Barrister ROBERT BYRON MILLER
Prisoner JAMES W. BLANCHFIELD
Private Collection of JEAN PORTHOUSE GRAVES
Photographer THOMAS J. NEVIN
Exhibition at HOBART July 2019 PHOTOGRAPHS of Australian and British Convicts
Prisoner James Blanchfied
Photographed on discharge from the Hobart Gaol by Thomas J. Nevin, April 1875.
“The prisoner, a most unfavorable specimen of the genus homo, seemed to take his trial in good part, and on leaving the dock favored his victims and Mr. Scarr in particular, with a low bow.” The Tasmanian (Launceston) Sat 26 Oct 1872 Page 11
Prisoner James William Blanchfield
Prisoner James W. Blanchfield was charged on 23rd September 1872 with obtaining goods by false pretenses. In the dock he implicated barrister Robert Byron Miller in his crime by telling the judge that he had paid Mr. Byron Miller a sum of seven guineas to transfer a very large amount of money, which he claimed was an inheritance, from a bank in Melbourne to a bank in Hobart where he said he had an account. The inheritance did not exist, of course, and it was not the first time James Blanchfield had tried unlawfully gaining goods by pretending he had credit. Robert Byron Miller (1825 – 1902) was a barrister who served the colony of Tasmania as Attorney-General for four years (1863-1866 – see Addendum below). He was photographed on several occasions by Thomas J. Nevin, as indeed were the prisoners he represented in court, including James Blanchfield who suggested at trial in his defense that Mr. Byron Miller was to blame for the confusion which led to his crime (see newspaper report below):
James Blanchfield charged with false pretences
The Tasmanian (Launceston, Tas.) Sat 26 Oct 1872 Page 11 TORQUAY.
OBTAINING GOODS BY FALSE PRETENCES.
James William Blanchfield was charged by Mr. C.D.C. Reynolds with having, on 23rd September, obtained from Mr. G. Scarr, of the River Leven, goods to the amount of £16.9s.8d through false pretences.
C. Scarr deposed – I am a storekeeper and reside at the Leven; I know the prisoner; he was at my place on the 18th of last month; he wanted to know about some goods; he told me, that he had had £4,500 left him in cash and an estate with a yearly rental of £350; he had two females named Davidson with him, and he told me to let them have whatever they wanted and he would pay for them; on the faith of his representations I let him have goods to the amount of £16.9s.8d; the goods were calico, blankets, dresses; boots; trousers, &; he gave me a cheque on the Union Bank as payment; that is the cheque (produced), it is dated 18th September, is drawn in my favor and signed by the prisoner in the name of James W. Blanchfield; he had a cheque book with him which he said he got from the Union Bank, Launceston; he said he had a large amount of money sent to the Savings Bank and that Mr. Pullen had written to him saying the amount was too great to be there and requesting him to come to town and that Mr. White, of Melbourne, had written to Mr. Byron Miller to withdraw the money from the Savings Bank, and deposit it in the Union Bank, and that Mr. Miller had done so; he also said that he had signed his name in the book at the Union Bank and that he had a bank-book which with his other papers were in the hands of Mr. Miller, to whom he had paid seven guineas for transacting his business; I … the bank at the Union Bank and sent the cheque there, it was dishonored and marked “no account”; I swear that the prisoner defrauded me of my goods by his false representations and valueless cheque …
The Cornwall Advertiser (Launceston) Fri 10 Jan 1873 Page 2 reprinted most of the article from the Tasmanian newspaper of 26 October 1872 when James Blanchfield appeared again, this time in the Hobart Supreme Court when he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.
See also:The Tasmanian (Launceston) Sat 4 Jan 1873 Page 2.
PRISON and POLICE RECORDS for James Blanchfield
James Blanchfield was a British Army Corporal in the 70th Regiment. He was tried for striking his superior officer and court martialled at Leeds on 10th June 1844, sentenced to 14 years. He was transported to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), arriving at Hobart on the Cornwall, 11th June 1851.
Detail, right column last entry, return to Hobart H.C. 20 April 1873. James Blanchfield’s transportation record
Source: CON33/1/103, James Blanchfield, Names Index, Archives Office Tasmania)
This record includes details of the crime for which the prisoner was transported to VDL on the Cornwall, 1851 and subsequent misdemeanours before imprisonment in January 1873.
James W. Blanchfield was charged on 23rd September 1872 at Launceston (Tas) with obtaining goods by false pretenses. He was sent to the Port Arthur prison, 60 kms south of Hobart on 21st February 1873 and within eight weeks was removed back to the Hobart Gaol, arriving on 20th April 1873. As a result, his name does not appear in the Port Arthur Conduct register of prisoners’ earnings 1868-1876 (CON94-1-2 TAHO). He was among the sixty prisoners already returned to the Hobart Gaol when the Attorney-General W. R. Giblin in Parliament, July 1873, tabled a list of 109 prisoners’ names to be returned to Hobart by October 1873. Blanchfield was already back at the city gaol in Hobart when photographic materials allegedly arrived at Port Arthur in August 1873 to be used by visiting photographers Clifford and Nevin for documenting the dilapidated state of the prison buildings. James Blanchfield petitioned the Attorney-General on 13th March 1875. His transportation record (last entry in right column in the transportation record above) indicated he was to be discharged on 8th April –
“… if conduct continues good. Discharge accordingly.” (Source: CON33/1/103, James Blanchfield, Names Index, Archives Office Tasmania)
James Blanchfield’s name appears on page 2 (below) in the list of a total of 109 prisoners who were sent to the Port Arthur prison from 1871 and tabled in Parliament to return by October 1873 as the process of closing Port Arthur gained momentum . The complete list was prepared by Thomas Reidy, Inspector for H.M. Gaols etc for Males, Hobart, 9th June, 1873 and was published in July 1873. The Attorney-General W. R. Giblin stated in Parliament that sixty prisoners had already been removed back to the Hobart Gaol in Campbell St. and the remainder on the list would also be removed from Port Arthur back to Hobart –
“… as soon as arrangements for the proper custody and control of the Prisoners can be made on the Main Land”[i.e. Hobart].
Above: Parliament of Tasmania: NOMINAL RETURN of all Prisoners sent to PORT ARTHUR since its transfer to the Colonial Government, showing their Ages, dates of Conviction, where Convicted, Crimes, and Sentences. Memo from the Hon F. M. Innes June 10th 1873 to J. Forster, Inspector of Police, June 11th, 1873.
This record shows James Blanchfield’s name was entered three times against a trial date of 23rd October 1872, with a pencilled superscript note “put up” inserted into the plea “Not put up guilty”
Record Type: Court
Status: Free by servitude
Trial date: 23 Oct 1872
Offense: False pretences
Prosecutions Project ID: 112598
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1520867
Resource: AB693-1-1 1872
Archives Office Tasmania
POLICE GAZETTE RECORD
James Blanchfield was discharged from the Hobart House of Corrections (the Hobart Gaol, Campbell St.) during the week ending 14th April 1875. He was 48 years old on discharge, originally from Waterford (Ireland), 5 ft 5 ins tall, with dark brown hair and a tattoo of a mermaid on his left arm. He was tried at the Supreme Court, Launceston (northern Tasmania) on 9th January 1873 for obtaining goods by false pretences, to serve a 3 year sentence but he served just over two years. He was photographed by Thomas J. Nevin in early April 1875 during the fortnight preceding discharge together with another prisoner, James Merchant.
Source: Tasmania Reports of Crime for Police, J. Barnard Gov’t printer
Prisoner MERCHANT, James
TMAG Ref: Q15587
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin
Taken on James Merchant’s discharge from the Hobart Gaol, April 1875
THE MUGSHOT at the QVMAG
The verso of this cdv of James Blanchfield (below) – and at least 200 more which were acquired by the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (Launceston, Tas) from convictarian John Watt Beattie’s estate in the 1930s – was inscribed by Beattie and his assistant Edward Searle in the early 1900s with the wording “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” to encourage the sale of postcards bearing these prisoner photographs as part of a concerted campaign by the Tasmanian government to promote the ruins of the Port Arthur prison as a key tourist destination. It is a fake claim, a lie, which the current management of the Port Arthur prison theme park (PAHSMA) has opportunistically upscaled with a lightbox wall displaying dozens of these 1870s mugshots, claiming they were all photographed at the Port Arthur prison and by none other than its Commandant A. H. Boyd. The suppression of Thomas Nevin’s work and name as the real photographer arose as a whim and fantasy by A. H. Boyd’s descendants in the 1980s, viz. Kim Simpson who were – and still are – most anxious to propel their ancestor into the history books as some sort of gifted photographic artist. But while Boyd’s reputation for corruption and misogyny has persisted and is easily measured from authentic historical records, no photographs by him have ever surfaced for the very simple reasons that he never photographed a single prisoner or any other person in the known universe. He was NOT A PHOTOGRAPHER. Those Chinese tourists currently pouring off cruise liners at the Port Arthur prison heritage site might be none the wiser, nor even care when they read the lies about A. H. Boyd taking these mugshots – that is, today they might not, but the future is another country as the past will prove.
Prisoner James Blanchfield
Photographed on discharge from the Hobart Gaol by Thomas J. Nevin, April 1875.
Verso: Prisoner James Blanchfield
Photographed on discharge from the Hobart Gaol by Thomas J. Nevin, April 1875.
Inscriptions: Numbered 186.
J. W. Blanchfield per Cornwall 1851
Taken at Port Arthur 1874 [incorrect information]
The Archives Office of Tasmania in Hobart has a black and white paper copy of the same cdv. Thomas Nevin printed at least four duplicates, both uncut and mounted as a cdv from the glass plate negative produced at this, the one and only sitting with the prisoner James William Blanchfield.
Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2005
The cdv of James Blanchfield, number 57, appears in this list because it was not removed from the QVMAG in 1983 when fifty and more were taken to the Port Arthur heritage site for an exhibition, i.e. those bearing the numbers shown as missing in pencil. Those fifty and more were not returned to the QVMAG, deposited instead at the TMAG. This is the first page of three pages showing that only 72 Tasmanian prisoner “portraits” in the Beattie Collection (QVMAG) remained when this list was drawn up in the 1990s.
Exhibition at the old Hobart Penitentiary, July 2019
In case the reason for our emphasis on just the incarceration and discharge records of prisoners here in our research is not self-evident, we underscore again the need to expose the deliberate falsification in recent decades of the photographer attribution of those prisoners’ mugshots to an official at the Port Arthur prison by the name of A. H. Boyd who was not a photographer by any definition of the term, nor are there any extant works by him in any genre.
If Thomas Nevin’s official involvement in providing mugshots for the police, the judiciary and the government has not been demonstrated clearly enough by our inclusion in this research of primary sources and extensive historical documentation – as distinct from the endless obfuscations and attitudinal interpretations in chatty prose posing as research in recent publications, theses, and exhibitions – the point of not providing lengthy bleeding heart biographies of these prisoners is simply this: with the accretion of fact upon fact, we are consolidating the evidence again and again as to when the mugshot was taken, who took it, how it was taken, and why was it taken because Thomas J. Nevin’s legacy as the photographer of prisoners in Hobart in the 1870s has been violated by a confederacy of fools and fraudsters currently spurred on by the laissez-faire politics of the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (Sharon Sullivan), in collusion with the University of Tasmania’s History Department (Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, Stefan Petrow and student acolyte Julia Clark) and a gaggle of apparently dyslexic librarians and their advisers at the National Library of Australia, the latter appearing to have delighted in playing a political game of collusion with the former, regardless of the long-term parasitic effect on this unique national heritage collection (Helen Ennis, Margy Burn, Sylvia Carr et al).
With so much vested in the careers and reputations of these hard-bitten civil servants, it is no surprise that the last sentence accompanying the mugshot and biography of James Blanchfield on this large poster (at right) fixed to the wall of the old Hobart Penitentiary, Campbell St. Hobart Tasmania for the current exhibition (July 2019), states that the photograph of the prisoner was taken at the Port Arthur prison. This is incorrect. Whether a deliberate lie or the result of lazy research, it is used today just as effectively as spin for the tourist trade as when it was first devised in the 1900s by Beattie et al for the government’s campaign. James Blanchfield was not photographed at Port Arthur: government contractor Thomas J. Nevin photographed him for police and prison administration records on discharge from this same building, the Hobart Gaol, in the fortnight preceding 14th April 1875.
Above: the large wall poster at right displayed at the exhibition titled “Photographs of Australian and British Convicts” which opened at the Hobart Penitentiary (the former Hobart Gaol and House of Corrections, Campbell St.) featuring the mugshot of James Blanchfield taken by Thomas Nevin in 1875, together with a jolly japes biography of the prisoner, finishing with the sentence:
“…at the age of fifty he found himself sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and was packed off to Port Arthur where this photograph was taken.”
Actually, no: as the police gazette states, James Blanchfield was 48 years old on discharge in 1875, not 50 years old on sentencing in 1873 and he spent less than two months at the Port Arthur prison, from 21st February 1873 to 20th April 1873. He served just twenty-six months of a three year sentence, not a five year sentence when he was discharged in April 1875. Additionally, he was photographed, not at the Port Arthur prison as claimed by the exhibition poster but at the Hobart Gaol, the very same site where Thomas Nevin’s photograph of him taken for police in 1875 now looms over visitors to the current exhibition, exactly 144 years later.
According to the Hobart Penitentiary Facebook page, July 23, 2019, the exhibition “Photographs of Australian and British Convicts” was launched by professors Hamish Maxwell-Stewart (University of Tasmania) and Barry Godfrey (University of Liverpool, UK);
This Exhibition has been organised by the AHRC Digital Panopticon, the University of Liverpool, Face Lab, Liverpool John Moores University, the University of Tasmania and National Trust Tasmania.
Funded by AHRC as part of their Digital Transformation programme in 2014 the project explores the lives of 90,000 men and women sentenced at the Old Bailey between 1750 and 1925.
All the money financing this and other ventures where Hamish Maxwell-Stewart is involved would better serve the local population if spent wisely, but this exhibition appears to be another project where misinformation abounds and where Tasmanian history is compromised yet again. For example, the website Founders and Survivors, funded in a grant sought by Maxwell-Stewart to an astounding amount ($800,000 – see screenshot below), lies in digital ruins. That site actually encouraged visitors to create a face for a prisoner regardless of the existence of a real photograph.
Screenshot: the ruins of convictism, Founders and Survivors website.
What is it about these mugshots taken by the very real photographer Thomas J. Nevin – as distinct from the fantasy photographer-artist the PAHSMA has constructed for their A.H. Boyd prison official – that Hamish Maxwell-Stewart appears consistently to feel the need to undermine and violate the photographer Thomas J. Nevin (e.g. by proxy via his student Julia Clark), or to modify, re-invent and re-create the photographs that result in fake visual images and disidentification of the subject? Or indeed, why the need even to medicalise them which Maxwell-Stewart is proposing in another project whereby he will use these mugshots to inject a reading of maternal foetal alcohol syndrome into the prisoners’ adult faces?
As noted already, Maxwell-Stewart is too disengaged to contribute value to this area of Tasmanian history. He is causing harm by playing with these mugshots, despite his several collaborations with British academics to justify the enormous grants. Incorporating Caroline Wilkinson’s work on forensic facial reconstruction, included in the current exhibition Photographs of Australian and British Convicts, just isn’t logical. There is no need to play old Lombrosian games with these mugshots: they are unique, leave them alone as testimony to the skills of T. J. Nevin, the real photographer of the day. Anyone who wishes to mutilate them and disparage not only the original photographer Thomas J. Nevin but his family and descendants as well, has to be viewed as unfit for the academic position he holds in the first instance, and in the second instance, as mentally disturbed by whatever it is about these 1870s mugshots that triggers his need to subjugate them. No doubt our post on the criminal type and anthropometry in 2008 and the paragraph below which we quoted in this post in 2007 from a section by Jens Jaeger on “Police and forensic photography” published in The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (2005) woke up the History Department at the University of Tasmania regarding our ancestor Thomas J. Nevin; the response, though, has diminished all involved.
Research on ‘criminal physiognomy’
Scientific examination of picture collections from an anthropological or physiognomical perspective was not actually done by the police themselves. Significantly, the two best-known users of criminal portraits, the Italian Cesare Lombroso (1836-1909) and the Englishman Francis, began their work before Bertillon’s reform of police photography. Lombroso, a doctor and eventually professor of forensic medicine and hygiene in Turin, attempted in his book L’uomo delinquente (1876) to prove both that criminal tendencies were hereditary and that they could be identified from particular physical characteristics. To this end he had visited prisons, made body measurements of prisoners, and collected pictures of criminals. After the appearance of his book he continued to work on the subject, and by the turn of the century had a large collection of criminal portraits obtained from governments in Europe and overseas. Although his theory was heavily criticized, and was never accepted by experts, it became popular. So too with Galton, who began his research a few years after Lombroso. He too believed in the heritability of mental traits, grappled with the phenomenon of criminality, and used official pictures. His method was to make composite copies of portraits of different people in order to arrive at an ‘average’ deviant physiognomy. His major work, Inquiries into Human Faculty, containing papers written since 1869, appeared in 1883. But his theories also failed to convince his peers, and there were no further attempts to examine criminals or criminality on the basis of police portraits. Undeniably, however, a certain image of ‘the’ delinquent did emerge in the popular imagination, and persists as a visual code identifying certain characters as criminals in literature, comics, films, and tabloid newspapers.
Source: “Police and forensic photography.”
The Oxford Companion to the Photograph.
Oxford University Press, 2005.
Addendum: Robert Byron Miller (1825 – 1902)
Robert Byron Miller was a barrister who served the colony of Tasmania as Attorney-General for four years (1863-1866). He was photographed on several occasions by Thomas J. Nevin, as indeed were the prisoners he represented, including James Blanchfield who implicated Byron Miller as complicit in his crime at trial in his defense (see newspaper report above):
Barrister R. Byron Miller (1825 – 1902)
Photographer George Cherry (1820 – 1878) taken in late 1860s
Inscribed verso by Miller family member “My Father … Judge in Chambers Essex St …“
Photo © copyright KLW NFC Imprint KLW NFC Private Collection
The wording “My father …” was inscribed on the verso of this photograph of Robert Byron Miller by his daughter-in-law, Jean Porthouse Graves (1858-1951) probably in 1947 when she compiled an album of photographs taken of herself and family members, now in our private collection. As her own father John Woodcock Graves the younger had died in 1876, she regarded her father-in-law as “father”. The earliest photographs in her album date from the late 1860s such as this one taken by George Cherry of R. Byron Miller. A series of stereographs with Jean Porthouse Graves as a teenager were taken by Thomas J. Nevin on the excursion by boat of VIPs to Adventure Bay in January 1872. The most recent photos in the album were taken of herself and her apartment in London in the late 1940s. Jean Porthouse Graves married solicitor Francis Knowles Miller, son of Robert Byron Miller, at Melbourne, Victoria in 1885. She was extensively involved with betterment and welfare organisations in the Emu Bay area (Burnie, Tasmania) from her marriage through to the 1920s. She was 91 yrs old when she died at Rembrandt Square, London on 30 July 1951.
This carte-de-visite of Robert Byron Miller was just one of several cdvs and stereographs housed in Jean Porthouse Graves’ album which Thomas J. Nevin had taken of her with her father John Woodcock Graves (the younger), her future father-in-law Robert Byron Byron Miller, the Graves’ family friend Lukin Boyes, and her three sisters Mathinna, Trucaninni and Mimi between 1872 and 1876. For example, the series photographed with Jean in her mid-teens on the VIP excursion to Adventure Bay in 1872 included the Hon. Alfred Kennerley, Mayor of Hobart and Police Magistrate, R. Byron Miller, barrister, Sir John O’Shanassy, former Premier of Victoria, Hugh Munro Hull, Parliamentary librarian, her father John Woodcock Graves the younger who organised the excursion, James Erskine Calder, former Surveyor-General, Lukin Boyes, Customs Officer, Hon. Mr. James Milne Wilson (Premier of Tasmania), and the Rev. Henry Dresser Atkinson.
One of four extant photographs taken on 31st January 1872 and printed in various formats from Thomas J. Nevin’s series advertised in the Mercury, 2nd February, 1872, as “The Colonists’ Trip to Adventure Bay” (Bruny Island, Tasmania).
[From lower left]: John Woodcock Graves jnr, solicitor; his daughter Jean Porthouse Graves; above her, R. Byron Miller, barrister; on her left, Sir John O’Shanassy, former Premier of Victoria;
[Centre top]: Lukin Boyes, son of auditor and artist G. T. W. Boyes, leaning on stone structure
[Extreme lower right]: James Erskine Calder, former Surveyor-General, Tasmania
Single unmounted carte-de-visite photograph of large group
From the Miller and Graves family album
Photos recto and verso: copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2015 Private Collection
Verso: One of four extant photographs taken on 31st January 1872 and printed in various formats from Thomas J. Nevin’s series advertised in The Mercury, 2nd February, 1872, as the Colonists’ Trip to Adventure Bay (Bruny Island).
Verso with T. Nevin late A. Bock , 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart Town commercial stamp
Verso inscriptions include these identifiable figures at the “Picnic”:
Father = John Woodcock Graves jnr,
Sir John O’Shanassy = former Premier of Victoria,
Self = Jean Porthouse Graves, daughter of John W. Graves,
L. Boyes = Lukin Boyes (?), son of G.T. W. Boyes
From an album compiled by the families of John Woodcock Graves jnr and R. Byron Miller
Private Collection © KLW NFC Imprint 2015
The men in the series taken on the Adventure Bay trip in January 1872 were the lawyers and the legislators who were T. J. Nevin’s patrons and employers throughout his engagement as photographer in Hobart’s prisons and courts from 1872 into the 1880s. Commercial photographer Thomas J. Nevin worked on government contract with the judiciary for the police and colonial government during the years when Robert Byron Miller served the colony briefly as Attorney-General in the Whyte administration, succeeded by Nevin’s patron, William Robert Giblin who served as Attorney-General under (Sir) James Wilson in 1870-72 and in Alfred Kennerley’s ministry in 1873-76.
The Colonists’ Trip to Adventure Bay
VIPs on board The City of Hobart, 31st January 1872
Stereograph in buff arched mount by Thomas J. Nevin
Private Collection KLW NFC Group copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2015
From left to right:
Sir John O’Shanassy (seated), John Woodcock Graves the younger, Captain John Clinch, the Hon. Alfred Kennerley and the Hon. James Erskine Calder (seated). Standing behind Captain Clinch and Alfred Kennerley is R. Byron Miller.
VERSO WITH RARE NEVIN LABEL
The square royal blue label with T. Nevin’s modified design of Alfred Bock’s stamp from the mid-1860s and the wording in gold lettering, framed on a cartouche within gold curlicues, is unique to this item, not (yet) seen on the verso of any of his other photographs. Similar wording appeared on Nevin’s most common commercial stamp from 1867 with and without Bock’s name but always with the addition of a kangaroo sitting atop the Latin motto “Ad Altiora”. Here, Bock’s name is still included within the design although Nevin acquired Bock’s studio five years earlier, in 1867: “T. Nevin late A.Bock” encircled by a buckled belt stating the firm’s name within the strap, “City Photographic Establishment”. The address “140 Elizabeth Street Hobarton” appears below the belt buckle and inside the badge motif.
The name “Graves” with a half-scroll underneath in black ink was most likely written by Thomas Nevin himself as a reminder of the client’s name for the order. The handwriting is similar to his signatures on the birth registrations of his children in the 1870s.
The pencilled inscription “On board City of Hobart, Cap Clinch, Visitors Trip Jay 1872” and the deduction of the years “1947-1872=75 ago” was written by Jean Porthouse Graves who wrote “My Father” above the right hand frame on the front of the stereograph and a partial arrow pointing to John Woodcock Graves (the younger), She had pasted this photograph, and others taken by Thomas J. Nevin of the same group, into a family album (KLW NFC Private Collections 2015).
OBITUARY: Robert Byron Miller (1825 – 1902)
MR R. BYRON MILLER
Mr Robert Byron Miller, one of the oldest members of the legal profession in Tasmania, died at his residence, Elphin-road, at 9.30 yesterday morning. He has been in failing health for some months past, and the end did not come unexpectedly, he passing away surrounded by members of the family, who had been summoned to his bedside. Perhaps no one was more widely known in the State or more respected than the deceased, who was a member of the Executive Council and an ex-Attorney-General, and a colonist of over 50 years’ standing. Born in London on April 19, 1825, he had thus reached his 76th year. . He was the son of the late Sergeant Miller, a London barrister of high repute, who had a large practice in common law, and was afterwards judge in the County Courts of Leicester, and who numbered among his personal friends the leading lawyers, literary men, and artists of the day, including Judge Talfourd, Dickens, Thackeray, Landseer, and Leslie. Educated at private schools and at King’s College, London, deceased was a pupil in his father’s chambers, and was admitted at the Middle Temple in 1848. After being in practice in London for several years he decided to come to Tasmania, and arriving in Hobart in January, 1855, he at once commenced the practice of his profession, and soon earned a name for himself as the leading criminal lawyer of the day. Coming straight from England, where he had been in constant practice, he found that some primitive customs prevailed in regard to the conduct of the business of the courts, and it was only after a stem struggle and facing the risk of displeasing those who held power at the time that he succeeded in bringing about changes more in accordance with justice and freedom. After a short stay in Hobart the deceased removed to Launceston, and, with the exception of three years spent in Melbourne, he resided in the northern city till his death. He entered political life in 1861, being elected as a member for Launceston. He accepted the Solicitor-Generalship in Chapman-Henty administration, which he held till 1863, when the feeling in Launceston being very strong against the proposed ad valorem duties, he resigned. The Government were shortly afterwards defeated. In the Whyte Ministry deceased occupied the post of Attorney-General, which he filled for a period of nearly four years, and during his tenure of office he was responsible for many important measures being placed on the Statute Book of the colony, while his administration of the department under his control was marked by vigor, honesty, and determination to do the right, resulting in changes not less marked than they were appreciated by the public. On the defeat of the Government on the income tax question, deceased resigned from Parliament and went to Melbourne, where he practised as a barrister for some three years. Returning to Launceston in 1871 he once more entered into partnership. He was in partnership with Mr Josiah Powell for four years, and later on his son, Mr Ernest Granville Miller, joined him under the style of Miller and Miller. The subject of this notice was an alderman of Launceston for three years, during which he war a strong supporter of improved drainage and local improvements; and he was for some years president of the Mechanics’ Institute. He took an interest in ecclesiastical matters in the early days of his residence in Tasmania He was the senior member of the Executive Council, with the exception of Sir Francis Smith, who is absent from the colony. The deceased gave up Parliamentary life when in the height of his reputation, and since carefully eschewed politics, devoting .himself to his profession, of which though advanced in years and suffering slightly from the infirmity of deafness, he was, until his health gave way a few months ago an active and distinguished member. Deceased was associated with nearly all the prominent cases dealt with in the courts in Tasmania during the tame he was practising his profession, and of late years principally conducted prosecutions on behalf of the Government. He leaves a widow and two sons and two daughters, the sons being Mr Ernest Granville Miller, who was in partnership with deceased, and Mr F. Knowles Miller, who is also a member of the legal profession residing at Burnie. The funeral is appointed to leave his late residence at 4.30 this afternoon for the Church of England Cemetery.
Source: Source: Daily Telegraph (Launceston, Tas. Monday 6 October 1902, page 3
See also entry in the ADB http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/miller-robert-byron-4203
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