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Tocal's convicts 1822-1840

Meat and damper

The basic diet of convicts on rural estates was meat and damper. The weekly ration for each man was between five and six kilos of flour, and three kilos of beef or two kilos of pork. The flour was usually wheaten but maize was mixed with it when wheat was scarce in poor seasons.

convicts on a Sunday

Convicts ground their weekly issue of wheat into flour using steel hand-mills, then baked it into dampers or 'cakes' in the ashes of the open fire in their hut. Some convicts had a vegetable garden near their hut to supplement their diet.

Right: Convicts on a Sunday. Note the man on the right grinding his flour.

One convict described in his own words how he made damper or 'cake':

'In most huts they keep a sheet of bark on purpose to make the dough on and the following is the whole process of baking. Put as much flour as you think proper on the bark, shake a little salt amongst it, wet it up with water, well knead it and press it flat then scrape a place clean on the hearth about the size of your cake, clap it down and cover it with hot ashes and there let it remain for of an hour to an hour and a half according to the size of your cake then take it out and beat the ashes off with any thing you like. A cows tail is frequently kept in the hut for that purpose. This sort of bread I soon learned to make and I liked it very well after the first day or two.'

[Written by Joseph Mason, an assigned convict between 1831 and 1837]