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Tocal's convicts 1822-1840

Young, male, short and single

All of Tocal's 142 convicts were male. Half were English, nearly half were Irish, with seven from Scotland and one from Sweden.

The youngest was 13, the oldest 60 and the average age 25 years. Only a quarter of them were married but nearly three quarters could read.

They were short by today's standards. The average height of those 18 and over was 5 foot 6 inches or 168cm. In the under 18s the shortest was 16 year old George Spleyoenburg at 4'5" (136cm), followed by 14 year old Frederick Scammell at 4'6" (137cm).

Just over half had a seven year sentence, 39 per cent had a life sentence and a few had 14 year sentences. One third had convictions before being sentenced to transportation.

A ship's muster

Many personal details about convicts were recorded during the ship's muster. It was usually taken a day or two after the ship arrived in Sydney, before the convicts were disembarked. The following first-hand account of the process was written, not by a Tocal convict, but by a French Canadian transported to NSW for life in 1840 for rebellion:

'On the 5th a sergeant came to warn us that we were to be reviewed... and that we were to make ourselves ready. In due course... three persons came on board, and immediately we were called up on deck, and in succession were pointed out and named. We were asked our age, birth place, occupation, whether we were married or single, whether we could read and write, etc.

At ten a.m. on the 6th we were ordered up on deck, and were examined from head to foot. The most detailed description of each of us was recorded. Our features, the colour of our hair and our eyes, the number of teeth missing, all the marks that we had on our bodies, hands and legs - nothing was omitted.'

Source: Ducharme L (1845). Journal of a Political Exile in Australia. Translated and published in English, 1944. Review Publications, Dubbo NSW.

Tattoos and scars

Tocal's convicts were a rough looking lot by today's standards, as one third of them were tattooed and nearly two thirds were scarred. Many carried quite extensive tattoos as the following examples show. James Stiles had his initials 'JS', an anchor and a lady on his right arm, and a mermaid and his full name on his left arm. John Kipling had a heart on his left arm, and a jolly sailor, bottle and glass on his right arm.

Tattoos of women were popular, as were religious symbols such as altars and crucifixes. Several Tocal convicts had rings and bracelets tattooed on their fingers and arms. Storer Graves had the words 'Ah me, who [sic] is me, Ah misery' on his right arm along with a moon and the initials SG, MG, AG and EG. He was married with two children and these initials were no doubt a lasting reminder of the loved ones he had left behind. Several other Tocal convicts had family initials tattooed on their arms.