Very few of these lantern slide reproductions and paper reprints by Beattie and Searle from Nevin’s original negative images of 1870s convicts have survived. This item, of prisoner William Meaghers (1874), is held in the NLA collections with the prisoner’s surname misspelt and photographer misattribution to Edward Searle (1915).
This image and photograph of prisoner William Meaghers was taken by Thomas J. Nevin on or about February 6th, 1874 when Meaghers was granted a ticket of leave. The TOL notice was published in the weekly police gazette, Tasmania Reports of Crime, Information for Police on 6th February, 1874.
THE Governor has been pleased to direct that the
under-mentioned person be enlarged on Ticket-of-
William Meaghers, per Sir J. Byng, from 6th instant.
The image was reproduced from Nevin’s original glass negative ca. 1915 by John Watt Beattie as a lantern slide, which he used in lectures on Tasmania’s history at venues such as the Mechanics’ Institute. Paper reprints from both the original negative and the lantern slide reproduction were prepared by Beattie’s assistant Edward Searle for sale to tourists in Beattie’s convictaria shop and museum in Hobart.
This image is a flipped version (to render the name visible) of the item held at the National Library of Australia, which is incorrectly* catalogued with the name “Meaghen”:
NLA CATALOGUE Notes
Title Portrait of Wm [William] Meaghen [picture]. [sic]*
Extent 1 photograph : b&w, sepia toned ; 9.4 x 7.1 cm.
Context Part of Part of Tasmanian views, Edward Searle’s album of photographs of Australia, Antarctica and the Pacific, 1911-1915 [picture].
Series * Tasmanian views, Edward Searle’s album of photographs of Australia, Antarctica and the Pacific, 1911-1915.
Notes Condition: Good.
Photographer is uncertain. Possibly E.W. Searle.
Part of the collection of photographs compiled by Australian photographer E. W. Searle while working for J. W. Beattie in Hobart during 1911-1915.
“Official Prison Photographs from Port Arthur” and “Types of Convicts”–Inscription on page of album, below photograph.
On the photograph held, the image including the name of the subject appears in reverse.
* Meaghen, [sic] William — Portraits.
* Prisoners — Tasmania — Port Arthur — Portraits.
William Meaghers was transported to NSW in 1838 on board the Bengal Merchant. Originally from Dublin, he was court martialled in Quebec, Lower Canada on 26 September 1836. In Paramatta, NSW, he was sentenced to 14 years for housebreaking on 10 December 1842 and transported to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) on board the Sir J. Byng, arriving on 23 September 1843. He was married with two children. No date of birth appears on his arrival record, however, police records show he was 56 yrs old in 1871, so he was born ca. 1815, and was ca 59 years old in 1874 when Nevin photographed him. The NLA misattribution to Searle and the date of photographic capture catalogued as 1915 would mean that the prisoner William Meaghers, born in 1815, had to be a 100 year old man; clearly, the prisoner was photographed in his fifties on the occasion of his release, in 1874.
At the Archives Office of Tasmania:
Meaghers’ trade on release in 1857 was “butler” but he offended again and was tried in the Supreme Court, Hobart on 31 May 1864 for uttering (forging, false pretences) and sentenced to ten years. He absconded from service as a cook and baker in November 1871:
William Meaghers absconded, notice of 24 November 1871
William Meaghers arrested in Launceston, received and imprisoned at the Campbell Street Gaol, Hobart: notice of 8 March, 1872.
William Meaghers’ Ticket of Leave, notice of 6 February 1874, photographed by Thomas J. Nevin on release at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall. On May 15, 1875, William Meagher was again remanded for forging and uttering and remanded at the Hobart Gaol for sentence at the Supreme Courtl. This notice appeared in The Mercury on that date, and the same details appeared in the police gazette on the same date. Nevin may have photographed Meagher again, as his contract was to photograph second offenders with Supreme Court sentences. He had already photographed Job Smith under the alias Campbell before returning with Smith to Port Arthur in May 1874. Job Smith was also sentenced in the Supreme Court on the same date as Meagher(s) in May 1875, to be hanged.:
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