Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On The Inside

Last Saturday, I was inside a prison. Hadn't been charged for anything (except the entry), and wasn't locked up in a cell. In fact, we had free access, and a wee man showing us round.

Flickr is, as I've previously said, a little community of people who enjoy photography and meeting people. Through it, I've made some good friends, and so on Saturday I met up with two of them in Belfast city centre.

JDholic and MacBern

By pure randomness, we headed up towards the Crumlin Road, where we discovered that there are now guided tours around the prison. The slightly annoying thing was that you can't pay for the tour there, but have to buy the tickets at the Belfast Visitor and Convention Bureau, which we had walked past. The guides were helpful, though, and provided a mobile phone and a call through to the centre to pay for tickets by credit card.

B Wing

The tour itself lasts an hour, and is well worth the £5 admission fee. On the tour, you hear stories from the building of the prison, the common experience of prisoners, and also some Troubles related material.


*Spoilers* Along the way, you see the 'reception room' - where prisoners were strip-searched, then washed, the governor's hall (which prisoners wouldn't have seen), the circle, then down into the tunnel beneath the road which links the Crumlin Road Courthouse to the Crumlin Road jail. From there, you're taken into C wing, shown the prison routine and various cells before being taken into the condemned cell - where those awaiting execution by hanging were kept. After seeing the execution place, you're taken outside to see the place where some prisoners are still buried, within the prison grounds. The tour ends in B wing, where Rev Dr Ian Paisley spent some time in the 1960's, and a look into a padded cell (which is not where Paisley was housed!).

Condemned Cell

The tour moves quite quickly though, as there are tours about every fifteen minutes, so there wasn't much time for photos to be taken. But all in all, an interesting part of Belfast's history, and well worth a visit! At least you're guaranteed to be released after an hour and not kept for twenty years!

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