Famed DJ recalls time as jail warden

Local | Staff reporter 7 Sep 2020

Veteran DJ Reinaldo Maria Cordeiro - better known by his stage name, Uncle Ray - has revisited Stanley Prison, where he worked as a warden for two years.

The 95-year-old was invited to tour the facility on the correctional services department's 100th anniversary this year, Eastweek reported.

Born to Portuguese parents in Wan Chai in 1924, he fled to Macau as Hong Kong reeled from World War II before returning to the city in 1945.

A young Uncle Ray was looking for a job when he came across Stanley Prison while jogging with some friends.

They saw a recruitment notice at the prison's gate and applied for the warden position. All of them got the job, as they could speak both Cantonese and English, and they reported for duty the next day,

Uncle Ray recalled that he learned his duties from senior wardens, as the department had no training center back then.

"I remember that we had to watch over long-term prisoners not long after we started working. I would often hear them crying at night," he recalled.

"Sometimes I would walk closer and chat with them, and I heard a lot of beautiful stories about the past."

Uncle Ray also recalled that there were two cannons in the prison, which have since been replaced with two trees. "We also had a fire alarm bell which never rang," he said.

He added that he used to have just one break from work every week, when he would also be rewarded with a bag of cans.

With a meager salary of just over HK$100 per month, he would sell the cans at Stanley Market before heading home to enjoy his holiday.

Two years after his prison stint, Uncle Ray's father got him a job at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp. It was not until 1949 that he joined Radio Rediffusion as a scriptwriter, and later started his first radio show.

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