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Many inmates of Wicklow Gaol left evidence of their stay in the form of graffiti, some of which survives to this day.

Over the several hundred years that Wicklow Gaol has been in existence, a huge number of prisoners were incarcerated within its walls. Every man, woman and child had their own story to tell and reason for being here. Many left behind prison graffiti.

Explaining Prison Graffiti

The main motivation behind leaving graffiti was probably boredom. However, prison graffiti also had another purpose. Prisoners were expressing their ideals, emotions and opinions. Sometimes they seem regretful. In other pieces of graffiti, the opinions are in defiance of the political, or prison system as w hole. Some are more explicit than others.

The Autograph Notebook

One of the most interesting historical artefacts associated with Wicklow Gaol is related to prison graffiti: the ‘autograph’ notebook. This fascinating booklet is a fifty page collection of verses, thoughts, and sketches in which prisoners describe their daily lives at Wicklow Gaol. It was discovered in 1923.

Cartoons and writing depicting a secret prisoner tunnel being discovered.

Images from Wicklow’s Gaol Autograph Notebook. Reproduced by kind permission of Wicklow County.

Why do you think prisoners left prison graffiti at Wicklow Gaol?

Many pieces of graffiti remain unexplained and are open to interpretation. We welcome you to visit and offer your own explanations.

Or use the form below. You can tell us your thoughts. Or send us a link to your image of prison graffiti at Wicklow Gaol: