Julia Clarke could only laugh after being sentenced to a month in prison as part of Eamon de Valera’s “Vice Act” in 1937.
Scottish woman Julia Clarke was sentenced to a month in prison as part of Eamon de Valera’s “Vice Act” when she was caught kissing her boyfriend on a church’s grounds in Dundalk, Co Louth in 1937.
The Irish Film Institute has preserved "Gaol for a Kiss," footage of Clarke laughing about the matter after she fled back to her native Glasgow.
The "Vice Act" of 1935 was a law "to make further and better provision for the protection of young girls and the suppression of brothels and prostitution, and for those and other purposes to amend the law relating to sexual offences”, according to Irish Legal Heritage.
Clarke was sentenced by Dundalk Court for kissing her boyfriend on church property at Blackrock, Co Louth. According to a news article at the time, "the local vigilance committee was shocked and the Dundalk Justices were so scandalized that, although Miss Clarke already had returned home to Glasgow, they passed the sentence with a view to keeping her out of the country for ever."
Her unnamed boyfriend had already appeared before the Court and was ordered to pay a small fine.
Clarke was the first woman sentenced under Eamon de Valera’s ‘Vice Act’. In this newsreel, she doesn’t appear too worried about the sentence.
This film is part of The Irish Independence Film Collection – The Early Irish Free State that explores facets of Irish society after the War of Independence and up to the birth of the Irish Republic.
The video below is published with thanks to the Irish Film Institute (IFI). You can find all IrishCentral articles and videos from the IFI here.
To watch more historic Irish footage, visit the IFI Player, the Irish Film Institute’s virtual viewing room that provides audiences around the globe free, instant access to Irish heritage preserved in the IFI Irish Film Archive. Irish Culture from the last century is reflected through documentaries, animation, adverts, amateur footage, feature films, and much more. You can also download the IFI Player Apps for free on iPhone, Android, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku.
*Originally published in 2020. Updated in 2021.