Spirits bottle with makeshift stopper (uf6626) in the Hyde Park Barracks Archaeology collection, photo Gary Crockett

Despite their appearance, the Barracks guardhouses were inevitably cramped and rank inside. They sheltered and protected convict constables, whose job it was to inspect bodies and belongings entering and leaving the compound. Essex born, brickies labourer, James McDonald was a Barracks constable in the mid 1820s, a position that came with pay and a few privileges. In 1826 he was caught smuggling alcohol to prisoners heading up river to Parramatta and, later that year, was stood down for 2 weeks for stealing a length of chain from the convict lumberyard. He argued that the chain was to capture a runaway dog owned by his boss, John Connor, the Deputy Superintendent of Convicts at Hyde Park Barracks. Shortly afterwards he copped a flogging for aiding a prisoner’s escape. Who ever said ‘power corrupts’…?