Prisoners George NEAL (aka Neill) and George NEAL


Prisoner George Neal aka Neill 1876
NLA and QVMAG Collections

Prisoner George Neill or Neal
QVMAG Ref: 1985_P_0107
Taken at the Hobart Gaol December 1876
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin

Verso: Prisoner George Neill or Neal
QVMAG Ref: 1985_P_0107
Taken at the Hobart Gaol December 1876
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin

This particular copy or duplicate photograph of George Neill was numbered on the front “191” at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, probably for the exhibition there of Thomas Nevin’s photographs of prisoners/convicts in 1977 and/or for the exhibition at the Port Arthur prison and heritage site in 1983. The second duplicate of this photograph (see below) taken by T. J. Nevin and produced from his glass negative at the one and only sitting with this prisoner which is held at the National Library of Australia has no numbering on the front. Another duplicate or copy which is held at the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office has the name of this prisoner changed from George Neill to George Neal. As there are no police gazette records of crimes committed by someone called George Neill from the 1850s to the 1870s but several by a repeat offender George Neal, transported on the Asia, it seems likely that of the two names, that of George Neill would not be the correct name of the prisoner in the photograph. When Beattie and Searle in 1915-1916 uniformly wrote on the back of hundreds of these mugshots in cdv format the wording “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” for local and travelling exhibitions, as well as displaying them for sale to tourists at Beattie’s Port Arthur museum in Hobart, the cdv of offender Ralph Neill was probably transcribed at the same time and the spelling of Neill, rather than Neal was erroneously written on George Neal’s cdv.

In addition, or alternately, it might also demonstrate that two different types of records were being used by archivists, and that the archivist in Hobart was using police gazettes records, but the archivist in Launceston working with Beattie’s collection, was using another set of records, confusing them in the process. This has happened with several items held in the NLA collection – for example, the Malden/Maldon items. This would explain too why these two cdvs together – of George Neill/Neal and Ralph Neill – were only recently located among 600,000 photographs at the NLA catalogued in August 2016, unlike the rest of the NLA’s album of 84 “Port Arthur Convicts ” which was digitised in the late 1990s and correctly attributed as the work of Belfast-born Tasmanian commercial and police photographer, Thomas J. NEVIN.

A third possibility to explain the name variation is the use of aliases by the prisoner through the course of his criminal career; the police discharge records show his name was variously listed as George Neill and George Neale. Other variances on his name recorded in police documents included James Neill, using his middle name (?), and James O’Neale,

Prisoner George Neill/Neal
NLA Ref: 7179613
Taken at the Hobart Gaol December 1876
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin
Photographed at the NLA 16th December 2016
Copyright KLW NFC 2016 ARR

Verso: Prisoner George Neill/Neal
NLA Ref: 7179613
Taken at the Hobart Gaol December 1876
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin
Photographed at the NLA 16th December 2016
Copyright KLW NFC 2016 ARR


George Neal sentenced to life in prison in 1855

George Neal armed and dangerous but free
Source:The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 – 1859) Fri 12 Oct 1855 Page 3 POLICE OFFICE, EVANDALE.


TUESDAY, Oct. 9th, 1855.
George Neal was this day brought before Charles Arthur, Esq., Police Magistrate, charged with a robbery under arms in the dwelling­ house of Mr. George Williatt, at Musselboro, on the 28th September. Neal was apprehended between the Cocked Hat Hill and Franklin Village, one the high road, by Mr. Thomas, D. C, and Constable Marshall, of the Morven police. He was then armed with a double barrelled gun, which was unstocked and tied up in an old shirt. Mr. Williatt identified him as one of the two men that visited his house on the night of the 28th, when they represented themselves as con­stables requiring rations ; and upon getting admis­sion into the house, robbed him of a gun, a brace of pistols, and other articles. The man who accompanied Neal on this occasion was known to Mr. Williatt as an old servant of his, named Jackson. Jackson plundered whilst Neal stood sentry at the door. The gun found on Neal was identified, as well as the boots he wore, to be the property of William Hume, a shepherd of Mr. Williatt’s, at whose hut they called previous to going to Mr. Williatt’s. Neal is a free man: he has been remanded for further evidence. Both the barrels of the gun found on him were loaded, one with small nails, the other with a bullet and small nails.

When George Neal was discharged from the Hobart Goal on 20th December, 1876, he had served ten (10) years for the crime of assault and robbery under arms, although the original sentence passed on 27th December 1855 was for life.

Discharged from Hobart, 20 December 1876: George Neale, per Asia 5, 61 yrs old, 5 feet 3 inches tall, grey hair, free in servitude, G.N. left arm, face pockpitted. He was again imprisoned for 28 days and discharged on 3rd December 1879 using an alias, James O’Neal, for breach of the Masters and Servants Act.

The Archives Office of Tasmania recorded the name of the prisoner in this copy or duplicate photograph as –

George Neal, convict transported per Asia. Photograph taken at Port Arthur by Thomas Nevin

TAHO Ref: PH30/1/3223

Transported Convict Record
George Neal’s is one of the most heavily documented records, and there was plenty more recorded on the probation records (notes at end of the page)  –

Transported prisoner George Neal, per Asia, 1840
Item: CON33-1-2,302,180,L,80
Archives Office Tasmania

George Neal jnr
This prisoner, also known as George Neal, was 33 years old when he was photographed by Constable John Nevin on incarceration at the Hobart Gaol, sentenced for three years on 11th December 1888 for embezzlement. He was therefore born in 1855, in Hobart, and if the birth record below is his, on the 31st August just months before George Neal senior was imprisoned for ten years, in December 1855. If this was George Neal snr’s son, his height here was recorded as 5 feet 8½ inches tall, while his father – if it was George Neal – was recorded in 1876 as 5 feet 3 inches, and in 1879 as 5 feet 2½ inches tall. There’s nothing unusual in this intergenerational height difference, whether in families with two generations or more of offenders, or in families of free settlers, in 19th century Tasmania up to the present day, despite common misconceptions and contrary expectations (see Maxwell-Stewart below).

Prisoner George NEAL 11th December 1888
Described as 33 years old, i.e. born in Hobart, 1855
Height, 5 feet 8½ inches tall.
Tasmanian Archives online

This birth record below of George Neal born 1855 may or may not be the son of George Neill/Neal who was sentenced to life for robbery under arms in 1855;

Name: Neill, George Henry William
Record Type: Births
Gender: Male
Father: Neill, George James
Mother:Atkinson, Sarah Amelia
Date of birth:31 Aug 1855
Registration year:1855
Record ID:NAME_INDEXES:959498
ResourceRGD33/1/6/ no 452
Archives Office Tasmania

H. Maxwell Stewart, The state, convicts and longitudinal analysis. pp 428-9
Australian Historical Studies Volume 47, Issue 3, September 2016
Photos © KLW NFC 2016

Above is the paragraph (left hand page and footnote) where Hamish Maxwell Stewart references his statistical research on a comparison of the height of transported convicts from data listed in the police gazettes, Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police (Gov’t Printer) with their taller offending offspring, a finding which he states is surprising, but which does not seem at all surprising as every generation has trended globally to being taller than the previous, omitting famine and war as mitigating factors. During a radio interview on ABC Radio National, 25 August 2015, in which Maxwell Stewart outlined the findings of this taxpayer funded research, he stated that the gain in height by convict offspring – i.e. the transported convict’s offending male children – was – ¾ inch! Just three quarters of an inch is not a finding, it is an excuse to justify what amounts to an ongoing frivolous waste of research funds. Maxwell Stewart’s next project at the University of Tasmania speaks of terminal boredom and bankruptcy of ideas, much as someone who is now just playing with his food. It involves of course further misuse of Thomas Nevin’s 19th century prisoner mugshots. He plans to inject a medical diagnosis of maternal foetal alcohol syndrome into his reading of the faces of prisoners in the photographs, under some pretension that the field of criminology will somehow benefit, per this statement:

‘We are also considering studying 19th Century photographs of prisoners to identify those with facial symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome.  The aim is to try and determine if those that might have been affected were shorter in height and had different offending histories.’

Given the indifference from Maxwell Stewart to the personal abuse directed at the photographer Thomas J. Nevin and Nevin’s descendants by his University of Tasmania perennial student Julia Clark in her “thesis” (which he supervised), titled “Through A Glass Darkly” – a tract which appears to have been written by a sanctimonious drunk – it’s not surprising his sense of self-entitlement to the colonial history of the place where he has no roots is oiled with an obsession for and about alcohol.

RELATED POSTS main weblog