Convict Labour - The Building of the Dockyard (Pt 4)
BY FREDDIE GOMEZ
[Left] Building 191. One of the few (if not the only) stone block building still left intact where convicts were kept for a time before being moved to other allotments made either of wood or corrugated sheeting. The building was constructed of locally quarried material, except for the steps which have been lined with granite stone slaps (probably wastage material from the docks which are constructed of this material)
The first contingent of convicts that arrived in Gibraltar in the Owen Glendowen was mostly employed by the admiralty, the rest were put to work by the War Department (presently M.O.D.) on repairing and constructing fortifications.
The convicts were daily tendered from the Owen Glendowen, where they were temporarily housed, to the Naval Yard where they grouped into specific workforces to tackle the assigned workload allotted to each group. The tender vessel that brought them ashore was popularly known as "Fandanguito" and under the command of skipper Figallo.
A section of the Naval Yard was designated for the construction of a stockade to house 1,000 convicts. Cells were also built by the military for navy and army prisoners. Some of these cells were built of store abutting the Line Wall, some were made of wood which were later converted into stores.
The convicts under Admiralty employment were put to work on the extension of the New Mole, the construction of Naval water tanks (Rosia Tanks), on the quarries at Camp Bay and Little Bay, on repairing works in the Dockyard and Victualling Yard and on the construction of Admiralty houses.
The Admiralty in 1860 employed 270 convicts, but it did not have much of a regard for their work performance and hence preferred the use of private hired labour. There are, nevertheless, privately written accounts of the well behaved manner in which the convicts, in large numbers, marched through the town on their way to and from their places of work. However, those who were undergoing penal punishment were made to wear a two coloured outfit stamped all over with the bench mark imprint- which the Government had adopted- resembling a bird's footprint. They were also either ankle-claimed or hand-cuffed.
A convict's wage was tuppence a day but when the assigned job entailed working in the water or for having done a good days' work they were rewarded with an extra biscuit (biscuits that were so full of weavels that they were know as "weavel biscuits", and tapping was necessary to get rid of the weavels). An extra portion of grog (watered doom rum) was also awarded.
[Above] Originally this sort of corrugated sheet buildings (built against the Dockyard parameter wall) were for allotting convicts, with the abolition of the convict establishment, some of this buildings went through a series of changes, either as workshops or stores.
[Above] Joe Moondyne a very notorious Australian convict who made a real name for himself because of his escapes from prison. Having escaped four times and caught every time he died of natural causes after having served his sentence of 17 years. Photo; Gibraltar a Convict Establishment, British Archives. London.
[Above] Works already at hand for the construction of No 3. Dock. In 1903 King Edward VII visited Gibraltar and named the dock after himself, and, as coincidence would have it, once finished the first battle cruiser to be serviced in this dock was H.M.S. King Edward VII. Photo; Mili's Old Picture's Collection