Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Construction: Stories From The Gladstone Gaol - Part 2

Stories From The Gladstone Gaol -Part 2

In South Australia's Mid-north, approximately 221 km's from Adelaide, sits the town of Gladstone, and over on Ward Street, in the towns west, sits the imposing Gladstone Gaol.
The gaol was constructed between 1879 and 1881 with a total cost of £21,640. Its grey slate floors were made from slate mined at Mintaro and carried to Gladstone by Bullock Dray
B Wing - Gladstone Gaol
© Karen Tiller
Many people question the reasoning behind the construction of the gaol in such a remote part of South Australia, and somewhere so close to where three gauges of train line come together, offering an easy escape route if needed.

A newspaper story in The Mail, printed on the 8th of August 1881 refers to the building of the Gaol, but also the first Female prisoner to be imprisoned there:
8 August 1881 Gladstone Gaol
On 8 August 1881, two months to the day after it had been opened, Gladstone Gaol received its first female prisoners. Some time before 1879 Charles Mann, MP for the district, was asked by the residents what he could do for the town. He asked them if they would like a gaol and two years later Gladstone Gaol, said by one writer to have a gloomy solidity, was opened. Mr Pollett from the Redruth Gaol at Burra was appointed head keeper and the gaol had accommodation for 60 male and female prisoners. It appears that it rarely had a full complement and the only ‘lifer’ was a cat called Lady Jane Grey.
Sunset Through The Bars
© Allen Tiller

Rumours have long been whispered that its building was a “political stunt” orchestrated in the area because a former Government Minister who eventually became the Attorney General wanted to see some funding injected into Gladstone, which eventually led to the Gaol being built. The Gaol could house 60 prisoners easily at the time it was built, when Gladstone’s population was only 900 people.
Because of its distance to Adelaide, the gaol was never used for much more than Debtors and inebriates, in other words, people who couldn’t pay their bills and alcoholics. Much of the time the Gaol was completely empty, in fact, when alcoholics did elect to do their stay in Gladstone Gaol, they actually got paid for it, at £26 per year!

Probably the only time this Gaol saw anything near full capacity was when there was a viral outbreak of measles or some other virally contagious disease in Adelaide, then Gladstone Gaol would become a make-shift hospital and quarantine area.

During the World Wide conflict of World War II, Gladstone Gaol was used as a interment camp for people of Italian and German origin, prisoners of war who were regarded a security risk to the Nation. It was also used in this period to house soldiers who had gone AWOL (absent without leave) from their Military Posting.
From 1943 until 1953 the prison lay dormant and empty

NO-ONE WAS EVER HUNG IN THIS GAOL - sorry about the capitals, but I had to reiterate this point, despite all the conjecture, rumours, misinformation and legends, no-one was ever hung at Gladstone Gaol, formally, or informally.

Next week we take a look at the new extensions to the Gaol!