Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Today at NSW State Records I also looked at the reports of prison guards keeping watch over Jimmy Governor at Darlinghurst Gaol.
I discovered that any previously published discussions I have seen of this subject have been far too cursory and general.
There were three warders doing rotating shifts: R Keirnan and H C McLean, both 3rd class warders, and John Dwyer, probationary warder.
In the first entry, made on 7 December 1900, Mr Keirnan says 'he seems to treat everything as a joke'.
The following day, Mr McLean says he was doing a lot of boasting, big-noting himself, for outwitting the police.
He also says he is half Irish and half black man and that this accounts for his smartness.
A week later he is saying he is afraid they are going to give him a life sentence.
[This may harken back to his trial when his barrister, Frank Boyce, was trying to get him charged with manslaughter, instead of murder, on the ground of provocation.]
The warder records that Jimmy Governor 'talks a lot about getting a light sentence and how he will go to America after doing his time'.
There is talk of his getting off [his death sentence].
Jimmy is also laughing at his own jokes.
He hates being in a cell and says he is a [caged] lion at the zoo.
On 16 December 1900, the warder on duty reports that Jimmy Governoris talking of hanging himself in his cell.
He wants to go into one of the yards during the day.
Said he would hang himself and the warder wasn't to stop him.
The warder would have his brains knocked out [if he tried].
The warder comments that Jimmy is cheerful at times, and very bad tempered at others.
On 17 December 1900, he is visited by the Comptroller General [of the prison], the Church of England chaplain [clergyman], and Miss [Retta] Dixon.
The warder writes that Jimmy has given up all boasting and laughing and pays great attention to his bible.
By 8 January 1901, Jimmy is praying on his knees.
He had already stated that he had 'made his peace with God' before Miss Dixon, a young Baptist missionary, arrived on the scene.
But her constant ministering to him appears to have had a major calming effect on him.
On 11 January 1901, Jimmy Governor weighed 162 lb.
He was hanged seven days later.
I felt very strong emotions while reading these Darlinghurst Gaol warders' reports.