Agnes Curran

AGNES CURRAN First woman governor in an all-male prison.

Born: 12 February, 1920, in Gourock. Died: 29 September, 2005, in Glasgow, aged 85.

AGNES Curran was the perceptive and challenging lady who became the first female governor of an all-male prison. Her calm and assertive style at Dungavel Prison, near Strathaven, brought her considerable fame outside her profession: but she remained a modest and sensible person who never fitted into the stereotype image of a TV prison governor. She was firm and determined but if the inmates abided by the rules, Curran was demonstrably fair and keen to help them back into work and a constructive life in society. She said in an interview how much she regretted punishing inmates: "I remind the prisoner it is his family who is also doing the sentence. That's what it's all about."

Agnes Curran (born Brennan) was the eldest of nine children and went to study nursing at Ravenscraig Hospital, in Greenock. There she met her husband, Edward Curran. They were married very happily for 54 years and only separated last month by his sad death.

Curran rose to become deputy matron at Ravenscraig and spent a year at the Royal College of Nursing in Edinburgh where she was awarded a nursing certificate with honours. Curran had carried out voluntary work in prisons and in 1969 was appointed deputy governor of Gateshead Prison. That closed in 1975 and she transferred to the new Cornton Vale Prison where Curran was again deputy governor.

Her enterprise and energy were recognised in 1979 when she assumed the post of governor at Dungavel. The publicity that such an innovative appointment attracted was considerable. Curran accepted it all with good grace and in her most capable stride. She was excellent at handling the media and knew exactly when to make light of a subject and when to diplomatically remind the interviewer of the severity of prison life. Such qualities were soon much in demand at high-profile interviews with the likes of Woman's Hour and at the Women of the Year Luncheon that year.

But Curran remained focused on her principal job at Dungavel. She set up In-work Ltd, which assisted inmates with mental health problems. She maintained a compassionate understanding of offenders and tried to help them to a better life. "I don't see them as murderers, rapists and robbers. I see them as men and expect them to behave as men," she said. She was always positive about her charges and firmly believed there was good in everyone. It was, she felt, part of her job to find that quality.

A lady governor was a major step and her appointment put much pressure on Curran's shoulders. She proved there was no reason why a woman could not be just as efficient and effective in such a demanding job as a man. She soon gained the respect of her colleagues at Dungavel.

On retirement she remained keenly interested in mental health matters and was a member of the Scottish Association for Mental Health and chairwoman of the Inverclyde association. She also gave much of her time to Women's Royal Voluntary Service. In 1984 she was awarded the MBE.

Curran is survived by her two sons and a daughter.