Prisoner Mark JEFFREY, a Port Arthur flagellator

Mark Jeffrey (1825-1894) was called a "Port Arthur flagellator" by James Hunt, the man he was arraigned for wilfully murdering in February 1872 at the Supreme Court, Hobart. The verdict returned by the jury at the trial was manslaughter and the sentence was life. Mark Jeffrey may have been photographed at the Hobart Gaol while awaiting his sentence at this trial. Many of these "Supreme Court men" were photographed there by Thomas J. Nevin as early as February 1872.

However, the only known or extant prisoner identification photograph of Mark Jeffrey was taken five years later by Thomas J. Nevin in the first few days of Jeffrey's relocation to the Hobart Gaol from the Port Arthur prison site in 1877. It was taken in the usual circumstances of gaol admission - a booking shot of the prisoner in street clothing - and  reproduced from the negative in carte-de-visite format for pasting to the prisoner's criminal record sheet. Duplicates were retained for the central Municipal Police Office registers at the Hobart Town Hall, and others were circulated to regional police stations.

The booking shot (below) of Mark Jeffrey, dated to 1877, has survived as a print from Nevin's glass negative. It was salvaged from the photographer's room and Sheriff's Office at the Hobart Gaol by John Watt Beattie ca. 1900 and reproduced for display in Beattie's convictaria museum in Hobart. Dozens of these negative prints of notorious criminals were reprised by Beattie, plus two hundred or more in standard cdv format, which have survived from the donation of his collection to the QVMAG Launceston in 1930. This copy is held at the State Library of Tasmania.

Title: Mark Jeffrey
Publisher: [18--]
Description: 1 photograph : sepia toned ; 11 X 8 cm
ADRI: AUTAS001125882597
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts

The Ghost Writer in the Autobiography
A year before Mark Jeffrey's death in 1894, a book about his life, ostensibly his autobiography, was published as A burglar's life, or, The stirring adventures of the great English burglar, Mark Jeffrey : a thrilling history of the dark days of convictism in Australia (1893) by the Launceston Examiner and Tasmanian Office. It was reprinted in various formats well into the 20th century, but the most popular edition which appeared in 1900 from Melbourne publishers Alexander McCubbin, has since raised questions of authorship when republished in 1968 by W. and J. E. Hiener for Angus & Robertson, Sydney. The probable author according to these editors was not Mark Jeffrey but James Lester Burke who produced a similar volume on the life of bushranger Martin Cash. Burke's role can be termed variously as 'editor', 'biographer', 'amanuensis', 'co-author' 'scribe' or 'author' or simply 'co-author' (Emby 2011).

Transported convict and petty criminal James Lester Burke (1820-1879) made Mark Jeffrey's acquaintance when Burke was discharged to Port Arthur as a signalman from the Brickfields Depot in Hobart on 3rd December 1876. His crimes included forgery (15 October 1875)and cutting electric telegraph wires. He died in 1879, but Jeffrey died 15 years later, in 1894 (see obituary below), not 1903.

James Lester Burke, arrest for damaging insulators and telegraph wires, 21 July 1869

James Lester Burke, missing, wanted at the Colonial Secretary's Office, 23 February 1870

James Lester Burke, forgery 15 October 1875

Webshot from Trove NLA's 6 editions

Cover of the 1900 edition: read this edition here:

Prisoner Mark Jeffrey's so-called autobiographical account has become somewhat of a benchmark for those who assume that the Port Arthur prison on the Tasman Peninsula was still fully functional up to its closure in 1877.  Perhaps it is still widely studied in schools and colleges, and proposed as an accurate witness account of the penal system. But Mark Jeffrey remained as one of a few dozen paupers and invalids unable to work up to that date. The criminal classes, on the other hand, were all transferred back to the Hobart Gaol in Campbell Street at the request of Parliament in July 1873, where they were photographed by Thomas J. Nevin on arrival. The Port Arthur prison was in ruins and semi-deserted, according to Marcus Clark's account of his visit to the site and his meeting with the gouty and largely indisposed Commandant A. H. Boyd in mid 1873 (Argus, July 3, 12 and 26 July 1873).

Pages 108 -109 of A Burglar's Life

Mention is made in the last paragraph on page 109 of the Port Arthur Commandant "Mr. H. Boyd" [sic] in 1872. Notice the missing initial "A" from the full name, Mr Adolarious Humphrey Boyd. Conveniently confused with Thomas H. Boyd the Sydney Photographer of the 1870s-1880s who did not photograph Tasmanian prisoners, late 20th century commentators have used this simple omission of an initial to hype the inglorious A. H. Boyd as THE photographer of "Port Arthur convicts" at Port Arthur (Reeder, Long, Ennis, Crombie, Clark). A. H. Boyd was not a photographer by any definition of the word, nor had he given or was given any mandate to provide the police with mugshots. Just as  Mark Jeffrey's date of death was deliberately falsified from 1894 to 1903 to give the impression that he was alive in 1900 to give a first-hand testimony to his Melbourne publishers, the same motivation lies behind those who have wanted A. H. Boyd to be credited as a photographer of prisoners at Port Arthur, citing the "H. Boyd" mentioned on page 109 of this hugely popular book.

A Burglar's Life, 1900 edition, pp 108-109

Pages 118-119 of A Burglar's Life

As soon as Mark Jeffrey arrived from Port Arthur at the Hobart Gaol on 17th April 1877, he was locked up in the model prison in "H" division of the Hobart Gaol, although, as he says, he "had committed no breach of the regulations to warrant such treatment" (p.119). He was subjected to standard procedures for all arrivals: every prisoner awaiting trial was photographed, bathed, shaved, and dressed in prison issue clothing. Jeffrey knew as soon as Nevin photographed him in that week of April 1877 that he could protest at being treated unfairly because he was not under warrant.

A Burglar's Life, 1900 edition, pp 108-109

The standard procedure was this: Thomas J. Nevin photographed prisoners on committal for trial at the Supreme Court adjoining the Hobart Gaol where they were isolated in silence for a month after sentencing. If sentenced for a longer term than three months at the Supreme Court Launceston, they were photographed, bathed, shaved and dressed on being received in Hobart. Prisoners transferred from Port Arthur were subjected to the same routine. These procedures, past and present, were reported at length by a visitor to the Hobart Gaol and Supreme Court in The Mercury, 8th July 1882:

At the Bathurst-street end of the block are about 30 cells, built in three decker style. They are dark, ill ventilated, and stuffy, were originally intended for the use of convicts awaiting shipment to Port Arthur and do not appear to be fitted for other than temporary quarters ... Opening into this yard [Yard 3] are a number of cells, kept as much as possible for Supreme Court first timers, in order to remove them, to some extent at least, from the contaminating influences of the old hands in crime ... The next yard and block of cells are also set apart for the use of first timers , and the cells and yard in the next division are appropriated to the use of prisoners under examination or fully committed for trial. At the back of the block is a model prison, in which the silent system is carried out. The cells here are only used for "Supreme Court men," who are confined in them for one month after sentence, which time they pass in solitary confinement day and night, with the exception of one hour during which they take exercise in the narrow enclosure outside the cells, pacing up and down five yards apart, and in strict silence. There can be no doubt this is, to some at least, a much-dreaded punishment.

Thomas Nevin photographed prisoners William Smith and Mullens at the Hobart Gaol wearing the standard prison issue of a grey uniform and black leathern cap. The journalist visiting the Hobart Gaol in 1882 noted this uniform with the cap in his report to the The Mercury, (as above), on 8th July 1882:

In their dark-grey uniform and black leathern caps, with their criminal visages, shaven of the covering Nature had given to aid them in the concealment of their vicious propensities and villainous characters, they were, in truth, a forbidding, repulsive lot. Yet very far from unintelligent, at least, in some marked instances. A villainous shrewdness and a perverse cleverness writ in many a cunning, gleamy eye and heavy brow ; and a dogged determination to be read in the set of the jaw, and the style of the gait, were as the translated speech of artfully calculated, daring crime.

Recto and Verso of photograph of William Smith per Gilmore 3.
Photo by Thomas Nevin, July 1875
Stamped verso with Nevin's studio stamp and Royal Arms
Mitchell Library NSW PXB 274
Photography © KLW NFC Private Collections 2008-2010 ARR

Full frontal pose
Tasmanian prisoners William Henry Butler and Michael Parker
Photos by T. J. Nevin , 1875-1878

Related posts dealing with mugshots poses, printed formats and prisoner uniforms:

Police Records and Newspaper Reports

The Separate or Model Prison records of the Port Arthur penitentiary are held at the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW. These records are from the weekly Tasmanian police gazettes. They document Mark Jeffrey's various misdemeanours and petty crimes from 1866 up to the manslaughter sentence of 1872.

Mark Jeffrey was discharged from the Hobart Gaol after serving 1 month for obscene language, and 2 months for assaulting a constable, per this notice of 21 March 1866

Mark Jeffrey was discharged from the Hobart Gaol after serving 4 months for resisting a constable, per this notice of 14 August 1867.

Mark Jeffrey was discharged from the Hobart Gaol after serving 2 months for assault, per this notice of 13 November 1867.

Mark Jeffrey was discharged from the Hobart Gaol after serving 3 months, 7 days and 14 days for insubordination etc, per this notice of 18 March 1868

Mark Jeffrey was discharged from the Hobart Gaol after serving 3 months and 3 days for damaging property, assaulting a constable, disorderly conduct, per this notice of 14 May 1869. He was discharged from the Hobart Gaol, sent to Port Arthur, and discharged from Port Arthur again to Hobart Gaol as a pauper on 19 November 1870

Mark Jeffrey discharged to Hobart Town gaol as a pauper per this police gazette notice of 19 November 1870.

The verdict of manslaughter delivered against Mark Jeffrey at the inquest on the body of his victim, James Hunt, per this police gazette notice of 5 January 1871.

Mark Jeffrey was sentenced to life for manslaughter at the Supreme Court Hobart, per this notice of 13 February 1872

Newspaper Report, The Mercury, 2 January 1872

TRANSCRIPT (unedited from OCR)
THE death of JAMES HUNT, at the General Hospital, on the 26th December, formed the subject of a Coroner's inquiry on the 28th and 30th ult. Twelve witnesses were examined, and their evidence was conclusive in showing that the unfortunate man's death waa caused by violence inflicted by a man named MARK JEFFREY. The two men met at the Butchers' Arms public-house, at the corner of Argyle and Patrick-streets, on the 20th ult., and after drinking together for some time a dispute arose between them, in the course of which HUNT called JEFFREY "a Port Arthur flagellator." The latter becoming in-censed at this, is said to have struck the deceased, HUNT, in the face with his fist, knocking him down, and stamping on him as he was lying on the floor. HUNT shortly afterwards complained of pain in the stomach where JEFFREY had trodden on him, and he made his way to the stable at the rear of the public house, where he remained all night in great pain. On the following morning the poor fellow, with the assistance of a constable, succeeded in reaching the General Hospital, where he lingered till the 20th December, when he died, having in the meantime, however, made a declaration to the effect that, when in the Butchers' Arms, being partly under the influence of liquor, he called JEFFREY a " flogger," when the latter beat him about the head with his fist, knocked him down, and "jumped" on him. A post mortem examination was made on the body, when it was found that death had been occasioned by violence and was not the result of disease. This was the gist of the evidence laid before the Coroner's jury on Thursday and Saturday last, although there were various minor details adduced, calculated to assist them in arriving at a decision as to the manner in which the deceased, HUNT, came to his death. The Coroner also gave them material assistance in his summing up. He reviewed the salient points in the evidence, which he was of opinion conclusively proved that death was occasioned by violence inflicted by MARK JEFFREY. The jury would, he said, require to consider the circumstances under which JEFFREY inflicted these injuries, so as to enable them to arrive at a conclusion as to the crime of which he was guilty. The Coroner expressed his belief that justifiable homicide was completely out of the question, as the mere fact of the deceased's calling him a " Port Arthur flagellator" was not sufficient to justify JEFFREY in knocking him down and kicking or jumping on him ; it would, therefore, either amount to manslaughter or murder. He explained the distinction which the law drew between the two, and quoted a case bearing a strong analogy to that under consideration, in which a schoolmaster, after knocking a boy down, stamped on his stomach, causing injuries which eventually resulted in the boy's death, and the crime in that instance was held to be murder. The Coroner expressed his conviction that, under the whole circumstances, there was no course open to the jury but to bring in a verdict of wilful murder against the man JEFFREY. The jury, however, appeared to think differently, and after some deliberation announced their verdict as being one of manslaughter.

Whether they regarded this as the conclusion to which the evidence undoubtedly led them, or were influenced by feelings of sympathy for the accused, or looked upon it as a matter of little moment what their decision was, considering that the dealing with the person most deeply interested in the matter did not rest with them, it would be difficult to say. It is possible they may have attached smaller importance to the evidence than others did. They may have accepted the statements of two of the witnesses, that JEFFREY " kicked" the man in the stomach, and of another that he "jumped" on him, a statement also made by HUNT himself in his dying declaration ; and yet have failed to see that the fatal results which the treatment occasioned involved JEFFREY in any more serious crime than manslaughter. It may have occurred to them that as the deceased lay prostrate at JEFFREY'S feet the latter must have known that a jump or a kick from a man of his proportions, especially when applied to the stomach of another occupying the position which HUNT was in, would most probably lead to serious results ; and they may still have thought that they were not justified in finding JEFFREY guilty of the murder of the unfortunate deceased. If the jury entertained such opinions after carefully considering tho evidence, they undoubtedly discharged their duties conscientiously in bringing in a verdict of manslaughter. It is the duty of men sitting on juries to banish all feelings of vindictiveness or sympathy, and to deal with the questions before them dispassionately and impartially; and unless they do so they will find themselves wanting in the discharge of their duty to society, or to individuals influenced by their decisions. Persons sitting on Coroner's juries must feel that they have nothing whatever to do with the consequences which another may have to suffer from their decision, and sympathy for an accused individual should accordingly find no place in their consideration; but having the evidence before them, they should return what to the best of their belief would be a true verdict, according to the facts adduced. It is well known that sympathy has in numerous instances been allowed to override justice, but it is difficult to believe that such feelings influenced to a very great extent the jury in this case. They may, however, have underrated the importance of the position in which they were placed. Knowing that it was in the power of the ATTORNEY-GENERAL, as the grand jury of the colony, to arraign a man for murder, even though their decision might be in favour of the lesser crime, manslaughter, they may have regarded their verdict as being nothing more nor less than a matter of form ; but if such were the case they sadly misapprehended their functions. Sworn to return a true verdict in accordance with the evidence before them, it was their duty to have considered it as thoughtfully and carefully as though the final disposition of the matter rested with them, and their verdict should have been entirely based on the evidence on which alone they were asked to give a decision, apart altogether from any action which might be taken by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL, or the jury at the Supreme Court sittings.

Very probably the jury who sat on this inquiry on Saturday considered they had fulfilled their duty in bringing in a verdict of manslaughter against MARK JEFFREY, but there are persons who question the justice of the decision The Coroner, immediately on being made acquainted with the determination at which the jury had arrived, informed them that he was bound to accept their verdict, but said he did not scruple to toll them he differed from it, and expressed his belief that the ATTORNEY-GENERAL would put the man on his trial for murder in spite of their finding. This decidedly plain and unmistakable expression of opinion on the part of the Coroner, on the results of the half hour which the jury occupied in considering their verdict, appeared to have taken them about as much by surprise as their decision took the Coroner. However, JEFFREY was committed to take his trial at the next criminal sitting of the Supreme Court, and it remains to be seen on which crime he will be arraigned by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.
Source: THE MERCURY. (1872, January 2). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved August 26, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8925409

Obituary 1894
The square parentheses enclosing the second paragraph do not belong to the printed original article.


DEATH OF MARK JEFFREY. HOBART, WEDNESDAY. Mark Jeffrey, who was well known as one of the most fractious of the Imperial prisoners, died in the Invalid Depot yester- day. He had reached the advanced age of 68 years. [Mark Jeffrey was born at Wood Ditton, near Newmarket, Cambridgeshire, on August 31, 1825. When a young man he was transported for fifteen years for burglary and attempted murder, and spent many years at Norfolk Island and Port Arthur. Recently he published a history of his experiences, which were of a remarkable character, Mark having brought upon himself every kind of punishment inflicted upon refractory prisoners. His great enemy was his temper, which was of the most violent character, and when aroused he was ex-ceedingly dangerous. He was essentially an egotist-physically and mentally strong -but without balance, his animal nature dominating all that was good in him. He desired death, for his life had been a failure, and his sufferings during the past two years were very acute. Before he left England he was injured in the chest by a kick during a fight. Some time ago a swelling appeared in his chest, and the growth increased day by day until his death. He regarded the swelling as his "death warrant," and his favourite ex pression was, "I have given my life ; read it and see how I have suffered."]

Source: DEATH OF MARK JEFFREY. (1894, July 19). Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899), p. 6. Retrieved August 26, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article39586455

Source: Wikipedia (?)

This photograph, ostensibly of Mark Jeffrey aged 68 yrs old, was taken at Percy Whitelaw's studio in Launceston Tasmania in 1893 just months before his death in 1894.

Constable Blakeney's revenge on Thomas Nevin 1880

Constable Blakeney"You have a nose on me, and now I have got you."  
"Nevin was asked by the Mayor if he would, 'as a last chance', state who his companion was, but he persisted in declaring his innocence, saying he saw no figure at all, and attributed his arrest to some ill feeling which existed between Blakeney and himself."
The Launceston Examiner, 6 December 1880

Hobart Town Hall with figure at front, probably the keeper, photographer Thomas Nevin
No date, 1876-80, unattributed, half of stereo?
Archives Office of Tasmania
Ref: PH612 high resolution image

Throughout December 1880 and into January 1881, Tasmanian and intercolonial newspapers reported at length on photographer Thomas J. Nevin's sudden dismissal from his position as Hobart Town Hall keeper, a decision reached by the Mayor because of an incident involving Nevin and three constables on Thursday evening, December 2rd, 1880. Nevin was seen in Davey St in close proximity to the "ghost", a person who had been terrorising citizens on Hobart streets wearing a phosphorescent white sheet. Nevin was also seen in company in various hotels during the evening while ostensibly still on duty, and when apprehended on suspicion of acting in concert with the "ghost", was found to be inebriated.

The readers of The Mercury's account of what took place that evening were given a partially accurate report of the meeting of the Police Committee next day where Nevin and Constables Blakeney, Oakes and Priest gave their versions of the events. The Mercury referred to Nevin's stated belief that Constable Blakeney had arrested him as revenge for an incident which took place two months earlier, in October 1880,when Nevin reported Blakeney for being drunk and asleep on duty to Sergeant Dove, who took the matter to Superintendent Pedder and the Mayor. Blakeney's counsel refuted Nevin's claim that Blakeney had said  to Nevin these words as clear intention of retaliation:
By the Mayor : When arresting Nevin, witness [i.e. Blakeney] did not say, " You have a nose on me, and now I have got you," or use any words to that effect.
The phrase used by Blakeney was curiously put: " - you have a nose on me" - by which he meant stalking or surveillance, smelling alcohol on someone found in improper circumstances, and resulting in payback in kind - "and now I have got you". The Launceston Examiner referred more directly to Blakeney's action of arresting Nevin as retaliation for his demotion,  by reporting that Nevin attributed his arrest to some ill feeling which existed between Blakeney and himself.

... Shortly afterwards Oakes and Priest heard cries from two women whom they met that the ghost was in Salamanca Place, and they at once proceeded there, when they saw a figure in white near the Guano Store, and a man (Nevin) on the footpath, struck a light, much more brilliant than a match, and displayed the figure clearly. Constable Blakeney, who arrived upon the scene at the time, arrested Nevin, and the other constables pursued the ghost, but were unable to overtake him. Nevin was asked by the Mayor if he would, "as a last chance," state who his companion was, but he persisted in declaring his innocence, saying he saw no figure at all, and attributed his arrest to some ill feeling which existed between Blakeney and himself. Nevin, who had been repeatedly warned, was dismissed from his situation for drunkenness. The whole affair is still, to a great extent, shrouded in mystery, and the witnesses examined differ as to the precise time that the events narrated took place, but it is believed that the police have now sufficient reason for hoping that they will be able to clear the whole matter up before too long.

[No heading]. (1880, December 6). Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899), p. 3. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page4705106
Constable Blakeney: drunk and asleep on duty at 3 am
Constable John Blakeney was hoping to make the rank of Sergeant when his dereliction of duty - being drunk and asleep at 3am in the first week of October 1880 - was reported by Nevin to the Police Office and Mayor as a potential risk to the Hobart Town Hall's security. Housed in the Town Hall were not just the full administrative records of the Mayor's court and business dealings of the City Corporation Council; the Hobart Municipal Police Office where criminal registers were kept was also housed there on the ground floor; and the Town library containing valuable volumes was upstairs, while downstairs in the basement were prison cells housing recently arrested offenders.

Sergeant Dove reported Constable Blakeney to Supt Pedder on October 6th, 1880, in this letter, which curiously bears the word "Matter" underscored in red followed by exclamation marks.

Draft Minutes of the Police Committee
21 Feb 1879-25 March 1898
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2014

Hobart Town
October 6th 1880
Sir I respectfully report for your information that I found Constable Blakeney asleep on his beat at half past three o'clock this morning, Blakeney was under the influence of drink, and admitted that he had a pint of ale, I bring this matter under your notice as a matter of duty and respect, Trusting that you will deal leniently with the matter as Blakeney is a very willing constable
I remain Sir your obedient W Dove Sergeant
Fr Pedder Esq
Supt of police

Superintendent Pedder requested the Mayor to summon Constable John Blakeney to appear before him and the Police Committee on 6th October 1880, because of the complaint lodged by Sergeant Dove. The Mayor approved Blakeney's demotion to 2nd class.

Minutes of the MCC: As a result, Constable Blakeney was demoted from 1st class to 2nd class.
Constable Blakeney was reinstated to 1st class 3 weeks later, on 26 November 1880.

Draft Minutes of the Police Committee
21 Feb 1879-25 March 1898
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2014

Blakeney's Reinstatement and Revenge

Last entry in the MCC police committee minutes:
Constable Blakeney was reinstated to 1st class on 26 November 1880 after demotion on October 6, 1880

Draft Minutes of the Police Committee
21 Feb 1879-25 March 1898
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2014

Within a week of being reinstated, Blakeney was intent on compromising Nevin. He had most likely coerced the other two constables, Oakes and Priest, to invent the story that "the ghost" had appeared in Nevin's company, since their witness accounts were not consistent. Nevin denied having seen anyone dressed in a white sheet. Blakeney's demotion was the result of intoxication, and he was intent on making Nevin suffer the same fate when he sought out Nevin on the night of the arrest.

According to the Mercury's report, on Thursday night, 2nd December 1880, Constable John Blakeney told the Police Committee in Nevin's presence that he had arrested photographer and Hobart Town Hall keeper Thomas J. Nevin "because he thought he [Nevin] had some apparatus for producing the phenomenon of a ghost" (Mercury, Saturday 4 December 1880, p.2). Nevin had been seen earlier that evening in the company of fellow photographer Henry Hall Baily, carrying photographic equipment.

Nevin was taken to the police watch house by Blakeney, and searched for photographic items. He was found to have none and was released by Sub-inspector Connor without charge. The next day, Friday, 3rd December 1880, he appeared at a special meeting of the Police Committee held at the Town Hall in the presence of the Mayor, Aldermen Harcourt and Espie, and Superintendent of Police F. Pedder. Proceedings began with derogatory comments about Nevin's coloured photography -"ornaments of different colour" - (read the full article here) which may have been a reference to his hand-coloured cartes-de-visite mugshots of prisoners, eg. Job Smith, Walter Bramall, James Sutherland etc. The three constables, Oakes, Priest and Blakeney, gave witness accounts.

During proceedings, Constable Blakeney addressed Thomas Nevin with this snide comment, reprised and denied by his counsel  Alderman Harcourt:

To Nevin : You then wore the same clothing that you do now. I have no ill-feeling against you.'

By the Mayor : When arresting Nevin, witness did not say, " You have a nose on me, and now I have got you," or use any words to that effect.

In other words, Constable Blakeney lied to the Mayor and Police Committee, denying he was out for revenge because of Nevin's complaint leading to his demotion two months earlier. Nevin was adamant he was being framed by the "ghost" story:

Thomas Nevin: “I hope that you have not got it in your mind that I am implicated with the ghost“.

Excerpt: The Mercury 4th December 1880
John Blakeney, constable in the City Police, deposed that he was on duty on the wharf as acting-sergeant, the previous night. While walking in the direction of Mr. Knight’s stores, he saw two men at the corner. He walked over to them to ascertain who they were. As he was approaching them, both began to walk up Salamanca Place towards Davey-street. One split off into the middle of the road, and the other remained on the path on the left hand side, near the stores. Witness did not know who they were. The man in the centre of the road threw a reflection upon the one alongside the wall. The reflection was also upon the wall for a height of about 7 ft. Witness walked quickly towards the man in the road, and at the same time two men came stealthily out of George-street. Witness then commenced to run. One of those who came out of George-street said, “Come back, George.” Witness replied, “Don’t you see this fellow playing the ghost?” when the man in the middle of the road again threw a reflection upon the ghost. Witness arrested this man, who proved to be Nevin. The other two me pursued the man who had been acting as ghost. Nevin was taken to the police station, where he was searched at his own request. There was nothing that would account for the appearance of the ghost found upon him. 
By Mr. HARCOURT: Nevin might have thrown anything that he had away before being searched. 
By the MAYOR: Witness arrested Nevin because he thought he had some apparatus for producing the phenomenon of a ghost. The light that was ignited was not similar to that produced by a match, but was much more brilliant. Witness arrested Nevin between half-past 12 and a quarter to 1 o’clock. Nevin was under the influence of liquor. 
To Nevin: You then wore the same clothing that you do now. I have no ill-feeling against you. 
By the MAYOR: When arresting Nevin, witness did not say, “You have a nose on me, and now I have got you,” or use any words to that effect. 
Sub-inspector Connor, who was on duty when Nevin was taken to the police station, stated that after searching Nevin at his own request, he discharged him. His reasons for doing so were that nothing was found upon Nevin which would account for the appearance of the ghost, and that Constable Blakeney did not make a specific charge against Nevin. Witness knew that the “ghost” business had given the police a lot of trouble. He considered that Blakeney simply brought the man Nevin to the station in order to obtain his (Mr. Connor’s) advice. Witness felt embarrassed about the case. Nevin was under the influence of liquor. 
Read the full article here and at Trove
Source: THE "GHOST.". (1880, December 4). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved July 30, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8990885

Sub-Inspector John Connor

John Connor had enjoyed just a few months of promotion to the rank of Sub-Inspector when he found himself being admonished by the Mayor in front of the Police Committee and three constables for releasing Thomas Nevin from the watch house on the night of 2 December 1880. John Connor was sympathetic to Nevin's situation, and considered him a friend. The Mercury report of the Mayor's meeting (4 December 1880) said that John Connor (viz, witness quoted below)  "felt embarrassed about the case. Nevin was under the influence of liquor":
The MAYOR: Don’t you consider that, in view of the excitement occasioned by the appearance of the ghost, and the dangerous circumstances which might arise in consequence of children, and especially women, being frightened by it, that a man arrested under the circumstances under which Nevin was apprehended, ought to be detained and locked up? 
Witness: Unquestionably so, if a distinct charge had been made against him. It was, however, principally owing to the fact that I knew Nevin well and the position that he occupied, and further, that if released and he should afterwards be required, he might readily be found to answer to any charge.

Letter written by John Connor to the Mayor etc expressing gratitude for his promotion.
Draft Minutes of the Police Committee
21 Feb 1879-25 March 1898
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2014

Police Station
Hobart Town
April 12th 1880
The Right Worshipful the Mayor and Aldermen in Council
I beg leave most respectfully to convey to you my most grateful thanks for having been pleased to promote me to the rank of Sub-Inspector in the City police and to reassure you that I will use my best endeavours to give satisfaction by a faithful discharge of my duty.
I remain
Your Obt Servant
John Connor
The dismissal from the position of Hall keeper was in some respects a relief for Thomas Nevin and his family. There were the good times when the Hall was filled to capacity with crowds visiting the bazaars, moving panoramas, and concerts, but there were the bad times when the Chiniquy riots resulted in damage to the building and violent confrontations with protesters. Their third child Sydney John died in January 1877 at the Hall just four months after birth.

The Mayor's Committee expressed deep regret at the dismissal (reported in The Mercury late December and early January 1880-1881), and mindful of his growing family, the Council decided to retain Nevin's photographic services to police. Assisted by his younger brother Constable John Nevin at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell St, Thomas Nevin was re-assigned with warrant and photographic duties as assistant bailiff with The Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall. Working principally in the City Police Court, the Hobart Gaol, and Supreme Court Hobart as assistant to Sub-Inspector John Dorset(t), Nevin continued to provide identification photographs of prisoners up until 1889, a service he had provided for the Prisons Department and MPO since 1872. Many of these mugshots were collated with the Municipal Police Office issued warrants; two death warrants with Nevin's photographs of the condemned man attached (e.g. Sutherland 1883; Stock 1884) now survive intact in the Mitchell Collection at the State Library of NSW. But the incident with Constable Blakeney had clearly affected his opinion of the police. As he was reported to say at a meeting at the Hall in 1888 when government legislation pertaining to police administration was signed as a resolution on the occasion of a bill to be introduced in the House of Assembly to effectively centralise the various municipal and territorial forces:

"Mr. Thos Nevin was under the impression that the police should be under stricter supervision."
The Mercury, 19 July 1888

Constable John (W. J.) Nevin ca. 1880.
Photo taken by his brother Thomas Nevin
Copyright © KLW NFC & The Nevin Family Collections 2009 ARR

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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