The day we met the President

The Irish presidential election is in the news these days – it takes place on Thursday, 27 October 2011. There are seven hopefuls in the race, some more controversial than others.

It reminds me of the day, 13 years ago, when we met the current President, Mary McAleese, in Wicklow town.

Wicklow Gaol opening day - Mary McAleese speaking

Wicklow Gaol opening day – Mary McAleese speaking

We were invited to the re-opening of Wicklow Gaol as an interactive visitor centre.  It’s now also famous for its ghosts (a bit of a theme this month, ghosts).

We’d visited the gaol before, when we were researching Nicholas’s story. This is where he spent many bleak months waiting for sentence to be carried out after his trial in December 1799, and many more months after Lord Cornwallis commuted it to transportation on January 17, 1801.

While we were there we met Joan Kavanagh of the Wicklow Heritage Centre. Hugely knowledgeable and helpful, she told us stories of Wicklow in 1798. Biddy Dolan came up, of course, and Joan knew Nicholas Delaney’s name. We swapped stories about Nicholas and she and put us on the trail of other local historians.

Wicklow Gaol was undergoing restoration, ready for the bicentenary of the Irish rebellion, and we were thrilled to get an invitation to its reopening on May 30th 1998.

Opening Day, Wicklow Historic Gaol - ecumenical blessing

Opening Day – ecumenical blessing

It was a memorable day. Speeches, a blessing, a feast and a tour of the new Gaol, including horrific reconstructions of prison life and the transport ships.

After the ceremony, we had a quick chat with the President. Sadly there are no photos of this as we were too busy talking. But here are some of a very special day in our hunt for the story of Nicholas and how a landless peasant became a convicted murderer and an Australian pioneer.

Mary McAleese, the Mayor and other guests at the opening of Wicklow Historic Gaol

Mary McAleese, the Mayor and other guests

Coming soon… more about Sarah Simpson

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About rebelhand

A Rebel Hand is: about Nicholas Delaney, Irish rebel of 1798, transported as a convict to New South Wales, roadbuilder, innkeeper and farmer. My great-great-great grandfather. Other ancestors transported to Australia, like Sarah Marshall, John Simpson and James Thomas Richards, pop up as well. This blog's also about the historical background to their lives, in England, Ireland, and Australia.
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2 Responses to The day we met the President

  1. Pingback: Some happy finds | A Rebel Hand

  2. Pingback: Vinegar Hill – the Irish rebels’ last stand | A Rebel Hand: Nicholas Delaney of 1798

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