A Day in Gaol (Jail)

Posted on March 31, 2009

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Today I ventured into the Old Melbourne Gaol (yes you say it like “jail”).  The historical significance is th fact that Ned Kelly was jailed and hung there.  They even had a replica of his armor to try on.  Ya, he and his gang wore armor fashioned from plows.  Pretty medieval huh?dscf0581

I also learned that there is a film about Ned Kelly starring one of my fave actors, Orlando Bloom.  I’ll have to check it out when I get home.  dscf0583Ned Kelly’s mother, Ellen, did a stint too and reminded him to ‘die like a Kelly’ the day before they hung him.  And like Victorian age morbidity (I never understood those death photos from the 19th century), the gaol took casts of the dead prisoners after they were hung and they are called ‘death masks.’  And of course they have one of Ned Kelly. 

The interesting thing is that one of these death masks was actually used to reconstruct a face for a picture by the school of dentistry in Melbourne.  I also learned alot about women in jail and the history of how they survived in the gold rush days.  It was a brutal time for women.  I would never have survived.

I walked around and viewed the indoor gallows.  Yes, they hung them inside on one of the upper stairways.  Some of the cells had exhibits and historical information.  It was kinda strange to stand there and read about the wrong-doings of these criminals.  Walking around the cells was eerie and uncomfortable.  Somehow I felt the sadness and despair hanging thick in the air. 

Afterwards I took a tour of the watchtower which was a holding facility up until 1994.  It was built later in 1908.  A sargeant escorted us around and at first treated us like prisoners with a quick search and locking us in a cell for a few minutes.  dscf0609Of course being in the women’s cell was actually fun because we all kept talking even in the dark.

A couple of cool things… I got to see a real padded cell… boy don’t I feel like I belong in one of those sometimes.  And they had a few cells with a multimedia film of a prisoner talking about himself.  Since they projected it on the wall, it was literally like the walls were talking to you.  They let you take a mug shot at the end, but hey I don’t want to be remembered that way so I skipped it.  The weather’s gotten really hot here… mid 80’s so it almost feels like home.  I haven’t planned out tomorrow yet… gotta go check out my visitor guide and see what I missed.  Maybe I’ll just go shopping for some Aussie fashions…. uh-oh!  🙂

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Posted in: Travel