The fruitless search of wadsley-1

Is there any solid proof that A. H. Boyd photographed prisoners at Port Arthur? No, there is none. Why should there be, after all, he was not a photographer, just a glorified accountant with a taste for the trimmings of free government supplies and an abusive temper. Just one fragment of an historical document is tagged by a diligent National Library of Australia user called wadsley-1 as “proof” – (really?). Here it is:

Letter to the Editor of  the Mercury of Friday 20 June, 1873 page 2


SIR,-The time has arrived when the Port Arthur question must be settled, and to this end members of the Legislature should be possessed, without delay, of the fullest information on all subjects connected with the internal economy of that isolated prison. Port Arthur has closed doors, secrecy, silence, are engraven on its walls, and little if any thing of its inner workings can be learned by those outside its penal enclosures, except prepared re- ports shewing the economical working and control of Colonial criminals under the present Commandant. Too much reliance, however, should not be placed in these reports, drawn up is they are, under instructions from one whose orders none of his subordinates dare gainsay. Members of Parliament can,however, by a very simple process, obtain a variety of information, not only desirable, but necessary for their guidance at the present juncture.
A tramway is now being erected at Port Arthur, and its praises, as a piece of engineering skill and reproductive work, have been already trumpeted. It would be interesting to know who planned this work, who is its engineer? What good will it effect? What is the opinion of the honorary Director of Public Works, Mr Meredith, or his worthy factotum, Mr Cheverton, on it. Is it under his direction, or is it an experiment of the Commandant, who desires to make for him-self a name not only as an amateur photographer of the day, but as an amateur engineer of the 19th century. What are its gradients? Again, is it not proposed to repair and re-shingle the whole of the buildings, some of which are so leaky that official documents cannot find a dry resting place? Will the walls, except those of the separate prison and one or two other buildings, bear new roofing without being rebuilt? Has the opinion of the Director of Public Works been taken on this matter, and what is it? At this time if such work is progressing when all but interested parties are agreed that Port Arthur should be broken up, the public are entitled to this information, and any member of Parliament can get it for the asking.
The economical working of Port Arthur is a favourite argument with the friends and patrons of the present Commandant ; and the wholesale pur-chase of sheep and cattle is pointed to in proof of his economical qualifications. Would this stand the test of enquiry? How much have the sheep weighed when bought? How much when dead? Have they grown fat or lean on Port Arthur pasturage? Has the scab broken out among the Port Arthur sheep? If so, have the scab inspectors proceeded against then owners? Who is their owner-the Government or the Commandant? Are they beyond the operation of the law? Does the sub-inspector of scab, who purchases stock for the Government, receive any commission for the business in addition to his annual stipend, and if so, how much? Could not the meat be supplied, after deducting all charges connected with purchase and keep of sheep and cattle, at a cheaper rate by con- tract? Why are so many officers constantly leaving Port Arthur? Why are serious offenders appointed to billets which makes punishment for crime a farce? How much does it cost to feed the dogs? These are questions which, if put in Parliament, must be answered, and there are many others of equal importance which the Ministry of the day cannot refuse to answer, without leaving the impression on the public mind that Port Arthur is maintained solely for the benefit of its Commandant, and that the present Ministry are following a course which, when adopted by their predecessors, received their most strenuous opposition.

This letter to the Editor is cited by someone called “wadsley-1” to justify a massive deception,  to “prove” a lie about the Port Arthur accountant and commandant  A.H. Boyd, who was known and despised as a bully and free-loader in his own lifetime, but never known as a photographer. So why has the National Library of Australia assigned and credited his name to their collection of Tasmanian prisoner mugshots, a collection of 84 photographs originally and correctly attributed to Thomas J. Nevin? Personality politics, no more and no less.

Wadsley-1 is a hard-working toiler in the vineyard of Trove tags: he/she has placed comments on every photograph of a Tasmanian convict taken by T.J.  Nevin.  The comments are just about as silly as they can get, though not surprising, given the low levels of education in Tasmania, the impulse to deny, obfuscate, obstruct and resist facts, the unwillingness to let go of the idea that it is convictism which makes Tasmania important, but above all, it is the tenor of the island’s imploding interpersonal relationships which places who-you-know above what-you-know that sends people like wadsley-1 into the larger picture with waspish hopes that the world will protect the underdog, laziness, lying and plagiarisation notwithstanding. The upper middle bogan thrives in the fishbowl where this paradigm prevails: the species grows fat in History departments with large grants and never mind the trivial outputs.

Wadsley-1 wrote on 16 June 2011:

public:wadsley-1 2011-06-16 11:31:23.0 [private at June 2020]
The Commandant of Port Arthur in 1873, Mr A. H. Boyd was known to be an amateur photographer as was indicated in a letter to the Editor of the Mercury of Friday 20 June, 1873 page 2.

Anonymous wrote on 19  and 20 June 2011:

Anonymous 2011-06-19 13:04:56.0
T.J. Nevin photographed convicts at Port Arthur in 1873 and 1874, at the request of the PA Commandant A.H. Boyd’s brother-in-law, Attorney-Gen W.R. Giblin. Plates sent to PA in July 1873 were intended to photograph the ruinous state of the prison site for the Public Works Dept. Boyd did NOT photograph prisoners, nor the site. The commission was awarded to the partnership of Clifford & Nevin.

Anonymous 2011-06-20 00:12:00.0
@wadsley-1: the newspaper item in The Mercury June 20, 1873, is a letter to the editor- it is NOT an official record, and it mocks Boyd being DESIROUS of playing at amateur photographer. It also mocks Boyd’s pretensions playing at being an engineer. There is nothing in this newspaper letter to the editor which you cite which in anyway indicates Boyd was a photographer. Being DESIROUS is not the same as being ABLE,, and no mention is made of photographing prisoners by A.H. Boyd. If pretension was a gene, I would venture to suggest you have inherited it.

Additional comments by wadsley-1 include a sycophantic reference to Julia Clark’s meaningless and irrelevant article which caused Nevin’s header to be replaced with Boyd’s on the NLA catalogue entries of “Port Arthur convicts” in 2007.

This person wadsley-1 has placed thousands of tags on newspaper items at the National Library of Australia’s Trove digitised newspaper site. Notice the effort put into researching A.H. Boyd in the weighted list at Trove – a total of 261 items for Adolarious Humphrey Boyd. [private at June 2020]

But guess what? Only ONE newspaper item contains the words “photographer”, and “A.H. Boyd” in the same breath, and that item is the letter (above) to the Editor by an outraged reader called “Querist” who cannot believe the pretentiousness of A.H. Boyd in claiming a hand in the engineering of the new tramway at Port Arthur, nor the level of corruption Boyd has managed to maintain at the Port Arthur site for his personal comforts. That letter to the editor is the one and only item wadsley-1 has found which mentions Boyd and photographer among 261 newspaper items. How sad is that? All that effort to justify the narcissistic efforts of wadsley-1’s “friend”, the abusive and deceitful Julia Clark and her meaningless essays – just to hope that A. H. Boyd could be THE photographer of the National Library of Australia’s 84 Tasmanian prisoner mugshots, catalogued as “Convict portraits Port Arthur 1874”, which were originally and correctly attributed to the very real photographer Thomas J. Nevin up to 2007 before Clark imagined she could once again don her crown as the Queen of Misattribution, just to show off to the boys (eg. Chris Long & Warwick Reeder who made the error of attribution, through laziness and credulousness, in the 1990s). But she fell hard on her face, and she will forever be regarded as an aggressive liar and parasite of the information about Thomas J. Nevin she has scraped and abused from these weblogs. Wadsley-1 was Julia Clark’s last hope, and how inconvenient that wadsley-1 found NOTHING in five decades of 19th century newspapers to substantiate any claim that A.H. Boyd ever held a camera, let alone had the skills, training, background, or mandate to take a single photograph in any genre, landscape or portrait.

Perhaps wadsley-1 is John Wadsley, paid promoter of Port Arthur. You can ask him. Email Mr Wadsley at

Update October 2013: the tags and comments by wadsley-1 on the TROVE search engine site of the National Library of Australia’s holdings of Nevin’s Tasmanian convict portraits have finally been removed; however, the attribution to A.H. Boyd on these 84 photographs remains with just ONE justification: a reference to the fantasist lies in the “article” by our blog scraper and personal abuser Julia Clark. No other catalogue entries on the NLA’s vast listings of millions of items have been compromised with this sort of revision, the decision taken by the credulous NLA librarian Margy Burn in 2010, whose “reason” for trying to turn this man who was not a photographer  i.e. the despicable A. H. Boyd, into a photographer, is simply because she could. She had the power. The “reason” is all about the use and abuse of power in public institutions by sidewinders for no other reason than to gain personal validation.

Click here to visit TROVE (NLA) for current lists of biographical news items and photographic works by and about photographer Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923).


See this article on the PARASITIC ATTRIBUTION to A.H. Boyd and other articles dealing with misattribution issues.