14 August 2011

Back Inside Boggo Road!

A couple of weeks back I took a range of BRGHS members, including university academics, former museum workers, and ex-officers and inmates, back to Boggo Road. The occasion was an inspection of the grounds of the old prison in the company of Public Works officials to let us check what kind of condition the place was in.

There has been much speculation within the BRGHS over recent months about what was happening to the buildings behind the prison walls, with a few members still convinced that 'the government want to knock it down', despite the fact that Public Works have employed people to look after the grounds internally and externally. Letting people inside to see for themselves proved to be very useful.

Feedback was varied, and points of view seemed to depend on when people had last seen the place. Those who had not stepped foot in Boggo Road since the 1980s, when it was still a fully-functioning prison, were not too impressed, but the museum staff who worked at the site until 2006 saw little difference. Even John Banks, the notoriously difficult-to-please former museum manager, said he was 'pleasantly surprised' by the condition of the old gaol. There has of course been a bit of wear and tear on the buildings, but they are as solid as ever and the grounds are looking good, as I reported when I visited Boggo Road a few months back. We did notice one or two problems, which I won't go into here as I am currently discussing a solution for these with Public Works, which should be ready to roll within weeks. Watch this space for news of that one.

All talk of the actual condition of the place aside, it was great to see such a mixed bunch of people exploring the old gaol, some for the first time, others having a much, much longer and deeper experience spanning several decades. Everyone saw it through their own eyes and memories, and had the chance to chat to the public servants about what is happening there.

There were also unexpected visitors in the form of a family of four, who saw that the small door within the main gates was open and walked inside wanting to have a look around. So even though Boggo Road is off the beaten track and has been closed to the public for almost six years now, casually open the door for 30 minutes and 'they will come'!

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