There is a landmark in Brisbane called Boggo Road Jail. High up on the hill, it stands out and is protected by armed security guards, with rifles on their shoulders. Built in the early 1880’s in amongst a suburb called Woolloongabba, it was officially opened in 1883 and then closed in 2002. I know this jail well, not because I was ever in there, it was when I first moved out of home, I rented an old Queenslander just around the corner, I think the rent was cheap.
As a younger girl, I remember, this was the best part of the 6 o’clock news. If ever there was a rooftop riot, an attempt to escape, or someone going on a hunger strike, the words “lets now go live now to Boggo Road” would interrupt the weather broadcast. A lot more fun for a 12-year-old, than knowing if it was going to rain or not and who won the Lotto.
Once there was footage of a prisoner trying to escape by throwing a makeshift rope out of his cell window. It was made out of white bedlinen knotted together dangling out of his cell window, he then started the escape by crawling down the white sheet rope. I think he got caught again.
To get to University, I had to catch the train from the nearest station, called Park Road. I always felt a bit unnerved and would scan the platform before hopping on the train and double check “are you an escapee?” It had been rumored that prisoners used to climb the walls, then catch the train to the city or in the opposite direction to Beenleigh. Luckily, I never met one in my 18 months as their Woolloongabba neighbour.
The jail is said to be haunted by the last man that was hung in the early 20th century, 44 men were executed in Cell #4. It was also a holding place for innates of worse crimes, before they were sent to St Helena Island prison. It was also a female prison for about 200 women of minor crimes. One of my best friends’ father used to teach maths to the inmates.
The gaol history, then followed me into another suburb where I lived, Yeronga. I ran my business in the basement of a Heritage listed house, which was a hospital in the 1920’s. Some of the lesser vicious criminals who needed overnight medical treatment, stayed there. The basement still had bars across the windows, their writing and carvings were engraved into the brick walls. One day I was working at the office and a stranger knocked on the door and said I used to be a prisoner here, can I have another look round.
The ghosts of Boggo Road live on today, there are tours you can take, the grounds have been converted into parklands for markets, an inner-city urban village. I haven’t done a tour, I like the stories remembered.