Mary was born in Gloucester in 1932, the eldest child of Violet and James Gardner, she had one brother and three sisters.
Mary married and went on to have six daughters and one son. In 1966 Mary and her family moved to Birmingham where they would settle.
After bringing up her children, Mary decided to return to work and in April 1973 was appointed as a lock-up matron at the Steelhouse Lane lock-up in Birmingham. In 1975 she applied for a job as a Court Security Assistant in the adjacent Victoria Law Courts. She was successful but missed her police colleagues so returned to the lock-up in January 1976.
There was another Mary in the lock-up at the time so her colleagues nicknamed her Jacky, a name which she quite liked and stuck throughout her entire police career. Jacky’s role was to look after the prisoners, particularly the females and take care of their welfare needs whilst they were resident in the lock-up – which could be for a few days if you were unlucky enough to be arrested on a Friday night and not due in court until Monday morning.
Jacky was one of many individuals required to give evidence at the second enquiry of the individuals later known as the Birmingham 6 in February 1976. She was requested to give evidence at Birmingham Crown Court.
Jacky (right) along with Matron Tetley at a works Christmas party in 1983
Working as a matron could pose a number of health risks – not only from travelling up and down two stairwells all day, but also from assaults from prisoners and general slips, trips and falls in the old building. Jacky chipped a bone in her ankle when she fell in 1982, was assaulted by a prisoner in 1981, who took off her shoe to strike the matron and was kicked and kneed by another in 1985.
Jacky always made sure she took care of the prisoners she was responsible for and often stayed in contact with them. This is evidenced by a Christmas card in her file – on the card is written: ‘From Teresa who killed her boyfriend, 1984’.
The card is addressed to 'Jacky Matron' where she thanks her for the Christmas card she sent and wishes her a great Christmas and Happy New Year, sending her very best wishes to her and the other matrons and goes on to thank her for everything she did.
There were many distressing parts of the role such as suicidal or self-harming prisoners. In November 1985 Jacky had to give evidence at the inquest of a lady who took a huge overdose shortly before being taken into custody at the lock-up. She was medically examined twice and it was stated at the inquest that she was abusive to all who tried to help her, including Jacky, who kept the press cuttings of the case where she was named as a witness giving evidence.