The story of Sarah Roche



Youghal Clock Gate Tower re-opened in 2017 as a tourist attraction – some 240 years after opening as the infamous gaol and it has served many purposes in those 240 years. On a tour of Youghal Clock Gate Tower you can here it's story, see its different uses, feel the atmosphere and listen to and the stories of many local historical characters that climbed the steps of this unique building. Your visit will be assisted by our knowledgeable and engaging costumed Storytellers. Here will just give you a little snippet of one of those matchless stories – that of Sarah Roche.

Sarah, a young Youghal lady was incarcerated in Youghal Clock Gate Tower in 1826 for non-payment of a debt. She had borrowed some money from her brother and was unable to meet her repayment commitment. Her disgruntled brother had her thrown into gaol for that reason. As "guest" of the gaoler in Youghal Clock Gate Tower, Sarah was cold – there was no glazing on the windows and the gaol afforded her just one thin worn-out blanket.. Sarah was hungry – prisoners in Youghal Clock Gate Tower had to supply their own food - Sarah depended on the generosity of passersby to drop some food into a basket which was lowered by rope from the un-glazed windows and drawn up in through the same window if she had received some offerings. Sometimes she got food – sometimes she didn't. Sarah also had to share her cell – no single en-suite rooms here. Utter squalor, overcrowding and no segregation of the sexes – Sarah had to share the cell sometimes with up to five or six others – male and female. All prisoners were manacled with iron chains with movement restricted. As with many prisons the sanitary facilities were deplorable - in fact total facilities at Youghal Clock Gate Tower consisted of one bucket– I won't elaborate but I'm sure you can imagine the horrendous scenario and foul odours etc...

However, Sarah was made of stern stuff. She entered into a deal with her brother. Her brother, William, put it to her to marry his friend, a John Meade. If Sarah married this John Mead, whom she did not know, William would wipe clear the debt and she would be released from the filth of Youghal Clock Gate Tower with immediate effect. It was Hobson's choice really. Sarah left Youghal Clock Gate Tower and married John. Sarah and John had a very happy life together in a home with proper glazed windows and much kinder home comforts than afforded her in the Tower. Happiness had come to Sarah, though in a most unusual manner. We salute you Sarah.