One of the most common forms of convict punishment was flogging (whipping) with a ‘cat-o’-nine-tails’, a whip named for the way it scratched the skin like the claws of a cat. Made up of nine lengths of knotted cord attached to a handle, it would lash the back of the offender, tearing the skin and causing intense pain. The number of lashes, 25, 50, 75 or 100 or more was determined by a magistrate or court, and dependent on the seriousness of the convict’s offence. In 1833, Ernest Slade, Deputy Superintendent of Hyde Park Barracks introduced a new cat-o’-nine-tails that he boasted could draw the blood after only four lashes. All convicts present at Hyde Park Barracks were ordered to watch the floggings. Contrary to popular belief, not all the convicts experienced multiple floggings; two thirds of all convicts experienced only one or no flogging during their sentence.

As I passed along the road about eleven o’clock in the morning there issued out of the prisoners’ barracks a party consisting of four men, who bore on their shoulders (two supporting the head and two the feet) a miserable convict, writhing in agony of pain – his voice piercing the air with terrific screams. … I... was told it was “only a prisoner who had been flogged, and who was on his way to the hospital!

Roger Therry, Reminiscences of thirty years’ residence in New South Wales and Victoria, London, Sampson Low, Son, and Co., 1863, 2nd ed, 41-42.

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