Following the Easter Rising of 1916, 1,863 men were sent without trial to Frongoch Prison Camp in Snowdonia, Wales. Due to its remote location, the former whisky distillery turned German prisoner of war camp was regarded as the best place to hold rebels such as Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith. 

After being arrested and taken to prisons across England, the first inmates to the Frongoch Prison camp arrived by train in June 1916. Conditions in the camp were not comfortable. The old whisky distillery buildings were ferociously cold at night and unbearably hot during the summer. Inmates also had to contend with living alongside an infestation of rats.

The Memorial stone and plaque at Frongoch, Wales
Author: HUW P



Due to the infestation of rats the camp earned the nickname – Francach – a pun on the Irish word for rat.

The prisoners themselves kept order within the camp, and it was from inside the prison walls that the inmates created ‘Ollscoil na Réabhlóide’ or the ‘University of Revolution’. It was here that the values of independence and the discipline through which it would be achieved were fostered. 

Indeed, it was at Frongoch Prison Camp where Michael Collins and others emerged as leaders for the Irish revolution. In total, 30 men detained at the camp went on to become TD’s (or MP’s) in the Republican parliament in Dublin, Dáil Eireann or ‘Assembly of Ireland’. 

Many locals worked within the camp and came into frequent contact with the Irishmen. They soon learned that they had much in common with the inmates, such as their love for the countryside and their native languages.

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Activities such as: open-air concerts, fancy dress parades and sporting events are said to have been held in the camp, with Michael Collins allegedly winning the 100m sprint race in a time of 11 seconds. 

The Frongoch Prison Camp was closed in December 1916 and the inmates were sent back to Ireland. It was a short-lived experiment; however, it was here that the tactics of guerrilla warfare, models for intelligence networks and ideals of Irish republicanism were forged.