Prisoner James Martin: criminal career 1860s-1890s

THE RADCLIFFE MUSEUM Port Arthur
CONVICT TATTOOS
EXHIBITIONS and photographer misattribution

Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery copy
Number on recto: this mugshot of prisoner James Martin, mounted as a carte-de-visite, was numbered “183” on the recto when it was removed from the John Watt Beattie Collection at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston in 1983 for an exhibition at the Port Arthur prison heritage site on the Tasman Peninsula. It was not returned to the Beattie Collection at the QVMAG in Launceston, as it should have been, it was deposited instead at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart, along with at least fifty (50) more cdvs of prisoners similarly numbered. The original photographs of these men were taken by professional photographer Thomas J. Nevin in the 1870s on contract for daily use by police and prisons administration. The QVMAG list (2005) showed a total of 199 mugshots, but only 72 were physically held at the QVMAG when the list was devised. At least 127 mugshots were missing by 2005.

Number on verso: this cdv was numbered “243” on the verso much earlier, in the early 1900s when it was removed from the Hobart Gaol and Municipal Police Office registry and inscribed verso by Beattie et al with the wording “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” along with more than a hundred of these original mugshots taken by government contractor T. J. Nevin in the 1870s. J. W. Beattie, as the government photographer by 1900 who was contracted to promote Tasmania’s penal heritage, sent this mugshot of James Martin – among many dozens more – for inclusion in travelling exhibitions associated with the fake convict hulk Success at Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide. On Beattie’s death in 1930, the QVMAG acquired this travelling set of Tasmanian mugshots, removed each from the cardboard to which they were pasted, and exhibited them in 1934 at Launceston as part of the estate of John Watt Beattie’s convictaria collection.


Prisoner James MARTIN
Photographed on 24th October 1874 at the H.M. Goal, Hobart
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin
Numbered “183” on recto in 1983
Numbered “224” on verso in 1915
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery:
TMAG Ref: Q15614


Verso: Prisoner James MARTIN
Photographed on 24th October 1874 at the H.M. Goal, Hobart
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin
Numbered “183” on recto in 1983
Numbered “224” on verso in 1915
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery:
TMAG Ref: Q15614

The verso of this cdv shows evidence of removal from thick grey paper or board. Transcribed subsequently over the grey scraps with “James Martin per Ld Petre, Taken at Port Arthur 1874” is incorrect information, written in 1916 after this cdv of Martin was exhibited by Beattie, using the terms “Types of Imperial Convicts”, “Port Arthur” and the date “1874” to appeal to local and interstate tourists by association with Marcus Clarke’s novel of 1874, For the Term of His Natural Life, which was filmed at the Port Arthur prison site (1927). Renamed as Carnarvon, the old prison grounds and buildings were promoted as Tasmania’s premier tourist destination, then as now. In short, the transcription of the verso of this prisoner mugshot, as with hundreds more from Beattie’s estate acquired by the QVMAG on his death in 1930, is tourism propaganda which reflects neither the actual place and date of the photographic capture nor the prisoner’s criminal history.

Archives Office of Tasmania copy
This paper copy is held at the Archives Office of Tasmania,


Photographic portrait of James Martin, copy at Archives Office of Tasmania, dated incorrectly as 1870 for no apparent reason.

PH30/1/2023
Title: Portrait of James Martin
Subject: convicts, people, portraits
Locality: not identified
Date: 1870
Photographic portrait of JAMES, Martin

In the letter (below) addressed to the National Library of Australia from the Archives Office of Tasmania, dated 3rd December 1982, this black and white copy of T. J. Nevin’s portrait of prisoner James Martin was mentioned as one of a set of ten mounted photographs “which came from the Ratcliffe [sic – Radcliffe] Museum at Port Arthur” [held in NEVIN file, NLA – see link below].

The Archives Office of Tasmania recorded the acquisition of ten mounted cdvs of prisoners ca. 1975 from William Radcliffe’s convictaria museum called The Old Curiosity Shop, which was located at Port Arthur in the 1930s. The ten cdvs were mugshots of prisoners George Willis, James Merchant, George Leathley, Daniel Murphy, Alfred Doran, Ephraim Booth, James Martin, Henry Sweet, William Harrison and Alfred Maldon. William Radcliffe may have salvaged as much as was possible from John Watt Beattie’s museum prior to Beattie’s death in 1930 in order to set up his own convictaria museum, naming it with a Dickensian flourish no less.

The Archives Office of Tasmania gives this information:

Agency Number: NG946
Title: WILLIAM MONTAGUE RADCLIFFE AND FAMILY (COLLECTORS)
Start Date: 01 Jan 1920
End Date: 01 Jan 1970
Description:
The Radcliffe family ran a museum at Port Arthur that contained a collection of Tasmanian memorabilia and records. It was known as ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. The ‘Radcliffe Collection’ was acquired by the National Parks & Wildlife Service in the 1970s. William Radcliffe died in September 1943.
Information Sources: Glover Papers Vol 1 Page 66

Photo © KLW NFC 2010 ARR with callout corrections.

This is a letter from the Archives Office of Tasmania, Hobart to the National Library, Canberra in response to the NLA’s query about the whereabouts of T. J. Nevin’s photograph of convict James Martin. The typing errors are numerous, and the information about the photographer is misleading: T. J. Nevin was not a “convict photographer”, he was a free settler arriving at Hobart with his parents and three siblings as a 10 year old child in 1852. The letter is one of several accession records held at the National Library which has correctly attributed T. J. Nevin as the photographer of their collection of 84 cdvs, catalogued as “Convict portraits, Port Arthur 1874“. The recent prevarications regarding Nevin’s attribution by a former employee at the PAHSMA who begged the NLA to cite her “essay” about the Port Arthur commandant A. H. Boyd, are best ignored as fantasy.

TRANSCRIPT

Ref: 450/2/182
Archives Office of Tasmania
91 Murray Street
Hobart 7000

3 December 1982

Mrs Barbara Perry
Pictorial Librarian for Principal Librarian
Australian Reference
National library of Australia
CANBERRA  A.C.T.  2600

Dear Mrs Perry
Your enquiry to the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts has been referred to our office as the photograph of James Martin is located in the Archives Office of Tasmania Collection (see reference to acknowledgements under Archives).
It has been mistakenly entered also among the Allport references.
The photograph of James Martin is part of a set of ten mounted photographs which came from the Ratcliffe [sic – Radcliffe] Museum at Port Arthur. Copies of these photographs are [located?] at 52/11/1-10 and include photographs of George Willis, James Merchant, George Teatbley [sic- Leathley], Daniel Murphy, Alfred Dovan [sic – Doran] Epheian [sic – Ephraim} Booth, James Martin, Henry Sweet, William Harrison and Alfred Waldon [sic – Malden or Maldon]. The photographs are dated between 1872-1874.
I also enclose a list of archive photographs reference 30/3184-3263 which are copies of T. J. Nairn [sic – Nevin] convict photographer held at the Queen Victoria Museum, Launceston. Further copies from this photographer, provenance not known, are at archives reference 30/4111-30/4116. I enclose brief notes on the photographer T. J. Nairn [sic – Nevin] compiled by a researcher Chris Long who visited our office last month. I have no additional information to add to these notes.

Yours sincerely
[signature]

IAN PEARCE
ACTING PRINCIPAL ARCHIVIST

Source: National Library of Australia
Nevin, T. J. : photography related ephemera material collected by the National Library of Australia.
Physical Description 1 folder of miscellaneous pieces.
Series Australian photographer files
Contents File contains material such as accession sheets, listings of works biographical material and correspondence related to convict portraits.
https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/25412530

James Martin: Court records and press reports

1857: transportation record and freedom
James Martin was convicted at the Barbados Court Martial, transported for 14 years, departing on the Lord Petre on 3 July 1843, arriving at Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land, on 15th October 1843 in the company of 237 other convicts.

The record below is an odd document as all the details pertaining to the prisoner James Martin’s date of conviction, date of arrival at Hobart, and physical description are missing. On the top right-hand corner to the right of the words “Transported for” is a sketch of a bird pecking at crumbs on the ground, and below it, the letter “D” enclosing a cross and diamond, signifying James Martin was a (Catholic?) deserter from the army. The note on his Port Arthur record of earnings (see below – CON94/1/1 Folio 143) records the date of his desertion, 8 November 1842, the place, Barbados, and the sentence, court martial, 14 years. But what does the bird signify? Details of his various offences  in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), mostly for absconding, theft and insolence, terminate on this record in 1857 when he was granted freedom.

Detail of record below: top right-hand corner, “Transported for” and sketch of a bird pecking at crumbs on the ground. Below the wording, the letter “D” enclosing a cross and diamond, sign of a Catholic [?] deserter.

CON33-1-45_00243
Archives Office Tasmania

According to Simon Barnard, illustrator of Convict Tattoos (2016), “of the 1051 deserters transported to Van Diemen’s Land, 800 are recorded as branded”.

Barnard, Simon Convict tattoos : marked men and women of Australia. Melbourne, Vic.
The Text Publishing Company, 2016.
Website: https://www.simonbarnard.com.au/product/convict-tattoos/

1865: fresh from Port Arthur

BELLERIVE POLICE COURT.
SATURDAY, 30th SEPTEMBER, 1865.

There were present at the sitting of the Court the Warden, and Messrs. Strachan, Maum, Stanfield, Young, and Morrisby.

The following was the only case to be brought before the Bench:–

Housebreaking.-James Martin was charged by Mr. Bellette, Superintendent of Police, with having, on the 26th day of September, feloniously broken into the dwelling-house of Charles Jones, and stealing thereout a pair of boots, a coat, a pair of trowsers, one pair of blankets, two pairs of socks, and other articles, his property.

Charles Jones, the prosecutor, stated that he was in the service of Mr. Josephs, Single Hill, and resided in a hut on his master’s premises. On the night of the 25th instant, the prisoner, by the permission of his master, slept in the hut, and left the next morning after breakfast, and just before sunrise ; witness then went to work, and saw a man soon afterwards whom he took to be prisoner about the hut ; witness then went to his master in the garden, and they both noticed the man about the hut, who “planted” himself behind some trees, and appeared to be watching their movements. Witness went down to the hut, which he found had been broken into. The flannel blankets produced were lying at the front of the hut, and the other articles mentioned had been taken from the inside with a shilling in money. Witness next saw the man almost immediately afterwards in the custody of his master.

Mr. George Joseph stated, that on the day named he saw a man walking about near the prosecutor’s hut ; witness fetched his gun and accompanied by a man named Brindley went down to the hut; the man witness had seen came out of the hut and then went into the stable; the man came out of the stable shortly after, with a bundle ; he looked up and down the road, and then came away trying to hide himself in the bushes, and after coming a short distance laid down ; witness went up and took hold of him; prisoner at that time had prosecutor’s coat on ; witness also took from prisoner the other property produced; witness gave the prisoner and property into the custody of Constable Swifte.

James Brindley, carpenter gave evidence corroborative of that of last witness.

Constable Swifte, in the municipal police, stated that he received the prisoner in custody with the articles produced ; on examining the hut he found the staple on the door check twisted and the padlock produced lying broken on the floor ; on the road to the station the prisoner said, ” I came up from Port Arthur on the 6th of this month from doing eight years; I am a miserable man and the devil must have tempted me to commit this crime.”
The prisoner made no defence.
Committed for trial.
The Court then rose.

Source: Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) Mon 2 Oct 1865 Page 2 BELLERIVE POLICE COURT.

1865: back to Port Arthur
For the theft of flannel blankets etc James Martin was tried at the Supreme Court, Hobart, on 24 October 1865 and returned to the Port Arthur prison on 26 November 1865 to serve a sentence of ten years. This document states that earlier he was transported for 14 years on 8th November 1842 for “Breach of Articles of War”, i.e. he was court martialled for desertion.

Conduct register – Port Arthur
Item Number: CON94/1/1 Start Date: 01 Jan 1868 End Date: 31 Dec 1869
James Martin per Lord Petre, Folio 143

1870: absconded

TRANSCRIPT

PENAL ESTABLISHMENT
Secretary’s Office, 4th April, 1870.
ABSCONDER. for whose apprehension in the Colony within a period of twelve months from the date of his absconding a Reward of Two Pounds or such lesser sum a may be awarded by the convicting Magistrate, will be paid: –
From Port Arthur, under sentence, on the 29th March, 1870.
James Martin, per Lord Petre, tried S. C. Hobart Town, 24th October, 1865, 10 years imprisonment, trade, stonemason, complexion fresh, hair dark brown, eyes dark brown, height 5 feet 7½ inches, eyes dark brown. Remarks – Marks of punishment, slightly pockpitted on face, scar on thumb and forefinger left hand, scar right side of nose
C. T. BELSTEAD, Secretary

1875: discharged
This discharge notice of 1875 relates to the original Supreme Court conviction of 1865 when James Martin was sentenced to ten years for breaking and entering a dwelling house. In October 1874, when his record was reviewed, he was photographed by Thomas J. Nevin pending discharge a few months later, in January 1875, having served his full term. When he was discharged during the week ending 6th January 1875 from Hobart Town, James Martin per Ld Petre, native place County Meath, was 55 yrs old, 5ft 8 inches tall, with brown hair and a mole in the corner of his left eye.

Prisoner James MARTIN per Lord Petre was discharged from H. M. Gaol, Hobart during the week ending 6th January 1875.
Source: Tasmania Information for Police J. Barnard Gov’t printer

1876: second thoughts about being a constable
Apparently James Martin did not like the job of police constable or he was forced to resign. He joined the constabulary in April 1876, and resigned three months later, in August. However, there were many men called James Martin in Tasmania in these decades, so this record might not pertain to the James Martin who arrived in VDL on the Lord Petre, the prisoner T. J. Nevin photographed in 1874.

TRANSCRIPT

MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION
RETURN of Appointments, &c. in the Police Force: –
Municipal. – Richmond
James Martin, to be a Constable from the 1st instant, vice William Brooks, resigned.

Source: Police gazette notice of 28 April 1876

TRANSCRIPT

MISCELLANEOUS INFORMATION
RETURN of Appointments, &c. in the Police Force: –
Municipal. – Richmond.
Peter Smith, Constable, from the 15th ultimo, vice James Martin, resigned.

Source: Police gazette notice of 4 August 1876

1876-1884: housebreaking

Rough Calendar Hobart Supreme Court GD70-1-1 1870-82
TAHO Ref: GD70-1-1 James Martin
Rough Calendar for the Supreme Court for 1876: guilty, ten years with hard labour.

On the 6 June, 1876 James Martin was tried at the Supreme Court, Hobart for housebreaking and larceny, sentenced to another ten years, and discharged in the week ending 6 February 1884.

James Martin was discharged from another lengthy sentence for housebreaking in 1884, now 63 yrs old, and one whole inch taller at 5’9″ (ha ha, that’s a joke, see discharge notice above, for 1875, but thanks Hamish Maxwell-Stewart all the same). He re-offended again soon after release and was incarcerated once more at the Hobart Gaol where he died in 1892.

1892:death
James Martin died at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street, while still under sentence in 1892. He was 72 years old, born ca. 1820. He was buried in a pauper’s grave, Catholic Section. Supposed cause of death was senility.

AF70-1-18 (BU 8966)
Cornelian Bay, Pauper, Section A, Number 232
Martin, James
Record Type: Deaths
Age: 72
Description: Last known residence: H. M. Gaol, Hobart
Property: Cornelian Bay Cemetery
Date of burial: 23 Aug 1892
File number: BU 8966
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1557291

Exhibitions 1983 and 2000

Top, from left to right: John White, Daniel Murphy, James Harrison
Bottom from left to right: Daniel Davis, George Willis, James Martin
Photos recto and verso copyright © KLW NFC Imprint 2014-2015
Taken at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 10 November 2014

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery constructed four wooden-framed collages under glass from their collection of Thomas J. Nevin’s prisoner mugshots for an exhibition titled Mirror with a Memory, held at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, in 2000. James Martin’s image was placed bottom row, extreme right in this frame. However, for reasons best described as blind-sided, the TMAG staff who chose these mugshots sent the four frames to Canberra, five cdvs in the first, six per frame in the other three, with labels on the back of each wooden frame stating quite clearly that the photographs were attributed to A. H. Boyd, the much despised Commandant of the Port Arthur prison who was not a photographer by any definition of the term, nor an engineer despite any pretension on his part and especially despite the social pretensions of his descendants who began circulating the photographer attribution at the Port Arthur prison tourist site as a rumour in the 1980s to compensate no doubt for Boyd’s vile reputation.

The recto and versos of these particular photographs of prisoners under glass bear numbers which were transcribed before they were removed and dispersed from the QVMAG’s collection. Some of these numbers on the front of the mount and back of the photograph correspond to the number registered in the Hobart Gaol Photo Books, which were constructed separately from the criminal record sheets where another copy of the prisoner’s photograph was pasted. Every pencilled number of a photograph in the QVMAG list was removed from the QVMAG in 1983-4, taken to the Port Arthur prison site for exhibition and returned to the Archives Office of Tasmania collections stored at Rosny, Hobart. When the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery moved into the Rosny site, the museum acquired this particular collection which should have been returned to the QVMAG with the rest of the prisoner mugshots salvaged by Beattie from the Hobart Gaol. The Photo Books from the 1870s apparently have not survived intact, perhaps because they were dismantled by Beattie for display and sale in the 1900s. but the references to numbered photographs in separate photo books are to be found on prisoner’s record sheets, especially the later rap sheets wherever the photos are still attached. Read more in these related posts …

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