Operations Manager at The Peterhead Prison Museum

Britain” to transport the convicts to and from their hard labour in the granite quarry 2.5 miles South of the prison. As time passed Peterhead became the “high security” prison for Scotland meaning the worst offenders would be housed here. Overcrowding and being the home of Scotland’s most dangerous criminals soon led to riots which ended in one of the officers being held hostage on a roof in October 1987 for 4 days before the siege was ended in the early hours of the 5th morning by the intervention of the Special Air Service [SAS]. The museum itself was set up to safeguard the past for future generations to enjoy and learn from and to showcase the work of the brave staff that worked here during the 125 years of turbulent history within Scotland’s penal system. 

Who would you say was the prison’s most infamous inmate?
That is a difficult one to answer due to the many and varied inmates held here. Some names will be familiar such as Jimmy Boyle, TC Campbell, Paul Ferries, Sammy Ralston etc. all equally challenging and within a volatile system. 

Who would you say was the prison’s most fascinating employee?
All staff that worked here are within themselves fascinating and it’s been a delight to work with quite a few of them during the setting up of the museum to ensure an “authentic experience” for our visitors. However, the former officer Jackie Stuart who was held hostage on the roof back in 1987 has been a constant volunteer throughout since we opened in 2016 and at 93 years of age is the highlight of our  experience for all the visitors that have met him in person.

Above: ​Marching to the train
© Peterhead Prison Museum 2023

Above: ​Peterhead Prison in 1962
© Peterhead Prison Museum 2023

​​Bow Street Society logo artwork by Heather Curtis:

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Peterhead Prison has been described as         Scotland’s toughest prison. Could you tell us a little about its history and the eventual creation of the museum?
Opening in 1888 Peterhead “Convict” Prison [the only one in Scotland as to be sent here meant you were “sentenced to penal servitude”] was built to support the build of the “Harbour of Refuge” after it was identified a lot of shipping was being lost in storms off the coast of NE of Scotland. In addition to the prison itself being unique it also had the first “state owned passenger carrying railway in

Artwork by Peter Spells 

Above: ​Peterhead Prison Governor, Guards, et al in 1896
© Peterhead Prison Museum 2023

I started my chat with Alexander by inviting him to tell me a bit about himself and his role:
I am the operations manager of the museum and see to the day to day running of the attraction. This covers everything from HR to H&S and everything else in between. After 28 years with Grampian Police, my latter 10 years with the Programme and Project Support Office, I left the day prior to the take over by Police Scotland. Within a few weeks I had been asked by the company that bought the former HM Convict Prison Peterhead to convert it into a museum and I started work on the project late 2014 opening our doors in June 2016. By 2019 we had secured a 5* rating from Visit Scotland and the rest as they say is now history.

The Coffee with a Curator interviews has proven popular amongst my readers since the first back in 2020 when I chatted to Dr Clare Smith of the Metropolitan Police Heritage Collection. Therefore, it’s only fitting for me to bring you another fascinating conversation from the world of museums and archives. This month, I had the absolute delight of speaking to Alexander Geddes from Peterhead    Prison Museum in Scotland. The museum and me connected through my Bow Street Society Trivia of the Day posts on Instagram, so I was thrilled when they agreed to an interview.

The overall aim of incarceration has fluctuated between punishment and rehabilitation over the      centuries. How did Peterhead Prison’s tough reputation influence this debate in Scotland over the course of its history?
Again a difficult one to answer as the rehabilitation aspect of the prison system has been influenced by many across the system from prison staff, social workers and many in the health profession and is still ongoing. I would say the new HMP/YPOI Grampian is certainly doing their part in leading the way in this part and it will be interesting over the years to come to see what works best.

As a crime fiction author writing about the Victorian period, I conduct a lot of research. What advice or assistance can the Peterhead Prison Museum offer to authors and/or genealogists researching their ancestors’ connection to the prison?
We have supported authors interest in the prison ranging from Oscar Slater an inmate that was     wrongfully imprisoned here for 19 years before the famous author of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur    Conan Doyle got involved in the case and proved Oscar’s innocence to books about Johnny Ramensky an famous safe breaker who turned WWII hero before ending back in here after the war was over. We welcome any request for help and if we ourselves can not provide the support required, we normally have links to those who can.


I’d like to thank Alexander for taking the time to speak to me today. The museum is a fantastic insight into the history of the Scottish penal system and I for one cannot wait to visit!


                                                                                                              ~ T.G. Campbell,March 2023