Two Yanks Downunder

A blog about the experiences of two Americans on their first visit to the fabulous continent of Australia

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Prison and Where I am.

No, That is not one and the same!! Anonymous commented on my last blog asking where I was. Life has been very busy. As program director for 22 students I find myself rather busy keeping them entertained and safe (see my blog csbsjuaustralia.blogspot.com if you have any questions or are hankering to see some pictures of my lovely young adult "children". ) So the answer to the question is that I'm still in Fremantle as busy as can be and hoping to find a spare moment to catch up on my personal blogging one of these days. (It will have to be soon, because I'll be leaving for home in a little over a week!)

Today, for example I graded papers until my brain turned to mush and then I was incapable of doing anything except eating leftover chocolate cake from our last birthday celebration and goodbye dinner! Tomorrow I have to get a grip and get some exercise, but in the mean time I thought I'd load some pictures from Mom's and my second visit to the Fremantle prison.

October 20, 2006

On our first visit to the Fremantle prison we had been told if we wanted to do a second tour we could take "The Great Escapes" tour for just 5$ more. I guess they were desperate for our money, because they extended the offer over the period of a week, so sure enough a week later we were rested and ready for another trek up to and through the prison and since I still hadn't seen the Catalpa exhibit (for which our flat is named) I was determined to go in and read about the escape from prison by the daring Fenian rebels.

I won't post a lot about the trip, but it was quite interesting to hear about Western Australia's most famous criminal Moondyne Joe(Whose real name was Johns). Wikipedia explains Joe's first offense as follows:



On 15 November 1848, Johns and an associate named John Williams were arrested near Chepstow for "... illegally entering the premises of Mr Richard Price, Esquire, of Pentwyn Clydach... and from there taking three loaves of bread, one piece of bacon, several cheeses, a kettle and a quantity of salt". Arraigned at the Brecon Assizes on charges of burglary and stealing, the pair pleaded not guilty. On 23 March they were tried at the Lent Assizes before Sir William Erle. Newspaper reports of the trial suggest that the pair gave an unexpectedly spirited defence, but Johns was abrasive and "contravened the conventions of court procedure". The men were convicted and sentenced to ten years' penal servitude. Edgar (1990) observes that in several other cases brought before the same judge that day, guilty pleas to very similar charges resulted in sentences ranging from three weeks to three months.

Joe actually got a Ticket of leave after arriving in Fremantle and settled in the Avon valley. Later he was imprisoned for horse stealing and entered into a repeated career of escaping and being re-imprisoned (Each time his sentence was extended longer and longer and each escape found him hiding out in the Darling mountains near Perth.) They even built a specific cell for him with studs all over the floors and walls to keep him from escaping (although it was usually from the yard that he effected his escapes and not from his cell.)

Anyway - this visit allowed us to see the refurbished building without its scaffolding :



This is a visiting pen - the room to the right is for "Non Contact" prisoners and thus has two viewing slits, while the room to the right has only one slit for prisoners who get to be in the same room with their visitors.



There are several places not on the regular tour that we got to visit including this room occupied by a forger who did beautiful pictures on the wall from memory and covered them over when he wasn't working on them so no one would know he was doing them.



We also visited a different chapel from the main one on the regular tour.



I was fascinated by the imagery of prison and so will mostly just offer up a few photos like this connecting yard.



On the tour we were also educated on the different kinds of "pie holes"and orifices for passing cigarettes to prisoners. I was taken with the numbering of the rooms in this area of the prison. We were told that there were no rooms with the number 6, because it was too much like a hangman's noose.



There were some lovely, lyrical images to be found in the yard.



This image of the walls and a dandelion shows how brittle the walls actually are. Inmates were able to break through the crumbly material fairly easily.



Here are a couple more photos from the tour:








One section that I had never seen before was the women's quarters. This yard could not have been very pleasant for the few women who were imprisoned there.



We also got to hear about the Postcard bandit, Berenden Abbott, who used to commit crimes and then send a postcard of pictures of himself to taunt the authorities with their inability to capture him.

Finally I also got to spend some time in the exhibit about the Catalpa escape.



Irish revolutionaries (Fenians) who were imprisoned as political prisoners in Australia were rescued by a group of men who hired a US ship and came to Australia ostensibly as a whaling ship. The convicts were smuggled aboard and when the British wanted to fire upon the escape ship the Captain dared them to fire on the American flag. A prior incident made this a very risky thing to do, so the rebels were able to sail away uncaptured on the whaling ship Catalpa.



There were many interesting exhibits, images from the diaries a few items from the Catalpa and I was glad we had gone.

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