Enniskillen Jail History.

Fermanagh Herald and Monaghan News.1905. Price One Penny.

January 28th 1905. Enniskillen Jail. Arrangements have been completed for the transfer of Enniskillen Prison to Fermanagh County Council. At a meeting of the body on Friday the Chairman, Mr J. Jordan, M.P. remarked that it showed the country was in a peaceable state when the Prison Authorities could close the Jail and hand it over to the County Council; and Mr. H. R. Lindsay said he remembered seeing sixty suspects in it.

The site of part of the Jail which was built in recent years covers a portion of what was formerly a “commons” in which were found buried remains of the “gads” with which criminals had been hanged. The late Barney Bannon a respectable storehouse of local traditions, always asserted that Fermanagh men had a decided objection to being hanged with a rope. They preferred an osier gad.

In 1811 the County Fermanagh raised £15,000 for the purpose of erecting a County Jail in Enniskillen. £13,000 of this sum was advanced from the Consolidation Fund to be paid back in half-yearly instalments. In 1836 a further sum of £13,800 was raised for the same purpose. At the Summer Assizes in 1836 the Grand Jury voted £300 for the support of prisoners, £15-9-3d to Hugh Collum, apothecary, for medicines; £100 to Paul Dane, local Prison Inspector; £111 to year’s salary to the keeper; £23-1-6 to John Morrison 1st Turnkey; to Hamilton Morrison and Henry Mc Mulkin, second turnkeys, to sum of £18-9-3 to each; and to James Lacy, John Blakely and William Holmes, third turnkeys a sum of £18-9-3 each. To Mrs Jane Davis, matron, £30; £8-6s to Mrs Jane Hunter, infirmary nurse; and £13-6-11d to Wm. Hunter, schoolmaster. The bill for milk furnished at the Summer Assizes, 1836 was £40, and Charles Annon’s bill for butcher’s meat was only 6s-6d. The bread bill was £20-2-11, and the account for potatoes was £80-9-10½.

In 1841 it was determined to enlarge the jail and a committee of the following was appointed to carry out the plans for the improvement into effect, and to report as to the best mode for raising the money for the building and improvements. William D’Arcy, Esq., Rev. J. G. Porter, Edward Archdale Esq., Dr. Ovenden, and Captain Williams. At the Summer Assizes of 1841 the names of John Creighton Esq., and George Brooke Esq., were added to the committee. A sum of £7,500 was advanced by the Consolidated fund, without interest, for the extension and improvement of the building to be paid back in fifty half-yearly instalments of £150 each (a county at large charge). In 1856 there were three chaplains to the jail, Rev. Fr. Boylan, Rev. J. C. Maude (Protestant) and Rev. M. C. McClatchy (Dissenting) each of whom was paid £30 per annum.

From a return made by John Lamb, Governor of the jail on 4th March 1843, it appears that a saving of £66-10-9 had been affected since the previous assizes by prisoners’ work – in stone breaking, lime burning, weaving, hackling, tailoring, carpentry and shoemaking. Fifty-two yards of linen were bought by a local clergyman at 6d per yard but on this date 536 yards of linen and 236 yards of ticking woven by prisoners remained in the store unsold. In view of the discussion that took place at the meeting of the County Council on Friday relative to the water supply to the prison, it is interesting to note that in June 1819 James Gallogly, jailor, advertised for plans and specifications for works to convey water to the jail and jail yard.

On the night of the 23rd or early on the morning of the 24th December 1817 six prisoners escaped from the jail. One of them was under sentence of transportation for seven years for stealing clothes, and another of them was charged with stealing a bag the property of the Enniskillen Mail Coach. A reward of £10 was offered for the arrest of the man under sentence of transportation and £5 was offered to any person who would apprehend any of the others.

There were 230 persons in the two jails of Enniskillen in July 1817, of whom 192 were receiving jail allowance. Eighty-four of them were put for trial at the Assizes – 37 for burglary, 24 for stealing horses, cows and sheep, and the remainder for robberies and thefts of various kinds.

One of these was Thomas Broughton, an old man over sixty years and sentenced to be hanged on the 18th of August for house-breaking and robbery. A local newspaper issued on the morning of the day upon which he was to die says – “He is to suffer the awful sentence of the law this day about one o’clock in front of the new jail. The advanced age of the unfortunate man, as well as the infrequency of such a spectacle amongst us, no executions having taken place here for the last ten years are circumstances calculated to heighten public compassion, and to impress a deeper character and terror on the community.” It goes on to say that he had spent the interval between the assizes and the fatal day in an earnest preparation for death.

The detailed account of the execution given by Mr. E. Duffy in the Enniskillen Chronicle of August 28th, 1817, is gruesome reading. The military occupied the jail square – the whole population of the neighbourhood turned out to see the “finis.” Prospect Hill was crowded, etc.. The unfortunate man did everything that even the most fastidious and exacting of the vast concourse of sightseers might exact from him. After his body had swung the regulated time before the jail, it was lowered into a coffin and handed over to his relatives. During the interval between his condemnation and execution newsmongers asserted positively that he was the confederate of an infamous robber from Lisnaskea, and that he had been implicated in the robbery of Lisgoole forty years before. There was no foundation for either statement.

On January 15th, 1819, a charity ball was given in the Market House, Enniskillen for the relief of the poor debtors confined in the County Jail. It realized £15 and was disbursed to deserving debtors at the rate of 1s-8d per week.

Many remarkable and pathetic scenes have taken place in the old prison – the gloomy building that first attracts the attention of the visitor to Enniskillen. Thousands of grief-stricken prisoner have entered its portals some of whom were never again permitted to breathe the air of freedom. Its narrow and dreary cells are now tenant-less, no armed warders pass along its dimly lit corridors, and the stillness of the night is not broken by the click of heavy locks. The building is deserted, silence reigns supreme. It is the silence that proclaims that the county is free of crime.

One comment on “Enniskillen Jail History.

  1. The Public Record office in Belfast might have these records. I can think of nowhere else. JC

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