Free to come and go at Fannie Bay Goal.......
It was known as Darwin's only prison until the 1st of September 1979, when the last of the inmates that were housed there, were transported to the new Berrimah Prison, where it stands today. Facing towards the ocean is the Fannie Bay Gaol. You would not know that there is a prison behind the tall fence today, apart from a small sign near the front gate.
|Sign at the front gate.|
Stepping through the prison gate, you enter what was originally the former visiting area. A wire partition separates the visitor from the prisoner. A sign posted on the wire reads " You must speak English". There is no special room or chairs to ease your comfort while visiting the prisoner and no walls if it rained. This area was later extended to be enclosed for contact visiting. It would have made life more pleasant when the wet season came. At the prison gate, you are greeted by a volunteer who will explain the best way to see the different buildings in the Gaol, where the amenities are located and importantly water to refill your bottle or quench your thirst. Which is really important as some of the buildings are very hot inside and if you visit in the hot weather can be a little overwhelming.
The facility is not huge by today's standards. It contained a juvenile section, women's, isolation, absolution block, remand, muster section and an Infirmary, kitchen, mess and laundry areas. Cell blocks A & B - C & D also the stores building and Guard house. On the 20th of September 1883, 31 prisoners were transferred from Mitchel Street lockup in Darwin to Cell Blocks A and B at Fannie Bay. The cell blocks were the only cells with some form of privacy. There is nothing comfortable about these cells though.
|Prison cell doors|
Off to see the isolation, juvenile and women's sections, and you move around the yards from these. If you were prudish and embarrassed in those days, you would soon learn to overcome this as many of the walls were wire mesh and corrugated iron. There was not a lot of protection from the elements. Some people would say good, if you commit the crime, you should not be held in comfort. No air conditioners or fans to circulate the already hot air. The doors of the cells were not very wide, and the toilet was built into the building.
The infirmary, which was built in 1887, is made of Quarried Porcelanite stone and originally sat outside of the Gaol till the fence was extended. The gallows were constructed inside the building in 1952. Today there is a fence across where the rope hangs. Unfortunately, some people thought it would be fun to see what the drop was like and take a photo at the same time. Just seeing the gallows is enough to make your neck feel tight, knowing that if they still hanged people today what would the crime rate be like.
|Shower block no privacy here.|
The 2 men hung from the Gallows, Jerry Koci - 20 and John Novotny - 19 both Czechs were hanged at 8am on a Thursday for the murder of George Grantham, a Darwin Taxi driver, were the first white men to be executed in the Territory. The time of the actual hanging was kept secret as the police were afraid of a Lynch mob against the 2 men. Their bodies are buried somewhere unknown on the grounds, though were no one has said. The only indication that they are buried on the site is the sign on the side if the Infirmary building with the initials of the men and a 1 & 2 under each and a date. Not much to show for their lives in the end, sadly.
|The fenced Gallows|
Eleven men have been executed in the Territory for the crime of murder. Of these 8 have been hanged at Fannie Bay Gaol but only 2 at the Gallows in the infirmary building. Before 1952 temporary gallows were erected for each execution.
The conditions that these men, women and juveniles had to endure while being incarcerated, compared to today's conditions were extremely hard and demeaning. They had to endure cyclones, bombings and the changes of climate with the seasons here in the top end. Over time the buildings have been altered and rebuilt to suit the changes of population. Good I hear some of you say, well yes it was probably a good deterrent for some to not return to a life of crime, maybe.
🐸🐸 After seeing the conditions in the Gaol, do you think that you could endure a sentence here?
The prison is certainly worth a visit and there is more to see here as well, we have only shown you some of the prison to pique your curiosity.