Guest Post: Gaol Time

This is a guest post as promised here.

Who am I?

Hi! I’m Jana. I’m a librarian… well, kinda. I work in a library and am trained as a librarian. Yes, you have to study to be a librarian And no, I don’t get to read books all day. My Google-Fu is highly regarded and I’m usually the go to person for technology and technologies in the library I work in. I have a Masters degree in library stuff, focussing on archiving and preservation, which is perched on top of my BA in English (which like most BAs come with splashes of random things like creative writing, history and philosophy).

I like adventures and believe that people should be open to trying everything at least once.

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Me at the Blues Festival

The Blues Festival

When Rose invited me to the Blues Festival at the Adelaide Gaol, I started wondering where the Adelaide Gaol was… then I realised that it was the lovely stone building that I passed everyday on the train.

Feeling a little worse than ideal I showed up on the day and was prepared for adventure. What else could I expect except the unexpected? We arrived at the gaol and ate some lunch. The food available at the festival followed the recent obsession Adelaide seems to have with American foods, but specified food from the South, which was appropriate for the festival, I guess. (I don’t really know that much about the history of the blues.)

Rose and I walked into the foyer and glanced around… I removed my sunglasses and placed them on my fish hat.

Rose exclaimed “Ooh, shivs!”

And we examined a display of ‘Homemade Knives’. It was going to be an interesting day.

We made our way into the central part of the gaol reading informative plaques (did you know that the gross teeth stuff and signs are spelt the same way? I guess it makes sense, they’re both stuck on things) along the way.

Our first stop was in the visitation centre on the visitors’ side. The seats were awkwardly attached to each other and I felt that it would be kinda challenging to spend time with a locked up loved one with someone talking to their locked up loved one while snuggled up to you… I guess if you needed a friend on the outside it was an easy way to achieve this.

Then on the prisoners side the same situation occurred but you also had a guard looking over your shoulder… which I guess is just part of being locked up.

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Your local authority figure

At this point I hadn’t really decided what my role for the day was going to be, so I just took photos at the event of things that I felt were significant, amusing or useful for Rose and her blog. The first photo is the one above of Rose guarding the visitation area. The second photo I took captures the difference in building materials used to build and repair the walls of the gaol (below). It also features the high security measure of a lattice of loose bricks on top of the wall designed to dislodge if people were climbing over as a way of alerting guards to an escape attempt.

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I found a sign that I found amusing. What to do if you’ve been locked in. Obviously a recent addition to the door… just amusing and slightly sad at the same time. We learnt that the gaol was used up into the 1980s and evidence of such was the addition of the Telecom phone boxes.

This was not the first historical gaol that I’ve had a look at. I’ve been to gaols in which they get their visitors to dress up in historically accuratish clothing and then the tour guide becomes your warden. I’ve also stayed for a few nights at another historical gaol and since Prison Break was popular at the time there was a prison break which was more like people yelling ‘prison break!’ and running down the corridor in which I’m pretty sure we weren’t the only guests. This also hooks into my fascination with looking at dungeons, torture chambers and stocks in historical castles. (As a 7 or 8 year old I was bitterly disappointed that I couldn’t tour the Tower of London.) Rose and I discussed returning to the gaol for a ghost/night tour.

I was surprised to learn that Adelaide was planned without a gaol. I wondered why I’d never known that. I think it’s probably because I’d never been to the Adelaide Gaol before and teachers only tend to teach you the shiny parts of your city’s history. The parts that make you proud to call your city home.

The gritty parts of history (the oversights, the shortcomings and the mistreating of people) that we learn tends to be focused on ‘not us’. We don’t want to learn that our close ancestors were horrible people who did such and such or made this mistake. Historical mistakes belong to those people who live over there… (In the case of Adelaide ‘oh we don’t come from convicts’ was all I learnt from that era.)

After our tour of the gaol we just relaxed into the day enjoying the sunshine (from the shade), listening to music, discussing secret obsessions and people watching with a few ciders… some of which I managed to spill onto my jeans.

Rose introduced me to Pimms which I had just presumed were jugs of iced tea which fit into the Southern theme. Apparently I was wrong. We got a jug and I ended up spilling Rose’s drink on my jeans… but this time it looked like I had had an accident and hadn’t moved.

As the sun set over the gaol the shadows started to darken, creating a strong contrast from the golden light shining on stone. The shadow cast was of the lattice of loose bricks on top of the wall refreshing the reminder that you couldn’t escape.

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I kept on noticing birds flying overhead taunting me with their freedom… I wasn’t locked in, just mildly restricted by locked doors to protect either the site or festival goers. But they birds flitted and flew freely unlike the inmates who had once been housed within the walls.

I really enjoyed the music we had listened to all day and in my typical fashion starting really getting into it just before we had to leave. More adventures for another day!

If you want to see more of what I see you can follow me on Instagram or if you want to read my thoughts contained within 140 characters you can follow me on Twitter. Thanks for having me. 🙂 — Jana

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Author: lonelyarchaeologist

I'm an archaeology grad student with an interest in gothic archaeology, tragedy tourism and dark sites. Most of my friends don't appreciate my interests so I've taken it into my own hands and I'm going I've established this blog to chronicle my solo adventures and hopefully give you a look behind the scenes at cultural heritage tourism.

1 thought on “Guest Post: Gaol Time”

  1. Damn that was good. More guest posts in the future I think. Anyone wanna be next? I’ve got heaps planned for the year. Our next combined adventure will be out at RiAus at the Science Exchange on “The Story Telling of Science.” And I’ll be at tonight’s Science at the Pub at the Rob Roy on Halifax Street! It’s free and an informal science forum that happens monthly and is just off the tram line’s city south stop! ~ Rose

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