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Why was Ann hurt?

Student activities

Task no. 1

Why was Ann hurt

Convicts had committed crimes in Britain and were transported to this country instead of going to gaol or being hanged. After they arrived some convicts continued their lives of crime or broke the rules, and they were punished. ‘Flogging’ was the most common form of punishment. The person to be punished was tied to a pole or tree and flogged or lashed on their bare back with a whip or other instrument.

Discuss flogging. Look at the cat-o-nine tails and the drawing of a man being flogged, below. More images of the cat-o-nine tails can be found on the State Library website, here.

A Cat O'Nine Tails, before 1849, Before 1849
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A man being flogged

Image 1: Detail from Robert Jones - 'Recollections of 13 years Residence in Norfolk Island and Van Diemans land', dated 1823 [?], and associated papers to 1938

Answer these questions:

  • What is the cat-o-nine tails made from?
  • Why is it called cat-o-nine tails?
  • Flogging was the most common form of punishment. Why?

Attending the flogging would be a scourger, a surgeon, a drummer and all the other convicts. Define the word scourger.

Answer these questions:

  • Why was a surgeon at the flogging?
  • Why was a drummer at the flogging? [Answer in Additional Information]
  • Why did all the other convicts have to be present?

Read Judge David Collins' comments from his diary on 11 February 1788:

three prisoners were tried; one for an assault, of which being found guilty, he was sentenced to receive one hundred and fifty lashes; a second, for taking some biscuit from another convict, was sentenced to a week's confinement on bread and water, on a small rocky island near the entrance of the cove; and a third, for stealing a plank, was sentenced to receive fifty lashes…

He also commented on the:

mildness of these punishments.

Identify the crimes and the punishments in the quote. Answer these questions:

  • Do you think the punishments fit the crime?
  • Do you think they were mild?

On 30 March 1789 Ann Martin was sentenced to 25 lashes, reduced from 30 lashes, for creating a disturbance at night. Later in our convict history, female convicts would receive other punishments instead of flogging. They could be put in solitary confinement and have only bread and water. They might be forced to wear an iron collar, or be relocated to another location which had even harsher conditions. They might also have their hair shaved off as a form of punishment.

Answer these questions: 

  • Women having their head shaved as a punishment was resented the most. Why?
  • Do you think men and women should receive the same punishment?

A study of the crimes committed in the colony during the just one month of February 1789 reveals that 24 people were found guilty, 23 of them were convicts and one was a soldier. Most of them were guilty of not working, or for rude and disrespectful behaviour. The 24 guilty people included 17 men and 7 women who received between them a combined total of 1880 lashes from the cat’o’nine tails!

Read Captain Watkin Tench wrote in his journal in May 1790:

 …a convict detected in a garden stealing potatoes… was ordered to receive three hundred lashes immediately, to be chained for six months to two other criminals, who were thus fettered for former offences, and to have his allowance of flour stopped for six months.

Think about these two hungry convicts. As the food supplies began to run out rations were reduced and it would have been  was tempting to steal food. In early 1790 the small colony was in famine. On 12 April 1790 William Lane was caught “stealing thirteen pounds of biscuit” and Thomas Halford “took a few potatoes”. They were both sentenced to receive 2000 (two thousand) lashes each!

Read Lieutenant Ralph Clark’s comment in April 1790 at Norfolk Island: 

Punished W Raimor Convict for theft he was orderd to Recieve one hundred Lashes but was only able to bear Sixteen. 

If the convict on Norfolk Island could only bear 16 lashes you have to wonder how the men receiving 2000 lashes coped. Large numbers of lashes were given out in stages over time so that each time the convict’s skin had recovered and healed, they were lashed again. 

Answer these questions:  

  • Why was the punishment for these crimes so severe? 
  • Do you think these punishments would have been effective? 
  • If you had been the Governor, what punishments would you have implemented? For what crimes? 

[For information on death by hanging see Activity 3 - Severe punishment, in the Challenges to convict survival Learning Activity.]

[For information on famine in the colony see Activity 7 - Famine, and for other forms of punishment such as isolation and reduction of food rations see Activity 8 - The trouble with food, both in the Food of the colony Learning Activity.]