Monday, January 28, 2013

(Do Not) Pass Go

Today was our last day in Adelaide. We felt sad about this as we packed up and said our farewells in the morning to the Freisan and the Beautiful Buchverkaufer.

We came into town and parked the car out of the way so we could watch the cyclng later on and then be able to leave for the airport in time.

Parliament House, Adelaide
The city of Adelaide, with its grid-like pattern, central squares and parkland surrounds, was designed by surveyor-general Colonel William Light, in a plan known as 'Light's Vision'. Rumour has it that he stood on Montefiore Hill in North Adelaide and pointed at what would become the city centre.

This legend is commemorated by a statue of Colonel Light by Birnie Rhind, in Elder Park. Unfortunately, with current building projects, he is now pointing at the highly controversial AUD575 million upgrade of the Adelaide oval.

Colonel Light's Vision
A stroll around North Adelaide hammers home the point that many settlers here were free persons escaping religious persecution elsewhere. Allowed to follow their faith how they wanted, they were quick to build places of worship and Adelaide was soon known as the city of churches.

As in many other cities, little blue plaques are affixed to walls to point out sites of historical interest. Some of them are wonderfully descriptive, such as the one below which tells us that these are 'three detached houses'.
Carclew House

I love the shape and form of the eucalypts and the way the light shines through them.

St Peter's Cathedral poking through the trees

Cramming in a last bit of tourism, we headed to Old Adelaide Gaol. One of South Australia's oldest public buildings, it operated from 1841 to 1988, housing approximately 300,000 prisoners.

Old Adelaide Gaol
Before 1960 all visits were conducted through the iron gates of the sally port. Regardless of the weather, prisoners stood and had shouted conversations with visitors on the other side, held behind a bar, while officers kept watch. On a busy day there could be a dozen prisoners with a few visitors each, all shouting to be heard.

By the late 1950s this system was recognised as unsatisfactory, and the new cente was constructed. All visits were still non-contact with a series of booths and wire screens separating visitors and inmates.

painting of 'old' visitor centre
'new' visitor centre
An inspector in 1878 wrote that, "Her Majesty's Gaol Adelaide, forms a semi-circle, and is divided into 5 yards in each of which is constructed 'wings' containing cells for the housing of prisoners. These cells are all over 12 feet in height, and are beautifully clean and admirably ventilated."

The same inspector wrote of the surgery, "The male hospital is a melancholy place, ill-lighted, ill-ventilated, and to the last extent cheerless and forlorn. There is no resident Doctor in the prison, but the Colonial Surgeon visits the gaol 3 times a week, and is sent for in case of emergency."

Dentist's chair (or torture chamber, as I'm sure it was considered by many)
From 1849 to 1969, both men and women were interned within the gaol. While the men were employed outside the prison in labouring jobs, the women were all kept inside and set to oakum picking or pulling horsehair. Exhibits within the gaol are hands-on, and you can have a go at unravelling these knotted ropes with your fingers. I managed for about thirty seconds before my hands began to bleed.

The new Watch Tower above yards 3 and 4 was built in 1971-72 and provided an excellent view of all yards in the gaol. A new electronic surveillance system comprising 49 cameras was installed and connected to a central control room in 1984.

Old Adelaide Gaol Watch Tower
Juvenile offenders were held in the upper tier of C Wing. When the prison inspector visited, there were three young boys held for breaking into a church and forgery.

He commented, "Isolated as they are from the older offenders there is a chance now of saving these children, but should they be sentenced at the supreme court, and pass a period of their childhood spent up with every phase of crime and degradation, it would require no casting of a horoscope to predict the future of these juvenile delinquents."

The notice on this yard door asks, 'Have you been locked in?' If so it supplies a number to ring and advises that you 'try shouting out for assistance'.

It goes on to add that 'if all else fails and you have been locked in for a reasonable amount of time without assistance arriving please ring Police Security [number provided] and explain that you have been locked in a yard or building at the Adelaide Gaol. Please try to give the Police Security Officer your exact location using the visitor's map ad your reference.'

Somehow, as we continued our self-guided tour around the gaol, I didn't find this especially encouraging!

The New Building was constructed in 1878-79 and is the only building in the Adelaide Gaol which was constructed by prison labour. It is brightened up by various murals painted throughout by one of the prisoners, who was an artist by trade.

The remand cells were in the new building, and they faced the central corridor rather than the exercise yard. The installation of the skylight was also considered innovative.

Until an Act of Parliament in 1861 abolished public hangings, 45 executions were performed at Adelaide Gaol. They were very popular with the public and up to 2,000 people attended them.

In 1886 a gallows was installed in A Wing of the New Building and was used for 21 executions until 1950. All the other inmates were removed from the wing the night before the execution, but they obviously knew what was going to happen and the atmosphere was tense to say the least. There is still a certain feeling of unease in that section of the building.

As well as being a tourist attraction, the gaol is also used as an entertainment venue. Films are shown in the courtyard, and the site has been a venue for performances in the Adelaide Fringe Festival.

In 1953, the west tower which had been used as a store room, was converted to a gallows. Four executions were performed in this area before capital punishment was abolished in 1976.

The second tower was never completed as the construction company ran out of funds. It stands as a Guard Tower at the end of the 'causeway' - the space between the inner and outer prison walls where the inmates took their exercise.

I didn't exactly share the nineteenth-century inspector's sentiments as I headed out into the beautiful sunny day. "When I was leaving the prison I could not help thinking what a pleasant place it was, and how very much better off a great many of the prisoners must be inside than when they are dependent on their own exertions for board and residence."

And then we said our farewells to the cyclists of the Tour Down Under as they wheeled through Adelaide for the last time.

Ian Stannard
Going the wrong way and ignoring the traffic signs...
Andy Schleck
Colonel William Light points out the cyclists on the big screen
Bye bye Sky boys