Prison life in Peterhead

President David Barclay welcomed local-born Eddie Gordon as speaker at Ellon Probus Club meeting on March 13.

Although Eddie had started work as a taxman he soon moved to the prison service where he did time at Barlinnie, as a uniformed officer, before assuming the role of Deputy Governor at Peterhead, Aberdeen, Perth and Inverness prisons.

Eddie’s talk was directed at HMP Peterhead, a particularly relevant topic with the recent closing down of the old convict “penal” prison and opening of the new “remedial” prison.

The original prison owed its existence to the Admiralty’s need to establish a safe haven for sailing ships on the Scottish east coast in the 1880s.

Land at Invernettie, south of Peterhead, was acquired and a penal prison subsequently constructed to supply convicted labour to help build the necessary protective sea walls.

The south breakwater was built over 1882-19112, the north breakwater over 1912-1954. These breakwaters were constructed by a commercial company using 40-ton granite and concrete blocks crushed and cast on the prison site by convicts. The breakwaters are faced with local red granite,

The granite was obtained from the nearby Stirlinghill Quarry and transported by a purpose-built railway to the prison site, constantly under the eyes of armed guards.

Records indicate that only one prisoner was shot and killed whilst trying to escape from the quarry. There appears to be no record of the number of floggings administered.

Undoubtedly life was hard for those sent to a penal prison. Members, however, were surprised to hear that the number of offenders returning for second spell of HMP hospitality has remained relatively similar - one can read into this what one may wish but it appears that over time there has been no great improvement in the numbers re-offenders.

The vote of thanks was given by David Barclay. The next meeting is on March 27 when Alan Teasdale will spin a yarn on “Minarets and Turbines”.