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School children tour Victoria Road prison 29 September 2008

Ballacottier pupils at Victoria RoadPUPILS from Ballacottier Primary School were among the first visitors to enjoy a tour of the Island’s old prison at Victoria Road.

The youngsters, accompanied by teacher David Partington, ventured through the gates of the 117-year-old building this morning (Monday). They were greeted by Home Affairs Minister Adrian Earnshaw MHK who said that Ballacottier was making history as the first school to enter the prison since it was built in 1891.

Former Acting Prison Governor Tony Hawkes then conducted the 90-minute tour, recounting some fascinating stories and answering lots of questions along the way. The pupils were shown various places of interest within the prison, including the gatehouse, wings, search room and segregation unit. Some youngsters were also locked in cells to give them an idea of what life was like for inmates – but they were released after a few minutes for good behaviour!

Ballacottier head teacher John Rhodes said:

‘When I heard that the Department of Home Affairs was opening up Victoria Road for public tours I jumped at the chance without even asking the teachers concerned as I knew it would be very popular. This was a marvellous opportunity for the pupils at Ballacottier to see a prison building and environment that has been so recently vacated. Our Year 6s are studying the Victorians this term so this trip fitted in really well. I’m sure that looking around the prison will remain with the children in their school day memories for many years to come. We hope, however, that none of our children get a chance to view the new prison in Jurby!’

Interest in the tours of Victoria Road has been overwhelming and all the places were snapped up within hours of being advertised to the public last week. The visits are continuing each day until October 12 and those who are attending are asked to turn up at least 10 minutes before their designated start time so their names can be checked off the list.

People are welcome to take cameras inside the prison as there are opportunities to take photographs at certain points on the tour. Collection buckets are also available inside the gates for donations to the Isle of Man branch of the Victim Support charity.

Caption: Minister for Home Affairs Adrian Earnshaw MHK and former Acting Prison Governor Tony Hawkes with pupils from Ballacottier Primary School inside Victoria Road prison on Monday morning.

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