Wed, 29/05/2019 - 13:22
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Inside the famine prison

The Discovery Channel has just recently wrapped up filming on Spike Island Cork for their premier new series, ‘Breaking History’, due to air in the autumn. The series is visiting some of the world’s iconic historical sites to film new areas being uncovered. On Spike they focused on the ‘tunnels’, an area underneath the fortress walls that were originally associated with smuggling and pirates in the late 1700’s, but used by the British to store gunpowder for the fort in the early 1800’s.The tunnels went on to hold famine-era prisoners, in atrocious conditions, as the island became the largest prison in the world during the 1850’s.

The island attraction has the honour of featuring on the first episode to air in autumn and will see the team take down walls and access areas that had been blocked off in the early 1900’s by the British, in the 1960’s by the Irish army and most recently in 1985, when the island became a prison once more, housing Ireland’s joy-riders and notorious Dublin criminal ‘The General’ Martin Cahill. The Discovery channel team found parts for century old artillery guns, a lantern from the British period and uniforms.

John Crotty, the general manager of Spike Island, described having the prestigious Discovery Channel air a programme about the island's history as "absolutely fantastic", noting that it would reach areas and markets that he and his colleagues would normally never have a hope of reaching.

"The Discovery Channel series will add gravitas to the site. We are ecstatic as Spike will be in the opening episode of the new series. I think it will definitely help to add to our visitor numbers as we will get penetration into markets we normally wouldn't be able to reach. The channel is a really respected brand," Mr Crotty said.

The Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr. Gerard Patrick Murphy commenting on the news saying

“The Discovery Channel is visiting some of the world’s greatest historical sites to film this series and has an outstanding record of delivering high quality history programmes to a global audience – this is great news for Spike Island which is one of the gems of Cork County Council’s heritage attractions”.

In the long term it is hoped the tunnels can be reopened to the public, showing the mixed use of military and prison elements that have survived for 200 years.

“The area is quiet special, it feels like stepping into another world as the temperature plummets and the dark and damp sets in as you go underground”, said Mr Crotty. “They would make a stand out addition to our already comprehensive offering so we will investigate the possibility of reopening them”.

Boat to the island depart daily from Kennedy pier, Cobh and visitors can enjoy the guided tour, several museums and exhibitions, island walks and cafe and gift shop. for more details

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Aerial view of spike