‘Come inside and see for yourself. But when you leave please shut the gate.’
I’ve never been to the prison at Long Bay, but I’ve heard a lot about it. Recently I visited the Corrective Services NSW Museum at Cooma. It’s a fascinating museum which includes some fascinating items, including some of the artefacts from the notorious short-lived Katingal Gaol. So, when I heard that this book had been published, I knew I wanted to read it.
Patrick Kennedy, the author of this history of Long Bay, has several connections with Long Bay. Both of his parents worked as nurses there. He grew up next door to Long Bay, in Austral Street.
This book, full of photographs and diagrams, was written over a period of four years. Mr Kennedy was granted access to most parts of Long Bay, strictly supervised. The book is not just about the buildings, and the many different configurations of the complex, it’s also about some of the people who’ve occupied it. While I found the information about the Forensic Hospital and Katingal most interesting, the stories of Peter Schneidas and Russell ‘Mad Dog’ Cox certainly held my attention. Russell Cox was the only man to escape from Katingal. How did he do it? How was the hacksaw blade he used smuggled in? Mr Kennedy mentions other inmates as well as a number of prison staff, including Prison Officers John Mewburn (murdered by Peter Schneidas in 1979) and Geoffrey Pearce OAM (who succumbed to the AIDS virus in 1997 after being attacked at Silverwater).
‘Beginning as a humane prison, Long Bay evolved into probably Australia’s most infamous prison. The super maximum security Katingal and the gallows at the old State Penitentiary were its most controversial sections.’
This book provides a fascinating history of Long Bay. It includes a number of firsthand accounts as well as a comprehensive history of the Long Bay complex.