T. J. Nevin’s mugshot of John FINELLY taken at the Police Office Hobart March 1874

PRISONER JOHN FINELLY or FINLAY
T. J. NEVIN’s MUGSHOT of Finelly 17 March 1874

The National Library of Australia “Port Arthur convicts 1874”
Photograph of prisoner John Finlay in carte-de-visite mountRef: 1029/58
Photographer: T. J. Nevin taken March 1874 at the Police Office  Hobart

The prisoner in this photograph arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) as John Finelly on board the convict transport Pestongee Bomangee (3) in January 1849, and although the judiciary recorded his name as John Finlay or Finelly for his various offences committed in Tasmania in the 1870s, his death from “softening of the brain” at 75 years old was registered on 8th March 1883 in Launceston Tasmania as John Fenelly [sic].

John Finelly was a 24 year old illiterate farm labourer from Kings County, Ireland when he was transported for seven years for stealing a cow, arriving at Hobart on 2nd January 1849. This record details his arrival and various offences to 1855 including the alias “John Brown” he used in 1854 when reconvicted.

Conduct Record for John Finlay or Finelly
TAHO Ref: CON33-1-92_00113_L

When John Finlay or Finelly was sentenced to seven years on 17th September 1872 at the Recorder’s Court, Launceston Tasmania for breaking into a building and stealing, he was transferred to the Hobart Gaol in Campbell Street where he remained for three months until December 1872 when he was transferred to the Port Arthur prison on the Tasman peninsula, 60 kms south of Hobart. While there at Port Arthur he was sentenced to ten days in solitary confinement for disobedience of orders and was transferred back to the Hobart Gaol on 9th January 1874 from where he managed to escape with William Smith on 14th March, 1874 (see Addenda below). His name was included in the list of 109 prisoners sent to Port Arthur from 1871 and tabled in Parliament to return to the Hobart Gaol by October 1873.

PRESS REPORTS of the ESCAPE & RECAPTURE

Escape and Re-capture.-About a quarter to six o’clock on Saturday evening as two of the gaol officers named respectively, Thompson and Smith, were proceeding on night duty, they observed two men named Finlay and Webster, both Port Arthur ” pets” and at present undergoing sentences in the House of Correction for males, Campbell-street, cross the tramway leading from Campbell-street to the Government Domain. The runaways were instantly challenged to stand, one of the officers giving the alarm to the man on duty at the main gate. Mr. J. T. Smith, the senior constable, and a suitable reinforcement, at once gave chase, the prisoners making speedy headway towards Cornelian Bay. During the heat of the pursuit the constables were joined by a man in the employment of the Rev. Canon Davenport ; on coming up with the levanters this man was struck violently on the head with a stone, thrown at him by Webster. Both Webster and Finlay were re-arrested and taken back to their old quarters. It appears that on Saturday night the prisoners are taken to a bath in the yard, and the two men who ‘ escaped, taking advantage of a fitting opportunity, concealed themselves until the other prisoners had quitted the yard, and then effected their escape by scaling the wall. It is to be hoped that the man who assisted the constables will receive some compensation for the injury he sus-tained, and the service he rendered.

Source: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) Mon 16 Mar 1874 Page 2 THE MERCURY.

ABSCONDERS from Gaol.-Wm. Smith and John Finlay, each under a sentence of seven years, pleaded guilty to absconding from the House of Correction on the 14th instant. Sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour.
Assault,-William Smith alias Webster, one of the prisoners in the previous case, pleaded guilty to assaulting George Smith, in the employ of tho Rev. Canon Davenport.
George Smith deposed that while assisting to capture the prisoner, who had escaped from gaol, he (the prisoner) struck witness on the head with a large stone. Sentenced to one month’s solitary confinement.

Source: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) Wed 18 Mar 1874 Page 2 CITY POLICE COURT.

When captured, escapee John Finlay or Finelly was sentenced at the Mayor’s Court, Hobart Town Hall, to six months to be served once more at the Port Arthur prison. He was photographed by Thomas J. Nevin at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall [P.O. Hobart] on 17th March 1874 as soon as the conviction was recorded (see Conduct Record transcript above). Finelly was received once again at Port Arthur on 29th March 1874. In December 1874 he was committed twice to spells of 24 hours and seven days in solitary confinement at Port Arthur for disobedience and insubordinate conduct respectively. He was transferred back to the House of Corrections for Males (the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street) on 17th April 1877 on the closure of the Port Arthur prison. John Finelly was discharged in January 1879 and returned to Launceston where he died on 8th March 1883. These details are taken from records held at the Tasmanian Heritage and Archives Office, Hobart, Tasmania, CONDUCT Register – Port Arthur (CON94-1-2) for the years 1873-1876 (see complete index below):

Folio 25: Detail of image 49 below:

TRANSCRIPT CON94-1-2_00049_L Image 49

John Finlay or Finelly “Pes: Bom: (3) Transported for Breaking into a building and Stealing
Tried S.Crt Launceston 17th Sept. 1872 (7) Seven years (Lnton)
Transferred to H.[Hobart] Gaol (Males) 9.1.74. P.O.[Police Office] H. [Hobart] Town 17.3.74 Escaping (6) Six months
Received again at P.A. 29.3.74
Transferred to the H.C. [House of Corrections] Hobart
17 April 1877

Folio 25: Image 49 on left: CON94-1-2_00049_L Image 49

John Finlay or Finelly “Pes: Bom: (3) Transported for Breaking into a building and Stealing
Tried S.Crt Launceston 17th Sept. 1872 (7) Seven years (Lnton)
Transferred to H.[Hobart] Gaol (Males) 9.1.74. P.O.[Police Office] H. [Hobart] Town 17.3.74 Escaping (6) Six months
Received again at P.A. 29.3.74
Transferred to the H.C. [House of Corrections] Hobart
17 April 1877

Folio 25: Image 50 on right:
CON94-1-2_00049_L Image 50 [second page of John Finlay/Finelly]

From Ledger 18/292
P.A. 17.12.72. Disobedience of Orders 10 days Soly [solitary] Conft [confinement]
ditto [P.A.] 7.12.74. Disobedience of Order. 24 Hours S.C.
ditto [P.A.] 19.12.74 Disobedience of Orders & Insubordinate Conduct 7 days S.C.

Police Registers and Gazettes
The Tasmanian Police Gazettes, published weekly, which began to document in detail all crimes, warrants, arraignments, convictions, returns of inmate numbers, and discharges from the mid 1860s, are clearly the most comprehensive source of an offender’s criminal career. Tasmanian Prison Registers in bound form of criminal record sheets to which the prisoner’s mugshot was pasted have not survived in public archives from the decade of the 1870s (it would appear, up to this point, at least), but those bound registers extant from the late 1880s onwards with photographs included which are held at the Archives Office Tasmania (TAHO) have indeed survived and give a clear idea of the meticulous systematic documentation undertaken by the Colonial government’s administration.

Smaller registers from 1870s, however, do survive, which document prisoners’ sentences in the Hobart and Launceston Sessional and Supreme Courts, particularly those which record men sent to the Port Arthur prison from 1871 and returned to the Hobart Gaol from October 1873 to January 1874 at the request of Parliament. Thomas Nevin photographed this group (109) after the processing of their warrant and photograph at the Hobart Gaol and Municipal Police Office, Town Hall. Those photographs were reproduced in duplicate (four or more) with at least one pasted to the prisoner’s criminal record sheet. Most of these 1870s extant photographs are now loose; they were either removed in the 1900s from the sheets for archiving, and the sheets destroyed, or they are duplicates produced by the original photographer Thomas J. Nevin in the 1870s or by a later copyist such as J. W. Beattie ca.1900 .

Online at TAHO is one such register, the CONDUCT Register – Port Arthur (CON94-1-2) for the years 1873-1876. This register not only lists many of the names of prisoners as those whose photographs have survived from the 1870s, it also documents in detail the daily earnings of the prisoner while incarcerated at Port Arthur. Most important are the Hobart Police Office’s annotations from warrants with the prisoner’s dates of arrival and departure from Port Arthur, plus further sentences dealt out in the Hobart courts for crimes committed into the 1880s and concommitant sentences at the Hobart Gaol. Several of these men were sent to Port Arthur at the end of 1874, a year after the departure of the non-photographer Commandant A. H. Boyd (Dec. 1873), whom some would wish to believe photographed them there (eg the corruptible Margie Burn at the NLA for their collection 2007). This is a clear indication that this register was maintained conjointly by the police administration in Hobart and clerks at Port Arthur from 1873 and beyond the date of closure of Port Arthur in 1877. The red ink on these records, according to journalist Marcus Clarke, author of For the Term of His Natural Life (1874) was added at the Hobart Police Office where he viewed them on request:

When at Hobart Town I had asked an official of position to allow me to see the records, and – in consideration of the Peacock – he was obliging enough to do so. There I found set down, in various handwritings, the history of some strange lives… and glancing down the list, spotted with red ink for floggings, like a well printed prayer-book …

Source: Marcus Clarke, THE SKETCHER. (1873, August 2). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), p. 5. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article137581230

The photographs of many of these prisoners on the list are held at the National Library of Australia as loose items (84 in 2010). When first accessioned by the NLA, the photographs were housed in a large leather-bound album, similar to a conventional 19th century family album (1962/1985 and personally witnessed for this weblog in 2000). None were pasted to criminal record sheets, and no accompanying register was recorded. Donated as estrays from exhibitions (e.g. on board the fake convict hulk Success 1890s, and the Royal Hotel, Sydney 1915), sourced originally from a defunct government department (by Dr Neil Gunson in 1964), and viewed already as aesthetic rather than vernacular artefacts, these mugshots in their original context would have accompanied this particular register, (CON94-1-2):

Finlay, John (as Finelly) – Pest. Bomangee – Folio 25
Entered on first page of Index of –
Item: CON94-1-2
Title: TASMAN’S PENINSULA – CONDUCT REGISTERS, PORT ARTHUR.

Archives Office of Tasmania – digitised record
Item: CON94-1-2
Series Number: CON94
Title: TASMAN’S PENINSULA – CONDUCT REGISTERS, PORT ARTHUR.
Start Date: 01 Jan 1868
End Date: 30 Sep 1876

POLICE GAZETTE 1872

Source: Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police (weekly police gazettes).

The police gazette recorded that John Finlay transported as Finelly, on the ship Pestonjee Bomanjee 3, was free in servitude = F.S. and convicted of breaking into a building, sentenced on the 19th September 1872 to seven years at the Recorder’s Court, Launceston. He was transferred to the Hobart Gaol where he remained until December 1872, then taken down to Port Arthur. He was transferred with 109 prisoners back to the Hobart Gaol in January 1874 from where he escaped. He was captured and sentenced at the Mayor’s Court, Hobart Town Hall, to six months. He was photographed by Thomas j. Nevin at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall in March 1874 on the Mayor’s Court conviction before returning once more to the Port Arthur prison where he remained until 1877 when the prison closed. He was sent back to the Hobart Gaol where he was discharged in 1879. He died in Launceston in 1883.

COURT RECORD 1872

Right page:
22nd August, John Finlay, of Evandale Tasmania, 7 years
TAHO Ref: AB693-1-1_101

Death of John Fenelly [sic]
When John Finelly was sentenced in 1872 to seven years for breaking into a building, he was a farm labourer FS (free in servitude) living at Evandale in the north of the island. When he was discharged in 1879 from the Hobart Gaol, he returned to the north and died at the Launceston Hospital in March 1883.

Record 1089: Deaths in the District of Launceston
John Finelly, male, 75 yrs, laborer, softening of the brain,
Thomas Doolan, Undertaker, Launceston
Registered on 16th March 1883
TAHO Ref: 007368146_00026

T. J. Nevin’s photograph of John Finelly or Finlay
Offline and viewed in situ at the National Library of Australia in the plastic folder sleeves and pockets (see examples below) in which they are housed, these very old 1870s and 1880s photographs of Tasmanian prisoners lose a good deal of their visual appeal which they otherwise seem to project when enlarged and digitised for online viewing. The staff at the National Library of Australia readily protest that these photographs are prized as unique artefacts when confronted with criticism about the way they are treating their collection. Yet the plastic pockets – which are not the celluloid pockets used for other photographs in their collections – are contributing to the decay of these photographs and is clear evidence that the NLA staff prefer to dissemble, at times even respond with aggression when called out. Likewise, the manner in which the NLA staff since 2007 have compromised government contractor Thomas J. Nevin’s historically correct attribution as the commercial photographer of these mugshots with baseless and brazen tourist propaganda from Port Arthur Heritage Site’s disgraced former employee Julia Clark, is inflicting damage of another kind to the nation’s cultural memory which these photographs inform. They should at the very least receive mature and professional treatment, but Australia’s cultural heritage, it seems in this instance, is not necessarily immune from abuse by the very public institutions entrusted to preserve it..

The National Library of Australia “Port Arthur convicts 1874”
Top right: photograph of prisoner John Finlay in carte-de-visite mount
Ref: 1029/58
Photographer: T. J. Nevin March 1874 Police Office  Hobart
Taken at the NLA January 2015
Photos copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2015

The National Library of Australia “Port Arthur convicts 1874”
Top right: verso of photograph of prisoner John Finlay in carte-de-visite mount numbered “132”
Ref: 1029/58
Photographer: T. J. Nevin March 1874 Police Office  Hobart
Taken at the NLA January 2015
Photos copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2015

This was the only photograph taken of John Finlay or Finelly. It was NOT taken at Port Arthur by anyone other than T. J. Nevin. Duplicates were displayed in the early 1900s by convictarian John Watt Beattie in his “Port Arthur Museum” in Hobart, one of dozens numbered and labelled by Beattie as “Taken at Port Arthur 1874“, including details of the tranportee’s ship, to entice local and intercolonial tourists to the ruins of the Port Arthur prison at the turn of the 20th century.

At least four duplicates were made by Nevin from his original negative. His duplicate of John Finelly’s  photograph which bears the number “86” is still held in Beattie’s donated collection at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston . This number was either written on the QVMAG’s cdv when it was exhibited between 1938 and 1977 (Mechanics Institute and QVMAG, Launceston) or during 1983-1984 when it was removed from the QVMAG and taken south for an exhibition at the Port Arthur Heritage Site. QVMAG and PAHSMA employees who mounted that exhibition (eg E. Wishart, K. Simpson) inscribed the additional date “1849” – the date of Finelly’s arrival in VDL – on the verso in 1983.

The cdv held at the National Library of Australia of John Finelly or Finelly bears no numbering on the recto. It also bears the number “132” on verso but not the date “1849”. Number “132” was listed as missing from Beattie’s collection at the QVMAG when the list was typed up in the 1980s. It was most likely removed by Beattie from his collection to be exhibited in Sydney in 1915 in association with convictaria exhibited on board the fake convict hulk Success. Those items were offered for sale, many of which were purchased and resold by private collectors, to be donated decades later to the NLA (eg Niel Gunson, 1964).  Another possible source of some of the NLA’s collection of “Port Arthur convicts 1874”, Nevin’s photo of John Finlay or Finelly included,  was an album of Tasmanian prisoner mugshots from various sources handed over to the NLA by John McPhee in the 1980s (personal communication, NGA, Canberra 1985).  John McPhee was the curator of the Thomas J. Nevin exhibition of mugshots from Beattie’s collection at the QVMAG in 1977.

Prisoner John Finlay or Finelly
QVMAG Ref: 1985_P_0099
Photographer: T. J. Nevin March 1874 Police Office Hobart

Verso: Prisoner John Finlay or Finelly with the addition of the date “1849”
QVMAG Ref: 1985_P_0099
Photographer: T. J. Nevin March 1874 Police Office Hobart

A paper copy of the QVMAG cdv is also held at the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office, Hobart. More than 300 of these extant police mugshots taken by police and commercial photographer Thomas J. Nevin in the 1870s-80s at the Port Arthur prison, the Hobart Gaol (assisted by his brother Constable John Nevin) and the Hobart Municipal Police Office (Mayor’s Court, Hobart Town Hall) are held in the John Watt Beattie Collection at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston; the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart; the Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office Hobart; the Port Arthur Heritage Site, Tasmania; the National Library of Australia, Canberra; and the State Library of NSW, Sydney. Most are Nevin’s originals and duplicates produced in carte-de-visite format; some were reproduced from Nevin’s glass negatives by Beattie for sale and exhibition in Hobart at his convictaria museum and in Sydney at the Royal Hotel in conjunction with convictaria for the travelling exhibition on board the fake prison ship Success(1916). An exhibition of these photographs by T. J. Nevin was held at the Art Gallery of NSW in 1976 (Daniel Thomas cur. ) and at the QVMAG in 1977 (John McPhee cur.).

Examiner, Launceston March 10, 1977
The QVMAG Exhibition 1977

TRANSCRIPT

CONVICT STUDIES ON DISPLAY
Photographs of the last of Australia’s convicts at port Arthur in 1874 are on display at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston.
Taken by T. J. Nevin, of Hobart, the photographs represent the last century’s great interest in phrenology and the belief in various methods of identifying the “criminal” type.
Comparable with these are plaster casts of the heads and the records and drawings of the dissected skulss of executed convicts.
All the photographs have the name of the convict recorded on the reverse; some have details of their crimes, the date of their transportation and a record of the ship on which they were transported.
Many of these old men photographed in 1874 were transported 40 years earlier as boys.

At the time these 19th century prisoner photographs taken by Nevin on government contract for the Attorney-General’s Department were exhibited in the 1970s at the QVMAG, their true origin as prisoner identification police photographs was subjoined to death masks and subjudicated by a curatorial gaze which mistakenly assumed they were devised for contemporary middle-class fascinations with popular movements such as phrenology and eugenics. These mugshots were taken for the police by Nevin on contract from the early 1870s to 1886, to be used in daily surveillance and detection, for the same reasons that mugshots are taken and used today.

Addenda: William Smith as Webster
Prisoner William Smith as Webster per Rodney 2 was prisoner no. 9435, tried at Lancaster in 1842, 18 years old, transported for 7 years. He escaped from the Hobart Gaol with John Finelly or Finlay on the 14th March 1874. was recaptured with Finelly the same day and was sentenced to six months hard labour with an additional one month in solitary confinement for striking one of his pursuers on the head with a stone (see Mercury notices above).

Prisoner no. 9435, William Smith
TAHO Ref: CON33-1-39_00204_L

This is the record of earnings at Port Arthur for William Smith as Webster per Rodney 2. This man was prisoner no. 9435, tried at Lancaster in 1842, 17 years old, transported for 7 years. He was transferred to the House of Corrections (Males) , i.e. the Hobart Gaol in Campbell St. from the Port Arthur prison on 4th December 1873 to serve the six months remaining of his sentence.

“The Governor in Council directs that this man shall serve six months from the 4th instant with industry, good conduct, and subordination to entitle him to freedom.
Signed W.. Giblin
Attorney-General’s Office
4th December 1873″

Source: TAHO
CON94-1-1_00617_L; CON94-1-1_00617_L
Conduct register – Port Arthur
Start Date:01 Jan 1868 End Date:31 Dec 1869
Copy Number:Z1436
Series: CON94 TASMAN’S PENINSULA CONDUCT REGISTERS
PORT ARTHUR. 01 Jan 1868 to 30 Sep 1876

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