Prisoners Wm MEAGHER, Wm LEE and Chas ROSETTA 1870s

Edward Searle (1887-1955) was a Tasmanian photographer who worked with John Watt Beattie between 1911-15 at Beattie’s studio in Elizabeth St. Hobart, opposite the small Wellington Bridge which provided access across the open Hobart Rivulet

The National Library of Australia holds an album titled Tasmanian Views, catalogued in Searle’s name and dated  ca. 1915. The album contains a series of contemporary snapshots taken of the Searle family while visiting the Tasman Peninsula, Maria Island, Norfolk Island, and New Norfolk, possibly accompanying Beattie on his various and highly productive photographic excursions. The family photographs are mixed in no particular order with scenic postcards bearing Beattie’s trademark, views and portraits of Antarctic expeditions, Beattie in the South Pacific, and reprints of 1870s photographs representing Tasmania’s troubled convict and Aboriginal past, all of which Beattie and Searle supplied in quantity for the 1900s tourism market, The inclusion of many family photographs in this album suggests it was intended for private viewing rather than public display, put together by Searle for his family as a memento of his four years’ employment at Beattie’s studio.

Photos taken at the National Library of Australia, 7th Feb 2015
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2015 ARR


[Left]: album cover Tasmanian Views, Edward Searle’s album of photographs of Australia, Antarctica and the Pacific, 1911-1915
[Top right]: Mrs Edward Searle holding her son Allan, Port Arthur [Tasmania], Easter 1913
[Lower right]: Portrait of Truganini by Charles A. Woolley Tasmania, ca. 1866.
Inscription around the photograph: “The last of the Tasmanian Blacks” and “‘Trucanini’, died 1876.”,
Part of the collection of photographs compiled by Australian photographer E. W. Searle while working for J. W. Beattie in Hobart during 1911-1915.
NLA Catalogue
Tasmanian views, Edward Searle’s album of photographs of Australia, Antarctica and the Pacific, 1911-1915 [picture].
1911-1915. 1 album (245 photographs) : b&w, sepia toned ; 31 x 25.5 cm.
Part of Searle, E. W. (Edward William) 1887-1955. E.W. Searle collection of photographs [picture]. between ca. 1900 and ca. 1955.

By 1892, when John Watt Beattie was commissioned by the Tasmanian government to promote the tourism industry through photography, he had ready access to prison documents held at the Sheriff”s Office, Hobart Gaol (Campbell St.).  Pasted to a single album leaf in Searle’s album are three unmounted prisoner mugshots of William Meagher, Charles Rosetta and William Lee, Tasmanian convicts originally photographed by Thomas J. Nevin in the 1870s for gaol records. These three photographs of Meagher, Rosetta and Lee bear traces around the edges of the blue paper from which they were removed. Blue forms were used by the Hobart Gaol until the 1890s to record the offense(s) for a particular sentence, sometimes added to a list of other offenses on the same criminal sheet when not a first offender, onto which at least one photograph was pasted. These records for prisoners Cohen (1878), Ford (1886) and Neal (1888) are examples of the blue forms used from 1870s-1880s by the Hobart Gaol.

Blue form, with the prisoner’s photo, and with the photo removed.
From the Hobart Gaol records books
TAHO Ref: GD6719: Cohen, Ford and Neal

Mugshots removed
These three prisoner photographs (below) of [l to r] of William Meagher, Charles Rosetta and William Lee were individually removed by Searle and Beattie from the Hobart Gaol’s register of the 1870s, which contained the original blue criminal record sheets bound in book-form. The register, according to the Archives Office of Tasmania, is not extant. The obvious reason for its non-existence – at this point in time – is that it was partially destroyed by Searle and Beattie, paradoxically, it seems, while they were trying to save the photographs. The photographs they did manage to save in quantity from the early to mid 1870s were T. J. Nevin’s loose duplicates in carte-de-visite format with oval mounts, which he produced from his negatives to make these same prints. Forty (40) or more similar loose and unmounted photographs of prisoners – i.e. those not printed in oval or oblong mounts – are located in Beattie’s collections at the QVMAG, Launceston, acquired on his death in 1930.

It must be remembered that Edward Searle may have devised this album decades after 1915. He died in 1955, and he was just 28 years old in 1915 when he worked with Beattie. He was NOT a contemporary of the photographer Thomas J. Nevin who took these prisoner/convict photographs decades earlier, so the actual veracity of his caption on this album leaf next to the photographs –  “Official Prison Photographs from Port Arthur” – may be construed to have any generic meaning at such an historical and chronological distance from Nevin’s work. The date “1874”, transcribed on hundreds of Nevin’s carte-de-visite prints of convicts is notably missing here, although the date for Nevin’s attendance at Port Arthur is correct because he was absent from Hobart, working at Port Arthur, when his second child (registered with the same name as his father by Captain James Day) was born in April 1874, registered in May. On the other hand, evidence of Beattie and Searle’s use of Nevin’s old studio materials, whether from Nevin’s New Town studio, closed in 1888, or earlier via Samuel Clifford’s reprinting of Nevin’s commercial negatives from 1876 to 1878, which were then bought by the Anson Bros when Beattie joined them, subsequently acquiring the stock of all three photographic studios, is right there on the album cover. Its title “Tasmanian Views” just happens to be the same title used by Thomas Nevin in his advertisements, for example, on this label dating ca. 1868:

Above: Tasmanian Views, title used by Nevin & Smith 1868
Below: Tasmanian Views, title of Searle’s album 1915
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2015 ARR

It is not surpising in the least, therefore, that prints from Thomas Nevin’s negatives of prisoners taken in the 1870s should be found in the possession of Searle and in this album. Other photographers were careful to use variations on the title Tasmanian Views for their commercial stock sold to the public. Both Samuel Clifford  and the Anson Brothers sold albums with the title “Tasmanian Scenes“.

Three unmounted prisoner mugshots of William Meagher, Charles Rosetta and William Lee,
Tasmanian convicts originally photographed by Thomas J. Nevin in the 1870s for gaol records
From Tasmanian Views, Edward Searle’s album ca. 1911-15
Photos taken at the National Library of Australia, 7th Feb 2015
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2015 ARR Watermarked.

Mounted and Unmounted Examples
Recently the QVMAG re-photographed those 40 or so unmounted mugshots, using a Canon EOS-1D Mark II, now online. These examples show the unmounted photograph of prisoner Thomas Fleming, followed by the same photograph printed in an oval mount, the work of commercial photographer T. J. Nevin, January 1874:

QVMAG Collection 
Filename: 1985_P_0169flemingthomas193.jpg
Camera: Canon
Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark II
ISO: 100
Exposure: 1/125 sec
Aperture: 14.0
Focal Length: 100mm

The small carte-de-visite in an oval mount of Fleming would have been the final print pasted to his criminal record sheet, had the sheet survived. The number “45” on the front is the numbering system used by copyists in the late 20th century at the QVMAG in Launceston to distribute copies of the photograph to museums and libraries in Hobart. The number on the unmounted print – “193” – also appears on the verso of the carte-de-visite. It is an archivist’s number written in the 1900s at the same time as the transcribed information – the convict’s name, ship and date of arrival in VDL. The additional script – “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” – a generic place and date which does not accord with each and every prisoner’s actual criminal history – was supposed by the transcriber to be sufficiently informative when he/she wrote it on the versos for one sole purpose: the exhibition of the photographs at Beattie’s “Port Arthur” convictaria museum, located in Hobart, during the 1900s.

Thomas Nevin’s cdv in oval mount of Thomas Fleming
Taken 7 January 1874
QVMAG Ref: 1985:P. 0067

Thomas Fleming per St Vincent was tried at the Supreme Court on 9 Sept 1867 for housebreaking and larceny, sentenced to seven years. He was born in Yorkshire , aged 38 yrs, 5ft 6ins, black hair, Free in Servitude. Two moles on left cheek. He was photographed on discharge from the Hobart Gaol on 7th January 1874 by police photographer Thomas J. Nevin

These 40 unmounted photographs were advertised in John Watt Beattie’s Port Arthur Museum catalogue (1916), and listed as:

69. Three Frames containing 40 photographs taken at Port Arthur, showing types of Imperial Prisoners there.

Above: The three panels of 40 uncut prisoner photographs from T.J. Nevin’s original glass negatives taken in the 1870s for police records and criminal rap sheets, collated into three panels between 1912-1916 by Beattie’s studio for sale at his convictaria museum in Hobart, and for display in interstate exhibitions associated with the fake convict ship Success.

Beattie had removed these photographs from their original criminal rap sheets, displaying them in three frames by 1916. These same three frames with the 40 photographs were sent from the QVMAG to the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, in 2000, as part of the “Heads of the People” exhibition, captioned as “uncut cartes-de-visite mounted on board” of “Types of Imperial Convicts” attributed to J. W. Beattie “after Adolarious Humphrey Boyd”. The curator responsible for this contribution to the NPG was Warwick Reeder (M.A.thesis, ANU, 1995) who was led to believe the furphy about Boyd from Chris Long (TMAG 1995). As a valuer at the National Library of Australia, Reeder is most anxious to promulgate the furphy to protect error in his thesis. The mantra from Reeder to justify the abjection of Nevin’s name as the real photographer of these mugshots is the lack of his studio stamp on the versos, save for three currently extant in public collections (QVMAG, SLNSW). Would Warwick Reeder raise similar objections to the thousands of mugshots taken in other Australian colonies during the 1870s? Not if he had a sound knowledge of both copyright registrations and police photography in that decade. The extant mugshots were stamped verso with Nevin’s Royal Arms insignia stamp to register his copyright with the Customs and Patent Office and to access his commission from both the Hobart Municipal Council (Lands and Survey Dept) and Municipal Police Office (Municipal Fund.) Copyright endured absolute for 14 years on submission of two samples under the Merchandise Marks Act 1864. One photograph per batch of 100 was stamped for this reason while Nevin was still working from his studio in Elizabeth St. Hobart and visiting the Hobart Gaol and Supreme Court at Oyer sessions. After his appointment to full-time civil service in 1876, the stamp was unnecessary. The fuss about a lack of studio stamps on mugshots, in short, is based in ignorance and perpetuated for personal advantage. This is the information created by Reeder to accompany the three frames of mugshots originally advertised by Beattie in 1916, originally photographed by Nevin in the 1870s.

Wrong attributions: Heads of the People exhibition, National Portrait Gallery,
Canberra, June-September 2000. Titles and attributions by the NPG curators.

The 40 photographs were recently re-photographed separately at the QVMAG using a Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark II, and placed online, minus a photographer attribution.

Catalogued as unknown or unidentified prisoners Tasmania 1870s
Photos by Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923)
QVMAG Collection Launceston Tasmania

Many more of these prisoners’ photographs from the 1870s were probably reprinted by photographer John Watt Beattie for display in his convictaria museum during the tourist boom of the 1910s. Beattie selected hundreds of the so-called “Port Arthur convicts” images in all formats to cater to contemporary fascinations with criminal typologies, phrenology and eugenics. They were reproduced in several formats from Nevin’s original glass negatives and albumen carte-de-visite prints, either as lantern slides from the original glass negatives, which were salvaged from the photographer’s room above the laundry at the Hobart Gaol before it was demolished in 1915, or as mounted and unmounted paper prints removed originally from the prisoner’s criminal record sheet such as these three examples in Searle’s album. Beattie also reproduced copies of the hundreds of loose duplicates from Nevin’s albumen cartes-de-visite in oval mounts 1870s, noted by a South Australian visitor to his museum in 1916. These originals by Nevin, taken while he was commissioned to the colonial government (1872-1886) to photograph prisoners at the Hobart Gaol and Supreme Court, the Port Arthur prison, and the Mayor’s Court and Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall, are those now extant at the National Library of Australia, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, the State Library of NSW Mitchell Collection, and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

Prisoner William Lee
William Lee, transported on Neptune 1, was first photographed by Thomas Nevin on discharge from the Hobart Gaol on the 12th September, 1874. Lee was subsequently admitted to various pauper institutions and released on several occasions over a period of ten years. Nevin’s cdv of William Lee printed in his usual oval mount is not extant in current collections. One reason may be that it was either lost or destroyed by the Lyons government in the 1930s, or that Nevin never printed one because William Lee was a pauper, very old, detained for idleness only, and housed at the Brickfields depot. Circulating copies to police stations of such men was not a police priority.

Tasmanian convict William Lee, 1874, photographed by Thomas J. Nevin for gaol records
From Tasmanian Views, Edward Searle’s album ca. 1911-15
Photos taken at the National Library of Australia, 7th Feb 2015
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2015 ARR. Watermarked.

Mirror flip of photograph of prisoner William Lee (in Searle Album, NLA Collection)

The convict’s name is written along the right hand edge. Mirror flip the image, and the convict’s name is legible: William Lee. The number “213” also becomes legible (bottom left on image), An attempt at identifying the owner of the handwriting would simply lead to fruitless speculation. Any number of individuals may have been involved in the use of the original negative once it was produced by the photographer, from Nevin and his studio assistant, eg. his brother Constable John Nevin at the Hobart Gaol, for example, to other officials in prison administration. The number “213” added in a different hand may be one of several numbers to Lee. These numbers, published in the Tasmanian police gazette as “No. of Authority” for admittance and discharge from Brickfields and other Invalid Depots, appear regularly against William Lee’s discharge as a pauper. Those numbers, however, were not unique to an individual prisoner.

POLICE RECORDS for William Lee

William Lee per Neptune 1, aged 78 years, serving a sentence of 5yrs, discharged on 1st October 1873 from the Hobart Gaol,

William Lee, pauper, discharged from Brickfields Depot, Hobart 12 September 1874

William Lee, pauper, discharged from the Brickfields Depot, 29 January 1875
Source: Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police 1871-1875. James Barnard Government Printer.

Prisoner Charles Rosetta
Charles Rosetta’s image was sourced from Hobart Gaol prison records by Searle and Beattie in similar circumstances. The blue form from which it was removed is clearly visible around the edges in our photo. T. J. Nevin took the original photograph on Rosetta’s discharge from the Hobart Gaol, 6th December 1876.

Tasmanian convict Charles Rosetta, 1876, photographed by Thomas J. Nevin for gaol records
From Tasmanian Views, Edward Searle’s album ca. 1911-15
Photos taken at the National Library of Australia, 7th Feb 2015
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2015 ARR. Watermarked.

Comparison with this image, of convict Charles Rosetta held in the same Edward Searle Album 1911-1915 at the National Library of Australia shows a different number on the print -“186” from the copy of the carte-de-visite in an oval mount which is numbered “162″ held at the Archives Office of Tasmania. The recto number “162” is the one used by the QVMAG at Launceston when copies were distributed to the Archives Office in Hobart.

Identifier nla.pic-an23784263Bib idvn1797087
Call number(s)PIC PIC/7485/115 LOC Album 947 *
Searle album ca. 1911 -15 of convict Chas Rosetta, with the number “196” on image

Thomas Nevin’s cdv of Charles Rosetta with the number “162” written on mount.
Archives Office of Tasmania: PH30/1/3201. Date: 1874

POLICE RECORDS for Charles Rosetta

Charles Rosetta was received from Port Arthur on 6th December 1876 and photographed by T.J. Nevin on discharge from the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall.

Charles Rosetta’s image was reproduced from the NLA Collection as a photo taken by John Watt Beattie, erroneously, for the cover of Michael Bogle’s book, 2008:

Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2009 ARR

Prisoner William Meagher
The photograph (below) of prisoner William Meagher was taken by Thomas J. Nevin on or before February 6th, 1874 when Meaghers was granted a ticket of leave (TOL) at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall. It is the third photograph of a prisoner pasted to a leaf in Searle’s album, ca 1915, held at the National Library of Australia. As with the other two, of William Lee and Charles Rosetta, this prisoner’s photograph was removed by Searle from the prisoner’s blue record sheet, visible at the edges in our photograph. Meagher’s photograph from Searle’s Album is held at the National Library of Australia with the prisoner’s surname mispelt – “Meaghen” -and photographer misattribution to Edward Searle (1915).

Tasmanian convict William Meagher, 1874, photographed by Thomas J. Nevin for gaol records
From Tasmanian Views, Edward Searle’s album ca. 1911-15
Photos taken at the National Library of Australia, 7th Feb 2015
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2015 ARR. Watermarked.

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”. The number on the print is “144”.

William Meagher(s) 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 Meagher, born in 1815, had to be a 100 year old man; clearly, the prisoner was photographed in his fifties on the occasion of his TOL, in 1874.

Archives Office of Tasmania:
Record 2854
Meagher William

A duplicate of Thomas Nevin’s cdv of William Meagher printed in his usual oval mount is held at the Port Arthur Historic Site. There would have been at least four produced by Nevin when Meagher was firstly granted a ticket of leave in February 1874 after serving a 14 year sentence, and secondly, when he was remanded and imprisoned for fraud at the Supreme Court, Hobart. on Tuesday, 11th May, 1875, sentenced to 10 years at the Hobart Gaol.

William Meagher, guilty of fraud, 10yrs
Supreme Court Rough Calendar, 11th May 1875
TAHO Ref: GD70/1/1

POLICE RECORDS as William Meagher

William Meaghers absconded, notice of 24 November 1871

William Meaghers arrested, notice of 8 March, 1872.

THE Governor has been pleased to direct that the
under-mentioned person be enlarged on Ticket-of-
Leave :-
William Meaghers, per Sir J. Byng, from 6th instant.

Wm Meaghers’ Ticket of Leave, notice of 6 February 1874, photographed by Nevin on release at the Police Office, Hobart Town Hall.

William Meagher was arraigned in the Supreme Court on 11th May 1875, and photographed again by Nevin on remand: the notice also appeared in the Tasmanian newspaper,The Mercury on 9th May 1875 detailing his crime, together with Job Smith’s (aka Wm Campbell) crime and conviction of rape. Job Smith was executed.

Wm Meagher remanded
The Mercury 15 May 1875

In the same court William Meagher pleaded guilty to forging and uttering a cheque with intent to defraud .. remanded for sentence.

On sentencing for forgery at the Hobart Supreme Court, William Meagher was sent to the Port Arthur prison, 60 kms from Hobart, arriving there on 9th August 1875. His trade was listed as “Butler”. He remained at Port Arthur until transferred back to the Hobart Gaol on 17th April, 1877 to serve the remainder of his 10 year sentence. His carte-de-visite photograph taken by Nevin, printed in an oval mount, followed him to Port Arthur, but the print from Nevin’s half plate negative which Searle pasted into his album was reproduced on his arrival back at the Hobart Gaol in 1877, the source of Searle’s copy.

William Meagher’s record 1875-1877 from the Port Arthur Conduct Registers
TAHo Records ref: CON94-1-2_00110_S

Edward Searle spent four years (1911-1915) working with John Watt Beattie  fl. 1892-1927 at Beattie’s studio and convictaria museum in Hobart. Beattie lectured extensively around Tasmania using lantern slides prepared from the work of earlier photographers. The dates of the original photographic captures of William Meagher, Charles Rosetta and William Lee  are missing from this album leaf in Searle’s album, as is the attribution to the original photographer Thomas Nevin. Another example of an unmounted prison photograph by Nevin, that of Bewley Tuck, is held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. See this entry here on convict Bewley Tuck..

Beattie’s Port Arthur Museum in Hobart
QVMAG Ref: 1986_P_1223