Between the Devil and the Deep Sea, a new installation by artist Alison Lowry has recently opened at the museum. Co-funded by the Friends of Down County Museum, Alison was commissioned to create a piece of work that would convey the stories and experiences of prisoners in the gaol.  

From 1796 to 1830, whilst the gaol was operational, around 400 prisoners were transported to New South Wales. Among these were 66 women, transported for petty crimes, such as theft. Items that were stolen were generally objects encountered whilst working, such as a silver spoon or china plate from the ‘big house’, or items from the linen green, like lengths of fabric or yarn.  

It was the experiences of these women that formed the inspiration for the artwork. Women like Elizabeth Dogherty, who was sentenced to seven years transportation for passing forged bank notes. A petition on her behalf was sent to the Lord Lieutenant to appeal for leniency. In the letter it was stated she was a mother of five, with a baby under nine months old. Elizabeth was allowed to take her youngest child to Australia with her, but we don’t know what happened to her other children.   

Alison Lowry is an award-winning glass artist working from her studio, ‘Schoolhouse Glass’ in Saintfield, County Down. She employed a range of techniques to create the sculptures, working with cast glass and pate de verre. She exhibits both locally and internationally and her work is held in several public collections in Ireland.

To find out more about Alison’s work, visit: 


Alison Lowry - Image courtesy of Pat O'Hare