Tag: convict

A couple of weeks ago I showed you some photos of the Isle of Dead at Port Arthur. I have been meaning to show you more images from my day there, but I took so many it has been hard to choose which ones to show. I have done a selection and will show them in few lots here, and in separate galleries.

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Port Arthur was a convict penitentiary in Tasmania. Most of the convicts that were sent there were re-offenders, meaning that once that got here they committed another crime. It opened in 1830, taking over from other places around Tasmania and ceased operating in 1877. Australia did start as a penal colony and it is great to see places like this that remind us of part of our history.

The Penitentiary

There is no doubt that the big penitentiary building is the most impressive and most recognisable building there. When you go it is basically the first building you see. It sits near the water and even in its ruined state is an impressive building.  I photographed a little plaque that has the history of the building and you can read that.

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The Separate Prison and Asylum

At Port Arthur you will find a building called the separate prison. This building was made up of solitary confinement cells. It was thought that the best way to treat prisoners was not by flogging and hard labour, but to look them away in cells where they had no communication with anyone else. They were not allowed to talk unless a guard asked them a question. The whole place was a quiet zone, and even the guards used sign language between them.

We now know that putting people into solitary confinement sends them mad, but back then the connection wasn’t made. We have learned a lot from places like this, however, at the time they didn’t know so a separate asylum was built for those that went mad, (the last two images in the gallery).

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Surrounding Port Arthur

The gardens are really beautiful around the site. With it being winter there were a lot of trees that had lost their leaves. Still it was very green and perhaps the sunniest day we had while there.  As we stayed for the ghost tour we were there also for the sunset. I have shown you some other photos of it, but here a few more as well.

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Port Arthur Massacre

As much as we like to think of this place as a place for convicts, sadly it is also the place for Australia’s worse gun shooting and massacre. In 1996 Martin Bryant went a shooting rampage and killed 35 people and wounded 23 others. There is a separate memorial there for it. The cafe where he started has been stripped and only the shell of it remains today.

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One positive outcome from this was a rethink on our gun laws. An amnesty was set up where people could turn in guns, get paid for them, with no repercussions and they did. Thousands and thousands of guns were turned in at police stations and other sites. We now have very strict gun laws, and to tell the truth most of us are very happy about that. We certainly feel a lot safer. I’ve never seen a gun except those that police carry and even they are starting to look for alternatives.

Before Port Arthur we had, on average, one mass shooting a year, since, we haven’t had one.

Government Cottage and Church Ruins

By the time we had finished the tours we went on we realised that we didn’t have enough time to see all that was there. If you are going to do the tours then you should plan to be there for two days. So after a cup of tea we decided to see what we could before the sun went down and the start of our ghost tour.

We went to the ruins of Government Cottage and the convict Church. Both destroyed in bushfires in the 1890’s so that all that remained where the walls. We don’t see a lot of building in Australia like this, and the Church was incredible.

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Port Arthur

Without a doubt an incredible place and one I can’t wait to go back and finish exploring. Next time, no tours, just spend the day taking photos. See as much as I can. If you are planning a trip there, I suggest doing it over two days, and maybe spread the tours over the two. I didn’t take photos on the ghost tour, I put the camera away and decided to just join in the fun and experience. It was very dark when we did it, so the photos wouldn’t have been great anyway.

If you would like more information at Port Arthur I suggest you visit their website.

Port Arthur Historical Site.

While visiting Port Arthur in Tasmania we decided to do quite a few tours, and one of the ones we chose was the Isle of the Dead Cemetery. From the name you can see that is was on a separate island and we had to catch a boat to go there. The only way you can visit it is by boat and by taking the tour. So you don’t get a lot of time there.

Here is the island as we approached it.

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All people who died, I think, at Port Arthur were taken to this island for burial. On the high part are the “free” people and the lower parts the convicts. The land, if I remember correctly, was not consecrated so anyone could be buried anywhere. Unlike most graveyards, it was divided into different denominations.

The free people had head stones, but very few of the convicts did. To get a headstone a letter would be sent home to the family saying that their relative had died, and if they wanted a marker they would need to send money back. This could take up to 18 months. So once the headstone was paid for it may not even be where the convict was buried. Since many of the convicts that came to Australia came because they were poor and living in appalling conditions, most families were unable to send money back, hence many unmarked graves.

Over 1100 people were buried on this small isle. Someone asked our tour guide if we were walking on buried people and she merely nodded her head. Is was such a small island that it must have been fun of graves, to fit that many.

I’m not going to say anymore now, here are some photos of the graves there. A quiet place, quiet contemplation for those that lived and served their time there. A hard place and something we need to remember.

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