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Tocal's convicts 1822-1840

To die for a cup of tea

While flour and wheat formed the main part of convict rations, many masters also supplied tea, sugar and tobacco as a reward which they could withdraw for misbehaviour. Sometimes James Webber at Tocal did not issue these 'luxuries' to his convicts, and this caused much trouble.

Thirteen of Tocal's convicts refused to work because they were not issued with sugar and milk during the 1829 harvest, and the Police Magistrate arrived to investigate.

One man named Hugh Murdock, who was not involved in the revolt, told the Magistrate that James Webber was a hard master. As a result Hugh received 50 lashes for disrespect to his master and his recently approved Ticket of Leave was withdrawn - he now had to serve his full sentence.

Next year there was further trouble. Although burglary carried the death penalty, two of Tocal's convicts broke into the store of the neighbouring property 'Bona Vista' and stole tea, coffee and sugar in 1830. They were caught and sentenced to death but reprieved, and served three years labour in irons. All for some tea and sugar!

Below: Hugh Murdock's Ticket of Leave which is still in the files of the NSW Colonial Secretary in Sydney, signed but never delivered because of Tocal's convict revolt over sugar and milk. The conditions of the Ticket printed on its reverse side are also shown.

Murdoch's Ticket of Leave
Conditions of Murdoch's Ticket of Leave