ISBN: 978 1 927322 31 4
A.C. (Archie) Barrington was a leading New Zealand pacifist during World War 2. Incarcerated in Mount Crawford Prison for his beliefs in 1941, he kept an illicit diary, scrawled in the margins of books. Many years later his son John happened across the diary and painstakingly reconstructed it. Such documents are exceptionally rare – until recent times prisoners were not allowed to keep any record of their experiences and many were illiterate anyway. Barrington vividly and compellingly recorded the squalid, rundown conditions, monotonous and exhausting labour, the intense cold from which there was little protection, and the strategies he and his fellow pacifists adopted to enable them to cope with prison life. John Pratt has edited the diary and provides a fascinating commentary on the issues it raises in relation to prison life then and now. He also addresses a fundamental question – what were Barrington and his like doing in prison, when similar expressions of dissent would almost certainly have been ignored in Australia or Britain? Why was New Zealand, with its ‘fair go’, egalitarian reputation, so intolerant and punitive? Pratt chronicles a history of intolerance, suspicion and deep-seated antipathies that may go some way towards explaining the current penal saturation in this ‘friendly’ land.