A Glimpse at Grangegorman Female Depot

In October, 2011, Val, Bill and Lynette travelled around the globe as detectives seeking clues to give us a better picture of where the people who became our forebears came from.  First, there was a whistlestop tour of Fredericton in Canada where William Johnston (WJ) deserted the British army.  Then there was Crosscanonby in Cumbria to the church where WJ was baptised.  Crossing the Irish Sea we discovered Ballymena, the home of Irish-Scottish McClintocks and Fivemiletown where James Carey stole a cow and then Roscommon on the trail of Ann Carey who stole to be with her husband in Tasmania.

We found little in Roscommon to connect with Ann Carey, but we knew that she spent time in the Grangegorman Female Depot in Dublin and that the buildings were still in existence. We were fortunate enough to have a copy of her record page at the prison thanks to some good investigation by Thelma McKay in Hobart.

From Rosscomon to Dublin

So instead of having our customary drink and toast in Roscommon, we made straight for Dublin because we needed to visit Ireland oldest pub and then find Grangegorman Female Depot before darkness overtook us. With a flight already booked, we had to fly back to London the next day and we hadn’t seen enough of Ballymena to get a feel of where the McClintocks came from.

Ann Carey spent 3 months in that dreary prison in 1847, after being convicted of larceny in Omagh in County Tyrone. She was awaiting the SV Waverley, which was to transport her to Van Diemen’s Land on its third voyage to Hobart Town.

Our first stop in Dublin was the Brazen Head which claims to Ireland oldest and pub and that was the appropriate place to drink the health of our little Irish grandmother who was all of 4 foot 11 inches, feisty and quite prepared to tell you to ‘feck off’. In fact, she was charged with doing just that in Hobart Town on 20th January, 1852.   That information comes from her Convict Conduct Record.  Some of the family stories are even more interesting.   One is that she smoked a pipe stoked with the tobacco from cigarette butts off railway workers.  That’s right – my fifth great grandmother smoked a pipe! But as far as I am aware, she did not wear army boots.

The Brazen Head - Ireland Oldest Pub

The Brazen Head was the favourite drinking place for novelist James Joyce and I still remember his depressing descriptions of grey Dublin days. A year before this visit, our son  Andrew and wife Megan had taken us to this pub for the Sunday Singing Session. It was grand!! We listened and joined in with singing sad ballads about life and trouble with a room crowded with morbid melody.  A fitting place to toast Ann Carey. We did so with Guinness, because we knew that it is good for your health and enhances your intelligence.  The ads told us so.

Lack of preparation plagued us in the execution of the quest to find Grangegorman Female Depot. Doesn’t even sound like a prison does it? Well, nobody knew anything about it because it wasn’t a prison any longer. Fortunately, Lynette had brought backup of our home server and I had copied an article on the prison. We pulled up the copy on my PC and found that it was in Stoneybatter, Dublin 7. What did our Irish GPS think about that?

Well that was quite OK for the GPS, we got to Stoneybatter just fine but right on peak hour traffic. But that just wasn’t close to anything that looked for a former prison. If only I had looked at the article more closely, as it had one piece of vital information we needed to find our prison. We didn’t have the name of the street, did we? A suburb name just wasn’t near enough.

Grangegorman Entrance in 1996

We drove up some torturous narrow little streets using the random drive approach and asked some construction workers.  Their directions got us to the current men’s prison. Nope – that’s not it. So we went into a road that led to bus depot with a security gate. An inquiry there got us directions to the Grangegorman Hospital. All this at peak hour!!

While I was summoning up the courage to break back into the traffic to go to the Grangegorman Hospital which was nearly but not quite there, I thought I would have one more look at the internet article item that I had copied. Great day in the morning!  It had the street name further down in the article. Rathdowney Road. That was what we needed. We tapped this into our trusty little GPS and off we went.

After 3 wrong turns we were in the right street. Now all we had to do was drive the street and hope that the prison was going to a big complex that we just couldn’t miss. Well it almost was. We took pictures of a depressing front entrance and didn’t know we had found IT for sure until we arrived back in Oz and found an article on the prison.

Entrance to Grangegorman in 2011

Just like some depressing description out of James Joyce before imbibing at the Brazen Head, it was grey, it was dreary and my heart ached for poor Ann having to endure this sad place with harsh grey stone walls. She so deserved the payoff of eventually finding true love for enduring this place.

I like to think she did find true love with WJ, but that wasn’t until 1854 after a couple of false starts. She had to tell a few to ‘feck off’ and then one, John Hambrook, saw her off and she was sentenced to 6 months hard labour for her trouble and a pregnant with a little girl by the name of Mary Ann Carey.

But for all that, there was a happy ending with WJ and some absolutely grand descendants. She possibly reached a point in her life of thanking Judge Torrens for giving her the transportation sentence that she wanted on the 8th March 1847 in the County Tyrone Quarter Sessions.

The best perspective we could get was the rear of Grangegorman Female Depot from Fitzgerald St. It was high multistorey walls with missing windows that had incarceration written all over it.

Derelict remains of Grangegorman Womans Prison

Traversing the cavernous doors at the front entrance on Rathdowny Rd would make you feel like you had passed out of life into darkness. The steel doors present in a 1969 photo where not there in 2011. But it still looked daunting.

The stone walls of the outer the perimeter from Rathdowny Road looks like they hide another world.

It was easier for Ann than the long term residents.  She was there for 3 months to give her some fundamental training before going to Van Diemen’s Land. The Convict Department in Tasmania were trying to get better outcomes from female convicts who were not hired by settlers because they had no skills. She was actually fortunate to be here, as dreary as it looked.

We managed to see as much as we could of a former prison from the outside and then headed north for the Holiday Inn Express in Antrim for our last night in Ireland.

Not Even a Name to Go By

Val at the Bush Hotel at Carrick-on-Shannon

We headed off from a delightful stay at the historical Bush Hotel in Carrick-on-Shannon to get a ‘feel’ for Roscommon. Country Roscommon was recorded on Ann Carey’s Convict Conduct records as her place of origin. We had driven through Fivemiletown in County Tyrone where she was tried and transported for 7 years to Van Diemen’s Land but her home place was Roscommon.

The only definite name we have for Ann is Ann Carey which was her married name. Her Convict Conduct Record indicated that she was married, was a Roman Catholic and could read a little. She did make an ‘X’ rather than sign the marriage register when she married WJ in 1854. The family stories suggest Ann Tiernan as her name and her death record has Tierney as a middle name. There are a couple of family trees on following Ann Carey back to Tiernan in Ireland, but her age doesn’t reconcile with the Convict Records.

So in one sense we had less to go on for Ann than we did for Andrew McClintock. At least his name was definite and it is very likely that he was Presbyterian. He married in the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand.

We headed for the town of Roscommon in County Roscommon. This area of Ireland was really showing the bite of financial hard times. An issue near to the heart of local was a move to close down the local hospital.  Undoubtedly an austerity measure brought about by the hard times that the ‘to let’ signs on commercial buildings around the town bear testament to.

Ancient origins are immediately apparent on entering the town with preserved old buildings abounding. Notable is the ancient ruins of a Roscommon Castle. Nice to see somebody was obviously wealthy at some time here.

One item that we missed in going through the town was the Famine Memorial. (Note to self – always look at Wiki or the Lonely Planet before going anywhere). It is a memorial to the thousands of people in Roscommon who perished in the Potato Famine years from 1845 to 1852. This workhouse designed for 700 paupers and dealt with over 1600 during those years. In January, 1847 a sign was placed outside to turn people away from the workhouse. Ann Carey is likely to have left the area looking for opportunities to the north.

The Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Roscommon is simply magnificent and its spire dominates as the high point of the town. We looked for a construction date to see if this was a place Ann Carey might have worshipped and found that it was constructed in the early 1900’s.

At the end of the day, not a glimpse of Ann Carey, so a ‘feel’ of Roscommon was the outcome. The farming land looked rockier and less green than the north, there were more run-down buildings, so if an area in the Emerald Isle was going to tough it out in a famine, we understand that it was going to be Roscommon.

We knew that the real touchpoint with Ann Carey was going to be in Dublin.  The result of her desperate actions in Fivemiletown was transportation to Van Dieman’s Land.  She was sent to Grangeforman Female Prison for 3 months while she awaited the Waverley which was take her to Van Dieman’s Land and her new life of servitude for seven years.  Ann chose uncertainty on the other side of the world for love.

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