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Discovering 1916 From My Desk, Spike Island, 100 Years and More...

This week I have been lucky enough to be involved in a project that not only interested me personally but that is extremely relevant to the week that is in it. With the 1916 Celebrations going into full swing this weekend I thought it would be apt to share how my working week synced up with this historic occasion. 

Research / Content Development /

Emagine are currently working on a project that plays a part in the redevelopment of Spike Island Co.Cork from a once prison/military fortress into an interpretive centre, were visitors can discover and learn about the history of the island which spans the best part of a millennium. 

Needless to say this involves sifting through a little bit of content here and there. Maybe even a drop of organisation.

This week I was given the task of sorting that historical content chronologically. It seems the island which to me (I am not much of a history buff) had previously been nothing more than a mention in my "Modern Ireland" history textbook in school, played a major part in almost every outstanding historical period of Irish history.


A place that's seen it all...

It was a final stop for prisoners of the Cromwellian period who were sentenced to transportation. Yes, transportation as in Botany bay, Australia. The island prison was overflowing during the great famine, when begging was made illegal and a lot of people actually tried to get themselves arrested just to be guaranteed the sparse meals they would receive four days of the week inside a cell.

That was over 150 years ago. But what really caught my attention was 100 years ago, to the day (well sort of). On Good Friday 1916, Spike Island gained two new residents, Austin Stack and Con Collins. These men had been on their way to meet Roger Casement at Banna Strand Co.Kerry. Their objective was to meet a shipment of Arms coming in on a boat called the Aud, a ship that was en-route from Germany. 

The interception by the British of this ship was seen as a huge step backwards in the rebels plans to revolt on Easter Sunday. The revolt went ahead anyway, I am sure you have heard about it. This however was a huge moment and had the shipment gotten through the Easter Rising may have gone a different way, and so the entire course of Irish history from 1916 on could have been changed.

Austin stack was sentenced to death (later changed to lifelong penal servitude). Luckily, he was released under general amnesty in 1917 and went onto become a TD in the 1921 elections. What a turn around eh?


Austin and Collins were not alone in the spike island prison, the entire crew of the Aud were captured and imprisoned on Spike Island too. In 1921 over 600 members of the Irish Volunteers were held there during the war of independence. Making spike island very influential in the events that we as a nation are set to celebrate this weekend.

The Future of Spike...

In 2016 Spike Island is due to reopen as a heritage centre, highlighting it's role in Irish history. Many of the buildings have already been upgraded and conditions have been transformed. The project has been undertaken by Fáilte Ireland and Cork County Council who received control of the island in 2010.

A Nation to Be Proud of...

100 years later and I find myself sitting in a modern office, working on a computer, in a country that is one of Europe's technological leaders, a country that is admired the world over. A country that has been brave enough to introduce radical social changes before any other. A country that has grown at a rate that surely surpasses the wildest dreams of the brave men who laid down there lives in 1916.

When I was asked to sort the content for this project on Tuesday morning, it opened my eyes to how lucky I am to be sitting here at a desk in a company that has been allowed to spread it's creative, innovative wings. 

That is in no small way thanks to Austin Collins and every other dreamer, who could see the Ireland we sometimes take for granted, 100 years before I wrote this article.

Kevin O'Brien

Kevin O'Brien

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