Opening Hours

March- September

Open 7 days 10am until 5pm


Under 18s must be accompanied by an Adult

Did you know?

Countess Markievicz spent 4 months here in Cork City Gaol.
Photography by Barry McCarthy


Adults: €10.00

Student: €8.50

OAP: €8.50

Child: €6.00

Family ticket: €30.00 (2 adults and up to 4 children)


Under 18s must be accompanied by an Adult  
One of the best Cork Visitor Attractions
Unlock the past at Cork City Gaol Today

Mary Bowles


On the 13th January 1921 a large-scale raid involving Military and the RIC took place at Clogheen, just a few kilometres from the Gaol. A number of houses in the area were being used by the IRA at the time. As the soldiers and R.I.C. approached the houses, they saw Mary Bowles dropping a bundle as she walked through a field.

An R.I.C. constable approached her and asked what she had dropped, she claimed it was a bundle of clothing. On inspection the constable discovered a machine gun covered with a ground sheet. Mary later stated that, had the gun been loaded, the soldiers would not have had such an easy arrest on their hands.

As the Constable was investigating the dropped package, a sergeant noticed that Mary had an unusual shape to her shoulder. He asked her to remove her coat only to discover that she was wearing steal armour. Her pockets were searched and, according to reports, a fully loaded Webley revolver, an automatic pistol with 1 round of ammunition, 17 rounds of revolver ammunition and 1 round of rifle ammunition were discovered along with some newspapers and other documents. She refused to give any information when questioned and was arrested.


It is uncertain how old Mary was at the time, a statement from one of the members of the IRA who was in her house around the time of her arrest gives her age as 13, her prison record states she was 15, while the official Crown forces report states that she was 16 years old. What is certain is the commotion caused by her arrest, the news appeared in numerous newspapers with one English newspaper referring to her as “An Amazon in the Ranks of Sinn Fein”[i].


According to some reports, Mary was first taken to the military barracks where she was questioned without success (she apparently feigned insanity). Public concern grew for Marys well-being and so the Bishop of Cork intervened, she was then moved to Cork City Gaol on 15th January. While awaiting her trial Mary apparently drew detailed diagrams of the Machine gun on the walls of her cell, these showed the in-depth knowledge that she had of the weapon. This shocked the police and soldiers because it seemed her knowledge of weapons surpassed their own.

Court Martial

At her Court Martial on 25th January, Mary was charged possessing 25 rounds of revolver ammunition, a .45 Webley Scott revolver, a small automatic pistol and a machine gun. Mary is said to have portrayed an air of indifference and made no response when asked whether she was pleading guilty or not guilty. The Court was shown the weapons that she had been carrying and also the body armour she had been wearing which consisted of 2 steel plates, covered in material with straps for over the shoulders and a belt. The Constable and Sergeant, who had discovered the weapons and armour, gave statements as to her behaviour on the day. None of her relatives or friends were present at the Court Martial.


Mary was found guilty of all 3 offences and on 17th February it was announced that she was to be sent to a Roman Catholic Reformatory School until she reached the age of 19. The following day Mary was transferred from Cork City Gaol to St Joseph’s Reformatory School in Limerick City.

Mary Bowles Armour. Image: National Museum of Ireland

[i] Sheffield Daily Telegraph. 26 January 1921.


Location Map →

GPS: 51.8995105,-8.49904979


Convent Avenue,
Sunday’s Well,
Cork City,

Tel: 021-4305022