Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Fremantle Prison

Fremantle is a location we have been meaning to check out for a while now and we finally get there only to end up in prison! Don't worry, we haven't been up to anything dodgy, the place actually ceased operating as a prison in 1991. Today, the World Heritage Listed prison operates as a museum to give people an insight as to how the early convicts were treated. The Prison offers a variety of different tours; Doing Time, Great Escapes, Tunnels, Torchlight and a Fremantle Prison Art Tour. Due to time restrictions we were only able to do the first two on this trip. 

During the Doing Time tour you go for a walk through the prison blocks and get a feel for how rough these convicts had it. It was also interesting some of the reasons the Brits would ship folks off to our beautiful country, basically to be slaves. Everyone has heard of the old bread stealing stories, but people were even shipped over here just for vagrancy. It's hard to fathom that a couple of hundred years ago, you could wind up within a life of slave labour just for being unemployed!

The Great Escapes tour gave us a good insight into how far some people went to break away from the prison. One fella who resided on the 4th floor managed to hack through a couple of bars on his window. He couldn't quite fit through though, so he saved up his butter, lubed himself up and squeezed through the small escape he had made. He than grabbed the drain pipe, slid down, probably a little faster than he had expected, only to be found with a couple of broken legs, crying in a heap the next morning! Another fella was notorious for escaping, kept on doing it even when they put weights around his ankles. He even smashed down a wall one day when he was chained up, the guards thought he was breaking rocks, well he was, just more limestone than the guards would have wanted! In the end he scored special hardwood to line his cell to prevent him from escaping. The guide we had for this tour, Ian was a top story teller, constantly giving a feel of how it was for the convicts and their need for escape, all the while throwing in a few laughs to lighten the mood. Originally WA didn't want to have political prisoners, woman prisoners or criminals who hate committed atrocious crimes, but eventually they ended up with all three. There are a lot of Irish descendants here in the west, and a lot of them originated from political prisoners. One of the only prisoners to escape and stay out (without dying) happened to be an Irish fella by the name John Boyle O'Reilly and years later, he ended up bringing six of his Irish mates away on the ship known as the Catalpa. There wasn't many escapes by the females, however one of the bigger ladies ended up knocking out the matron during an argument, she was found later that evening up the pub. The lifestyles these early convicts had was pretty terrible and it is no wonder that they did whatever they could to get out, even if that meant searching for an early grave!


Death was the easiest way to escape the Fremantle Prison!

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