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Research Reveals Spike Island Prison ‘Death Trap’

27th December 2016
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The entrance to Fort Mitchel on Spike Island The entrance to Fort Mitchel on Spike Island Photo: Kondephy/Wikimedia

#SpikeIsland - The burial of a graveyard on Spike Island in the mid-19th century covered up the “death trap” conditions at its Victorian-era prison.

That’s according to new research on the site in Cork Harbour, as The Irish Times reports, that investigates the extraordinary mortality rate at what was once the largest prison in the United Kingdom, but has now been restored as a tourist attraction.

Though blamed on famine conditions in Ireland at large, UCC researcher Dr Barra O’Donnabhain says poor sanitation and malnutrition among the more than 2,300 prison population were more directly to blame.

The result was some 80% of all 1,200 convict deaths recorded for the 36 years of the prison’s existence occurring within a single five-year period, between 1850 and 1854.

“The burial of the graveyard was ostensibly done as part of the completion of the fortifications on the island, it also conveniently hid the evidence,” says Dr O’Donnabhain.

The Irish Times has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Cork Harbour
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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It’s one of the largest natural harbours in the world – and those living near Cork Harbour insist that it’s also one of the most interesting.

This was the last port of call for the most famous liner in history, the Titanic, but it has been transformed into a centre for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.

The harbour has been a working port and a strategic defensive hub for centuries, and it has been one of Ireland's major employment hubs since the early 1900s. Traditional heavy industries have waned since the late 20th century, with the likes of the closure of Irish Steel in Haulbowline and shipbuilding at Verolme. It still has major and strategic significance in energy generation, shipping and refining.

Giraffe wander along its shores, from which tens of thousands of men and women left Ireland, most of them never to return. The harbour is home to the oldest yacht club in the world, and to the Irish Navy. 

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‘Afloat.ie's Cork Harbour page’ is not a history page, nor is it a news focus. It’s simply an exploration of this famous waterway, its colour and its characters.

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