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The prisoner who said too much

Thomas White
Thomas White, the prisoner whose mouth had him in endless trouble

The trouble with Thomas White was that he never knew when enough was enough. He was one character the authorities just could not shut up.

White was in and out of gaol for two decades on charges of larceny, drunkenness, obscene language and the like. He had been described in 1898 as ‘a low petty thief who has given the police a lot of trouble and was often suspected of offences which could not be proved against him. He will steal anything to get money to buy drink at any risk’.

On St Helena, ‘The Mouth’, as he was known, could not keep quiet and, in consequence, spent a considerable amount of his time in solitary confinement. His charge sheets list a host of colourful statements, a string of which proved to be his downfall in 1898 when, over a one week period, he accumulated 33 charges. Among his outbursts were:

Order here! Order there! A fellow’s always being ordered around by you lot!

And here comes old mother Ryan (the Superintendent). He’s not fit to have charge of a houseful of ducks, never mind a place like this!

If I had known you were going to lock me up, I’d have really done something wrong!

Am I standing at attention enough for you this time?

I knew you were going to lock me up again by the way you were going on and on!

Such spirited exclamations as these — and many more of unrepeatable colour — together with his love of whistling and singing at the wrong time, and his chronic inability to stand at attention in the presence of the Superintendent, convinced the authorities that Thomas ‘The Mouth’ White was ‘simply an insubordinate character in the extreme’.

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