Helena Koumbouzis

Child’s Play

Installation, mixed media

Edward Maclellan, custody officer in Campbeltown jail in late 1930s to early WWII years.

Marion Maclellan (née Armour), wife of Edward, working as the cook in the jail.

Mary  Maclellan, daughter of Edward and Marion, moved into the jail with her family at the age of ten.

John Maclellan, son of Edward and Marion, moved into the jail with his family at the age of eight, and my father-in-law.

Marion Hutchison (née Maclellan), daughter of Edward and Marion, moved into the jail with her family at the age of six.

The work is based on a hand-drawn map of the jail made by my father in law based on his childhood memories from the place he called home. He lived in the jail while his father was custody officer there.

My understandings of the space come from a child’s point of view and the altered perception of an uncanny environment.

A confined life behind bars and high walls where the children shared utilities, meals, playing area (recreation yard), chores and time with the prisoners, mostly men from the local community and often regulars. Some of them would carve toys. Others would be locked in the ‘Cage’ in the yard as they were not known to the custody officer or they were prone to trouble.

Child’s Play is a series of ‘evidence’ of a child’s existence in the confined space of a jail and a child’s point of view of a confined space, in the form of an installation of objects, created for this project.

All of the objects reference recollections shared by Mary and John Maclellan about the characters who “visited” the jail and their interaction with the custody officer’s children, for example toys made by prisoners for them.

The carved objects were crafted by participants in the GalGael project, which is based in  Clydeside communities.
GalGael work with people facing employment challenges to develop skills and confidence through traditional craft and boat building. GalGael’s involvement will touch on the inter-temporal links between places on the West coast of Scotland and the issue of social exclusion.


John’s memory map, paper, pencil

Doll’s cot, wood from fruit crates

‘Prisoner’s piece’, white bread, cheese, plate

Toy boat, wood