Submitted by fionas on 14 September 2017 - 3:20pm

Known as darbies or slangs in the convict ‘flash’ slang language, leg irons were used widely as a way of punishing convicts who had committed crimes and misdemeanors after arriving in the colony. Standard leg irons, like those pictured here, weighed seven pounds (3.2 kilograms). The basils (rings) were fitted around the convict’s ankles and then hot rivets were put in place by a blacksmith, so the irons could not be removed.

Leg irons chafed the ankles, made loud clinking noises with every movement, and made working difficult and tiring. Running at any speed in irons was almost impossible - unless of course the convict could find a way to remove them.

I wore leg-irons like all the others, which weighed about seven pounds, and at first they made me feel rather curious… our convict life had begun... my leg-irons the tell-tale to recall me if ever I went back again in thought…

Convict Jack Bushman remembering 1818, in 'Passages from the Life of a Lifer', Chapter II, Moreton Bay Courier, vol XIII, no 741, 9 April 1859.

leg irons standard open basil ring leg irons standard open basil ring
Hyde Park Barracks Museum collection


Date text

Mid to late nineteenth century