Port Arthur and OrfordNovember 21, 2017 in Australia
We travelled from Hobart to Port Arthur, a historic site with the remains of a prison used from 1830 until 1877. Thousands of convicts were shipped out from England to Australia, but the ones who came to Port Arthur were re-offenders, men who had done something more while in prison or on getting released. They were the worst of the convicts. The isthmus is attached to the mainland by a narrow neck and a “dogline” was set up there with fierce dogs to attack escaping prisoners and raise an alarm for guards. The prison buildings have mostly been lost by fire and unused, but enough remains to tell the story of the harsh life there for the convicts, and the cushy life of the government controllers, doctors, etc. The soldiers there were in between and mostly bored, because not much happened out there in the sticks. 12,000 convicts passed through Port Arthur, some for very long stays.
There was an island used for juvenile boys as well. They were kept away from the adult men who would be a bad influence. They were given schooling and taught the trades. Stonework, in particular, was taught as there was a quarry on the island and lots of building to be done. The system worked so well that England adopted it and stopped sending boys over here. At any given time, there might have been 400 boys here as young as 9.
This prison was built at about the same time as Kingston Pen, and it was interesting to compare the two, having been to Kingston a few months ago. Punishment at Port Arthur was cruel, with whipping being common for misdemeanors. But the cells were actually larger and they had the benefit of working outdoors, as long as they were not in solitary confinement.
The site is large and we spent all afternoon there. Managed to get by the dogline to leave at the end of the day, though.
Our stay that night was at the village of Orford , in a 150 year old cottage, now a B&B. It was delightful and the owners were good to chat with us for quite a while in the morning, after a tasty breakfast.
Pics are: sculpture commemorating the dogline, main prison building, doctor's house, bedroom at B&B, one of many roses at Orford House B&B.Read more