The appeal of Inveraray Jail may lie in its special ability to connect us with the past, but that doesn’t mean the present isn’t a welcome visitor to our wonderful loch-side location now and again.
And what could be more current than a visit from the Commonwealth Games? Granted, it might not have been Mo Farah or Usain Bolt who popped in to get themselves locked up in the cells or feel the mild sting of a mock birching, but having the Queen’s Baton Relay make a special stop at the jail was quite a coup.
Between 14th June and 23rd July the Queen’s Baton Relay is travelling the length and breadth of Scotland, allowing everyone to be part of the excitement, celebrations and countdown to the games. With up to 4,000 baton bearers joining the relay in more than 400 communities, it’s Scotland’s biggest ever relay. The route will see the Queen’s baton visit each of Scotland’s 32 Local Authorities, with up to 100 baton bearers carrying the baton containing the monarch’s message every single day.
On July 13th, with the flags and bunting fluttering and an atmosphere of anticipation pervading the town, the Commonwealth Games cavalcade drew many hundreds of locals and tourists out to line the streets of Inveraray. Amid this carnival atmosphere the jail took centre stage as the relay stopped for about 10 minutes right in front of the main entrance.
Several baton bearers carried the baton through the town and among them was Fiona Corner of the Inveraray Jog Scotland running group. Fiona is one of the organisers of the annual Inveraray Jail Break which sees hundreds of runners ‘escape’ from the jail before running up to the monument atop the 236m high Dun na Cuaiche and back again.
Fiona, who lives in Inveraray, ran the first 200 metres as the baton arrived in the royal burgh. ‘It was great fun and a real honour to carry the baton on the first part of its passage through Inveraray,’ she said. ‘It was somehow the longest and shortest run of my life! I enjoyed every step but it was over all too soon.’
Just before reaching the jail, Fiona passed the baton on to Joanna Martin who posed for a photo opportunity with the jail’s Warder, Rob Irons, and Matron, Hanna Nixon. The pair stayed in character for the photographs, adopting the stern, authoritarian demeanour that would have helped them command respect from the prisoners back in the 19th century. They did, however, promise that the baton bearers wouldn’t be locked up or feel the wrath of the whipping birch!
After the photo opportunity at the jail, Joanna carried the baton through the town and handed it over to the next bearer as it made its way to Inveraray Castle, where a mini Highland games was taking place, before returning to the quayside. There the local shinty team formed a guard of honour using their shinty sticks to send the royal missive on its way. The baton was then carried by speedboat across Loch Fyne to Strachur, from where it continued on its journey, ultimately to Glasgow.
Sam Potts, Inveraray Jail’s Assistant Manager, said: ‘It was fantastic that the Queen’s Baton Relay came to Inveraray. It caused great excitement in the town. Lots of people made a day of it and combined a visit to the jail with a visit to see the baton. The locals were out in force too. The TV footage will have helped showcase what a wonderful town Inveraray is and hopefully inspire people to come and visit the jail.’
If you’ve got tickets for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, why not make a trip out to Inveraray and visit the jail? It’s only an hour and a half drive. And what a drive it is, taking you through the spectacular Rest and be Thankful mountain pass and alongside the beautiful Loch Fyne. Mention it to Mo and Usain if you see them…