Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Alan Perrett's Suitcase

Maitland Mercury, Monday 19 October, 2009

Some time after his death, a suit case bearing the inscription, A.G.F. Perrett scratched above the handle, and the letters A and P on each lock was delivered to the gaol by a member of Mr Perrett’s family in the hope that the contents would “be of some use” to gaol archivists.

As well as the pictured NSW Prisons Department summer issue pith helmet and plaited leather whistle strap which date back to 1948, and the warders cap (circa 1970s), the suit case contained a plethora of artefacts documenting Mr Perrett’s service over three decades.

Maitland Gaol officers who worked alongside him have described Allan Perrett as authoritarian, abrasive, meticulous and somber, a no-nonsense man’s man who kept to himself. One former colleague explained, “Old Perrett, I’ve never seen him crack a smile, he was never up for a joke or anything, he just did his job and that was that”.

These attributes could certainly be accredited to, and possibly were a prerequisite for, his early service at H.M. Gaol, Grafton, widely acknowledged as one the most brutal and bleak correctional institutions Australia has ever known. In contrast to the portrayal of a brusque, hardened officer, is Mr Perrett’s involvement with the Maitland Gaol Prisoners’ Discussion Group. Documents indicate that he was a key figure in the establishment and ongoing running of the group which met monthly throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. Topics for discussion were agreed upon by consensus and guest speakers from the public sector were invited to participate. Minutes for the group meetings attest that the lively and informative discussions, covering a gamut of subjects, were enjoyed by all who participated, and each month’s gathering was eagerly awaited.

Items from the suitcase offer a tiny glimpse into the working life of 3rd Class Warder A.G.F. Perrett. The H.M. Gaol E. Maitland Storekeeper receipt No.558 shows he returned his uniform, ID card, manual, badge, buttons, shoes, tie and tie pin on 23rd November 1976. Anyone with information about the discussion group or Maitland Gaol can contact gaol staff on (02) 4936 6482 or email info@maitlandgaol.com.au with items or information they’d like to share.

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