Richard Weaver - Calton Jail (1860)

Weaver went next to Edinburgh. While there he was asked to preach in Calton Jail. First, he spoke to 80 women prisoners, thirty of whom sought the Lord. As he was leaving the governor asked him to visit the cell of the most notorious woman in the prison. The woman could not accept that someone as bad as she could be saved, but after a long conversation she finally understood. The next day he was speaking in another part of the prison when a letter was given to him from the woman he had spoken to. He was asked to read it out to the women. It was a testimony from the woman that she had found Jesus; the result was that many came to the Lord as they heard that such a bad woman had found forgiveness of her sins.

The following is from 'Recollections of Reginald Radcliffe' by his wife.

Twice Mr Radcliffe and Mr Weaver visited Calton Gaol. When we reached the women's ward—a long white­washed passage rather than a room, well lighted, with two galleries, surrounded by low, thick impenetrable looking doors—the chaplain signalled, by clapping his hands twice; whereupon the cell doors were unlocked, and my poor degraded sisters crept out, each carrying a three-legged wooden seat, and placed it at her cell door and crouched down upon it. There was the old woman of many years— the hand of time had blanched her locks, but her soul was dyed with sin, oh, how black!—young girls, and I doubt not young wives and many mothers. Richard Weaver spoke with much love and tenderness and entreated and encouraged them to look to Jesus at once. Rev. M. Ross, the good chaplain (now of Manchester), asked all who would like conversation in their cells to ring their bells. They then retired; and as we stood looking down the now empty, quiet passage, bell after bell rang, and a small black flag with the number of the cell stood out above the door, so that we could at once see where to go. Jesus can give liberty to the captive. In one cell we found a prisoner sentenced for nine months. When we entered, we were struck with the air of peace and contentment and even joy on her smiling face; she told us she had been led to Jesus within the walls of that prison. One poor girl asked Mr. Weaver to go to High Street and tell her mother that she had been forgiven by Jesus. The heart of Jesus is still the same as when to another He said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." Next day, in the prison the men's ward was visited. The prisoners were brought into a chapel and sat in rows, and did not look so desolate as the women. One prisoner said that while Mr Radcliffe spoke, his burden fell off, and he found rest in Christ. Young Lady G — spoke to the boys. One poor fellow told us he was going to hang himself yesterday; and showed us the iron rail which he intended to use, outside his window. He was in an agony of mind, though only about fifteen years old. We told him that we hoped to-day he had got something better to hang upon. Jesus had hung on the cross for him. I believe he rested his weary young soul on Jesus that day. It was a touching picture to see young Lady G —, with her arms around two of those wicked boys at the same time, entreating them to come to Jesus for pardon.

Additional Information

Calton Jail was demolished in 1930, being replaced by St Andrew's House.