THE demolition of the prison in Victoria Road, Douglas, is well advanced and knocking down the high exterior security walls has opened up the interior cell block to public view for the first time since the prison opened for business in 1891.
It is an arresting sight.
(Sorry. No sooner had I written the above than I realised I was making a bad joke. It’s too late to stop it now. But the cell block really does capture the eye, which might be another bad joke).
It is a proper Victorian pile. Yes, it does look grim. But it’s also a magnificent structure of Manx stone and sandstone with its cells behind iron bars which were very likely made at Gelling’s Foundry.
Because of these things I will be sorry to see it finish up as a pile of rubble and be lost to us.
But what to do? There has been no determined move to preserve the prison for posterity since it was made redundant five years ago by the opening of the £41 million Jurby Jug.
I wonder if there is time to start a campaign for preservation of the cell block when the rest of the prison has gone. I know the noble intention for future use of the site is what is known as social housing.
But what we have at the moment is a classic example of Victorian anti-social housing. It must count for something.
I would be happy to contribute to a preservation fund. This is because, in 1964, I was allowed into the prison to write an article about it for the Isle of Man Weekly Times.
There they had a register of the names of prisoners who had been admitted since the closure of the can in Castle Rushen. There were 9000 names on it.
No doubt there are today many more names on this register and it is held in the Manx Museum.
I wasn’t allowed to see it – Data Protection Act.
But I knew the name Cringle must feature in it more than once and one or more of these people could be ancestors of mine. As a result, I feel some responsibility to put my money down in memory of them.
I am sure my distinguished namesake, former President of Tynwald Mr Noel Cringle, might agree, as might everybody else in the Isle of Man with a proud Manx name. We owe it to our forebears.
This means, I am compelled to say, that there will be more Kellys on the list than any other name.
I rang Mr Peter Kelly, one of our more vigorous Victorian preservationists, to raise this matter.
I’m still waiting to hear back from him.
We must also consider what we should do with the cell block if it survives. A hotel perhaps, with cells as bedrooms bearing the names of past prisoners.
There would be the Cringle Room and the Kelly Room to start with.
Staying in these rooms would open guests up to the delights of slopping out and in reception they could be made to strip and have a bath.
And think of all the weight they would lose on bread and water.
• A NEW book called ‘An English Affair: Sex, Lies and Power in the Age of Profumo’ by Richard Davenport-Hines recalls the days in Britain when nudes in theatre shows had to stand still in statuesque poses.
This rule was laid down by the Lord Chamberlain’s Department.
The official charged with seeing that this rule was not broken was Sir Charles Titman.
• A GOAT dish offered in a restaurant on the Greek island of Antiparos is on the English language menu as ‘Kid baked in clay flowerpot.’
• THIS week’s Manx crossword clue is: One of us may be the talk of the Isle (10) – Englishman (Daily Mail).