition on the Spike Island website:

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