W. R. Giblin, Judge, Attorney-General and Premier


" ... an exquisite likeness of Mr. Giblin..."

William Robert Giblin was a neighbour of the Nevin family in Augusta, the village at Kangaroo Valley and he was the Nevin family solicitor. When the business partnership between Thomas Nevin and Robert Smith was dissolved in 1868, Giblin underwrote the liabilities of their firm Nevin & Smith, photographers, 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town and ensured that Nevin could continue to operate as a commercial photographer by offering him the commission of prisons and police photographer under tender for the Colonial government.

A photograph taken by Thomas Nevin of  Giblin ca. 1872  is held at the Archives Office of Tasmania. It carries an early Nevin studio stamp commonly used until the beginning of 1873. This photograph was retained by Giblin amongst his government documents in the Treasury during his terms as Attorney-General and Premier.

W.R. Giblin ca. 1872
Photo by T.Nevin
AOT Ref: NS1013-1-1971w800

When William Robert Giblin died in 1887, a search was conducted for a suitable photograph to use as the basis for a portrait in oils, to be executed preferably by a London artist. The following letter to the editor appeared in The Mercury [July ?]1887 from someone calling himself "Mechanic" who knew where a suitable photograph could be found: in TREASURY, i.e. this photograph, which was the only one taken by a commercial photographer for government records. The article clearly was written by the photographer himself, so it can be assumed that "Mechanic" was no other than Thomas Nevin.


SIR,- Now that Mr. Giblin has passed away, it is to be more deeply regretted that the many attempts to obtain a perfect enlarged photo. of him failed. The Imperial Co., of Melbourne, did its best; an artist of this city tried; and also Mr. Baily, of Liverpool-street; but the results unsatisfactory followed. It is fortunate, however, that Mr. Castray, the present treasurer, has in his possession an exquisite likeness of Mr. Giblin, and which could be copied in oils if entrusted to some artists, perhaps, in London. The cost would be about ₤80, and this, perhaps, might be obtained if two or three well-known citizens were to enter into the project. A series of concerts given at the Davey-street Church schoolroom would help the funds. The native population should also be proud of one of their number as to urge them on. In fact, there is hardly a class but what enjoys the benefits of Mr Giblin's past acts, either as a moralist, a social reformer, or a political legislator. -
Yours, etc.,

Courtesy of the Archives Office of Tasmania

Notes from DOMA
In 1864, William Giblin joined the law firm which was called, for a while, Dobson & Giblin. Giblin entered politics in 1870, and became Premier in 1878 until 1884. John Mitchell joined the firm in 1875 and it became Dobson and Mitchell. The law firm's name took on its final appearance in 1886, when Cecil Allport entered the partnership. He became a keen collector of books, manuscripts and pictures which later formed the nucleus of the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts. This connection continues to the present day through the firm's role in administering the Allport Bequest and representation on the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts Management Committee.
Courtesy © 2004 Dobson Mitchell & Allport

W. R. Giblin was Tasmanian Administrator for a month during 1886. He was also Attorney-General in August 1873, and Premier in 1878, and 1879 to 1884.  Thomas Nevin's commission to photograph prisoners at the Port Arthur and Hobart Gaols was underwritten by W. R. Giblin in August 1873 on gaining the portfolio of Attorney-General  in the government changeover. These documents, and a bundle of vignettes and glass negatives by Nevin of convicts (i.e. Tasmanian prisoners) were among the materials in the Allport Bequest until relocated to the Archives Office of Tasmania*.

*Sources: [protected] Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat. Ut wisi enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exerci tatio.

Thomas J. Nevin and W.R. Giblin were also members of the Loyal United Brothers Lodge. Nevin was a committee member for the Lodge's annual ball, and may have taken this informal group photograph at one of the Lodge's important functions.W.R Giblin is second from viewer's left, back row, his left hand resting on the shoulder of Parliament librarian Hugh Munro Hull.The group included Messrs Allport and Dobson (seated on floor), Walker, Backhouse, Meredith et al.The photograph, held at the State Library of Tasmania, is unattributed.

W.R Giblin is second from viewer's left, back row

State Library of Tasmania catalogue (2005)
Title: Group of men, including W. R. Giblin, Morton Allport, J. B. Walker and Henry Dobson
Date: 18--
Description: 1 photograph : sepia toned ; 15 X 18 cm.
Notes: Exact size: 147 X 173 mm.,
Names of subjects inscribed in pencil on border in unknown hand., Back row standing, middle row seated on chairs and front row seated on the floor.
Subjects:Giblin, William Robert - 1840-1887 Dobson, Henry - 1841-1918 Allport, Morton - 1830-1878 Walker, James Backhouse - 1841-1899 Allport family Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Australia Lawyers - Tasmania
Location: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts ADRI: AUTAS001125881557

Biographical details of W.R. Giblin
Hon William Robert Giblin MHA,
Premier of Tasmania
5 March 1878 - 20 December 1878
30 October 1879 - 15 August 1884
Born : 4 November 1840, Hobart;
Occupation : Lawyer: Judge
Marriage : - 5 January 1856, Hobart - Emily Jean Perkins
Family : 4 sons, 3 daughters
Death : 17 January 1887, Hobart
Party : -
Electorate : (1) Hobart Town (2) Central Hobart (3) Wellington
Elected : MHA -
(1) 13 March 1869 (Unopposed) -August 1871
(2) 1 September 1871 (Unopposed) - 22 June 1877
(3) 22 August 1877 (Unopposed) - 11 February
1885 (Resignation)
Opposition Leader : November 1872- June 1873
July 1876 - June 1877
January 1879 - October 1879

John Watt Beattie reprinted this 1880 photograph, head and shoulders, of William Giblin ca. 1895 for his series Members of the Parliament of Tasmania. As Giblin had died in 1887, the original photograph was not taken by Beattie but an earlier photographer, and reprinted without due attribution. Many of the earlier photographs of parliamentarians who were deceased by 1895 were reprinted by Beattie for this series without attribution.

W.R. Giblin ca. 1880

State Library of Tasmania
Title: William Robert Giblin
Creator(s):Beattie, J. W. 1859-1930
Date: 19--
Description: 1 photograph : sepia toning ; 14 x 10 cm.
Notes: Exact measurements 140 x 98 mm,
Title inscribed in pencil beneath image in unknown hand., In: Members of the Parliaments of Tasmania - no. 138 / photographed by J.W. Beattie.
Subjects:Giblin, William Robert - 1840-1887 Politicians - Tasmania Premiers - Tasmania Attorneys general - Tasmania
Other titles: Members of the Parliaments of Tasmania
Location: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts
ADRI: AUTAS001125880

W. R. Giblin (1840-1887) , portrait by Thomas Nevin ca. 1872
Archives Office of Tasmania Ref: NS1013/1971

Key contractual documents:
Item Number: TRE28/1/1
Start Date: 24 Feb 1858
End Date: 30 Jun 1951
Access: Open
Location: HOB
Copy Number:

Australia's first MUGSHOTS


Below each image held at the National Library of Australia is their catalogue batch edit which gives the false impression that all these "convict portraits" were taken because these men were transported convicts per se (i.e before cessation in 1853), and that they might have been photographed as a one-off amateur portfolio by a prison official at the Port Arthur prison in 1874, which they were not. Any reference to the Port Arthur prison official A. H. Boyd on the NLA catalogue records is an error, a PARASITIC ATTRIBUTION with no basis in fact. The men in these images were photographed in the 1870s-1880s because they were repeatedly sentenced as habitual offenders whose mugshots were taken on arrest, trial, arraignment, incarceration and/or discharge by government contractor, police and prisons photographer T. J. Nevin at the Supreme Court and adjoining Hobart Gaol with his brother Constable John Nevin, and at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall when appearing at The Mayor's Court. The Nevin brothers photographed more than 2000 prisoners, the bulk now lost or destroyed. These extant mugshots were the random estrays salvaged - and reproduced in many instances- for sale at Beattie's local convictaria museum in Hobart and at interstate exhibitions associated with the fake convict ship Success in the early 1900s. The mugshots were selected on the basis of the prisoner's notoriety from the Supreme Court trial registers (Rough Calendar), the Habitual Criminals Registers (Gaol Photo Books), warrant forms, and police gazettes records of the 1870s-1880s. The earliest taken on government contract by T. J. Nevin date from 1872. The police records sourced here are from the weekly police gazettes which were called (until 1884) Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police 1871-1885. J. Barnard, Gov't Printer.