Scottish Prison Life in the 1800’s

In July we went to Argyll and the area that my beloved grew up in – I’ve already blogged a couple of times about our holiday, read Argyll memories in the sun here. Whilst my other posts make it look like we had glorious sunshine the whole time, we did have one day of continuous rain, so had to find indoor things to do.
Our first stop was Tarbet, the one on the Kintyre Peninsula, not the one on Loch Lomond – it seems very strange to me that there are two towns in Scotland with the same name and they are only 61 miles apart. As you can see from this photo, there wasn’t much exploring done as it was raining a lot.

We had a very scrummy vegetarian breakfast in a lovely cafe that was decorated with beautiful lamps. One of the young lads that worked there told me they had come direct from Turkey.

Here’s a couple of photos looking across from the harbour to see the pretty houses – such a shame that the sun wasn’t shining.

We then decided to drive to Inveraray which is on the western shore of Loch Fyne and was the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll. The current Duke and his family still live in Inveraray Castle which is a proper fairytale castle with lovely turrets – it’s difficult to get a photo of without walking a bit and as it was raining I’ve left that for a future visit. We’ll definitely have to visit the castle as my beloved is a huge Downton Abbey fan and they filmed one of the Christmas specials there.

We had a wander up and down the high street and love that our little puppy has got a shop named after her.

I took this photo of the George Hotel as it looks really pretty with all the flowers in front of it. On the sign it says it was established in 1776, and the current proprietors are the seventh generation of the same family to run the hotel.

Our next stop was Inveraray jail, which was established in 1820 – a perfect activity for a wet day. The jail was for men, women, and children and as was the case in the 1800’s the conditions were pretty horrific. The exhibition is very good and really gives you a sense of what the people who were imprisoned here endured. Below Ken is modelling the actual thumbscrews that were used to inflict pain.

Interesting facts about the poor women that were executed as witches in Scotland. I always find it so sad to read about these women, as a certain number were using folk remedies and some were even practicing early midwifery, but because people didn’t understand they were condemned as witches.

The courtroom is set up with models to show how a trial was held and you can listen to transcripts from actual trials that took place 150 years ago.

This is the very small airing yard which was built in 1843 for prisoners to get some outside exercise.

As you walk around the jail you see how the prisoners lived and what the conditions were like. There is also lots of information on the type of life the prisoners had, including children as young as 7.

This is the room where the prisoners were bathed when they came into the jail – the bath is fed from a burner in the corner.

This is an example of one of the punishement tables – I tried to get Ken to model it for you but he was a bit worried about what I would do with the switch (bunch of sticks) that was there.

A form of straight jacket that was used on ‘crazy’ prisoners.

And yes, some of the prisoners that were here in the jail were transported to my home land.

Cell door.

The steps leading to the upper floor – imagine the people that have walked up and down those stairs, and imagine the emotions that they’ve witnessed.

There were two main jobs that the prisoners were given, making nets and picking oakum. Oakum is the fibres produced when old bits of rope are picked apart and was used for sealing seams in wooden ships and for stuffing mattresses.
When prisoners first moved into the jail they had to sleep on a hard wooden bed with just one blanket and a wooden pillow.

Usual prison attire.

This poem was in the gift shop and whilst it is from a different prison I thought it was very thought provoking and very true. A very fitting note to finish our visit to the prison on.

When we got back to our hotel in Ardrishaig, we were looking at the interesting local facts and history that were up in various frames, when who should we spot but Ken’s older brother David. In the photo of the MacBrayne buses with society members in front, David is the one in the red top in the front row – it’s taken quite a few years ago.

So that was our wet day on the West Coast of Scotland. Until next time, be good, stay safe, and have a wonderful week.

Pamela & Ken

4 thoughts on “Scottish Prison Life in the 1800’s

  1. I find it so sad that so many women were burned to death out of fear that they were witches. Like you said, so many of them were using herbal alternative remedies and working in midwifery. I can't imagine being burned to death and the thought of it always makes me shudder.Thanks for sharing your interesting prison visit. That's what I call taking advantage of a rainy day!Michele at Angels Bark


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