Boggo Road Floggings

Sketch of a 19th-century flogging.
Court-ordered floggings were an occasional feature of life at Brisbane prisons in the 19th century, and sometimes received detailed coverage in newspapers. They were carried out with a ‘cat o’ nine tails’ by whoever was employed as the hangman at the time. The longer and official title of this position was ‘Public Executioner and Scourger’ (scourging was another term for flogging).

John Hatton, Queensland hangman 1862-85, refused to perform floggings until he received a pay rise and was allowed to wear a mask during the act, because of his fear that the people he flogged would be able to seek revenge on him one day (unlike those that he had executed). His fears were realised one day when a St Helena prisoner that he had flogged turned up at Hatton‘s Roma Street shop and threatened him, although nothing became of this.

In the early years of Boggo Road, prisoners were strapped to a timber A-frame for the punishment. In later years a bend-over frame was used, and there is a replica of one of these in the museum collection.
A gallows frame, Pentridge Gaol, Victoria. (Truth, April 1902)

Some prisoners seemed to take flogging better than others, remaining silent throughout and reportedly ‘dancing a jig’ afterwards, while others screamed for mercy and had to be carried back to their cell at the end. It could also be hard on the cat o’ nine tails itself, which often became so soaked with blood that the knots in the leather cords became loose and the ‘cat’ had to be replaced mid-flogging.

It appears that corporal punishment did not survive into the 20th century at Boggo Road


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