Mugshots removed: prisoner Thomas RILEY or Ryley/Reilly 1875 and 1892


This prisoner Thomas Riley aka Ryley or Reilly and Spenser was 59 years old when he was first photographed by commercial photographer and government contractor Thomas J. Nevin on release with a ticket of leave in February 1875 at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall. Another photograph was either reprinted from the first, or taken again when Riley re-offended in 1877. He was then was 61 years old, but that photograph was removed from the blue rap sheet of the Hobart Gaol prison records by persons unknown and on an unknown date. The last photograph of Thomas Riley or Reilly, now calling himself Thomas Spenser, was taken in 1892 at the Police Office, Hobart, when he was 76 years old.

NLA Catalogue (incorrect information)
Thomas Reilly, per Isabella Watson, taken at Port Arthur, 1874 [picture]
Call Number PIC Album 935 #P1029/41
Created/Published 1874
Extent 1 photograph on carte-de-visite mount : albumen ; 9.4 x 5.6 cm., on mount 10.4 x 6.4 cm.

Ticket of Leave photograph 1875

The police gazette recorded his name with the spelling “Ryley” – as Thomas Ryley – when T. J. Nevin took his photograph on the prisoner’s discharge with a Ticket of Leave from the Mayor’s Court, Hobart Town Hall, February 12, 1875.

Mugshot removed 1877
In 1877, Thomas Riley was 61 years old. His last offense – larceny on this rap sheet – was recorded at the Police Office, Hobart in 1890. The photograph taken at that time was removed. It may not have been a fresh photograph; instead it may have been a reprint from Thomas J. Nevin’s original glass negative of the cdv printed in 1875 since Riley was only two years older since his release with a TOL. Its removal from the Hobart Gaol and Police Office record (TAHO Ref: GD 6719) and its accession into the National Library of Australia’s collection of 84 “Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874” at an unknown date by an unknown person was an act of defacement of Tasmanian government records.

When questioned about this collection, the NLA staff have professed ignorance on more than one occasion of both the provenance of their photographs of “convicts” and their change of photographer attribution from T. J. Nevin to a Port Arthur prison official called A. H. Boyd. The fiction that it was not Thomas J. Nevin who photographed these men in the 1870s, it was rather the Port Arthur prison commandant A. H. Boyd, has surfaced in the NLA catalogue purely in the commercial interests of promoting tourism to the present-day penal heritage site on the Tasman peninsula. The NLA’s original accession records of these particular photographs in 1964 and 1985 with T. J. Nevin as the historically correct name of the commissioned photographer are actually held within the NLA’s own MS records in Canberra. However, for reasons to do with the personal ambitions of a cohort of art historians including Warwick Reeder, Chris Long (1995) and their acolyte Julia Clark (2010), these items are regarded as artistic artefacts rather than mere vernacular evidence used by Tasmanian police in daily surveillance, and treated as such within the NLA collection. As a result, the NLA has loosely collated these photographs of Tasmanian prisoners under the title “Port Arthur convicts 1874” despite wide variance of the date, place and occasion on which each prisoner was photographed. In the vast majority of instances, these men were photographed in the 1870s -1880s by T. J. Nevin with the assistance of his brother Constable John Nevin at the Hobart Gaol and at the Police Office, Hobart, on incarceration and discharge per legislation introduced from Victoria in 1872.

Mugshot removed
Hobart Gaol record of Thomas Riley/Reilly 1877-1890 TAHO Ref: GD 6719

The last mugshot 1892
If Thomas Riley was 61 years old in 1877, he was 76 years old in 1892 when this photograph was taken at the Hobart Police Office. The photographer’s name for prisoners’ photographs taken at the Hobart Gaol in the last decade of the 19th century is not readily discoverable. It was not Constable John Nevin – he had died the year previously in the typhoid epidemic of 1889-91 – nor was it his brother Thomas J. Nevin who retired from professional photography in 1886, although family BDM records regularly listed his occupation as “photographer” right up to 1923, eg. the marriage certificate of his youngest daughter Minnie Drew nee Nevin (1907); the marriage certificate of his youngest son Albert Nevin (1917); and his own burial certificate (1923).

Thomas Riley/Reilly as Spenser, 1892
Item Number GD63/2/1
Series Prisoners Record Books. (GD63)
Start Date 01 Jan 1890 End Date 31 Dec 1892
Archives Office Tasmania Ref: GD63-2-1

Thomas Riley/Reilly as Spenser, 1892
Item Number GD63/2/1
Series Prisoners Record Books (GD63)
Start Date 01 Jan 1890 End Date 31 Dec 1892
Archives Office Tasmania Ref: GD63-2-1

Transportation and Conduct Record 1842-1875

Thomas Riley’s convict record of offenses from 1842 to 1875
Archives Office Tasmania TAHO Ref: CON37-1-5 Image 138

Riley, Thomas
Record Type: Convicts
Also known as: Reilly, Thomas
Departure date: 2 May 1842
Departure port: Dublin
Ship: Isabella Watson
Voyage number: 197
Index number: 59822
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1428773