A Travellerspoint blog

Day 36 - The jailor and the thief

overcast 17 °C
View Following in the Family Footsteps on Neileeann's travel map.

I had this title pre-loaded with the expectation that I would get a photo of the caretaker of the gaol and me with his keys. However I totally forgot, so that ruined a good idea.

Today was all about Daingean, the town where Michael Flanagan was tried and convicted and then gaoled before being transport to Australia in 1825. At that time Daingean, then known as Phillipstown, was the capital of Co Offaly, although you would be hard pressed to see any sign of that now. There were four pubs, a chemist and a Chinese take-away hole in the wall operation in the main street and all other shops were closed. It is located about 20 minutes drive away from where we were staying.

First port of call was the old court house that was part of a larger complex, which is now being fixed up by a local community development group. The manager kindly let us in and was a chatty person, so he gave us some more recent history of the building. What you see in the buildings is not the original bench used in the trial of Michael, but one built around 1940 (not that expected the original). Still it was good to be in the same room as young Michael, although it would have been a far from good experience for Michael. A young boy of 14 years, first offence, sitting below the judge casting judgement down upon him and then finding that you are to be torn away from your family and in all likelihood never to see them again. The manager said there was a notorious judge who had a petulance for hanging as his sentence of choice, so Michael may have got off easy in the long run. Karen / Bubsy the manager said that the court house was used in an Irish film / documentary called “A stranger passes by” so maybe you should look to see if it is on U-Tube.

After the court house we went to the old gaol, which was part of former British Garrison fort and later a catholic reform school. The place is now used by the Irish Museum as a storage facility for its Folk Life collection. I had previously arrange access and I had found out than many locals wanted to also go inside for a sticky beak, but access was restricted. So I was extremely lucky to be allowed inside. I meet Mick Byrne (Jailer) at the gate and he showed us around and then took us to that part used as the gaol for Michael. The goal is now almost fallen down, so again I was lucky to see it when I did, as it won’t be around in another 20 years time. Too busy taking snaps (Mick had to stay with me at all times) to sit and reflect, but again a terrifying experience for a young boy as he reflects on his future on that fateful day.

Because the weather is pretty bad today, we decided that we would not do anymore family footstep stuff in the afternoon. Instead we headed to nearby Kildare, which is the place where they have the Irish National Stud. Their purpose is to breed the best thoroughbred horses to win group 1 races around the world. It did have Americano in stud who won the Melbourne Cup a few years ago. There were a number of folds in the fields, who are probably destined to win millions of Euros for their owner in the future. Today they were just happy for a scratch.

After that we went to the movies to see Jurassic World in 3-D at Tullamore to fill in the early evening. It was good, especially in 3-D.

Tomorrow it is back to Clara to spend more time walking around Michael’s old stomping ground and then later onto Liberty where one of my Mary Flynn suspects came from.

Posted by Neileeann 17:00 Archived in Ireland

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