18 November 2010

Boggo Road Talk Draws a Crowd

A talk on Boggo Road Gaol at the State Library of Queensland draws a big crowd.
Yesterday I attended a talk at the State Library of Queensland on the subject of Boggo Road. This was part of the 'Out of the Port' series of talks at the library, and was given by Robert Riddel, an architect with a background in conservation and adaptive reuse. Robert also worked on a Conservation Management Plan for Boggo Road Gaol that is currently being updated.

It was great to see the auditorium full to capacity with around 70-80 people, which made the event a great promotion for the Boggo Road site. Robert covered much of the architectural and social history of Boggo Road, using an interesting set of slides, and hopefully the talk should be available on the SLQ website soon as a podcast (watch here). I was hoping for more discussion on the future of the site, as I have already done much reading on the history of the gaol, but state government planning is now a few weeks away from coming up with something more concrete and as someone involved in that process Robert had to be somewhat circumspect on the subject.

It was nevertheless a very enjoyable talk, and no doubt the assembled librarians, historians, public servants and members of the public came away with a renewed appreciation of the importance of the Boggo Road prison site.

Just as a side note, the mentioning of the fact that most female prisoners of the 1900s were in prison for drunkenness seemed to amuse some sections of the audience. Having written a book on this subject, I have to say that this amusement was misplaced. Hopefully the site interpretation at the Boggo Road site in future will help further explain the incredible hardships that working-class women of the time suffered.

07 November 2010

Boggoroadian Day 2010

The annual reunion of former Boggo Road officers, now known as 'Boggoroadian Day', took place as usual on the first Saturday in November, and once again it was a great success with well over 100 officers, spouses and family attending.

Not a scene from the reunion!

After years of little activity among the former officers, this event has recently been resurrected thanks largely to the efforts of John Peel, who spends much of the year phoning, emailing and snail-mailing ex-staff right around Australia. His dedication to the cause has ensured that the early achievements of Don Walters, Dave Jefferson and others in organising the Retired Prison Officers Association in the 1980s have been continued and more than matched.

Attendees represent a wealth of experience at the site, from the 1930s right up to the closure of the prison in the 1990s. It is a time to catch up with old friends, avoid old sparring partners, swap a few anecdotes, remember those who are no longer with us, and find out what is happening now at Boggo Road itself.

This was the third Boggoroadian Day for the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society, who assist in the promotion of the event and have a stall there. This year we attracted 44 new members, bringing our current total very close to the 200 mark. Some people even brought in memorabilia and artefacts from the old prison to donate to us, and these will be recorded and stored in our Queensland Prisons Collection.

It would have been special to see this event staged at the old prison itself, but it now looks like Boggo Road may not be reopening for a while. Until that can happen, John and the others will carry on with this great work in ensuring that the most important part of Boggo Road history - the people themselves - will continue to stay strong and connected, and keep that history very much alive.