Sunday, 20 October 2013

1886 - Barton Street Jail, a Poetic Tribute

The stone pile on Barton Street east built to house criminals of all sorts was the focus of not a little fear and fascination throughout its history.
In 1886, the following poem or song lyric was composed in tribute to Hamilton's Barton Street Jail :

“Barton Street East; Or, the Hamilton Jail”
          Tune - “Villikens and Dinah

          On Barton Street East, there's a beautiful spot,
          A Boarding House neat, where you get your meals hot,
          With nice bread and water, and it don't cost a cent,
          For the taxes, they pay both the board and the rent.

          Chorus -
                   Turn out every man of you, all in a line,
                   From the cell to the stone yard, each man must keep time
                   'Till one o'clock strikes, they all work like a beast,
                   “Tis a great Institution, on Barton Street East,

          The windows are airy, barred up to the slide,
          To keep all the boarders from falling outside;
          They've each a nice suit, made of green and brown,
          And they trim your hair neatly, the best in town.

          There's a carriage so grand, built “regardless of cost,”
          Gold letters on each side, for fear it gets lost,
          With footmen and guards, that dress up “so neat,”
          And your “bracelets” and “chains” hideaway 'neath your seat.

          All know whence you're bound, when the “rig” they behold,
          For its sides tell the tale, in bright letters of gold,
          They've ropes, rings and handcuffs and guards, stern at least,
          To make your trip sure to the “Castle Down East.”

          If you want to get into this fancy retreat,
          Drink “tangle-leg whiskey,” get drunk on the street,
          Then, Jimmy Cahill, he will soon “check your trunk,”
          An' book you there “ten days” as down for “a drunk.”

          “Turn out every man of you,” then one got sick,
          The Doctor then had him rubbed down with a brick,
          Put a great mustard plaster on the top of his head,
          By the great “Hokey Pokey,” he though he was dead.

          Published in the Palladium of Labour
          July 17, 1886.

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