PARFITT, Iris G.J.
Jail-bird jottings : the impressions of a Singapore internee.
[Cover title]. Also titled : Jailbird Jottings (title page). [Kuala Lumpur, Malaya] : [The Author?], printed by The Economy Printers, . First (and only) edition. Small square quarto, original stiff pictorial wrappers (a couple of short tears with small section of tape repair to head of the spine; some loss of paper along spine, traces of bookseller’s wet stamp to centre of upper wrapper), 84 pp, illustrated throughout with reproductions of Parfitt’s watercolours sketches made in the Changi prisoner of war camp, with colour and black and white plates and black and white line drawings in the text; internally clean and sound, a good copy. Rare.
London-born Iris Parfitt was a teacher at the exclusive St. George’s School in Penang at the time Malaya fell to the Japanese (after the war she served as the school’s Principal for a number of years). During the occupation she was an internee in both the Changi and Sime Road camps. In Changi, she was chairman of the camp’s Entertainment Committee and “played a key role in staging all kinds of entertainment in the camp. Capitalising on the variety of ages, races, nationalities, professions and social backgrounds of the internees, she put on magnificent entertainments, that were remembered as a great source of encouragement, joviality and humour.” (Nakahara, Michiko. The civilian women’s internment camp in Singapore. In Akashi, Yoji (editor). New perspectives on the Japanese Occupation of Malaya and Singapore, 1941-1945. NUS Press, 2008, p198). Parfitt’s memoir, Jail-bird jottings, provides one of the most important published eyewitness accounts of daily life in the infamous Japanese internment camps. Her watercolours and sketches, with their accompanying explanatory notes, contain an enormous amount of highly detailed observation, and range in tone from the satirical to the deeply poignant.
Four copies are recorded in Australian collections (Australian War Memorial Research Library; Deakin University Library; University of Adelaide Library; State Library of New South Wales).