FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Act on Glendairy
IT’S GOOD TO SEE that interest in making some use of Glendairy prison seems to have surfaced once more. I remember taking a tour of the building probably about five years ago.
As far as I recall, Sir Henry Fraser was proposing its use as a museum, which to my mind is an excellent idea. I doubt whether the site would have the ambience required for a hotel. Certainly the cost of the necessary changes would be phenomenal. I believe architects were also on that tour, so there appeared to be some action planned.
However, many years have passed and no progress is apparent. But the fact that so many locals and visitors have toured the prison, even in its present state, during the last few weeks, is a good indication of the possibilities for the site as a tourism attraction.
There are those who feel the prison and its associated crimes are best left alone, but it seems that prison museums are becoming a real draw for the tourism industry internationally.
Apparently there are about 100 worldwide. Of course, there would have to be a real clean-up of the Glendairy site. When I visited, there were abandoned vehicles and boats (probably seized by the police) and garbage piles, including envelopes of letters to prisoners and so on. Although the structure would be best left in its original state, certainly a major facelift and garden beautification programme would be necessary.
There are endless possibilities of using our own prison stories just as Eastern State Penitentiary Museum in Philadelphia uses Al Capone’s cell as a prime exhibit. Of course, the art, furniture and other products such as baked goods produced by the present prisoners could be showcased and offered for sale as part of the attraction. To do a proper job, we should seek advice from someone versed in such matters.
But all these possibilities will fall flat if Government does what it’s so good at and ties everything up in red tape, with the result that five years hence we are still squabbling about Cabinet approvals and where it should be vested and so on. Can’t we just get on with the job?
I wrote before about the interesting Ontario Provincial Police Museum in Orillia, Canada, and the possibilities for our police department and fire service to create similar museums to complement the others we already have. The National Trust does a good job of showcasing our historic houses and other heritage sites, and the Horticultural Society our gardens . Although I believe there are some tours involving our historic churches, more could be done in that area. I have been advocating agricultural tours for years and have actually conducted a few myself, but we need a much more concerted effort.
Some years ago, I visited Mackinac Island, which is 3.8 square miles with a population of about 500 and is located in Lake Huron, reached only by ferry in summer. It’s a popular tourist attraction. What is particularly quaint and attractive about it is that, other than the city’s emergency vehicles, all traffic is by foot, horse, horse-drawn carriage or bicycle.
There’s a large hotel, the Grand Hotel, and the main street is lined with small stores and restaurants offering local food and crafts. The store fronts are glass so that one can see the confectionery and other foods being made. At night the city comes alive with entertainment in a variety of pubs and restaurants and there are sometimes concerts in the park.
We’ve long since been trying to bring Speightstown alive, so I wonder if a similar atmosphere couldn’t be created by closing the northern section of the old Speightstown Road to all but essential vehicular traffic and having a large car park in the area of Jordan’s Supermarket. Apart from tourists arriving in vehicles, they could arrive via ferry or water taxi or a Jolly Roger type schooner, similar to those which would’ve plied their trade in Speightstown in the old days.
The appearance of the shops and restaurants could be improved. Vendors could continue to offer their fruit and vegetables, and artists could display their art and craft. The Esplanade could be used for concerts. Biking and carriage tours could be offered along the seafront and maybe as far as Six Men’s with its boatbuilding attractions. Isn’t it worth some consideration?
• Dr Frances Chandler is a former Independent senator. Email: [email protected]