breakwater, noun

Forms:
Often with initial capital.
Origin:
EnglishShow more Special sense of general English.
historical
The breakwater: The former Breakwater Convict Station (Cape Town), established in 1860 for long-term prisoners with hard labour. Also attributive, and used allusively with reference to a sentence with hard labour, often in the phrase on the breakwater.
Note:
The prison was situated at the docks, and prisoners worked on the construction of the breakwater.
1866 Cape Town Dir. p.xiiiBondfield, Patrick. Overseer, Breakwater, 17 Napier Street. Bowlan, John. Constable (Breakwater).
1872 J.L. Babe S. Afr. Diamond Fields 62The best thing he can do is..steal something and be sent to the breakwater, where he will be provided for by the State.
1888 Cape Punch 31 Aug. 107‘Why was not de heaby swell arrested?’ he asked indignantly ‘No need for that,’ Mr Cape-Punch replied, ‘don’t you see he was already on the breakwater?’
1899 A. Werner Captain of Locusts 157His sons — all that were not killed — were on the break water at Cape Town.
1899 G.C. Griffith Knaves of Diamonds 34I’ll lay you ten years on the Breakwater to a thousand pounds..that I’ll take that little lot (sc. diamonds) through.
1911 L. Cohen Reminisc. of Kimberley 184The thief was given in charge,..fifteen thousand pounds’ worth of diamonds were found, he got five years’ well deserved punishment on the breakwater.
1913 A.B. Marchand Dirk, S. African 317 (Swart)‘Clear case of fraud I understand’ said the other, ‘shouldn’t wonder if it meant the Breakwater.’
1924 L. Cohen Reminisc. of Jhb. 189A report in a Kimberley newspaper of the trial was headed, ‘Sweet Innocence’, and O’Flynn went down to the breakwater for five years, convicted of an offence never committed by him.
1934 C.P. Swart Supplement to Pettman. 24Breakwater, to send to the, A term formerly often used throughout South Africa to signify imprisonment. Long-term prisoners, who were sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour, were usually sent to work at the breakwater in Cape Town.
1944 Twede in Bevel Piet Kolonel 170The Break Water in Cape Town will be paradise for hard labour in comparison with this.
1952 H. Klein Land of Silver Mist 123The famous old South African colleges, the Cape Town Breakwater and Pretoria Tronk. Illicit gold buying, illicit diamond buying, horse-thieving, and such-like degrees.
1963 O. Doughty Early Diamond Days 146Laughing gaily, drinking merrily, smiling serenely, but all the time with the shadow of the breakwater haunting them and phantoms of prison warders grinning over their shoulders.
1983 J.A. Brown White Locusts 51From the deck of the docked American it was possible to see the breakwater convicts labouring.
The former Breakwater Convict Station (Cape Town), established in 1860 for long-term prisoners with hard labour. Also attributive, and used allusively with reference to a sentence with hard labour, often in the phrase on the breakwater.

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18661983