Around one in every four male convicts had tattoos on his body.

Some tattoos were made to remember loved ones left behind, like the initials of a wife, parent, child, brother, sister or friend. Other tattoos were made to symbolise courage or strength, or to protect the wearer from danger or evil spirits. Convicts tattooed themselves to show that they belonged to a particular group or clan, like the Masonic Society or a specialist guild or even an underworld society. Common tattoos included mermaids, anchors, love hearts, stars, moon and sun, religious symbols, letters and numbers.