THIS weekend will see Spike Island celebrate its strong ties with the turbulent five years, from 1916 to 1921, with the War of Independence prisoner commemoration weekend.
Over the last 1300 years Spike Island off the coast of Cobh has been home to heroes and villians, captains and convicts, rioters and redcoats, sinner and saints. The islands 104 acres have at one time or another hosted an Island Monastery, an Island Prison, an Island Fortress and an Island Home. The impressive 24 acre star shaped Fort Mitchel which dominates the island today was once the largest prison in the world, holding more than 2400 prisoners in the 1850's while famine ravaged Ireland.
The island also has two direct links with the 1916 Rising and the War of Independence and this is being celebrated in the upcoming 1916, Aud and War of Independence commemoration weekend. The crew of the gun-running ship the ‘Aud’ were held on the Island prior to being transferred to a prisoner of war camp in England, while two very senior Irish Volunteer officers, Austin Stack of Kerry and Con Collins of Limerick were held in solitary confinement for three weeks on Spike Island following their arrest in Tralee on Good Friday, 1916.
In 1921 during the War of Independence approximately eight-hundred Republican prisoners and internees were held on Spike Island as it returned to prison use. Five of the six surviving prisoners captured during the battle at Clonmult near Midleton were imprisoned on the island, as was Denis Murphy, the only surviving prisoner captured following the Dripsey ambush.
During that time Spike Island experienced two daring and successful escapes, while Captain Pat White of County Clare was shot dead while playing hurling. There was also a hunger strike and a prison riot, making it an eventful chapter even for a place with as much history as Spike Island.
The weekend will include Irish Volunteers, RIC, Black and Tan, Auxiliaries and British Army re-enactors. There will be an exhibition of original artefacts from that period, including items recovered from the 'Aud'. Copies of six Spike Island prisoner autograph books of 1921, lists of the prisoners and internees imprisoned on Spike Island and photographs of some of the prisoners will also be on display. There will be some short talks on events of the time, and there will also be an exhibition of rare books associated with 1916 and the War of Independence. Militaria and military books will be on sale during the weekend. This weekend is a great opportunity to visit Spike Island and learn more of these special individuals and dramatic event that add to the rich history of spike Island.
Will you escape from Fortress Spike? Boats at 10.15, 11am and on the hour until 3pm. Pre-booking advised on www.spikeislandferry.com or early arrival recommended to avoid disappointment as ferry seats are strictly limited by tides.