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End of an era as Prison Governor bows out 29 June 2007

ACTING Prison Governor Tony Hawkes is retiring after 34 years service at the Isle of Man Prison in Victoria Road, Douglas.

Tony, 57, is the last remaining prison officer who, as part of his duties, witnessed both a death sentence being handed out to a murderer (later commuted to life imprisonment), and a birching sentence being carried out. He said:

‘In the early days it was a different culture along the lines of ‘lock him up and throw away the key’ and ‘happiness is door-shaped’. Prison was a harsh, regimented regime. Now there’s a completely different focus to educate prisoners and to rehabilitate. Prison officers lead by example and there’s more understanding of the care required for prisoners, many of whom lack education and family support. I have seen a lot of improvements, following recommendations by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons. After the 2001 HMIP report, slopping out finally stopped, with additional staff recruited to enable prisoners to have access to toilets. There are also ongoing improvements in health care and education which will be more fully realised with the move to Jurby.’

Home Affairs Minister presents illuminated address to Tony HHome Affairs Minister Martyn Quayle MHK paid tribute to Tony’s long service:

‘Tony has been an excellent servant to both the Isle of Man Prison Service and Isle of Man Government throughout his 34 years service. I know the Department is especially grateful for Tony’s hard work and support over the last three years, where he has been Acting Prison Governor, in respect of his overall leadership and commitment to both keeping Victoria Road operational and the development of the new prison at Jurby. Tony is very proud of the Prison Service and will be a big loss to the Department, but I would like to wish him and his family well for the future. I’m sure he will be keen to see the opening of the new prison, and the closing of the old, when it takes place.’

Tony left school in Stoke-on-Trent with no qualifications and started his career in 1965 as an apprentice painter and decorator. When his family’s plans to emigrate fell through in 1969, and embarrassed by bon voyage gifts, Tony and his younger brother stuck a pin in a map and decided to leave for the Isle of Man. By then four years into his apprenticeship, Tony was employed by building firm and funeral directors, J. K. Brearley of Auckland Grove, Dalton Street, Douglas.

Said Tony:

‘It was a good time. We painted government buildings, including the Courthouse and the prison extension. And I remember one TT week, we were dropped off in Ramsey to paint the postboxes and telephone boxes. Not many got painted that week. I don’t know why they didn’t think to send us down south!’

Always interested in joining the Police or Fire Brigade, Tony thought his lack of qualifications would hold him back. However, when the Prison Service advertised for staff he applied and was offered a post after passing the entrance exam. He began as Prison Officer (Discipline) in September 1973, progressing through the ranks to Trades Officer in November 1985, then to the Works Department the following year. He became Senior Works Officer in 1986, responsible for maintaining all the prison buildings – employing prisoners to assist – and the fitting and maintenance of all locks. He achieved the highest uniformed rank of Principal Officer in May 1990, becoming Deputy Governor to Rosie Crosby in June 1994. Since her retirement in 2004, he has been Acting Governor.

Tony recalled:

‘I joined just after the Summerland fire in 1973 and in the December that year I was one of the escorting officers who saw Deemster Eason sentence a prisoner – the Golden Egg murderer James Richard Linney – to death by hanging, which was later commuted to a life sentence. I was also one of two officers who witnessed the last birching sentence carried out in the Island.’

Tony Hawkes hangs up his keysTony served under five Governors – Whitehead, Morgan, Riley, Foy and Mrs Crosby. He says Mrs Crosby, along with Chief Gaoler Alan Vokins and Principal Officer the late Howard Gelling, were his main mentors. Outside the service, Tony played for St George’s Football Club, representing the Isle of Man at Junior International level soon after moving here. He has also been a stalwart of the stage performing with Douglas Choral Union, the Manx Operatic Society, the Christine Wild Theatre School and the Service Players. He will be treading the boards again this summer in the musical Underneath the Arches, being staged at the Gaiety Theatre from August 23.

‘I learnt to tap dance from a prisoner although I only learnt the time step!' Tony revealed. 'Herbie ‘Fly’ Kelly was a flyweight boxer but he used to whistle a tune and tap dance to it on the solid floors of the prison. I have been involved in theatre since I arrived here and I think that part of my life enabled me to deal with the stresses and strains of the prison.
‘In all my years at the prison I believe I have only met one truly evil person. You get bad people but most have lost their way, often because they have not attended education or haven’t had the benefit, as I did, of a supportive family to instil moral values. If we can address that, along with the drugs problem, then I think prison can have a positive impact.’

Although Tony leaves the prison today (June 29), he will remain on call until his official retirement date later in the year but is planning to enjoy the rest of the summer with wife Jacqui and their children and grandchildren, before he considers ‘setting up a little business’.

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