One of the more well-known prisoners to spend time in Cork City Gaol was Countess Markievicz.
Born into a privileged background, Countess Markievicz was raised very differently from the poor, deprived women with whom she shared the corridors of Cork City Gaol. She gave the British Government reason to lock her up no less than 5 times throughout her lifetime: for her part in the 1916 rising, she was sent to Kilmainham, Mountjoy and Aylesbury; she was sent to Holloway and Mountjoy under 2 separate charges of Conspiracy; a charge of sedition saw her imprisoned in Cork City Gaol. Out of those 5, she claimed that Cork City Gaol was “The most comfortable jail I have been in yet”. During the Civil War, she was interned in North Dublin Union.
On Saturday 17th May 1919, Countess Markievicz attended an unlawful assembly in Newmarket Co Cork where she made a speech, 1 week later, the house that Countess Markievicz was staying in Dublin was raided by the police, and the search was extensive but unsuccessful.
In early June 1919, she was arrested in Dublin and taken by train to Cork where she was imprisoned in Cork City Gaol until her trial.
On the morning of 17th June, Countess Markievicz was taken to Mallow to stand trial. There was a large party of soldiers present, along with an armoured car and at least 20 motor lorries. The street outside the courthouse was filled with armed police and military.
On the 18th of June 1919, the Northern Whig newspaper stated that Sergeant Eugene Conlon, a police officer, swore that he saw the Countess at the assembly and gave a detailed account of what he claimed to hear her say.
The Countess denied encouraging people to boycott the police but that she told people to treat them as if they didn’t exist.
Countess Markievicz was sentenced to four months without Hard Labour for taking part in an unlawful assembly and using words that would “inflame the passion of the people against the police”. When the sentence was announced the countess called for three cheers for the Irish Republic.
During her time in Cork City Gaol Countess Markievicz engaged in reading, writing and drawing. She also received numerous visitors including Nora Connolly.
Countess Markievicz received all of her meals from locals and many gifts from the people of Cork including newspapers, fruit and flowers. In addition, local members of Cumann na mBan often gathered outside in the evenings and sang for the Countess.
In letters to her sister, Countess Markievicz seemed to be in good spirits and wrote that she was “quite cheerful and happy”. However, Nora Connelly, who visited regularly, thought that Countess Markievicz seemed rather lonely.
The Countess was released from Cork City Gaol on 16th October 1919. The following day she returned to Dublin and was seen off from Cork by a number of prominent Sinn Feiners and members of Cumann na mBan.