A free LGBT+ history tour of Kilmainham Gaol will take place this Pride

A tour of Dublin's infamous Kilmainham later this month tells of the Dublin Castle gay scandal, the queer lives of the prison and the struggle for Irish independence.

Irish government to introduce legislation to disregard the historical convictions of gay and bisexual men following a Working Group report.

Last year the first queer history tour of Kilmainham Gaol took place. GCN previously interviewed Brian Crowley the tour creator and guide about the LGBT+ history of the Gaol and its significance with respect to the struggle for Irish independence. Following the success of the event, another free tour will take place June 22 at 10:00 am as part of Dublin LGBTQ Pride.

“Gaols and prisons were often used by those in power to suppress behaviour or identities that were deemed to be transgressive, so there is a lot of queer history bound up with Kilmainham Gaol,” said Crowley on the significance of queer history in the Gaol.

Crowley in an interview with GCN told us about the Dublin Castle Scandal where several senior figures in the establishment were outed and the role of this scandal in the fight for Irish independence:

“In 1884 William O’Brien, the editor of the nationalist newspaper United Ireland, published an article in which it was implied that James Ellis French, the Director of Detectives with the Royal Irish Constabulary, had been engaging in sexual activity with other men. O’Brien was also a Home Rule MP and a fierce critic of the British rule in Ireland and saw this scandal as an opportunity to embarrass their administration in Dublin Castle.

“French sued O’Brien for libel, which prompted O’Brien to hire a disgraced former Scotland Yard detective named John Mieklejohn to investigate the rumours about French. Through his investigations, Mieklejohn uncovered a whole network of gay men in Dublin, which included several senior figures of the establishment, including the head of the General Post Office, Gustavus Cornwall. O’Brien published this information, forcing Cornwall to also take a libel case against O’Brien.”

Both Cornwall and French lost their suits, which led to huge celebrations by Nationalists all around Ireland. They saw it as a victory against what they deemed to be a decadent and corrupt regime in Dublin Castle. Cornwall, French and six other men were then arrested and most were imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol.

Some were charged with committing sodomy, while others faced charges relating to running male brothels in the city. Four of them were found guilty, including a tea and wine merchant from Rathmines named James Pillar who was sentenced to 20 years Penal Servitude.”


The tour not only explores the lives of queer prisoners but also their involvement in the struggle of Irish independence.

There have been recent evaluations of history to include the often forgotten LGBT+ figures. This tour will feature uncover the lives of Irish LGBT+ figures such as Roger Casement, Oscar Wilde and more within the context of Kilmainham Gaol, homosexual crimes and the Dublin Castle Scandal of 1884, the biggest gay scandal in Ireland in the 19th century.

The free tour will take place on 22 June at 10:00 am at Kilmainham Gaol. Booking is required. You can find more information here.

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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