Blame it on Beattie: the Parliamentarians photograph

There was no photographer by the name of Adolarious Humphrey Boyd, amateur, official or otherwise, in 19th century Tasmania, yet in 2007 the National Library of Australia revised their correct attribution to commercial and police photographer Thomas J. Nevin as the photographer of their collection of 84 carte-de-visite portraits of Tasmanian prisoners, catalogued as Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874,  at the insistence of the descendants and apologists of A. H. Boyd for purely commercial advantage to the Port Arthur Historic Site, and for their subsequent publication of the “convict” photographs in a coffee-table edition, Exiled (2010).

A. H. Boyd was a Tasmanian born accountant who worked at the Port Arthur prison site from 1857; who assumed the position of Commandant at Port Arthur from another official, James Boyd, in 1871; who was removed from the position in December 1873 at the request of Parliament; and who was reviled by the public and press for his bullying of employees, corruption and incompetence. When the doors finally closed on the Port Arthur prison in 1877, A. H. Boyd begged the government to compensate him for dispensing with his services (Mercury, 9 May 1877). This same A. H. Boyd,  who has no provable attribution to any extant photograph anywhere, has entered the history of Australian photography due solely to the whims and fantasies of his descendants, and to the anxieties of photo-history commentators most keen to cover up the error of attribution which began in 1984.

The Thomas H. Boyd Photograph, ca.1884, of G. W. Keach

Allport Album X, in which the photo of George Keach by Thomas H. Boyd ca. 1884 was originally collected.
Photos © KLW NFC 2014 ARR

Amateur photo-historian Chris Long was among the first to be targeted by A. H. Boyd’s descendants in 1984 with only their hearsay offered as proof, and together with co-editor Gillian Winter, assumed that there would be extant photographs by A. H. Boyd, if indeed he had photographed prisoners. Strangely enough, they found none. Gillian Winter found mention of THREE photographs of parliamentarian George William Keach, his wife and daughter, with a Boyd attribution (no first name or initial) in the Archives Office Tasmania. But those photographs were missing from the original Allport Album when she (per Special Collections librarian Geoff Stilwell) listed its contents. Those photographs were taken by Sydney photographer Thomas H. Boyd (1851-1886) loosely collated originally with other carte-de-visite items taken of Allport family members and their friends by photographers in Hobart, Melbourne, Brisbane, Rome and elsewhere, per this TAHO catalogue listing:

TAHO Catalogue
Title: [Allport album X]
Publisher: [18–]
Description: 1 v. [20] leaves : sepia ; 218 x 172 mm, majority of photos measure 84 x 52 mm. each
Binding: Heavy embossed brown leather covers, with brass lock. Spanning section of lock is missing. Gilt edges to thick card pages. Flyleaf decorated with foliated initials E G A
Notes:Album contains 38 portraits, including Cartes-de-Visite and cabinet portraits. Shelved with an envelope of modern copies of photographs and a handwritten list of the subjects and photographers inscribed by G.T.S
Condition Feb. 2005: Binding worn, corners slightly damaged, generally good
Contents: Incomplete contents: William Ritchie / Spurling — Mary Marguerite Allport / Baily — Elizabeth Allport / baily — Morton Allport / Woolley — Blanche Laura Keach / Baily — Annie (Campbell) Allport / Wherrett Bros — Annie (Campbell) Allport / Foster & Martin — Eva Mary Allport — Elizabeth Horton / Burrows — Capt. Samuel Horton / Burrows — Curzona Francis Louise Allport / Baily — George William Keach / Boyd — Janet Mary (Keach) Horne, Mrs. G. W. Keach / Boyd — Ladies College Tableaux — Thomas Riggall / Johnstone O’Shannessy — Blanche Laura Keach / Boyd — James Backhouse Walker / Foster & Martin — Mary Marguerite Steele / Winter — Thomas Edward Joseph Steele / J. Bishop Osbourne

Six years earlier, in 1977, exact duplicates of the carte-de-visite photographs of those same Tasmanian prisoners held at the NLA were exhibited at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery from their own collection, with correct attribution to Thomas J. Nevin as the photographer. But by 1992, when Chris Long and Gillian Winter were preparing a publication for the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, titled Tasmanian Photographers 1840-1940, the furphy about A. H. Boyd was included and published, yet no examples of his supposed talents were to be found.

T. Nevin exhibition
The Mercury, March 3rd, 1977

If these editors are to be forgiven, the parasitic attribution to A. H. Boyd might be explained by their confusing Sydney photographer Thomas H. Boyd’s second name Boyd with A. H. Boyd’s; and Thomas J. Nevin’s first name Thomas, the name they were asked to suppress, mistaking as well the initial H. in Thomas H. Boyd’s name with the initial H. in A. H. Boyd’s name, arriving at a totally fictitious photographer by the name of A. H. Boyd. But that is too kind. There is little doubt that a concerted campaign has been waged by aggressive individuals in Tasmania to credit their ancestor A.H. Boyd as some sort of gifted point-and-shoot photographer “artist” at Port Arthur to ameliorate the facts of his very ugly reputation.

George W. Keach and John Watt Beattie
Who removed the photograph of George W. Keach from the Allport Album? It was probably John Watt Beattie who solicited rather than took portraits of parliamentarians in 1899 and reproduced them for  inclusion in “a Photographic picture containing the whole of the Members of Parliament of both Houses, past and present.

G. W. Keach, from a photo by Thomas H. Boyd ca. 1884
Reproduced by John Watt Beattie 1899
Photos © KLW NFC 2014 ARR

TAHO Catalogue
Keach, George William – 1824-1893 – Portraits
Title: George William Keach
In: Members of the Parliaments of Tasmania No. 144
Publisher: Hobart : J. W. Beattie, [19–]
Description: 1 photograph : sepia toning ; 14 x 10 cm
Format: Photograph
ADRI: AUTAS001136191699

This photograph of parliamentarian and farmer George W. Keach (and the other two of his wife and daughter) was taken by Sydney photographer Thomas H. Boyd, probably in 1884 at the Melbourne Exhibition Building during the Victorian Jubilee and Intercolonial Exhibitions. George Keach departed Launceston for Melbourne on board the Flinders on 26 August 1884 to represent Tasmanian interests in produce entries at the Victorian International Exhibition 1884 of Wine, Fruit, Grain & other products of the soil of Australasia with machinery, plant and tools employed. Photographer Thomas H. Boyd had exhibited at the Melbourne International Exhibition 1880 and at the 1883 Amsterdam International, Colonial and Export Trade Exhibition. Thomas Boyd also advertised his portrait of prisoners Archibald and Haynes taken at Darlinghurst Gaol (held at the NLA without attribution):

Title J.F. Archibald and John Haynes in Darlinghurst Gaol, New South Wales [picture].
Date [1882]
Extent 1 photograph : sepia toned ; 9.5 x 10.7 cm. on mount 15.1 x 17.7 cm.
Summary In 1882 Archibald and Haynes, editors of the Bulletin magazine, were imprisoned for not paying the costs in the Clontarf libel case. The resulting verdict awarded to the plaintiff was a farthing plus L.700 costs. They were released after six weeks when J.H. Dibbs who had taken up a collection paid their debts.
Notes Condition : good.
Inscriptions: “Archibald & Haynes in Darlinghurst Gaol.” –in pencil on reverse.
Title from inscription.”Ferguson collection” –compactus card.
NLA negative no. 254.

Advertisement: ‘Photos in Prison/ Boyd’s life-like Portraits of Haynes and Archibald, The Imprisoned Journalists…George Street Sydney’ ( Bulletin 15 April 1882, 15).

The State Library of Victoria holds seven portraits taken by Thomas H. Boyd about the same time, which were accessioned from the John Etkins Collection, the source as well of several portraits by Thomas J. Nevin. The subjects of these portraits are unidentified: the photographer’s studio stamp appears only the verso on some, and on the recto as well on others. The G. W. Keach portrait most closely resembles the printing of first portrait (below) of an older woman, which has no studio stamp on recto, viz:

State Library Victoria Catalogue
Title: [Portrait photographs by Thomas H. Boyd, George Street, Sydney] [picture] / Thomas H. Boyd.
Author/Creator: Thomas H. Boyd photographer.
Date(s): ca. 1879 – ca. 1886
Description: 7 photographic prints on cartes de visite mounts : albumen silver ; 11 x 7 cm.
Identifier(s): Accession no(s) H2005.34/653; H2005.34/654; H2005.34/654A; H2005.34/655; H2005.34/656; H2005.34/657; H2005.34/658; H2005.34/659
Source/Donor: Gift of Mr John Etkins; 2005.
Link to this record:

Genuine errors of attribution by museum and library workers can and do arise, and this case of confusing photographer Thomas H. Boyd and prison employee A. H. Boyd may have begun as a genuine mistake, but since 1984, at least, the “genuine” has been replaced by the deliberately “fraudulent” by these individuals on behalf of their public institutions: in particular, Chris Long, Gillian Winter, Alan Davies, Warwick Reeder, Sylvia Carr, Michael Proud, Linda Groom, Margy Burn, Julia Clark, Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, Kim Simpson …. All of these individuals have either initiated, contributed to, or crudely perpetuated the parasitic attribution of a collection of 1870s police mugshots taken by the very real photographer, Thomas J. Nevin, to a corrupt official who was not a photographer by any definition of the word – to Mr. A. H. Boyd. No doubt the State Library of NSW contributed greatly to the problem with an old card catalogue entry listing A. H. Boyd’s name and Nevin’s as a mere copyist for the T. J. Nevin mugshots held there at PX6274. The initial “H” on the old card entry, written over a “J” (?) in  Boyd’s name,  appeared there on the catalogue ca. 1984 when Chris Long wrote letters to SLNSW curator Alan Davies who was preparing the book The Mechanical Eye in Australia (1986), suggesting an inclusion of Boyd’s name (which appeared only as a footnote, as it happened, p.201, Footnote 3 “Letter from Chris Long, formerly at Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston“.). The catalogue entry online has since been amended, and A. H. Boyd’s name removed. A second attempt to get A. H. Boyd a photographic attribution at the SLNSW appeared as a pencilled inscription with his name below a stereoscopic landscape of the Port Arthur prison published in 1889 by the Anson Bros; that inscription is also fake and dates to 1984. There are no extant photographs taken by someone called A. H. Boyd at the SLNSW or anywhere else. 

Misattribution on old card catalogue at SLNSW (1984?)
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2013 ARR

Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2009 ARR

The Members of Parliament Album
John Watt Beattie, on appointment as government photographer, wrote a letter to Parliamentary members in the hope of collecting photographs of all Tasmanian politicians who had held office since 1856. Many who were deceased by 1899 when Beattie began the project  – including George Keach who died in 1893 – had been photographed by earlier photographers, Thomas J. Nevin included (Kilburn, Giblin), and notably Henry Hall Baily among many others, but their attribution was not credited by Beattie on the final picture.


J. W. Beattie
Dear Sir,
Having received an order from the Hon. the Speaker, Mr. Stafford Bird, M.H.A., to prepare a Photographic picture for him, containing the whole of the Members of Parliament of both Houses, past and present, we would ask you to kindly favour us with a sitting at the above, Studio, or to furnish us with your Photogaph.
As the Hon. the Speaker intends to present the picture to one of our public institutions, it is desirable to make it as complete as possible, in order to render it of both national and historic interest, and we will spare no trouble nor expense to obtain the Photographs of those Members who may now be deceased or have left this colony.
If you furnish us with the name of anyone who is likely to have, or know of a Photograph of some …[page(s) missing]
Trusting to hear from you soon, and thanking you in anticipation for your kind assistance,
We are,
Dear Sir, Very faithfully yours,
J. W. Beattie
A.S. Gordon
P.S. – No charge whatever will be made for the sitting, and any expense you may be put to in the obtaining of a Photograph will be most thankfully refunded.

One or more pages are missing from this letter by J. W. Beattie and A. S. Gordon. This note accompanies the letter held at the Archives Office Tasmania, written by Gillian Winter, whose involvement with this album may yet reveal the whereabouts of the George Keach photograph.


p/c of original in TMAG – letter [word ? struck out] from Beattie asking for sittings when preparing Members of Parliament book.
[p/c supplied to Marian Jameson by Gillian Winter
Nov. 2002]

Members of the Parliaments of Tasmania, by J. W. Beattie
Photos © KLW NFC 2014 ARR

Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office
Title: Members of the Parliaments of Tasmania / photographed by J. W. Beattie, 52 Elizabeth Street, Hobart
Creator: Beattie, J. W. (John Watt), 1859-1930
Publisher: Hobart : J.W. Beattie [19–]
Description: 1v., 259 photographs: sepia toned ports. 38 x 57 cm
Format: Album
Notes: Collection of 259 numbered and mounted portraits of Tasmanian politicians and parliamentary officials. Each portrait measures 40 x 98 mm and are set in two rows per page, 4 portraits to a row
Alphabetic index to portrait titles on verso of front cover
Portrait titles are inscribed beneath images in unknown hand
Green cloth binding with gold lettering and key patterning. Backed spine and corners in green velum?
Condition August 2001: Some surface wear, top backed corners slightly torn and small tear in cloth in centre of back cover


TAHO Ref: PH30/1/3638
Description: Photograph – Parliamentarians of Tasmania, from 1856 to 1895

The typed list of all photographs in The Big Picture
Photos © KLW NFC 2014 ARR

Douglas Thomas Kilburn (1813-1871)
From a photo by Thomas J. Nevin  ca. 1868
Reproduced by John Watt Beattie 1899
Photos © KLW NFC 2014 ARR

Title: Douglas Thomas Kilburn (1813-1871)
In: Members of the Parliaments of Tasmania No. 95
Publisher: Hobart : J. W. Beattie, [19–]
Description: 1 photograph : sepia toning ; 14 x 10 cm
Format: Photograph
ADRI: AUTAS001136191202
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts

One of two different cdv photographs of the Nevin family solicitor W. R. Giblin, later A-G and Premier.

Taken by Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1868
Reproduced by John Watt Beattie 1899
Photos © KLW NFC 2014 ARR

Title: William Robert Giblin
Giblin, William Robert – 1840-1887 – Portraits
In: Members of the Parliaments of Tasmania No. 138
Publisher: Hobart : J. W. Beattie, [19–]
Description: 1 photograph : sepia toning ; 14 x 10 cm
Format: Photograph
ADRI: AUTAS001136191632
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts

Smith, Francis Villeneuve (1819-1909)
Reproduced by John Watt Beattie 1899
Photos © KLW NFC 2014 ARR

Title: Sir Francis Smith
In: In: Members of the Parliaments of Tasmania No. 66
Publisher: Hobart : J. W. Beattie, [19–]
Description: 1 photograph : sepia toning ; 14 x 10 cm
Format: Photograph
ADRI: AUTAS001136190915
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts

More photographs by Thomas H. Boyd are held at the State Library of NSW, eg.

State Library of NSW
Title Mary Rotton, ca. 1875 / photographer Boyd, San Francisco Palace of Art, Sydney
Caption Mary Rotton, ca. 1875 / photographer Boyd, San Francisco Palace of Art, Sydney
Creator Boyd, Thomas H.
Call Number P1 / 1513
Digital Order No. a4362013

RELATED POSTS main weblog