By Margaret Franklin
Henry White was born on a small Protestant estate in Doon, east County Limerick. The family were associated with the area since the early 1700s and were descended from John White of Cappaghwhite, Co. Tipperary. Henry married Mary Powell, the eldest daughter of Isaac Powell of Liserlough, County Sligo. They had ten children.
He emigrated to Australia c.1857 and became a prison administrator in the state of Victoria. He was first stationed at Pentridge stockade 3km north of Melbourne. This was built to contain the surplus of prisoners from Melbourne Gaol.
He was also sent to work on a prison convict hulk or ship, the Success, and was transferred to another hulk, the President, in January 1858. And he served as a prison warder in Collingwood stockade which then held over 300 prisoners.
Henry wrote about his experiences as a gaol warder in two books the first of which Crime and criminals gives his views on the need to improve prison conditions. He was a compassionate advocate of prison reform and regarded the practice of shooting at prisoners trying to escape as abhorrent, especially when it was used by some warders to gain promotion within the prison service.
He was present at the hanging of Ned Kelly which took place in Old Melbourne Gaol in 1880.