Friday, 30 April 2010

The Doc and Homecoming

It was Jerry who asked me to comment in this blog on two questions he asked me. The first question was did I ever feel as if I was in prison also? I remember very clearly the first time I visited the prison after my appointment as chaplain. This was a brand new prison for high category prisoners only with an added level of security. I was there from the beginning so it was a very interesting time. This prison is now four or five times the size it was during my time there.

That first day I was on my own just me and what I had to do, visit prisoners, was a strange feeling opening and locking doors, opening and locking gates. The one difference was that on a long chain attached to my belt I had a key. I knew I could walk out any time I wanted; this made me very aware of how different my position was to that of the inmate.

I met “The Doc” very early in my ministerial career. I knew him both inside and out of prison. He was known by everybody as The Doc, because he in fact was a qualified doctor. He was one of two such people I knew the other was Harry whom I think I have mentioned before. The Doc had a real problem with his alcohol intake, he could never get enough. He had reached rock bottom living in a hostel for those who have nowhere else to live. He had an old rucksack in which he kept all of his worldly possessions. In money at all he had or could get was used to feed his habit.

He never caused any trouble to anybody; he had learned to accept his lot. He kept himself clean and on this level I was able to help. I always had access to good second hand clothes. He was erudite and had many tales to tell as he shared an ale. He was good company so many people were willing to pay for another drink for him. When he knew he had enough for the day he went back to the hospital and slept.

The exception to this was the few days before Christmas. This was when he would go and do something silly committing the offence of, Breach of the Peace. He knew when the courts would not be sitting and a term of imprisonment would result. He managed to have most Christmas days in prison. So for The Doc this was indeed a kind of coming home event. Did I try to change him no I took the way of the wolves?

The way of the wolves I hear you ask?    This is another tale for another day.

This blog is linked to my other blog where I discuss the artwork used:- Along the Hedgerow


  1. I've often heard of people committing crimes just to come home to the security and routine of the prison system. Such a sad thought to me. Ralph, you are such a good friend to so many. Don't know how you do it!

  2. Oh Ralph, you hook us and keep us hanging!

    Hope you're having a good day. Sending you smiles...

  3. I visited someone in prison and was left with a feeling which has never left me ... one of hopelessness and helplessness! I will never forget the security check, the sound of bolts in doors as they clanked in and out; the confined spaces, the feeling that all the air and wind of my heart would never return. I visited a few times and hope never to go back.

    Of your 'Doc' who wanted to spend Christmas imprisoned....where I grew up the winters would get bitterly cold. The reprobates in our town would throw a rock or brick through the police office window so they would be imprisoned somewhere warm for at least part of the winter.

  4. Ralph, I am amazed at how you manage to be as non-judgmental as you do. Just hearing the name Doc makes me smile as my daughter is mad on the 7 dwarves at the moment and so I have a mental image of a Doc which does not match yours! Why does your site show me an add for a tiny belly? They must think I am a good target. I am being kicked off the laptop now so will try to get back to you this weekend. Cheerio. xx

  5. Great stories, Ralph, thank you so much! In a way
    we all have "that key at the end of the chain"!
    and it is conditional for all of us. You had to wait until 5 pm or whenever your shift was over. The "Doc" until the day after Christmas, and others' until "their time was up"! or until they quit drinking, quit stealing, until they discovered that they too had a key! I am sure in Scotland it is the same as it is here: it is far more expensive to incarcerate someone than to keep them in school!

  6. Ralph: 'fag-end of life' so funny! You, little Scottish Budda are in your prime and on a roll! And long may it last!:)

  7. Yours is the most interesting blog! I love your art and your life stories..keeps me coming back for more! Thanks so much and enjoy gardening snowed a bit again last night and I am hoping my little apricot tree is not frozen!No gardening here until mid May this year! I have put the new chickens in the garden for the time being..the rooster is so solicitous of his pretty hen, I love to watch him take care of her..won't he be happy when the chicky babies are all grown and given to him to care for?! And I will be happy if the sun would shine and warm up the old bones.

  8. oh my gosh now the google ads at the side of your post are all about alcohol and crime...anyway...i am very curious to find out about the way of the wolves!