Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Neville William Griffiths

Maitland Mercury, Monday, 21 September, 2009

“Don’t slouch about, don’t bully or bluster, don’t swagger. Prisoners with these characteristics are quick to recognise a fellow spirit”, so advises Comptroller General S. McCauley in the New South Wales Prisons’ Dept. Handbook Guide to Warders dated Ist March 1915. This booklet and a plethora of invaluable gaol related material was recently donated to Maitland Gaol by Antoinette Griffiths, widow of former Deputy Superintendent Neville William Griffiths. Neville was first enlisted as a Prisons’ Warder in February 1951, retiring voluntarily in November 1985. He appears to have been an amateur archivist and keen gaol historian as he continued to gather news items from local media long after his retirement.

The extensive collection, including an almost complete anthology of The Crimes Act of 1900 with amendments through to 1979, personal papers, officers’ manuals and guide books, offers a unique insight into the working of the prison, documenting the many changes which took place during the 20th Century. A transcript of a 1978 interview conducted by The Ombudsman’s Office, sheds an interesting light on alleged assaults by officers against inmates during the final moments of the October 1975 riot. Neville’s detailed account of events of the day, explains why, after throwing tear gas canisters into the riot affected area, officers lined each side of the only exit in a manner “referred to by the Department as a security line and by the prisoners, of course, as a gauntlet”. No charges were ever laid.

Mr Griffiths shared his knowledge generously with gaol researchers. His stories regarding the continued escape attempts of the gaol’s milking cow were hilarious. If you have information or stories to share please contact Maitland Gaol on info@maitlandgaol.com.au or (02) 4936 6482.

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