The photograph of ex-convict James Cronin
Studio portrait of ex-convict James Cronin ca. 1880
Anson Brothers 1880s, TMAG Collection
This is the only extant image of former convict James Cronin (1824-1885). It was taken by the Anson brothers, commercial photographers, as an Album portrait in their Hobart studio in the 1880s, i.e. it was therefore a privately commissioned portrait, and this is evident from both the street clothes and the pose of the sitter. It is not a police photograph, ie. a mugshot pasted to a criminal record sheet, unlike those taken by Thomas J. Nevin for the express use of police authorities, because James Cronin was not an habitual offender, at least, he was never convicted and sentenced under his own name in the decades 1860s-1880s or up to his death in 1885 at the Cascades Hospital for the Insane, Hobart. The Tasmanian Police Gazettes of those decades registered no offence for James Cronin, nor even an inquest when he died of pulmonary apoplexy on July 16, 1885.
Criminal and Transportation History: James Cronin (1824-1885)
James Cronin may have offended at Limerick for theft prior to his major felony of shooting at Jas. Hogan with intent to kill in 1847. He was transported to Bermuda on HMS Medway in the same year to serve eight years. It was at Bermuda that he attempted to murder Mrs Elleanor Howes, wife of James Howes, mate in charge of the prison hulk, the Coromandel. Despatches from Charles Elliot, governor of Bermuda (CO 37/135) requested James Cronin be returned to England on HMS Wellesley to be convicted and transported to Tasmania (VDL) in correspondence dated January and April 1851. James Cronin arrived at Norfolk Island on board the Aboukir in March 1852, and thence to the Port Arthur prison Tasmania in December where he was “detained” until 1857 and assigned on probation to Major Lloyd at New Norfolk, Hobart on 27th November.
The National Archives UK has two entries for James Cronin detailing his attempt to murder Mrs Howes in Bermuda:
1. Reference:CO 37/135/4 Description:
Reports that a convict named James Cronin had attempted to murder Mrs Elleanor Howes, the wife of James Howes, mate in charge of the Coromandel hulk. Considers the existing laws inadequate to punish such cases. Recommends that a law should be passed to bring such cases to Courts Martial. Adds that in Cronin’s case a convict named Edwin Smith intervened and saved Mrs Howes. Recommends Smith for a free pardon. Encloses a memorandum and correspondence concerning the matter.
Convict Establishment No. 4, folios 15-38
Date: 1851 Jan 18 Held by: The National Archives, Kew
2. Reference:CO 37/135/35 Description:
Reports that the convict James Cronin would be returned to England in HMS Wellesley. Encloses the requisite documents.
Convict Establishment No. 29, folios 224-230
Date: 1851 Apr 17 Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Source: Tasmanian Archives
Convict No: 16007
Voyage Ship: Aboukir
Voyage No: 347
Arrival Date: 20 Mar 1852
Departure Date: 07 Dec 1851
Departure Port: London
Conduct Record: CON33/1/106
Description List: CON18/1/56
Title: James Cronin, one of 280 convicts transported on the Aboukir, 24 December 1851.
Details: Sentence details: Convicted at Ireland, Limerick for a term of life on 08 March 1847.
Date of Departure: 24 December 1851.
Place of Arrival: Van Diemen’s Land and Norfolk Island. [These convicts appear to have all landed in Van Diemen’s Land].
The death of James Cronin, labourer, was registered at the Cascades Hospital for the Insane on 16 July 1885. His cause of death was pulmonary apoplexy, unlike several other deaths of asylum inmates which were registered in the same month, e.g. “brain softening”.
Death of James Cronin, male, 63 yrs old, 16 July 1885, Hobart, Tasmania
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1232085
Resource: RGD35/1/10 no 2506
Archives Office Tasmania