The prison records for the Republic of Ireland are now on microfilm and online. This is a boom for genealogists as we can learn personal details about our ancestors. This helps us to see these characters in our family history for who they were, or at least how the court and prison system viewed them.
While collections of prison records can be found on websites such as “FamilySearch”: www.familysearch.org and “FindMyPast.ie”: www.findmypast.ie these are from the perspective of the government. This blog is to help you understand how the average person, often part of the prison system, saw the prison experience and the process leading up to prison.
My “Prison Slang Dictionary” is drawn from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: www.fromoldbooks.org/Grose-VulgarTongue/ These are common terms, and it may surprise you how many are still in use today. This is part of my personal reconstructing of this 1811 source so that it is both accessible and educational for the family historian. I refer you to my past blogs “Un-Churched Dictionary of the Churched” Part 1 and 2 which appeared on September 9-10 where I unpacked church terminology. Also I refer you to my initial research into these types of sources in my blog “Vulgar Dictionaries” on July 9th. I hope my creation amazes and entertains you.
Block House: A prison or houses of correction.
Canary Bird: A jail bird, a person who used to be kept in a cage.
Cat of Nine Tails: A scourge composed of nine strings of whip-cord, each string having nine knots.
Clinkers: Irons worn by prisoners.
Cly the Jerk: Meaning to be whipped.
College: A prison.
Collegiates: A prisoner.
Cooped Up: Imprisoned, confined like a fowl in a coop.
Conjuror: see Fortune Teller
Fortune Teller/Cunning Man: A judge who tells every prisoner their fortune, lot or doom. Also called a conjuror. see Lambskin Men.
Gaol: A jail or prison.
Jigger: A whipping post.
Lambskin Men: The judges from their robs lined and bordered with ermine (an Old World weasel).
Limbo: A prison or confinement.
Lob’s Pound: A prison.
Queer Ken: A prison.
Rumbo: A prison.
Sheriff’s Hotel: A prison.
Stone Jug: A prison.