Dundalk Gaol

Dundalk Gaol

The Oriel Cultural Centre is located in the male wing of Dundalk’s Old Gaol, which was completed in 1853 at a cost of £23,000 and was designed by John Neville, Chief Surveyor for the County of Louth.   Among some of its most famous inmates were John Dillon, Frank Aiken, Austin Stack and Sean Tracy. The Gaol featured during the Anglo-Irish struggle when a hunger strike took place amongst the Republican prisoners who were led by the well-known figure Austin Stack.  Another famous prisoner of the Gaol was Frank Aiken who subsequently became Foreign Minister in the Irish Government.  During the Civil War a successful attempt was made to release the anti-treaty prisoners including Frank Aiken from the Gaol.  A mine was placed against the perimeter wall on the Ardee Road side, which was followed by a grenade attack on the Gaol. Having been previously alerted, 105 prisoners escaped.  The father of Frank McEvoy of Dundalk Bookbinding – who binds the annual copies of Comhaltas’ Treoir Magazine, brought the bomb for this attack on bicycle from Skerries!  One of the escaped prisoners was Felix Dawe, the Grandfather of renowned Dundalk fiddle player Austin Dawe. 

Sean Treacy (of the 3rd Tipperary Brigade) was sent to Dundalk Gaol initially in Nov 1917 where he promptly organized a hunger strike for improved conditions for political prisoners.  Treacy also played the fiddle, while the well known Dublin based Comhaltas branch, the Sean Treacy Branch, is named in his honour.

The Chief Warden of Dundalk Gaol from 1893-1907, was Corkman Thomas Moloney.  His Grandson Canice O Mahoney still lives in Dundalk close by the Gaol and is a regular visitor to events at the Oriel CentreThe building became a Garda Station in 1931, and between 1945 -1991 was used as a store by Louth County Council. 

The Oriel Centre focuses primarily on the provision of educational initiatives and aims to work alongside other agencies with a number of target groups in raising awareness of local history, storytelling, an Ghaeilge, songs of the region, music and dance. There are currently over 150 students (young and not so young) availing of music tuition under the auspices of CCE Craobh Dhún Dealgan within the Centre, which also facilitates regular sessions for both adults and children. 

The Oriel Centre provides a direct contact point for those individuals / groups seeking further information regarding the work of Comhaltas or to research traditional artists – singers/ dancers musicians  & storytellers – through complete access to the Comhaltas Archive & it’s developing library of audio / visual and published materials.

Our Open Door policy means that any member of the public is welcome to drop by at any time for a guided tour / view the exhibits and talk about the work of the Oriel Centre and we receive a steady stream of visitors each week many of them local people who have never before had the opportunity to see inside the old Gaol, but have stories to tell concerning relatives who may have spent time at the Gaol as ‘Guests of The State’.  The Oriel Centre has also become the contact point for individuals and agencies seeking authentic traditional entertainment for public events such as seminars /conferences / presentations / banquets etc

The Centre is also an important community resource centre, providing meeting/ social facilities to other groups for example Community Employment initiatives, community radio and Simule Polonia (a group of committed Polish community organisers).

It opened it’s doors in 2008.

Next Project