Gaol officials

Various officials were employed at the gaol by the County Grand Jury of Down.  Information on the staff is drawn from surviving presentment books, information in the Belfast Newsletter and from the pen of Downpatrick diarist, Aynsworth Pilson.

The Inspector

The foremost position in the gaol was that of Inspector.  When the gaol opened in 1796 that post was held by Reverend Arthur Forde, of Seaforde. Forde came to office five years after building had begun on the gaol on the Mall and two years before it was completed.  His served in this capacity for about eighteen years, half the time the building functioned as a gaol.  

Forde had a sizeable income beyond his salary as either curate or inspector.  He inherited one quarter of the townland of Ballyorgan from his wife's side of the family and later bought another quarter, thus insuring a relatively large independent income.  Aynsworth Pilson found him “plain, unaffected and discreet”.

During this period the nature of the Inspector's job changed quite dramatically and became much more defined and closely regulated by legislation.  Forde had an authority for the running, upkeep and improvement of the gaol.

In 1813 Dr Nevin became the second Inspector of the Gaol on the Mall when Forde died of typhus.  The change of office prompted a salary review and Nevin was employed at a cost of £100 per annum to the County. 

At the Lent Assizes 1821 Richard Maunsell, another curate of Down became Inspector of the Gaol when Nevin resigned.  Sidney Hamilton Rowan took over the post in 1824 and was noted for his efficiency and effectiveness. 

The gaoler

In 1784 Joseph Robinson became gaoler at the old House of Correction and was still in post when the gaol on the Mall opened. The day to day supervision of prisoners was the job of the turnkeys with overall responsibility for security including, purchasing locks and bolts, being the work of the gaoler. Aynsworth Pilson remarked that Robinson was “renowned for alleged misconduct” as a gaoler and he may even have been removed from his post.  Edward Hamilton took over in 1804 at a salary of £70 per annum.  In 1816 Hamilton's nephew, Hugh Gray, was presented as the new gaoler. 

The schoolmaster and matron

The first mention of the gaol school in the presentment books comes in Lent 1822 when James Copeland was paid £15 as schoolmaster and £10 for “incidental expenses”.  He also drew the salary of the schoolmistress or matron who was probably his wife.  The Copelands' job did not begin and end with the classes held in the day rooms of the gaol.  The  schoolmistress would also have acted as matron and therefore exercised a supervisory role over the female prisoners both in and out of classes.  Her constant attention was evidently required since one year after her appointment the Grand Jury recorded its official opinion that she should reside in the gaol.

The physician and apothecary

From 1787 to 1797 the physician responsible for the gaol was Dr Macara.  The physician, who was also employed at the County Infirmary, was paid £10 per annum for his work at the gaol. The apothecary attending the gaol was Roger McAlea.

In 1797  Macara and McAlea were replaced by John Macoubrey as both physician and apothecary.  Not only did Macoubrey benefit from several inheritances on his wife's side of the family but he also won £350 in the Irish Lottery!  Macoubrey served the gaol from 1798 to 1821. In 1821 Joseph Stockdale replaced him as the apothecary and James Hartwell as the physician. Stockdale was paid both a salary of £30 per annum and for medicines.  Although Hartwell continued to serve as physician,  Macoubrey had resumed his position as apothecary by 1823.  Finally, in 1829 Hartwell was himself replaced by George Buchanan, Surgeon of the County Infirmary.