No. 1.11 - The Hobart Gaol (continued)

Otago Witness , Issue 1904, 18 May 1888, Page 27

When passing through the male House of Correction, Mr Quodling stated that that portion of the goal was built in the early days for the accommodation of prisoners on arrival from England, and awaiting removal to Port Arthur. It was also used as a depot for passholders and ticket-of-leave men, for assignment to private families, &c. This portion of the enclosure, I was informed by the governor of the gaol, had undergone sundry alterations since transportation ceased, and now affords accommodation for 200 prisoners 30 in cells and 170 in dormitories; besides workshops for bakers, shoemakers, and tailors, messroom, clerks' office, surgery and provision store, and warders' sleeping apartments. In the yard I found some very useful prisoners employed in making desks and school forms for the Education department, a blacksmith's shop, and a printing press and type ready for the use of compositors, but, strange to say, there was not a printer on Mr Quodling's roll, although there was an unfortunate journalist, who possessed a sufficient amount of talent to gain him employment on the London Times. Alcohol had been this poor man's curse, forgery being the crime he was carrying coals for. The modern building contains 46 separate cells for males and six wards for females, all of which were as clean the day they were built. The discipline was most noticeable. As we approached the prisoners rose from their seats and their work and stood upright, each one saluting the head official. On the doors of each of the cells a card stood out prominently, setting forth the name of the prisoner, the term of imprisonment he or she had to serve, the offence for which he was convicted, his native place, free or not, name of religion, and age. Judging from the number of cells we visited, most of the inmates were, comparatively speaking, young men, serving sentences from seven to 15 years. Mr Quodling assured me that the majority of these men when they entered the limbo of Hobart had neither a trade in their hands nor possessed the least amount of education. "At all events," continued my friend, as you see for yourself, Mr G ----- ,we do our best for these young men by teaching them various' trades, and improving their minds in the schoolroom. In doing this, we hope and trust that in the future these poor unfortunates will walk the straight path, and like scores of criminals who occupied their cells before them, profit by their first lesson in crime, and die respectable citizens." Right yer are, governor. Why shouldn't they have as good a show as the "Becky Sharps" of this world ?.

Mr Quodling adds "We have only room for 50 of the gentler (?) sex, but l am glad to say the annual average is only 26; average of males, 125, though at the present date (25th April 1888) we have only 96 male prisoners all told, and 20 females. Fortunately for Tasmania, the numbers are being reduced every year."

In one of the large yards I was struck by the figure of a strong chubby-built man about 65 years of age, who turned out to be a regular demon when properly put to the test. His last offence was only a harmless one compared with a few other of his feats of strength. He is at present undergoing a sentence of penal servitude for his natural life. This quiet man's offence was nothing more nor less than jumping the stomach out of a poor fellow. The authorities are obliged to cage him up like a wild beast every night of his life and liberate him in the morning. This is one of the specimens that England some years ago wished to populate Australasia with. Thanks to the action of the citizens of Melbourne, the landing of convicts in Port Phillip Bay was frustrated. There are now only 22 of the old hands in durance at present, and they appear to be dying out fast.

One satisfactory fact in connection with the Hobart and Launceston gaols is that there are very few Tasmanian natives incarcerated and I cannot do better than quote Mr Quodling's words in support of my assertion - "It is creditable to our colonial youths that comparatively to few of them find their way inside prison walls. Long may it continue." The staff of the Hobart Gaol consists of the governor, a deputy clerk, storekeeper, senior warder, gatekeeper, and 18 classified warders for the male division; and three officers for the female division. The employment of prisoners outside the gaol and at various trades inside renders it necessary to maintain a larger staff than would be necessary if all were employed within the walls and slept in separate cells.

As regards the discipline and everything connected with the working of the gaol, Mr Quodling sets a good example to the governors of other establishments in Victoria and New South Wales. He and his staff do their work well, and deserve every praise. I cannot say as much for those that rule the destiny of Tasmania. Until very recently the dividing wall separating the two sexes was so low that the male and female prisoners could wink and pass kisses to one another without fear of interruption, but at last the governor nabbed them at it, and upon the afternoon I visited the House of Correction prisoners were hard at work building up the wall to a proper height. After a space of nearly 40 years the visiting magistrates to the Campbell street gaol have opened their eyes. At the end of the yard, near the Criminal Court building, there stands a thin timber wall which extends some distance to the south, when it connected with the stone wall fronting Argyle street. I was struck dumbfounded, and curiously remarked to Mr Quodling "Do you call this a gaol? Why, a good-storm of wind would blow the whole of that rotten timber to pieces. Some of these days you will find this portion of the gaol on fire." By way of response he only laughed and shook his head in a significant manner, which I interpreted as "It's no business of mine." Of course only short-sentence prisoners possess the privilege of gazing on this very remarkable wooden structure. No doubt it is very tempting, but the game is scarcely worth the powder. Should one of the incoming prisoners at any time suffer from measles, it is a thousand pounds to a Chinese orange that the prison hospital will be pretty well filled, for I noticed that the number of basins for washing one self could be almost counted on the fingers. It appeared to me a matter "of my turn next, me covy," "How longer yer goin' to be, Bosseye," "Clear the way Mother Carbuncle, &c." If the man with the measles happens to get the first dip, its all up a tree. Another object struck me as capable of improvement ; the dangerous approach from the condemned cell to the place of execution. At one time I imagined that we were walking on a spring board. They do keep up to the old traditions in the gaol under notice. After leaving his cell to meet his doom, the poor unfortunate culprit walks straight ahead, and in front of him he recognises the instrument of death. To keep his spirits up the walls are coated with tar, and all round him darkness prevails. I can go no further without remarking to my companion, "Don't you think (he appeared a little scared) that the visiting justices and the prison authorities might put their heads together and paint the walls white, if only to change the monotony of the thing?" Why the walls should be black I have no idea, Perhaps they may change the colour next time they have occasion to hang a man. The buildings are very old, and a few of them are in a dilapidated state. I hope to see on my next visit to the Hobart Gaol a marked improvement in their condition to that of 1888.

THE CASCADE ESTABLISHMENT.

In years gone by this building was known as the Cascade Female Factory, where once dwelt a number of handsome lasses, known as the "Twelve Apostles." l am glad to say that the term applied to these females, "who one day sailed away in a Government ship to a place 16,000 miles across the sea," was very appropriate, as in after years was proved. "Warrior," when a lad, often met in the streets of Hobart Town and Launceston seven out of the twelve "Apostles." These females married honourable men, became wealthy members of tip-top society, became converts to religion, lived well, and died fat. The majority indeed, if I mistake not, the whole — of the "Twelve Apostles" are now numbered with the dead.

The spacious building under notice lies in a hollow at the foot of Mount Wellington. To the right, is Knocklofty Hills, and to the left the Cascade Brewery and the Mountain Lake. At present there are in the Cascade establishment no less than 60 criminal lunatics under the supervision of Dr Coverdale, M.D., surgeon superintendent. I, would be very sorry to place before my readers a description of the fiends inhabiting this building. Such sights I have never set my eyes upon before. A regular pandemonium. Not unlike New Norfolk Asylum, the Imperial convict plays a most conspicuous part the Cascade drama. These lunatics are most diabolical, and equal anything to be found in any part of the United Kingdom. I felt very glad when the time came for my departure; The Government should take steps to have the poor creatures removed to some outlandish island in the Southern Ocean. It's mere claptrap and hypocrisy to pander to the idiosyncrasies of those who pretend to believe that these criminals should be kept like fighting cocks at the expense of the residents of Tasmania.

CONCLUSION.

Before concluding the articles of "'Warrior' in Tasmania," allow me, as the Australian sporting correspondent of the Otago Witness, to publicly thank Mr A. S. Agnew for his kindness in showing me over his stud farm Mr Algernon Page for our enjoyable trip to the lakes, when old Tarpin lost several shoes, accordinig to the doctor ; Dr Crampton who did me the honour of personally escorting me over the buildings and grounds of the New Norfolk Asylum; Mr. S. Rheubens, who lost a considerable, amount of time in preparing a statement of the progress made by the Hobart Abattoirs; Mr H. G. Quodling, governor of the gaol; Mr Amott, mayor; the Hon. Alfred Page ; Mr Westwood, secretary of the Tasmanian Jockey Club ; Mr J. B. Currran, secretary of the Tasmanian Turf Club; Mr P. J. Monaghan, "Merlin" of the Tasmanian, and Northern handicapper ; Mr Liston, "Tam o' Shanter" of the Tasmanian Mail; and Messrs Birch, Hobart Town Hall ; and Luke Walton, Hobart Slaughter House. It is only due to these gentlemen that I should thus record their kindness to a journalist representing the leading weekly paper in New Zealand. Should "Warrior" at some future date visit Tasmania, he will do his best to make his remarks on the impressions he receives readable and interesting.