Ferns, convicts, and Charles Darwin


Darwin Bicentenary 2009
In this bicentenary of Charles Darwin's birth, a constant stream of media articles, documentaries, publications, exhibitions and interviews with experts and descendants throw further light on Darwin's legacy.

When Darwin visited Hobart, Van Diemen's Land on board the Beagle in February 1836, he stayed at Secheron House, Battery Point and walked to the summit of kunanyi/Mt. Wellington. In this extract from his journal, he expressed amazement at the Tasmanian ferns he encountered on his walk around kunanyi/Mount Wellington:
In some of the dampest ravines, tree-ferns flourished in an extraordinary manner; I saw one which must have been at least twenty feet high to the base of the fronds, and was in girth exactly six feet. The fronds forming the most elegant parasols, produced a gloomy shade, like that of the first hour of the night.

Darwin in 1840. Watercolour by George Richmond.
Reproduced courtesy of the Darwin Heirlooms Trust.

Below is an extract from Chapter XIX of Charles Darwin's Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by H.M.S. Beagle (London : H. Colburn, 1839) in which he gives an account of his visit to Hobart, Van Diemen's Land, February 1836:

Extract from Chapter XIX:
"The Beagle stayed here ten days, and in this time I made several pleasant little excursions, chiefly with the object of examining the geological structure of the immediate neighbourhood.

The main points of interest consist, first in some highly fossiliferous strata, belonging to the Devonian or Carboniferous period; secondly, in proofs of a late small rise of the land; and lastly, in a solitary and superficial patch of yellowish limestone or travertin, which contains numerous impressions of leaves of trees, together with land-shells, not now existing. It is not improbable that this one small quarry includes the only remaining record of the vegetation of Van Diemen's Land during one former epoch.

The climate here is damper than in New South Wales, and hence the land is more fertile. Agriculture flourishes; the cultivated fields look well, and the gardens abound with thriving vegetables and fruit-trees. Some of the farmhouses, situated in retired spots, had a very attractive appearance. The general aspect of the vegetation is similar to that of Australia; perhaps it is a little more green and cheerful; and the pasture between the trees rather more abundant.

One day I took a long walk on the side of the bay opposite to the town: I crossed in a steamboat, two of which are constantly plying backwards and forwards. The machinery of one of these vessels was entirely manufactured in this colony, which, from its very foundation, then numbered only three and thirty years! Another day I ascended Mount Wellington; I took with me a guide, for I failed in a first attempt, from the thickness of the wood. Our guide, however, was a stupid fellow, and conducted us to the southern and damp side of the mountain, where the vegetation was very luxuriant; and where the labour of the ascent, from the number of rotten trunks, was almost as great as on a mountain in Tierra del Fuego or in Chiloe. It cost us five and a half hours of hard climbing before we reached the summit. In many parts the Eucalypti grew to a great size, and composed a noble forest.

In some of the dampest ravines, tree- ferns flourished in an extraordinary manner; I saw one which must have been at least twenty feet high to the base of the fronds, and was in girth exactly six feet. The fronds forming the most elegant parasols, produced a gloomy shade, like that of the first hour of the night.

The summit of the mountain is broad and flat, and is composed of huge angular masses of naked greenstone. Its elevation is 3100 feet above the level of the sea. The day was splendidly clear, and we enjoyed a most extensive view; to the north, the country appeared a mass of wooded mountains, of about the same height with that on which we were standing, and with an equally tame outline: to the south the broken land and water, forming many intricate bays, was mapped with clearness before us. After staying some hours on the summit, we found a better way to descend, but did not reach the Beagle till eight o'clock, after a severe day's work. (Feb. 6, 1836: pp 486-7) "
[end of extract]

Thomas Nevin's Ferns
Charles Darwin's astonishment at the magnificence of these ferns was repeated by professional photographers working in Tasmania between 1860 to 1880 in endless variations. Ferns laden with snow was a particularly popular image. The large collection of stereographs by Thomas J. Nevin held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery includes these examples  taken around Kangaroo Valley and the foothills of kunanyi/Mt. Wellington from the late 1860s to early 1870s:

Stereograph in buff mount by Thomas J. Nevin late 1860s
TMAG Ref: q16826.30.1

Ferns laden with snow
Stereograph in buff mount by Thomas J. Nevin late 1860s
TMAG Ref: q16826.31.1

Young ferns
Stereograph in buff mount by Thomas J. Nevin late1860s
TMAG Ref: q16826.31.2

Darwin on convicts
ABC radio interview with Darwin descendants:
Source: ABC Radio National Science Show


Chris Darwin: I have read Voyage of The Beagle cover to cover. It actually is a good read as well. But as for all the other ones, no.

Robyn Williams
: Do you know anything about his politics? Was he a Whig or was he a Tory?
Chris Darwin: That's a good question. I'm going to go for Whig but I'm only guessing.

Robyn Williams
: He is a bit Whiggish, but of course there's a slightly dark side where they talk about social Darwinism as if only the elite should pass muster and the rest can really go to the wall, and eugenics, which was a bit of a mistake in the middle of the 20th century, which seemed in some people's ideas...like, Julian Huxley, of all people, a very liberal person, who was head of the British eugenics movement. So there were some things that applied Darwin's ideas which were, as I say, on the dark side. But as for his actual politics...

Chris Darwin
: I think you're probably onto something. I think we can't be too unfair on him, Charlie, because he was a man of his day. But suddenly...when you read about what he said in Australia, for example. Have you got some quotes? There are some pretty frightening quotes which I'd prefer not to be read out loud, but I think it does show that he was not of the view that...there was a view in those days that if you were from the criminal class, that was pretty much where you were going to stay. And then suddenly he came to Australia and found all these people who had been criminals ten years ago were land owners, large tracts of land, and he found it a bit shocking I think.

More: Listen to interview and read the full transcript ...

Darwin Exhibition at the NMA
A large Darwin exhibition was held at the National Museum of Australia from 10 December 2008 to 29 March 2009. This is an extract from their web page:
Charles Darwin must surely stand as one of the most influential figures of the past 200 years. His theory of evolution is popularly accepted as explaining the origin and forms of modern life on Earth. In 2009 the world celebrated the 200th birthday of this great thinker. It also celebrated the 150th anniversary of the publication of his landmark work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life
The National Museum of Australia was proud to mark this international celebratory year by hosting a major exhibition, Darwin, developed by the American Museum of Natural History, and its own accompanying exhibition, Darwin and Australia.
Read more here: Exhibition at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra

Darwin Exhibition Catalogue NMA 2009
Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2009 ARR

From glass negative to print: prisoner Bewley TUCK


Black and white print from Thomas Nevin's glass negative taken of prisoner Bewley Tuck, No. 68
From the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery Collection (online until 2006)

Of the three hundred and fifty (350) or so extant photographs taken by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin of Tasmanian prisoners in the 1870s which were printed unmounted and/or in an oval mount for prison records, this unmounted print of Bewley Tuck (above) is held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), Hobart.

At least forty more unmounted photographs of prisoners taken by T. J. Nevin in the 1870s which were collated by John Watt Beattie in three panels ca. 1915 are held in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, together with seventy or so cdvs in oval mounts, the remainder of part of more than three hundred in oval mounts which were originally bequeathed  from the estate of convictaria collector and government photographer John Watt Beattie to the QVMAG in the 1930s. When several dozen mounted and unmounted cdvs were removed from Beattie’s original collection at the QVMAG and taken down to the Port Arthur prison heritage site for an exhibition as part of the Port Arthur Conservation Project in 1983, they were not returned to the QVMAG. They were deposited instead at the TMAG .

Given the scratches, crossed out inscriptions and general damage, the glass negative from which this print was made would have been used extensively to reprint the prisoner's photograph for prison records as each offense and charge was recorded. The print, unmounted such as this one, would have been pasted to his rap sheet, and more would have been reprinted from the original glass plate several times over the prisoner's long criminal career. Examples of both types of prisoner mugshots - mounted and unmounted - attached to prisoners' rap sheets are held at the Archives Office of Tasmania in prison photo books.

The QVMAG holds the mounted carte-de-visite of this prisoner Bewley Tuck, printed from the one and only sitting with police photographer Thomas J. Nevin, in 1875 at the Hobart Gaol. The QVMAG list (acquired here in 2005) showed a total of 199 mugshots, but only 72 were physically held  there when the list was devised. A total of 127 mugshots were missing by 2005. Two mugshots in this sequence – numbers 198 and 200 of prisoners James Mullens and William Smith, each bearing verso Nevin’s government contractor Royal insignia studio stamp – were deposited at the State Library of NSW, Mitchell collection (SLNSW PBX 6274) ca. 1907, among a dozen more which do not bear the numbering on recto.

The Port Arthur Conservation Project 1983, Elspeth Wishart
Notes from the QVMAG catalogue Q1985: P: 0068
Cdv and uncut print of prisoner Bewley Tuck.

Elspeth Wishart (an employee perpetuating the Boyd misattribution formerly at the QVMAG and now at the TMAG)  contrived the absurd and groundless photographer attribution to the commandant A. H. Boyd during this 1983 exhibition at Port Arthur as a result of a socially aspirational comment by a descendant of Boyd. It was hearsay, and remains nothing more than vexatious misinformation.
See these articles:

One man, two names, one image

In addition to a paper copy of Nevin's photograph of Bewley Tuck (seen in this webshot, 2005), the Archives Office of Tasmania holds two relevant convict records.

Tuck John
04 Aug 1831
Argyle 18 Mar 1831

Tuck Bewley
16 May 1833
Lotus 13 Dec 1832

Two versions exist of the one photograph taken of a convict who was labelled JOHN TUCK on the print from Nevin's original glass plate, and BEWLEY TUCK on the carte-de-visite mounted in an oval frame. Were they one and the same person, or two different men? The Archives Office of Tasmania holds a record for each name, with different transportation dates and physical descriptions, so they must have been two different men, so why is there just one image of the same man, identified as John Tuck on a glass negative, and Bewley Tuck on the carte printed from the negative?

The image of the man himself on the glass negative print with the name John Tuck scratched on it is the original photograph taken by Thomas Nevin at the Hobart Gaol of Bewley Tuck, photographed in the week ending 5th May, 1875, the date of Bewley Tuck's discharge. He had served 15 years for the "attempt to commit unnatural offence" and was 65 years old when he was discharged.

Bewley Tuck's discharge, page 72 of the police gazette, May 1-5, 1875

Although the item held now in a public collection is catalogued as the 1870s original, it may in fact be a later reproduction of Nevin's 1875 glass negative, developed again as a lantern slide by John Watt Beattie in the 1900s for use in his lectures on Tasmanian history.  Images of Tasmanian convicts were also used in lectures on physiognomy delivered by a phrenologist, Mr Sheridan. The Mercury reported his lecture on 30 March 1892 had focused on the criminal type, classifications within the type, and the use of composite photography in phrenology.
There were two great types of criminals-the normal criminal, as already mentioned, and the epileptic.

Mr Sheridan on the criminal type portrayed by phrenology
The Mercury 30 March 1892

If Beattie had made a new lantern slide from the negative of Nevin's original, this may account for the name "John Tuck" appearing on one side of the frame, and another name scratched out appearing on the other side. It is likely therefore to be an error by later copyists such as Beattie and Searle ca. 1915, who reproduced these convict images as "Types of Convicts - Official Prison Photographs from Port Arthur", to be sold as tourist tokens in Beattie's convictaria shop and museum. A few more of these later reproductions from the original glass negative of prisoners Rosetta, Meaghers, and Lee, attributed to Beattie & Searle ca. 1916, are held at the NLA,  and the QVMAG holds three panels totalling 40 unmounted prints devised by Beattie and Searle, together with individual cdvs in oval mounts, mostly of the same prisoner.

Thomas Nevin photographed men who were absconders, men who were arrested on suspicion and charged, men arraigned in the Supreme Court and discharged from the Mayor's Court on a regular basis at the Hobart Gaol. When he photographed this man in May 1875, Tuck was known to his gaolers only as Bewley Tuck. His name appeared only once in the weekly police gazettes, called Tasmania -Reports of Crime for Police Information, between 1871 and 1875, and that one occasion was his discharge.

Thomas Nevin photographed Bewley Tuck once, and once only, providing the prison and police authorities with at least four duplicates from his negative for future police reference, including the print pasted onto the convict's record sheet. The image mounted or unmounted, was a standard police record mugshot, small enough to fit onto the paper record with room for written details.

It's up to the reader to decide which physical description of the two men fits the image, keeping in mind that these convict records are transportation records of arrival and muster were written no later than 1853, and the photograph by T. J. Nevin was taken in 1875. That is a difference of over 40 years, and both of the written records indicate that John Tuck and Bewley Tuck were 18 years old when transported. The discharge details for Bewley Tuck in 1875 give his age at 65 yrs, and an anchor tattoo on back of left hand.

The "punctum" - the detail that grabs the eye - and informs a viewer's interpretation, may be in the image itself, or in the written description, for example, the "long scar below left cheek bone" in John Tuck's record. In the negative image, it's below the right cheek bone, or is it?

The glass negative with "John Tuck" written down the right side.

What has been scratched out on the left?

The carte on the left bears the number "3". Its mirror version on the right shows the image as it appeared on the original negative. The mirror version, straightened, shows that there was just one image of this man, captured first on glass, then printed as both an unmounted paper print, and then mounted in an oval frame as a cdv.

Mirror image straightened:

Below: verso and recto of same image in cdv format in the QVMAG database. Notice that it is number 3 in the series copied at the QVMAG ca. 1985 for distribution to other public institutions (AOT, NLA, TMAG): the first,  number 1 being of prisoner Nutt aka White, and number 2 being Wm Yeomans (also at NLA as a mounted cdv). None of these first three cartes copied from the QVMAG Beattie collections, from which Nevin's 1870s original negatives and vignetted duplicates were drawn, has the inscriptions on verso "Taken at Port Arthur 1874". See this article here: Aliases, Copies and Misattribution.

Records for Bewley Tuck

Tuck, Bewley
Convict No: 71572
Voyage Ship: Lotus
Voyage No: 104
Arrival Date: 16 May 1833
Departure Date: 13 Dec 1832
Departure Port: Portsmouth
Conduct Record: CON94/1/ p202, CON31/1/43, CON37/1/9 p5285
Muster Roll: Appropriation List: CON27/1/6, CSO1/1/652 14642, MM33/6
Other Records: Indent: MM33/2
Description List: CON18/1/13 p107

Archives Office of Tasmania – digitised record
Item: CON18-1-13 Image 57

Archives Office of Tasmania – digitised record
Item: CON31-1-43 image 98

Records for John Tuck

AOT: Archives Office of Tasmania – digitised record
Item: CON18-1-3
Digital image no. 50

Convict Details
Tuck, John
Convict No: 71580
Voyage Ship: Argyle
Voyage No: 87
Arrival Date: 04 Aug 1831
Departure Date: 18 Mar 1831
Departure Port: Plymouth
Conduct Record: CON31/1/43
Muster Roll:
Appropriation List: CON27/1/5, MM33/6
Other Records:
Indent: CON14/1/2
Description List: CON18/1/3 p90

Bewley Tuck in the news 2001

27th January 2001
Source: The INDEPENDENT UK Travel

The journey south from Hobart to the peninsula is beautiful. Winding through lush agricultural land, with the gum trees pushed back to the wilderness of the mountains, the road passes through a replica of Constable's English countryside, all hay bales and picture-perfect dairy cows. Our first stop, the tiny town of Richmond, continues the English theme - tea shops serve up yet more Devonshire Teas, there's a pub called The Stables, and a dinky model village of Hobart Town as it was in the 1820s. There's even a Richmond Bridge. But this Richmond Bridge was built by convict labour, and nearby is Richmond's biggest claim to fame - Richmond Jail.

Built between 1825 and 1840, the prison is tiny, yet housed up to 85 prisoners. Walking round the minuscule exercise yard, the punishment rooms, the flogging yard and the suffocating isolation cells, we get a real feeling for the privations these men and women suffered. One convict's record seems particularly pathetic - young Bewley Tuck was imprisoned in 1837 for seven years for stealing a loaf of bread. After further misdeeds his stay was extended, and his final entry shows an extra 15 years to be served for committing "abnormal acts".

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Younger brother Constable John (Jack) NEVIN (1852-1891)

NEVIN BROTHERS Thomas J. and John ( Wm John aka Jack)

The Nevin Brothers, Thomas (T. J. Nevin, 1842-1923) and John (W. J. Nevin, 1852-1891) served the colonial government of Tasmania from the late 1860s to the late 1880s. Thomas was contracted with the Lands and Survey Dept from 1868 and as prisons and police photographer by Attorney-General W.R. Giblin, from 1872. He was the photographer on government contract serving the New Town Territorial Police from his New Town studio in the 1880s and the Hobart Municipal Police at the Hobart Town Hall during the 1870s. He was also a special constable during the Chiniquy riots at the Town Hall (1879) and assistant bailiff in the City Police Court and Supreme Court (1880s). Thomas's  younger brother William John Nevin (1852-1891), known as Jack to the family, entered the Civil Service in 1871 at 18 yrs old in the capacity of warder at the Cascade Asylum. Known officially as Constable John Nevin, he was appointed messenger at the Hobart Gaol five years later,which position he held up to the time of his death during the typhoid epidemic of 1891.

The boy in this stereograph (figure on viewer's left) is Jack Nevin, later Constable John Nevin (William John), younger brother of commercial and police photographer Thomas J. Nevin. Jack is pictured standing next to a prison official who was probably Mr T. P. Ball, Superintendent of the Prisoners Barracks in 1857 at the Campbell Street Gaol.

Hobart Gaol, Campbell St.
Location: W.L. Crowther Library
State Library of Tasmania ADRI: AUTAS001125299420

Family Photographs
Younger brother Jack Nevin's signature pose in this photograph - left hand on hip - also appears in a family group photograph taken a decade later:

This is a very young Jack Nevin ca. 1865, later Constable John Nevin in his favorite pose - left hand on hip - at the Hobart Gaol. Detail of stereo by his older brother Thomas J. Nevin (State Library of Tasmania)

Thomas nevin seated Jack Nevin top right

The Nevin Group Portrait ca. 1870s (detail):
Jack Nevin, top right, Thomas Nevin seated
Copyright © KLW NFC & The Nevin Family Collections 2009 ARR

This is a detail of a group photo, taken in the early 1870s, around the time of Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin's wedding, July 1871, printed on thin paper and unmounted. Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin are both seated, with younger brother Jack Nevin standing in his signature pose, hands on hips again, on viewer's extreme right. The other members of this group may have included Mary Sophia Day, Elizabeth's younger sister, and photographers Alfred Bock and Samuel Clifford.

Constable John (Jack) Nevin was his elder brother's assistant at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street during Thomas Nevin's commissions as police photographer in prisons and police courts from 1876 when Thomas Nevin leased his commercial studio and set up studios at the Hobart Gaol and Municipal Police Office, Town Hall. He helped maintain one of their photographic studios in New Town, assisting in the production of stereographs and studio portraits intermittently from the 1860s to the late 1880s. He was employed at the Hobart Gaol under the supervision of the keeper Ringrose Atkins from 1874, and became a Constable on salary at the male prison at Cascades and then at H.M. Prison, Campbell St. Hobart in 1875, serving until his untimely death from typhoid fever at age 39 in 1891.

Constable John (Jack) Nevin ca 1874-6
Photographed by his brother Thomas Nevin
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint Shelverton Private Collection 2006-2009 ARR.

In this image on thin paper and unmounted, Jack Nevin's brother Thomas captured him in a relaxed standing pose leaning on a book, the usual signifier of literacy in 19th century portraits, wearing a shirt, tie, fob watch, and three piece suit with velvet collars. In the later photograph (below) taken ca. 1880, Jack Nevin looks very relaxed and very savvy about the process of being photographed. His gaze is direct and very keen, his clothes suitable for everyday work in a foul place such as a prison. His salaried positions were primarily in administration, with a career path and ranking similar to the Keeper's. Older brother Thomas Nevin had been a Keeper too of a public institution, at the Hobart Town Hall between 1876-1880; a special constable during the Chiniquy Riots of 1879; Office Keeper for the Hobart City Corporation; and assistant bailiff in the courts during the 1880s. Constable John Nevin's presence at the Hobart Gaol points to a close family involvement by both Nevin brothers with prisoner documentation - visual and written.

Constable W. J. (Jack) Nevin ca. 1880.
Photo taken by his brother Thomas Nevin
Copyright © KLW NFC Private Collections 2009 ARR

In the Constabulary
This record of Jack Nevin's application to the Constabulary Tasmania, signed by the Sheriff on 28th February 1877, not only gives details of Jack's former employment at the Cascades Goal for Males between  August 1875 and April 1876, it details his physical characteristics: aged 25, single, height nearly 5ft 6",  educated but not too well, a labourer by trade, a Wesleyan by religion and Belfast born, arriving free on the Fairlie (1852). He was of course no more than a babe in arms in 1852, noted on the ship's sick lists, but this record shows no physical deformity or disease as an adult. These records are crudely categorical, as we know that Jack Nevin was highly literate, the son of a journalist and poet, and brother of spelling-bee whizz, his sister Mary Ann, and brother too of Thomas, a police photographer with powerful political mentors. Because he was an amateur rather than professional photographer, his trade is listed as "labourer", i.e. no specialist apprenticeship or profession.

W.J. Nevin Applications to join the Constabulary Tasmania 1877 and 1881
Records courtesy State Library of Tasmania

While a constable at the Cascade Gaol for Males, Constable Nevin was involved in an incident which was reported in the Mercury, 27 October, 1875:

Constable Nevin, Mercury, 27 October 1875

Constable Nevin, Mercury, 27 October 1875.

Tuesday 26th October, 1875
Before Mr. Tarleton, Police Magistrate
PEACE DISTURBERS. - Robert Evans and William Inman were charged by Constable Pearce, of the Cascades, with having disturbed the peace in Upper Macquarie-street on the 24th inst. The defendants pleaded "not guilty". Constables Pearce and Nevin, of the Cascades, proved that the defendants were throwing stones and making a disturbance. The Police Magistrate said that in Upper Macquarie-street there existed the roughest of lads in Hobart Town. He would sentence both defendants to 14 days' imprisonment, and warn them that on proof of a second they would probably be birched.
On 24th November 1881, Jack Nevin's second application - a renewal of the 1877 application - to the Constabulary Tasmania was again signed by the Sheriff. Aged 27, his details are more general on this form: religion is listed simply as "Protestant" and birthplace simply "Ireland" but he is still single - living with his parents at Kangaroo Valley - and still free of disease or deformity. His service at Cascades and the Hobart Gaol is listed, as is the lack of a trade. On his death certificate, his employment was registered as "Gaol Messenger", a rank which covered photographic duties and office administration.

 Signed 24th November 1881, Constable (Wm) John Nevin's second application - a renewal of the 1877 application - to the Constabulary Tasmania. Records courtesy State Library of Tasmania.

Death by Gunshot Wound at the Quarry 1882

View from the hill above Quarry to the Hobart Gaol
Courtesy Archives Office of Tasmania
Ref: 30-5718c. Unattributed, ca. 1885.

On the 14 May 1882, Constable W. J. Nevin was on duty at 11.45am when the guard in the sentry box on the hill at the Quarry behind the stone-shed near the Hobart Gaol failed to return. Constable Nevin was dispatched to investigate and found the guard, Frank Green, dying of a gunshot wound. "I am shot, John" were Green's dying words as Nevin lifted his head.

John Nevin Mercury 15 May 1882
Constable Nevin and Constable Green
Death by Gunshot Wound
Mercury, 15 May 1882

... At a quarter to 12, by which time it was usual for the guard to be at his post, Green was not present there, and the officer in charge, Mr. White, despatched Constable Nevin to see what detained him. Constable Nevin ascended the hill, and at the sentry-box situated at the corner of the workings, a little more than midway up the incline, found Green lying on the ground with his feet on the threshold of the box, and his rifle about a yard distant from him. The constable knelt down to lift up the head of the prostrate man, who said , "I am shot; let me alone. " Nevin then ran down and acquainted those in the yard with the accident, and Green was then conveyed to the hospital, where he lingered for half an hour, and then expired. It was found that he had been shot through the abdomen and lungs ...
Frank Green was 21 yrs old, rather tall, a Catholic, single, born in Hobart and a former sailor when he joined the Constabulary for the first time, signed in by the Sheriff on October 1st,  1878.

Frank Green application to join the Constabulary Tasmania 1878
Courtesy State Library of Tasmania

At the inquest held at the Bird-in-Hand Hotel five days later, Constable John Nevin was a key witness. The jury of seven reached a verdict of accidental death. Coroner Tarleton found the guard Frank Green had slipped when about to descend the hill and his double-barrelled breech-loading gun had caught in a string on his coat, discharging a bullet through his abdomen and lung.

Inquest at the Bird-in-Hand, Const. W. J. Nevin's deposition
The Mercury 19 May 1882

Further report of the Coroner's findings on the death of Constable Green
The Tasmanian (Launceston, Tas. : 1881 - 1895)  Sat 20 May 1882  Page 547  TASMANIA.

Electoral Roll 1884
The Electoral Roll of the Electoral District of North Hobart, year commencing 11th April, 1884, showed this entry:

NEVIN, William John
Place of Abode: H.M. Gaol
Nature of qualification: Salary
Particulars of Qualification: H.M. Government

Nevin, William John: Electoral Roll for North Hobart 1884.
Source: Archives Office Tasmania
mfmN206 Tasmania Electoral Roll
Vols: 1884-85;1886;1886-88

North Hobart electoral roll 1884

The Royal Arms insignia on this document and which appeared on all government documents in 19th century Tasmania also appeared on Thomas Nevin's government contractor studio stamp when printed on the verso of convict identification photos taken at the Port Arthur prison and Hobart Town Gaol for the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall, and on several of his portraits of officials and their families in the employ of the Hobart City Corporation (Mayor's Office, Hobart Town Hall).

Recto and verso of photograph of prisoner Wm Smith per Gilmore (3)
Verso with T. J. Nevin's government contractor stamp printed with the Royal Arms insignia.
Carte numbered "199" on recto
QVMAG Ref: 1985.p.131

The Keeper of H. M. Gaol, Hobart, from the 1st January 1874 was Ringrose Austin Atkins (see record above). He was listed on the Electoral Roll for North Hobart for the year commencing April 11th, 1884 on "salary", and resident at the Gaol in Campbell Street. The gaol was conventionally known as the Campbell Street Gaol [CSG]. In the same year, 1884, William John Nevin was also listed on "salary" at H. M. Gaol, Hobart, and also resident there. His position is not listed, but it is clear that he was in training as Keeper under Ringrose Atkins' supervision. The term "Keeper" denotes a manager of an archive: it is still used as a position title at the Public Records Office of Victoria.

Hon. W. R. Giblin ca. 1874
Photo by T.J. Nevin (verso stamped)
Archives Office of Tasmania Ref: NS1013-1-1971
Family solicitor and mentor to the Nevin brothers, Attorney-General W. R. Giblin (1840-1887)

Map of the old Hobart Gaol
Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2008 ARR
Click on thumbnail for large view

City Police in Uniform, Hobart, late 1880s

City Police, Hobart
Images courtesy Archives Office of Tasmania
Unattributed, ca. 1885
Refs: (top) NS1013-1-19 (below) NS1013-1c.

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The trial of Joshua ANSON 1877

Joshua ANSON, criminal offence 1877
Photographers H. H. BAILY, T. J. NEVIN, ANSON Bros. 1870s-1880s
James CRONIN, prisoner ex Aboukir 1851

Detail of Joshua Anson's Hobart Gaol record with photos taken 1877 (Nevin) & 1897 (unknown)
Source: Archives Office State Library of Tasmania
Mugshots 1891 GD67-1-10, 1895 GD128-1-2, 1901 GD128-1-1

The Anson brothers photographers, and there were only two - Joshua, who called himself John once paroled from prison on January 12, 1879, and his brother Henry who died in 1890 (the third brother Richard, b. 1851 died in infancy) - bought Samuel Clifford's studio and stock in 1878. Included in that purchase were photographs, negatives, cartes and stereographs by Clifford & Nevin taken and printed during their partnership which began in the 1860s and lasted beyond 1876 when Nevin transferred the "interest" in his commercial negatives to Clifford (Mercury, January 17th, 1876). John Watt Beattie joined the Anson brothers in 1890, buying them out in 1892, and reprinting many of the stock of Clifford and Nevin he had acquired through the purchase and without due attribution.

Joshua Anson 1877 and 1897
Joshua Anson was indicted for feloniously stealing a quantity of photographic goods from his employer, H. H. Baily, photographer, of Hobart Town on May 31st, 1877. The charge was larceny as a servant. The prisoner pleaded not guilty. Despite the depositions of good character from photographer Samuel Clifford, Charles Walch the stationer, and W.R. Giblin, lawyer and Attorney-General, Joshua Anson (b. 1854, Hobart), was found guilty of stealing goods valued at £88, though the real value of the goods, which included camera equipment, negatives, paper, mounts, chemicals, tripods etc exceeded £140. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, with parole. On July 12, 1877, the Mercury reported that Joshua Anson’s appeal was ” to seek to retrieve his character by an honest career in another colony; and asked that during his incarceration he might be kept from the company of other prisoners as much as possible, though not, he said, on account of feeling himself above them, as the verdict of the jury removed that possibility.” The seriousness of the crime warranted a 14 year sentence, but the jury strongly recommended him to mercy “on account of his youth“.

Henry Hall Baily, the victim of Joshua Anson's theft in 1877, was a colleague and close friend of Thomas Nevin. Their respective studios in the 1860s were located opposite each other in Elizabeth St. Hobart Town. Baily and his wife were in Nevin's company that fateful night in December 1880 when Nevin was detained by Detective Connor on suspicion of acting in concert with the "ghost". The Chief Justice in Joshua Anson's case was Sir Francis Villeneuve Smith, who was photographed about this same time holding a carte-de-visite. The photograph was later reprinted by Beattie, and although the original is unattributed, it can safely be assumed from the Justice's ascerbic comments on Anson's character in the course of hearing the case on July 11, 1877, that Joshua Anson was certainly NOT the photographer.

Joshua Anson's trial stirred interest. The Mercury, July 11th, 1877 reported:
Second Court
Before His Honor the Chief Justice
Joshua Anson was indicted for feloniously stealing a quantity of photographic goods from his employer, H. H. Baily, photographer, of Hobart Town on May 31st, 1877. The prisoner pleaded not guilty.
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL prosecuted, and Mr. J. S. DODDS defended the prisoner."
Despite the depositions of good character from photographer Samuel Clifford, Charles Walch the stationer, and W.R. Giblin, lawyer and Attorney-General, Joshua Anson (b. 1854, Hobart), was found guilty of stealing goods valued at 88 pounds, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment, with parole. This was no small misdemeanour. Joshua Anson had also racked up a large bill at Walch's Stationers with promissaries for goods which included expensive imported equipment.

The Mercury, July 11, 1877 further reported:
"H.H. Baily's evidence was in substance the same as that given at the preliminary examination in the Police Court. He believed all the articles produced in Court, embracing views, portraits, mounts, albums etc were his property, and specially identified some particular albums and other goods as his.
By Mr. DODDS: Two albums produced are not mine, but they contain views that have been taken from negatives that belong to me. The mounts produced I claim, as I have similar mounts in my shop. Other photographers in the town have not got mounts of the same quality. I cannot possibly say that the cards are mine. The albumenized paper I cannot swear as to my property. The glass produced I cannot identify as my property, but I have missed some glass of a similar description, marked with a diamond in the corner. I cannot swear to the brushes produced ..... The stereoscopic views (produced) were printed by the prisoner from negatives belonging to me .... I have treated the prisoner as my brother.... About 12 months ago, I increased his salary from 2 to 3 pounds a week, but I did not then offer to give him an interest in the business .... I have assisted him in printing from negatives belonging to him in order to see the effect of the printing. Some of these negatives were upon glass belonging to me. I did not then suspect him of taking my property. I had lent the prisoner a camera and lens, a tripod stand, and a glass but nothing else. I gave the prisoner on one occasion permission to take two bottles of chemicals home, so as to take quantities out for his own use ....." " .... W.R. Giblin said he had known the prisoner for about seven years, and his reputation for honesty was good. Witness had personally a very high opinion of the prisoner and had offered to find him 50 to 100 pounds to set him up in business but the prisoner declined the offer....."

Attorney-General W.R. Giblin by Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1874
Archives Office of Tasmania Ref: NS 1013/1971

"The Jury, after a retirement of about 20 minutes, found the prisoner guilty, and strongly recommended him to mercy on account of his youth...."

The charges warranted a sentence of 14 years, but was shown mercy on account of his youth.

Source: Criminal: re Anson, June 29, 77 (1.189)

On July 12, 1877, The Mercury reported that Joshua Anson's appeal was -
" to seek to retrieve his character by an honest career in another colony; and asked that during his incarceration he might be kept from the company of other prisoners as much as possible, though not, he said, on account of feeling himself above them, as the verdict of the jury removed that possibility."

Joshua Anson, 22 years old, arraigned at the Supreme Court, Hobart on 10th July 1877 for the offence of larceny as a servant, was sentenced to two years.

Source: Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police, Gov's printer J. Barnard

Joshua Anson was discharged from H. M. Gaol on 15 January 1879, the residue of sentence remitted.

Joshua Anson's Hobart Gaol record
Source: Archives Office State Library of Tasmania
Mugshots 1891 GD67-1-10, 1895 GD128-1-2, 1901 GD128-1-1

Joshua Anson did not take the two photographs of himself that were pasted to his criminal sheet, the first (on left) in 1877 when he was 23 yrs old, and the second (on right) in 1897 when he was 43 yrs old, nor did he photograph any of the other prisoners for gaol records while serving time at the Hobart Gaol. His abhorrence of the company of convicts was extreme, as his statement testifies. His 1877 prisoner mugshot was taken by Constable John Nevin in situ, and unmounted. Thomas Nevin may have printed another for the Municipal Police Office Registry at the Town Hall, Macquaries St. Hobart where he was the Hall and Office Keeper, but it is yet to be identified among the Tasmanian prisoner cdvs held in public collections. Joshua Anson was certainly the beneficiary of Thomas Nevin’s stock and commercial negatives when Samuel Clifford acquired them in 1876 and then sold them on to Joshua Anson and his brother Henry Anson in 1878. The Anson brothers reprinted Clifford & Nevin’s Port Arthur stereoscopes for their highly commercial album, published in 1890 as Port Arthur Past and Present without due acknowledgement to either Nevin or Clifford.

The Launceston Examiner reported another theft by Joshua Anson on 30 May, 1896.

HOBART, Friday
At the City Court to-day Joshua Anson, photographer, was charged with having robbed Charles Perkins of £32 12s5d. Accused, who was not represented by counsel, stated he had had two epileptic fits since he was arrested, and his head was not now clear. He asked for a remand. After the evidence of the prosecution had been taken, the accused was remanded till Tuesday.
Beautiful spring-like weather is prevailing.
Both of the Anson brothers were incarcerated at different times at the Hobart Gaol. In July 1889, Henry Anson, aged 39, was sentenced to one month for being drunk. Soon after Joshua Anson's parole, the two Anson Brothers set up business at various addresses:

132 Liverpool St. Hobart 1878-80
129 Collins St. Hobart 1880-87
36 Elizabeth St. Hobart 1880-87
52 Elizabeth St. Hobart 1887-91

Ansons' studio, 36 Elizabeth St 1880 (TAHO)

The photograph of ex-convict James Cronin

Studio portrait of ex-convict James Cronin ca. 1880
Anson Brothers 1880s, TMAG Collection

This is the only extant image of former convict James Cronin (1824-1885). It was taken by the Anson brothers, commercial photographers, as an Album portrait in their Hobart studio in the 1880s, i.e. it was therefore a privately commissioned portrait, and this is evident from both the street clothes and the pose of the sitter. It is not a police photograph, ie. a mugshot pasted to a criminal record sheet, unlike those taken by Thomas J. Nevin for the express use of police authorities, because James Cronin was not an habitual offender, at least, he was never convicted and sentenced under his own name in the decades 1860s-1880s or up to his death in 1885 at the Cascades Hospital for the Insane, Hobart. The Tasmanian Police Gazettes of those decades registered no offence for James Cronin, nor even an inquest when he died of pulmonary apoplexy on July 16, 1885.

Criminal and Transportation History: James Cronin (1824-1885)
James Cronin may have offended at Limerick for theft prior to his major felony of shooting at Jas. Hogan with intent to kill in 1847. He was transported to Bermuda on HMS Medway in the same year to serve eight years.  It was at Bermuda that he attempted to murder Mrs Elleanor Howes, wife of James Howes, mate in charge of the prison hulk, the Coromandel. Despatches from Charles Elliot, governor of Bermuda (CO 37/135) requested James Cronin be returned to England on HMS Wellesley to be convicted and transported to Tasmania (VDL) in correspondence dated January and April 1851. James Cronin arrived at Norfolk Island on board the Aboukir in March 1852, and thence to the Port Arthur prison Tasmania in December where he was "detained" until 1857 and assigned on probation to Major Lloyd at New Norfolk, Hobart on 27th November.

The National Archives UK has two entries for James Cronin detailing his attempt to murder Mrs Howes in Bermuda:
1. Reference:CO 37/135/4 Description:
Reports that a convict named James Cronin had attempted to murder Mrs Elleanor Howes, the wife of James Howes, mate in charge of the Coromandel hulk. Considers the existing laws inadequate to punish such cases. Recommends that a law should be passed to bring such cases to Courts Martial. Adds that in Cronin's case a convict named Edwin Smith intervened and saved Mrs Howes. Recommends Smith for a free pardon. Encloses a memorandum and correspondence concerning the matter.

Convict Establishment No. 4, folios 15-38
Date: 1851 Jan 18 Held by: The National Archives, Kew

2. Reference:CO 37/135/35 Description:
Reports that the convict James Cronin would be returned to England in HMS Wellesley. Encloses the requisite documents.

Convict Establishment No. 29, folios 224-230
Date: 1851 Apr 17 Held by: The National Archives, Kew

Source: Tasmanian Archives
Cronin, James
Convict No: 16007
Extra Identifier:
Voyage Ship: Aboukir
Voyage No: 347
Arrival Date: 20 Mar 1852
Departure Date: 07 Dec 1851
Departure Port: London
Conduct Record: CON33/1/106
Muster Roll:
Appropriation List:
Other Records:
Indent: CON14/1/31
Description List: CON18/1/56

Indent: CON14/1/31 

Title: James Cronin, one of 280 convicts transported on the Aboukir, 24 December 1851.
Details: Sentence details: Convicted at Ireland, Limerick for a term of life on 08 March 1847.
Vessel: Aboukir.
Date of Departure: 24 December 1851.
Place of Arrival: Van Diemen's Land and Norfolk Island. [These convicts appear to have all landed in Van Diemen's Land].

The death of James Cronin, labourer, was registered at the Cascades Hospital for the Insane on 16 July 1885. His cause of death was pulmonary apoplexy, unlike several other deaths of asylum inmates which were registered in the same month, e.g. "brain softening".

Death of James Cronin, male, 63 yrs old, 16 July 1885, Hobart, Tasmania
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1232085
Resource: RGD35/1/10 no 2506
Archives Office Tasmania

Australia's first MUGSHOTS

PLEASE NOTE: 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 solely 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 produced over a thousand originals and duplicates of Tasmanian prisoners, the bulk now lost or destroyed. The three hundred 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.

Supreme Court convictions