Spike Island: The Rebels, Residents & Crafty Criminals of Ireland’s Historic Island


John Crotty 


April 2024

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A monastic outpost in the Celtic Sea, a fortress built to defend an Empire, a prison established to intern a nation; Spike Island’s remarkable 1300-year history far exceeds its modest acreage.

No other place better encapsulates the Irish story. Spike Island tells of religious fervour, frequent rebellion, social endeavour, and a nation’s inextinguishable yearning for freedom. After 206 years off-limits to the public, its secrets can finally be divulged.

The island has garnered international attention many times, such as the famine-era prison overcrowding and inhumane conditions, the triumphant 1938 handover of the island from Britain to Ireland, and the violent prison riot in 1985.

Spike Island echoes with the voices of prisoners past, having housed fierce rebels like John Mitchel, who would inspire the 1916 generation, and 1200 Republicans during the War of Independence. More recent arrivals include the notorious crime boss The General, who terrorized 1980’s Ireland.

Told in an entertaining and accessible chronological style featuring accounts from island dwellers and the interned alike, this book is sure to captivate anyone interested in Irish history.

About the Author

John Crotty hails from County Waterford and spent 11 years living in the UK where he graduated from Swansea University. On his return, John managed Spike Island Cork as CEO for six years, leading the island to international awards. Under John’s stewardship, the island launched its popular After Dark tours and the first Spike Island Literary Festival. John has been featured in multiple publications and TV shows sharing the island’s story. This is his first book.

Praise for Spike Island 

‘John Crotty’s new book on the 104-acre island is a lively and superbly researched read.’ – Sunday Business Post 


The Last Ice Age to Medieval Times
1. 9000 BC to AD 1600: Ice Age Foundation to Late Middle Ages
2. 1650s–1913: Cromwell, Pirates, Prisons and Notable Residents
3. 1914–Present: World Wars and Republicans in the Service of the State

The Captains and Convicts
4. The Englishman Who Loved Ireland
5. A First Nationalist Emerges
6. The Boy They Made a Murderer
7. Multiplying Madness
8. Fierce Fenians
9. Child Prisoners
10. Escape Artists
11. Murder Sensation
12. William Kirwan
13. The Drunken Surgeon
14. Jack in the Box
15. The Doors Close

Explorers, World War and a Republican Prison
16. A World-famous Adventurer
17. 1916 Gunrunning
18. German and Irish POWs
19. The Irish Republican Prison on Spike Island
20. All Walks of Life
21. Essential Escape
22. Shot While Playing Hurling
23. The Hurlers and Revivalists
24. Riots and Repercussions
25. November Escape and Closure

Island Return, the Residents and a Final Prison
26. Under Assault
27. Sunset on an Empire
28. Independence Day
29. Life in the Emergency
30. Food and Games
31. An Island Christmas

The Modern Prison
32. The Modern Prison Opens
33. Riot Erupts
34. The Battle for Fort Mitchel
35. The General, Martin Cahill
36. Both Sides of the Bars
37. The Closure of Ireland’s Alcatraz