We Boldly Travelled Where We Hoped Never to Go!

Kingston Penitentiary Tour - October 10, 2019

Kingston Penitentiary Tour

Thursday, October 10, 2019
This Mary Morton trip in the fall will take interested members to participate on the Kingston Penitentiary Tour.  This tour offers a rare and unique opportunity to go behind the walls of Canada's oldest and most notorious maximum security prison. Closed in 2013 and designated as a National Historic Site of Canada, it is an amazing historical building, predating Canada's confederation in 1867.  Former guards are available on most tours and reminisce about times and events during their years at the "Kingston Pen".
 8:00 a.m.  ---  Departure:  Blessed Trinity Church 3220 Bayview Ave. (Bus leaves at 8:00 a.m.)
11:15 a.m  ---  Stop at Magnotta Winery
12:00 noon --- Lunch at Dox Restaurant
   2:20 p.m. --- Kingston Penitentiary Tour
   7:00 p.m. Approximate time of arrival
There will be a stop at “The Big Apple” on the way home
Cost: $129 per person

“We Boldly Travelled Where We Hoped Never to Go”

Shortly after 8 a.m., on Thursday, October 10, forty RTO District 23 members boarded a Mary Morton tour bus to set out for Kingston, Ontario.  Under the leadership of Trips Convener Mary Valtellini and her right hand -- Mary Ellen Lawless, our cars were parked safely until our return.  The sky was a brilliant blue and the day promised to be warm.  Highway 401 showed a lovely display of autumn colours along the route.

Our first stop in Kingston was at Magnotta Wineries where members were allowed to sample from 4 wines selections while munching on savoury crackers. There was also time afforded for retail therapy for some avid shoppers (wine, clothing and napkins!)  After the 150 minutes trek to the Limestone City the sips of wine at Magnotta, the group was a little peckish. After a little bus trip through downtown, `we settled in for lunch at DOX at the Holiday Inn on the shores near where Lake Ontario empties into the St. Lawrence River. 

Next stop -- Kingston Penitentiary. “The Pen” It has always been notorious in Canada as a maximum security prison.  Constructed in 1833-34, and opened in 1835 it has housed some of Canada’s worst criminals in its 178+ years. The cells originally measured 73.7 cm (26 inches) wide by 244 cm (8 feet) deep and 200.7 cm (6 feet, 7 inches) high. For many years, a code of silence was enforced—no talking to other prisoners.

 It is the kind of place we all promised our parents we would never enter—until yesterday!

The outer walls of the prison are built of limestone and the walls have mostly remained intact despite several fires and 2 major riots.  Designated a national historic site in 1993, women and children have also been sentenced to this location.  Margaret Atwood’s novel, Alias Grace main character Grace Marks was housed here and “The Pen” was used as the grounds for the filming of the movie.  Several retired teachers serve as tour guides and many former workers at the penitentiary were stationed in the areas they worked to provide the story and field our questions.

These expert guides cannot speak by name of any of the former inmates if they or the victims’ family members are still alive to respect privacy legislation. Nevertheless, we learned of the rules, the difficulty of life, inmate salaries, labours, escapes, riots and a commitment to educate. One former inmate even broke back into the prison in search of Christmas funds!  Both Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway visited the Pen.

The day was fascinating and all of us were able to cover about 2.5 km of ground to tour the facility.

Our final destination for the day, was the Big Apple where several members headed back to the buses for the day with loaves of Apple Bread, Apple Crumble, Pumpkin Pies and coffee to head home prepared with treats for the Thanksgiving Weekend.

Feedback for this day was very positive starting with the amazing weather.  The Tour was enlightening, daunting and allowed us to see another side of life.  We all gained knowledge of life on the inside and a gratefulness for the life we had in education.  Great thanks to Mary and her team for a wonderfully planned day.

Click here to view the photo album.