Submitted by fionas on 14 September 2017 - 4:14pm

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. Top leg irons, like those pictured here, were designed to provide additional punishment. The pear shaped basils (rings) allowed the top irons to fit over the rivets of a set of standard leg irons, so that the convict would be 'double ironed'. The basils 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.

pear shaped top leg irons pear shaped top leg irons
Hyde Park Barracks Museum collection


Date text

Early to mid nineteenth century