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Mountjoy Prison

Chalice given back to Spike Island after 134 years in Dublin

When the island ceased to be a prison in June 1883 the chalice was taken to Mountjoy Prison.

DKE120517spike024 David Keane David Keane

A SILVER CHALICE and paten have been returned to Spike Island 134 years after they were removed from the island.

The items were officially handed back to the island on Friday, after over a century in Dublin.

Councillor Anthony Barry received the chalice and paten on behalf of Cork County Council from junior minister David Stanton, who was representing the Irish Prison Service (IPS).

The chalice was commissioned by the IPS in 1848, as Spike Island was growing to become the largest convict depot in the world with over 2,300 inmates.

The chalice and paten would be used for the next 35 years on Spike Island, serving mass to tens of thousands of Ireland and Britain’s most notorious prisoners.

In a statement released today, Cork County Council said: “Famous thieves, murders and nationalist heroes would be among its flock, as religion played a large part in the reform efforts of the prison service.

“When the island ceased to be a prison in June 1883 the chalice and paten were taken by then Governor Peter Hay to his next posting in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, where it would be used in the Church of Ireland [church] for the next 130 years before its closure in 2013.”

DKE120517spike023 Marian Britton and Mona Kennedy of the Cobh Animation Team attending the ceremony David Keane David Keane

The chalice and paten will now go on display in a specially constructed case with panels explaining its significance and the role of religion in Victorian prison reform.

Spike Island manager John Crotty welcomed the development, saying: “Both items were commissioned just as the famine raged in Ireland and the prison population was swelling, and so they would have served some of the most colourful characters in the country who found themselves incarcerated on Spike.

Many of them were awaiting transportation to Australia for their crimes, which was often petty theft out of desperation, and they would have found comfort and strength in their religion.

Spike Island was recently nominated for Europe’s leading tourist attraction at the World Travel Awards, which are dubbed the Oscars of the travel industry. More information can be read here.

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