It Took Five Hours

by Bernie Crawford

This is a found poem taken from a handwritten account by Dorothy MacArdle of women prisoners being removed from Kilmainham Gaol to the Military Prison, North Dublin Union in 1923. The prisoners refused to leave their two comrades who were on hunger strike alone in the gaol, Mrs O’Callaghan and Miss MacSwiney. They resisted their removal. 81 women were removed to the Military Prison.

Resist, not attack
not come to one another’s rescue
no missiles to be thrown
no one must cry out

Caged with iron bars,
fastened in darkness
We knelt and said the rosary

Then stood, three deep, arms locked
and sang and sang and sang
into the hands of men worse than devils

A soldier’s work, women-beating ?
I don’t mind, I have beaten my wife

Clenched fists/ beat hands/
struck on chest/ head/ dragged downstairs/
clung to iron bars/

The men had many methods/ kicked/
blows with revolver/ on head/ one girl
her finger bitten/

A finger down Moira Broderick’s throat/
hand on face/ blinding/ stifling/
on the ground/ trampling feet/

The prison doctor looked on
smoking all the time

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem was composed during a series of creative writing workshops for Comhrá na mBan Centenary Writers Group led by Emily Cullen at Westside Library, Galway during September – December 2023, as part of the ‘Reflections – A Commemoration of the Irish Women of 1923.’ This project was presented by Galway City Council, Galway Public Libraries & Galway City Museum & supported by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media.