The early deaths of Thomas Nevin’s sisters Rebecca and Mary

In early 1977, Special Collections Librarian at the State Library of Tasmania, G.T. Stilwell, established from archival records (AOT MB 2/98) that parents John and Mary Nevin had arrived in Hobart in 1852 with four children: Thomas James, Mary Ann, Rebecca Jane, and William John (Jack). He forwarded this information in a letter to the QVMAG where curator John McPhee was preparing an exhibitions of Thomas Nevin’s photographs of convicts taken in the 1870s. This is an extract of G.T. Stilwell’s letter:

Thomas Nevin was born on 28 August 1842 near Belfast, Northern Ireland (Mrs S[helverton]). He was the son of Private John Nevin and Mary his wife whom he accompanied on the convict ship Fairlie which arrived at Hobart Town in July 1852. John who was one of the guards of this vessel was also accompanied by his other children Mary A. and Rebecca both under fourteen and Will[iam] J under a year old (MB2/98).

Rebecca Jane Nevin (1847-1865)

Photographs by Thomas Nevin of his siblings Mary Ann and William John (Jack) survive in family collections, but no information about the second sister Rebecca Jane was found until recently. This death notice appeared in The Mercury, 23 November 1865:

Death of Rebecca Nevin 23 Nov 1865

NEVIN.- On 10th November, at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley, Rebecca Jane, the beloved daughter of John Nevin, aged 18 years.

Rebecca Jane Nevin died of causes unknown. If she was 18 years old in November 1865, she would have been born ca. 1847, under 4 yrs old when she travelled from Portsmouth on the Fairlie in March 1852. Her father John Nevin wrote and published a poem in January 1866 as a tribute to her short life and suffering, titled “Lines on the much lamented death of Rebecca Jane Nevin“; the original is held at the University of Melbourne Library Special Collections.

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Lines on the much lamented death of Rebecca Jane Nevin : who died at the Wesleyan chapel, Kangaroo Valley, on the 10th November, 1865, in the 19th year of her age by John Nevin. Kangaroo Valley 27th January 1866.

Mother of John Nevin’s four children, Mary Nevin nee Dickson (1810-1875) gave birth to Rebecca’s siblings in this order:

Thomas James Nevin: (1842-1923) died at age 80
Mary Ann Nevin: (1844-1878) died at age 34
Rebecca Jane Nevin (1847-1865) died at age 18
William John Nevin (1852-1891) died at age 39

Mary Ann Nevin (1844-1878)

Until recently, little was known about Thomas Nevin’s other sister Mary Ann, pictured here in photographs by her brother  ca. 1870 and ca. 1873:

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Mary Ann Nevin (1844-1878), sister of Thomas J. Nevin,
dipping a glass at New Town rivulet, Kangaroo Valley Hobart Tasmania, ca. 1870.
Salt paper stereograph taken by Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1870
Photo © KLW NFC Imprint 2012

In October 1865, Mary Ann Nevin with a family friend, amateur photographer Morton Allport,  applied to the Board of Education for aid to conduct a school at Kangaroo Valley, New Town. Her application was supported by Morton Allport who wished to place a memorial there (for whom it isn’t stated) and others, but the application was rejected. The memorial might have been in anticipation of Rebecca Jane’s death, which was imminent by November 1865.

Miss Neven [sic] i.e. Mary Ann Nevin, application for aid for her school
Mercury, 11 October 1865

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Stereograph of Mary Ann Nevin by her brother Thomas J. Nevin taken at Kangaroo Valley near the school in the company of an adult male and children. TMAG Collection Ref: Q16826-1-2

Thomas Nevin’s vignetted carte-de-visite portraits of himself
and his sister Mary Ann Nevin, 1873.
Copyright © KLW NFC Private Collection 2005 Arr.

The slight variations in pose, framing and backgrounds in these two cartes are typical of the portraiture techniques Nevin used in the posing and production of the bulk of the 1870s Tasmanian convict “portraits” i.e. mugshots taken for the police. Nevin’s portrait here was used as his business carte-de-visite.

Mary Ann Nevin was placed on the sick list of the Fairlie, on the voyage out, on 23 April 1852, together with her mother, and in the company of some of the 290 convicts and Parkhurst prison boys on board. She was listed as “child of guard”. See this article here and this article here on this site.

About the same time this photograph was taken, Mary Ann Nevin was attacked by a cow at Kangaroo Valley, sufficient to warrant medical attention and publication of the event in The Mercury, 1st February, 1873.

Mary Nevin attacked by a cow 1 Feb 1873

Mary Ann Nevin, attacked by a cow, The Mercury 1st February 1873

Her father, John Nevin, was a literary man. He published poetry in pamphlet form (1866, Univ. Melb; 1868, SLNW; 1881, SLTas), and established a night school for males in the school house at Kangaroo Valley, next to the Wesleyan Chapel on the property where he built the the family cottage and established orchards.

John Nevin and the night school 28 May 1875

Above: John Nevin, father of Thomas, Rebecca, Mary Ann and Jack, applied to the Board of Education to establish a night school for males at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley. From The Mercury, 28 May 1875.

His children were not only literate, his daughter Mary Ann won a Spelling Bee held at the Oddfellows Hall which was reported in The Mercury on 25 September 1875. Some of words the contestants were required to spell were difficult indeed and some are archaic today.

Spellin Bee 25 Sept 1875

Mary Ann Nevin wins Spelling Bee 25 Sept 1875
Mary Ann Nevin, sister of Thomas, wins the Spelling Bee,
reported in The Mercury, 25 Sept 1875.

Two years later, Mary Ann married John Carr, son of the late Captain James Carr, at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley, on May 12, 1877:

Sister Mary Ann Nevin married John Carr 12 May 1877

CARR-NEVIN.- On the 3rd May, at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley, by the Rev. N. Bennett, John Carr, son of the late Captain Jas. Carr, to Mary Ann Nevin, only daughter of Mr. John Nevin, Kangaroo Valley.

Thirteen months later, she was dead. She died, aged 34 yrs, at Sandridge in Victoria, 22 days after the birth of her daughter who was given her mother’s name in honour, Mary Ann Carr.

Mary Ann Carr nee Nevin died 9 Aug 1878

CARR. – On July 27, at her residence, Sandridge, Victoria, in the 34th year of her age, Mary Ann, the beloved wife of John Carr, the only surviving daughter of Mr. John Nevin, Kangaroo Valley, New Town.

Death reg. of Mary Ann Carr 1878. Public Records Office, Victoria.

Mother of Thomas, Rebecca, Mary Ann and Jack, Mary Nevin snr (nee Dickson) had died in 1875, aged 65 yrs, so by 1878, the only woman in the lives of the men – her husband John Nevin snr, and Thomas and Jack, her sons – was Thomas’ wife, Elizabeth Rachel Day, whom Thomas had married in 1871. There is no recorded marriage (to date) of Thomas’ younger brother Jack (William J.) who died of typhoid fever in 1891 while employed at the Hobart Gaol, aged 39 yrs.

Their father John Nevin snr married again in 1879, at the age of 71 yrs, to Martha Salter nee Genge, aged 46 years old. The deaths of all these female members of Nevin’s family may have prompted the father to take another wife as a gesture of in locus parentis for his granddaughter Mary Ann who survived her mother’s death days after birth. Mary Ann Carr was taken as a baby from Victoria and from her father John Carr’s care, back to Tasmania into the Nevin family home at Kangaroo Valley in 1878, and renamed Mary Ann Nevin, known thereafter as Minnie Nevin, not to be confused with her cousin Minnie Drew nee Nevin, Thomas and Elizabeth’s daughter born in 1884, also named Mary Ann Nevin.

John Nevin snr’s grand-daughter Mary Ann or Minnie Nevin (nee Carr) was cared for by his second wife Martha Nevin (nee Genge, widow of Salter) and moved with her from Kangaroo Valley on John Nevin’s death in 1887, but Minnie Nevin (nee Carr) too succumbed to death in 1898. She died at Martha Nevin’s house in Patrick St. Hobart of internal bleeding, shortly before her 21st birthday (1878-1898).

Panoramic view of Hobart from Holy Trinity tower- shows Church Street and Patrick Street buildings and details of St Andrew’s burial ground and city centre in background
ADRI: NS2960-2-3
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania