This is the last remaining tower of a former gaol, the remainder of which was demolished in 1973. While the original gaol was built in 1791 the towers were an 1824 addition with this one being a hanging tower. This was the City’s third prison and replaced ones at the junction of Bishop Street and the Diamond (1620) and one at Ferryquay Gate (1676).
The prison’s most famous inmate was Theobald Wolfe Tone, one of the leaders of the failed 1798 United Irishmen rebellion. Tone was imprisoned here prior to his trail and execution in Dublin. Also held here was, then rebel, Eamon de Valera, later to be President of Southern Ireland.
The tower now houses a small World War I museum which is only open by appointment – which I didn’t have, so I have not seen inside. The tower itself, which is accessible from Fountain Estate or viewable from Bishops Gate in the Walls, is certainly worth a look if you are in the area.
Like many things in Ireland the gaol is the subject of a song, an Irish rebel song – “Derry Gaol”, one of many variants on the song “The Maid Freed from the Gallows” – a centuries-old folk song about a condemned maiden pleading for someone to buy her freedom from the executioner. While there are many different lyrics for “Derry Gaol” they all in one way or another lament the loss of a rebel from Derry Gaol from which it is held few were released alive (somewhat of an exaggeration).
“But the very first step he put on the gallows
His blooming colour began to fade,
With bitter sighing and tender crying,
“Is there no releasement from Derry gaol?””
Address: 129 The Fountain
Directions: Note: Best view from Bishops Gate on Walls but entrance to museum is from The Fountain
This entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on many trips to Londonderry/Derry. I suggest you continue with my next entry – There is a Green Hill (far away) in the Creggan – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – The City on the Foyle.