Master’s Rule

Judge’s Comments – WINNER

I appreciated the diary style of this story, which makes the facts woven throughout feel all the more real and believable. I also like the flash of defiance that George shows in keeping the diary in the first place – despite his privations he’s hoping to bring the Master to justice, which is very brave. I liked the inclusion of the detail about one person being so hungry that they try to eat the rope they’re unpicking. That really gives the reader a clear image of how desperate the workhouse inmates were.

Master’s Rule

By Isaac Kim

I am George Smith and I write in this diary in the hope that one day, this can be used as evidence against The Master.

1st September 1839

We are woken at 6 o’clock sharp by the matron, always the same. We are given a thin soup, more likely than not over 50% water, and a piece of bread, almost always as stale as the table we eat it on. I have heard we are promised butter; if this is true, I can honestly say that it is not present in any of our meals.

After breakfast at 7 we are worked, and I can say that I have not heard from the other inmates that we should be exploited in such a manner. We are given the back-breaking jobs of smashing bones or pulling thick pieces of old rope apart, either with our fingers, making them raw, or with a spike if the master is feeling generous. Someone in my room recently tried eating the rope just yesterday, they did not like it, but since they had been put in the black hole for the last week, with almost nothing to eat, they were ravenous and starving.

The rooms where we work are grimy and dirt-coated, and when we complain to the master, no matter of age or condition, we are whipped without mercy and then put to the black hole, where we are kept for a week.

At 12, in lunch, where and when we should have meat; I have never seen beef in my life in something other than a bowl with scraps a dog would not stoop so low as to eat. Bacon I have never seen. I was shocked to hear that over 20lbs of meat have been seen to enter the back door at one given time, yet the madams who work there are told to put meat and butter and other luxuries in one pile, where they can be ‘held in a special storeroom’ yet no meat looking so lean as those pieces been seen again; they vanish in the night, perhaps to the master’s house, we know not. But the master oversees this to make sure there is no funny business.

We are put to work again, till 7, when we are put to bed, with no candles, not even for the dying. We are given a meagre amount of anything and everything, I am barely given enough food to survive on. I hate the master and matron, who conceal the goings-on at the workhouse, and we are not allowed to complain for fear of the master’s whip. One day I hope we will be set free from the master.

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