Published By: Clink Street publishing
Publication Date: 23rd January 2018
Veronica’s Bird: Thirty-five years inside as a female prison officer
Veronica Bird was one of nine children living in a tiny house in Barnsley with a brutal coal miner for a father. Life was a despairing time in the 1950s, as Veronica sought desperately to keep away from his cruelty. Astonishingly, to her and her mother, she won a scholarship to Ackworth Boarding School where she began to shine above her class-mates. A champion in all sports, Veronica at last found some happiness until her brother-in-law came into her life. It was as if she had stepped from the frying pan into the re: he took over control of her life removing her from the school she adored, two terms before she was due to take her GCEs, so he could put her to work as a cheap option on his market stall. Abused for many years by these two men, Veronica eventually ran away and applied to the Prison Service, knowing it was the only safe place she could trust. This is the astonishing, and true story of Veronica Bird who rose to become a Governor of Armley prison. Given a ‘basket case’ in another prison, contrary to all expectations, she turned it around within a year, to become an example for others to match. During her life inside, her ‘bird’, she met many Home Secretaries, was honoured by the Queen and was asked to help improve conditions in Russian Prisons. A deeply poignant story of eventual triumph against a staggeringly high series of setbacks, her story is lled with humour and compassion for those inside.
About the authors: After thirty-five years working for the Prison Service, Veronica Bird is now retired and living in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. She is still an active proponent of the justice system and continues to lecture across the country and is a supporter of Butler Trust, which acknowledges excellence within the prison system.
A qualified architect and Swiss-trained hotelier, Richard Newman enjoyed a forty-year career designing and managing hotels worldwide before retiring in 2001. Since then he has gone on to publish a number of novels: The Crown of Martyrdom, The Horse that Screamed, The Potato Eaters, The Green Hill, Brief Encounters and most recently The Sunday Times bestseller, A Nun’s Story. He is currently working on a new novel about retirement and an autobiography of his time in the Middle East. He lives happily with his wife in Wetherby, West Yorkshire where he enjoys being close to his family.
This memoir of life in the Prison Service, documenting Veronica Bird’s rise through the ranks and the changing attitudes in the Prison Service. She clearly did a great job of turning several prisons around and helped many people improve their lives.
I found the book interesting and insightful, with amusing anecdotes and colourful descriptions. If you have ever wondered what goes on in prisons, or what it’s like to work in them, this book will give you a good idea. I find it interesting that Veronica touches on the inherent humanity of the prison population; so many people dehumanise and demonise those in prison, without making an effort to find out why they are there. Miss Bird inspired confidence and respect in her inmates because she treat them with respect. She also mentions the incidence of children born to women prisoners who later become prisoners, the only place they feel secure is prison. What sort of a world do we live in that someone would prefer confinement to freedom?
On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s been edited. There is lots of misplaced punctuation and some distracting non sequitur. It’s meant to be a chronological narrative, but it kept wandering off and I couldn’t always keep things in order.