On the 2nd of September 2010, our lives changed forever. Our freedom was taken, our pride was stripped and our cavities were searched. Well, the latter unfortunately didn't happen.
As a part of Hannah's master plan to see every Ned Kelly related object in the country Whisker, Pete, Luke and myself accompanied her to the last place Ned Kelly ever saw alive: the Old Melbourne Gaol. Of course back in Ned's time it was simply called the Melbourne Gaol.
Fashionably late, of course, Pete made us miss the first guided tour of the Watch house part of the gaol, which is not mentioned in the video to protect Pete's good name. After a little wait we caught the next tour and were well on our way to picking up the soap.
The Watch house part of the tour was guided by your typical butch female guard who takes pleasure in humiliating you. While this is all good fun in private, in a gaol, in front of a load of others, it's hardly pleasant, though quite amusing. It's very hard not to giggle when Pete's being told off by a woman twice his size. Okay, okay... I'll stop mentioning Pete now... the poor guy has had enough abuse now.
The guided tour took us through the Watch house, which is the "overnight stay" part of the gaol. With a limited number of cells, all designed for a group of people to sit down and sober up. The cells would generally contain drunken and disorderlies and perhaps the people awaiting sentencing.
Exciting time arrived with the discovery of the padded cells and a concept they called a "wet cell". The wet cell being one with a lowered floor and a drain, so prisoners could be hosed down every once in a while. All cravings on the cell benches are still the original carvings by the prisoners of the time, which was quite impressive to read through.
The actual gaol building is significantly larger than the watch house. The gaol is where prisoners go after sentencing for their longer stay. The cells are small and designed for either individuals or perhaps up to 3 people and it resembles everything you'd expect from an actual gaol built in that era. A long corridor with tiered cells on either side awaits you as you walk in to the front entrance.
A number of the cells feature stories about individual prisoners. With all of them featuring their picture and background story on a board, some of them also displayed their actual death mask. The very death mask these people wore when they were hung from the gallows at the Melbourne Gaol, with their facial features very much present and recognizable. Scary stuff, if you think about it.
Other cells would feature something, a story or objects, related to the running of the gaol. Including ropes used for hanging and various disciplinary tools. Also a pair of flat circular rigid leather gloves (without fingers) to "protect" the prisoners from self-abuse (a.k.a. masturbation). I suppose they were pretty serious about taking every ounce of fun away from the prisoners.
The gallows were unfortunately very much out of order. Yeah… we tried pulling the lever… what about it? Luckily a little peg in a box was pretty good at demonstrating how it would look to be hung. Apparently it would look hilarious.
After dressing up in the fake Ned Kelly armor, playing some Rock'em Sock'em Robots and basically breaking one of the armors it was time to leave the gaol. We had fun, we learned a lot but mostly, we dressed up like Ned Kelly!
Such is life.