Bridewell Detainees

Seemingly it was normal practice to detain temporarily in The Bridewell, all those in breach of army regulations, and deserters.

Then they were conveyed to more permanent and secure places of confinement.

We locals had a spectacle to view each Friday, the transfer day. Prisoners were taken by jeep to Belfast or some other garrison town but their journey was preceded, as far as the watering trough at River Street, by the parading and flamboyant Sergeant-Major ‘Swanee’ playing on the bagpipes.

One Friday, one poor prisoner made a break for it in his bare feet. I can still see him dashing up the ‘Tan Open’ with his braces dangling in front of him. He ought to have made for the steps on his left. Instead he turned into the railed ‘wee corner’ on his right.

There was no way out but he wasn’t going to give up that easily. Boldly he scaled the railings and dashed across Chapel Street to Mary Ellen Keenan’s wall. This too was scaled and he made good his escape over ‘The Rocks’.

His freedom lasted three days.

After he was caught, to shame him he was paraded publicly in handcuffs through the streets and back to The Bridewell.

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