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On Friday May 12th a very special ceremony will see the handing back of the Spike Island silver chalice and paten, 1848, to Spike Island, after more than 134 years since its removal from the island.
Mayor of Cork County Cllr Seamus McGrath will receive the chalice and paten on behalf of Cork County Council from David Stanton, T.D, Minister for state at the department of justice and equality, representing the Irish Prison Service, in a historic handing over ceremony. There will also be the launch of the new publication, ‘a souvenir guidebook to Spike Island.

The ceremony will involve singing by Cork Prison Choir, piping by pipe player Noel McCarthy, a speech by the books author Simon Hill, a speech by the Mayor for Cork County Seamus McGrath and a speech by David Stanton, T.D, Minister for State at the department of justice and equality. There will also be a short talk by Cork County Council Heritage officer Conor Nelligan and a prayer for the departed by Rev Adrian Molloy.

The chalice was commissioned by the Irish Prison Service in 1848, just as Spike Island was growing to become the largest convict depot in the world with over 2300 inmates. The chalice and paten would be used for the next 35 years on Spike Island, serving mass to tens of thousands of Ireland and Britain’s most notorious prisoners. Famous thieves, murders and nationalist heroes would be among its flock, as religion played a large part in the reform efforts of the prison service.

When the island ceased to be a prison in June 1883 the chalice and paten were taken by then Governor Peter Hay to his next posting in Mountjoy prison, Dublin, where it would be used in the Church of Ireland in Mountyjoy for the next 130 years before its clourse in 2013. Now thanks to the goodwill of the Irish Prison Service the chalice and paten are to be returned in a special ceremony marking the event. The ceremony will include songs from the Cork Prison choir, music, speeches from the Mayor and Minister and readings. The chalice and paten will then go on display in a specially constructed case with panels explaining its significance and the role of religion in Victorian prison reform.

Spike Island manager John Crotty commented “We are delighted to receive the chalice and paten back on Spike Island and all the history that they bring with them. Both items were commissioned just as the famine raged in Ireland and the prison population was swelling, and so they would have served some of the most colourful characters in the country who found themselves incarcerated on Spike. Many of them were awaiting transportation to Australia for their crimes, which was often petty theft out of desperation, and they would have found comfort and strength in their religion”.

Mayor of County Cork Seamus McGrath commented ‘It is a very special day in the history of Spike Island and we thank the Irish Prison Service for facilitating this return. The chalice and paten will be seen by tens of thousands of visitors to Spike each year which is fitting given their history, and they will enrich the experience for Spike Island visitors”.

Spike Island was recently nominated for Europe’s leading tourist attraction at the World Travel Awards, the Oscars of the travel industry, with the public able to vote for the attraction via the website,

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