Prisoner Joseph WALMSLEY: “a queer-looking man” 1842-1891


Joseph Walmsley, 14 years old, one of 267 convicts transported on the Isabella (2), arrived at Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) on 19th May 1842. He was tried at Lancaster, Salford Quarter Sessions (UK), transported for seven (7) years for stealing shoes, coppers and money. He had in his possession when arrested a William the Fourth coin. His record ( was transcribed with “Again transported” at some date, though no record shows how this was literally possible, since he remained in the Australian colonies from 1842 (including three years in a Melbourne prison from 1869-1871) to his death from senility in Tasmania in 1891, at 67 years old (born therefore ca. 1824). Rather, his sentence of seven years was extended to ten years’ transportation in Hobart, 4th July 1850, for burglary. Thereafter, his criminal offences – he was a man “as works for a living” as he put it in 1872 – were a series of breaking and entering, robbery, burglary, larceny, and the occasional swearing at and assault of the constabulary (see records below). When he was photographed by government contractor T. J. Nevin in 1872 on incarceration at the Hobart Gaol, he was 46 years old (photo below).

Prisoner WALMSLEY, Joseph
TMAG Ref: Q15598
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin
Location and date: Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street, 1872.

Verso: Prisoner WALMSLEY, Joseph
TMAG Ref: Q15598
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin
Location and date: Walmsley was photographed by T. J. Nevin at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street in 1872 and not at the Port Arthur prison in 1874.
Source: Police Gazette 1872 p. 94. Arrested and charged with burglary page 143.

Timeline 1842-1891

1842: Arrival at Hobart per Isabella 2
Joseph Walmsley was 14 years old, one of 267 convicts transported on the Isabella (2), arriving at Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) on 19th May 1842. He was tried at Lancaster, Salford Quarter Sessions (UK), transported for seven (7) years for stealing shoes and money. Although this record lists a dozen and more misdemeanours while under sentence, including three months’ hard labor for possession of leather, he was granted freedom in servitude (FS) on 1st September 1848.

Walmsley, Joseph
Record Type: Convicts
Departure date: 29 Jan 1842
Departure port: Woolwich
Ship: Isabella (2)
Place of origin: Salford, Lancashire
Origin location: Latitude and Longitude
Voyage number: 191
Remarks: Tried Hobart 1850
Index number: 73326
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1443405
Archives Office of Tasmania

Within months of release from prison, Joseph Walmsley was indicted for burglary. His transportation sentence was extended from seven to ten years.

Joseph Walmsley was indicted for burglary in the house of William Collier on the 2nd of May last, and for stealing a piece of cloth, two coats, one jacket, and pair of trowsers. Susan Neales, who keeps a broker’s shop in Liverpool-street, proved, that the prisoner had brought the piece of cloth and clothing to her shop for sale and she bought the whole, and paid him between 3 and 4 shillings for the lot. William Collier proved the burglary on the 22nd of May, and identified the piece of cloth and the rest of the clothing as his properly. He saw the goods in the shop of the preceding witness exhibited for sale, and afterwards claimed them.
The prisoner denied the burglary and called two witnesses from whom nothing material was elicited. Verdict, Guilty.
Sentences : John Bassford and Ann Digat. The former 7 years transportation and the latter 2 years imprisonment and hard labour ; George Welsh, 10 years transportation ; Joseph Walmsley, 10 years transportation.
Mr. Gregson officiated as counsel for the Crown, in the absence of Mr. Stonor. Mr. Smith, the clerk, was absent.
The Court was adjourned until Thursday, the 11th instant, at 10 o’clock A.M.

Source: HOBART TOWN QUARTER SESSIONS (1850, July 2) Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857) p.3.

1855: swearing and striking a constable
Which epithet could Joseph Walmsley have possibly chosen to best describe the watch house in his soliloquy to the world which a constable just happened to hear? Did he say “That’s the damned watch house”? Or, “That’s the bloody watch house”? Surely not “That’s the (F-bomb) watch house”! The reporter, as on other occasions when publishing the trivial misdemeanours of the colonial criminal class, resorted to sardonic descriptions of the saint-like patience and politeness of the constabulary as the key to the humour, so the punchline – the policeman copping a violent blow across the face from Walmsley who then ran off – was the sort of slapstick comedy he knew would guarantee out-loud laughter from his readers.

(From the Launceston Examiner.)
On Friday night, about ten o’clock, as Constable Kelley was standing against the watch house railing, a man named Joseph Walmsley passed, and re-marked in a soliloquising tone, ” That’s the ……. watch house.” Constable Kelley said that if he could not use better language in the streets than that, he would, perhaps, see the inside of the building, which had drawn forth his polite observation. Whereupon Walmsley struck Kelley a violent blow on the face, and took to his heels. The constable followed, stopped his career by laying hold of his legs, and other constables coming up, the man was lodged in the watch house. Next morning he was brought before the bench, and ordered to pay a fine of forty shillings, and failing to do that, he was imprisoned for a month.

Source: Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857), Thursday 25 October 1855, page 3

1857: marriage
Joseph Walmsley sought permission to marry Mary King, who arrived on the Martin Luther,1st September, 1852 at Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land, transported for seven years. Permission was granted on 23 December 1856 (Archives Office Tasmania CON52/1/7 Page 533, RGD37/16 : 1857/421). Joseph Walmsley was 27 years old, a baker by occupation when he married Mary King, 25 years old, a servant, at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Hobart. Witnesses were James and Mary Wickstead.

Walmsley, Joseph
Record Type: Marriages
Gender: Male
Age: 27
Spouse: King, Mary
Gender: Female
Age: 25
Date of marriage: 12 Jan 1857
Registered: Hobart
Registration year: 1857
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:855693
Resource: RGD37/1/16 no 421
Archives Office of Tasmania

1857 cont …
Not long married but without children, Mary and Joseph Walmsley took to parenting using unusual methods of discipline when it came to the offspring of their master. They were accused of using threatening language to his child and submerging the child’s head in a tub of water for ten minutes, a charge which, strangely enough, was supported by a 12 year old girl’s evidence, and so was dismissed. Other offences committed by Joseph Walmsley in the first year of marriage included the usual attempt at burglary, and the more unusual charge of not leaving the colony once he was granted a conditional certificate of freedom.

Before the Hon. Mr. Burgess and S. Moses, Esq.
Thomas Knight pleaded guilty to stealing two .turkeys, valued at £3, the property of Mr. Richard Maddock.
Joseph Walmsley and Mary King were both charged with using threatening language towards their master’s child, Mr. Levy, of Murray street. A girl named Cross, about 12 years of age was examined, and her evidence went to show that the two accused persons wished her to put the child’s head under water in a tub in the yard for twenty minutes, and that “would quiet it” ; the child’s head was under water ten minutes. Mr. Brewer appeared for the prisoners, and after Mr. Levy had given his evidence, addressed the bench on behalf of the prisoners, and in one short sentence laid bare the presumption of such a charge, and the case was dismissed.

Source: Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 – 1859), Monday 16 March 1857, page 3

GENERAL INTELLIGENCE.THE BURGLARY AT MR. READY’S PRISONERS’ BARRACKS.-This morning Matthew Brittain, Joseph Walmsley, Robert Greenley, George Douglas, Edward Lavender, and Thomas Burns were charged by D. C. Dorsett before the Hon. F. Burgess with having committed this burglary, and were remanded to Tuesday next for further examination.

Source: Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 – 1859), Saturday 30 May 1857, page 3

Conditional Pardon. — At the Police Court yesterday Joseph Walmsley, the holder of a conditional pardon, was charged by Detective Morley with misconduct in not leaving the colony. Upon promising to take his departure from Tasmania forthwith, he was discharged.

Source: Tasmanian Daily News (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1855 – 1858), Thursday 9 July 1857, page 2

Joseph Walmsley, charged with misconduct as a prisoner of the crown, with obtaining a colonial certificate of freedom and not leaving the colony was dis-charged.

Source: Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857), Thursday 9 July 1857, page 2

1859: Joseph and Mary Walmsley, criminal careerists
Joseph Walmsley may have promised to leave the colony, to never set his foot in the town again, and indeed he did not, he was sentenced in April 1859 to six months’ hard labour. His histrionics in court were a wonder to behold.

Joseph Walmsley, a cunning thief and vagabond, was brought up by D. C. Rose and charged with being idle and disorderly and frequenting public places for the purpose of committing a felony. Prisoner after hearing an outline of his career given by the detective, in which was shown that he had been various times convicted of felony, and was one of the worst characters in the colony, affected a great outburst of grief, and begged to be allowed to leave the town, in which he would never set his foot again. The magistrate said he would take care the prisoner was not at large in the town for some time and sentenced him to six months’ hard labor. The prisoner was removed doing a mingled attempt at roaring and pleading for liberty.

Source: POLICE COURT. (1859, April 7). Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 – 1899), p. 4 (AFTERNOON).

By July 1859, Joseph Walmsley and his wife Mary Walmsley nee King were back on form in Hobart. On July 7th Mary Walmsley was sentenced to one month’s imprisonment as an idle and disorderly character. In August they were before the Bench together with a man called West for stealing watches and money for which they were acquitted, apparently because not two but one watch was involved, and that watch was later found, so the case was dismissed due to police error. However, in November Mary Walmsley was imprisoned for stealing property including a cheque from a brothel. In January 1860 she was gaoled for two years with hard labor.

Robbery in a Dwelling House – Joseph and Mary Walmsley, and Matthew West, who were remanded on Thursday last, on the charge of having entered the dwelling house of Mr P. J. Reynold’s in Charles-Street, on the evening of Sunday, the 4th instant, and stolen therefrom four watches and some copper money were again bought up at the Police Office before Mr Weedon, on Saturday, when the evidence of Mr O’Connor, the Superintendent and Mr Coulter, Sub-Inspector of Police was taken. Both the male prisoners cross examined the witnesses at great length, and in such a way as to do their case more harm than good. They were very anxious to ascertain the name of the man who they said informed upon them. Mr. O’Connor declined saying whether he had received any information or not. The watch identified by Mr Reynolds, one of those stolen from his bedroom, was found by Mr O’Connor within 6 inches of West’s left foot when he was arrested. Another watch, but not one of those belonging to Mr Reynolds, was found in Walmsley’s pocket. Mr Weedon discharged Mary Walmsley, and committed the other prisoners for trial. Walmsley and West as soon as the woman was discharged, tried hard to persuade Mr Weedon to remand them again, to give them time to get witnesses for their defence. As the witnesses they had sent for were not in attendance, the Bench declined acceding to their request, and committed them to gaol for trial.

Source: Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 – 1880), Wednesday 31 August 1859, page 5

Friday, November 4th. Before – C. J. Weedon, and Wm. Birch, Esquires.
Robbery in a house of ill fame. Mary Walmsley, was committed to gaol for trial, for stealing a £5 note, a cheque for £5, a blue velvet cap, and other articles, the property of Nicholas Stanley, of Avoca, on the 29th October.

Source: Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston, Tas. : 1835 – 1880), Saturday 5 November 1859, page 5

Mary Walmsley, stealing. Had been transported for seven years and became free last year. Sentenced to two years hard labor.

Source: Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 3 January 1860, page 2

1861:burglary at Oatlands
Joseph Walmsley was sentenced by a jury to six years’ imprisonment for the theft of property at Oatlands.

Walmsley, Joseph
Record Type: Court
Status: Free by servitude
Trial date: Apr 1861
Place of trial: Oatlands
Offense: Burglary
Verdict: Guilty
Prosecutions Project ID: 105936
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1524592

TRANSCRIPT (partial)

Thursday, 25th April [1861]
Joseph Walmsley, Conditional Pardon, 7. 4. 57
1914 (struck through)4921 Isabella (2)
Burglary in the dwelling of Thomas Tucker & stlg [stealing] 3 p [pairs] Blankets v. [value] £6 and the property of the said Thos Tucker
Verdict – Guilty on 1st and 2nd not on rest of [?]
Jury (as they sat)
[12 names, including Samuel Page]

1871: the funny side of crime
This sardonic piece on the arrest of Joseph Walmsley was published on 26 August 1871 by The Tasmanian ( The tongue-in-cheek humour recalls how Walmsley was “working for a living” on 14th January 1868 during celebrations on the day the visiting Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Alfred, passed through the town of Perth (northern Tasmania) by breaking and entering a deserted cottage, stealing valuables and cash, and selling the goods for “a disgustingly large amount” before becoming “lost” to police. His services were so valued, as the reporter at The Tasmanian put it, as to be indispensable to the Victorian authorities who kept him there for three years, only re-uniting with his friends in the Tasmanian police force on his return to Launceston where they kept him entertained while awaiting advice from the victim of his theft, bootmaker Philip Mohr on that day of celebrations, the 14th January 1868, when the Prince was in town.

Satire: extract on piece playing with Joseph Walmsley’s arrest at Launceston in The Tasmanian 26 August 1871

TRANSCRIPT (satirical piece)

A queer-looking man named Joseph Walmsley, with a broken nose, remarkably well known to the police authorities, was. brought up at the Police Court on Wednesday 1 charged by Detective-Sergeant Wilson with breaking into the house of Philip Mohr, at Perth, on the 14th January, 1868, and removing a silver watch, a brass guard, and five shillings in silver. It appears that Walmsley was at Perth on the 14th of January, 1868, the day his Royal Highness passed through Perth to visit Launceston. The loyal inhabitants, to a child, mustered in a body to see the Prince pass by, and hear the Warden of Longford read one of the thousand addresses presented to the wearied Prince during his visit to the Australias. Walmsley being an industrious man ‘as works for his living’ did not make one of the deputation, but remained in Perth making money and watches as fast as he could by pocketing such commodities ready made where their owners had left them. In his researches he had to overcome some obstructions by smashing, a window here and there to enable him to enter the desolate cottages in the deserted village. In one of these, the cottage of Philip Mohr, a shoemaker, it appears he found five shillings secreted in a soap dish, and this and a Geneva silver watch with brass chain was all the ‘ boot’ he obtained there. Walmsley followed the Prince to Launceston, and took part in the grand festivities of that period, saw the illumination, the Town Hall decorated with colored lamps, the first sod of the railway turned, and the oaks planted in Prince’s Square. He lodged in Wellington-street, next door to Banks’ the barber’s, where he represented that the watch was his own property; that he had been in the service of Mr O’Connor, at the Lake River, and had come on to Launceston for a spree, and to spend some surplus cash which had accumulated to his credit to a disgustingly large amount. He stopped in town about a fortnight on that occasion, and sold the watch to Mrs Banks (since deceased) for a pound note and a coat valued at ten shillings. Walmsley being intimate with the detective police force, they had called several times at his lodgings to enquire after his health. He was ‘not at home’ to them, and on a Sunday, morning he disappeared from town. The next that was heard of him was through the Melbourne detective police superintendent, stating that they had seen by the Tasmanian crime report that Walmsley ‘was wanted,’ but they would probably require his services in Victoria for a few years, and they retained him there for full three years, in recognition of his peculiar abilities. Being aware of the anxiety of the police here respecting the safety of Walmsley, the Victorian authorities ought to have informed the Launceston police when they could dispense with his services, but they did not, and the poor man might have been lost again if he had not raised sufficient money to bring him back to Launceston. He had been here a few days before Detective Sergeant Wilson met him in Brisbane-street on Wednesday morning, and was so rejoiced to see him safe back again, that he took him by the arm and at once introduced him to Mr Mason. Walmsley was a comparative stranger to Mr Mason, but on the recommendation of Detective Sergeant Wilson and Mr Coulter he authorised Mr Cox to entertain him in a suitable manner, at all events for a week, until they could enquire what Mr Philip Mohr had to say for himself, and the way in which he spent the 14th day of January, 1868.

Source: The Tasmanian, Sat 26 Aug 1871 Page 9 MISCELLANEOUS

The official, matter-of-fact account by contrast, completely devoid of humour, of Joseph Walmsley’s crime for which he was fully committed for trial was published in great detail by the Cornwall Chronicle (Launceston) on September 1, 1871 (


Wednesday, August 30th 1871.
(Before Thomas Mason, Esq., Police Magistrate.)
LARCENY.— Joseph Walmsley charged on remand from 23rd inst., with stealing a watch and chain on the 14th January, 1868, the property of Richard Mohr.
The prisoner pleaded not guilty.
Philip Mohr deposed that in the year 1868 he lived in Scone-street, Perth; he was a shoemaker, and lived at Bishopsbourne now; he remembered the 14th January, 1868, the day Prince Alfred passed through Perth; he and his family went to see the Prince pass; no one was left in charge of the house; he locked the doors and the windows were fastened when he left; witness returned to the house on that day about 4 o’clock or after he believed; he found the doors secure as he had left them, but on entering the house every thing was upside down; he looked about to see how anyone could have got in, and found a window at the back part of the house, one half of which was smashed in and on the floor; a man could have got in at the window; he afterwards examined the house to see if anything had been taken away, and he missed a silver watch which he had left hanging on the wall near the mantel piece; he also missed 5s in silver, which were placed in a soap dish near where the watch was hanging on the mantel piece; there was a brass chain attached to the watch; the watch was a Geneva one, and had been in possession of witness for about 16 years. (The watch had a number of marks on it which witness described, and they corresponded with the same marks on the watch produced, which witness recognised.). Witness knew nothing of the prisoner Joseph Walmsley; no one else lived in the house except his family.
To prisoner – I did not see the watch and chain again until they were shown to me in this office at the time I gave my evidence here before.
William Banks deposed that he was a barber, and resided in Wellington-street; in the month of October 1868, the Superintendent of Police and Sergeant Wilson went to his house, and got a watch and chain, which his wife had given £1 to Walmsley for; he saw the delivery of the watch to his wife by Walmsley; witness never saw prisoner after that until the other day when he returned from Melbourne.
To prisoner – A man named Self and a woman named Annie Johnson were present at the time the watch was given up to the police; did not know where Self was; had suspicion the watch was stolen.
John White, Sergeant of Police at Perth, deposed that he was stationed there in 1868; had seen the prisoner at Perth two or three times about the time the Duke of Edinburgh passed through; he remembered Philip Mohr reporting the robbery on the evening of the day the Duke of Edinburgh passed through.
Sergeant William Wilson deposed that the watch and chain now produced were obtained by him from the wife of witness Banks on the 26th October, 1868; they had been in his possession ever since; three days after he charged the prisoner with stealing them, and obtained a warrant for his apprehension on the charge, but from that time until the 23rd of the present month, he did not see the prisoner again; on the latter day witness apprehended him; prisoner was charged with committing larceny in Launceston on the night of February 15th, 1868, and he disappeared from Launceston some six or seven months after he was apprehended on that charge and brought back to Launceston, and was discharged; he then left town: witness saw nothing of prisoner until he was apprehended on this occasion.
The prisoner cross-examined Sergeant Wilson but nothing material in prisoner’s favor was elicited. In re-examination, witness remembered that it was in September, 1868, and owing to the disappearance of witnesses in the case which led to prisoner being discharged where apprehended, and not in Launceston.
Prisoner was then fully-committed for trial.

Source: Cornwall Chronicle, Friday 1 September 1871, page 2

1871 cont …
When boot prints, a suspect, and the suspect’s boots are all a policeman needs to make a conviction: –  Sergeant Wilson sent Joseph Walmsley off to another six months’ hard labor.

(Before the Police Magistrate.)
Burglary. — Joseph Walmsley charged by Mr Coulter, Superintendent of Police, with burglariously breaking and entering the dwelling house of Mr James McLoughlin, on Thursday night last, with intent to steal his goods and chattels, was remanded for a week.

Source: Cornwall Advertiser Tue 21 Nov 1871 Page 5

TUESDAY, Nov. 2l. A blank charge sheet.
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 22. (Before T. Mason, Esq;, P;M.)
Idle and Disorderly.—Charles Stinson and Samuel Peck were charged, on remand from the 17th inst., with being idle and disorderly, on the 16th inst;, in frequenting a public place with intent to commit a felony. Joseph Walmsley was charged as above, the charge of burglary against him being withdrawn.
James McLoughlin deposed that he was a grocer, and carried on business at the corner of Brisbane and Charles-streets, and resided on the same premises. After business hours, if he left the premises, he left no one inside. About 9 o’clock on the night of the 15th inst., he left home and went as far as the ” Coach and Horses.” Owing to a communication made to him he returned home in about half-an-hour, and found that his bedroom window upstairs had been raised, and that some one had entered or tried to. There was a building at the back underneath the window with a lean-to-roof, which could be easily reached from a fence on the ground.
Thomas Page deposed that on the night of the 16th instant, at about 9 o’clock, he with some others, was near the corner of Charles and Brisbane-streets. His attention, with that of the others, was attracted to the movements of the two men Stinson and Peck. He saw one of them place himself in Charles-street, and the other in Brisbane-street, and one of them whistled to some other person in Charles-street. . He saw Mr McLoughlin leave his house, and after that one of the men (he believed Peck) went up the street in the same direction as Mr McLoughlin. He shortly after came back, and whistled as he stood in the road, which was answered from the direction of Brisbane-street near the cabstand. After Peck had whistled in Brisbane-street he went back into Charles-street. The second man at this time was between Ridley’s and Hatton and Law’s, and opposite the lane which leads to the back of Mr McLoughlin’s.
Richard Green corroborated the evidence of last witness, and said a light was observed inside Mr McLoughlin’s shop. Peck was then standing in the road. About this time Mr, McLoughlin was sent for, but before his arrival a couple of young fellows who were standing near rushed to the door and knocked. Witness went into the yard to the back of Bennell’s, and heard the sound of a person trying to escape. He then saw a man on the top. of the fence which separates Mr Bennell’s premises from Lawrence’s. During the time he saw Peck and the other man walking about, he saw a third man join Peck near to Mr Croft’s ; this man had on a billycock hat. (Walmsley was here requested to put on his hat.) The hat which Walmsley had on was like the one the third man wore.
John Joyce corroborated the evidence of the last witness.
Special Constable Dix, took the prisoner Stinson into custody between nine and ten o’clock, at Hatton and Laws’ corner. The prisoner Peck was apprehended in a brothel at 11 o’clock on the same night.
George Marchant deposed that he was a bootmaker, and lived in York-street; he also occupied a garden opposite the Temperance Hall, and Baptist Chapel. On the 17th instant, he observed footmarks as of some one running across the garden. About ten o’clock on the night of the 16th, he was brought out by the barking of his dog, but did not see anyone.
Sergeant William Wilson deposed he apprehended Joseph Walmsley at a quarter to eleven in the forenoon of the 17th inst , in a brothel in Brisbane-street. His trousers had been recently washed from his knee downwards, his socks were damp, having been washed also. He took his boots and examined them ; and compared them with the footprints in Marchant’s garden. He then put the boots on, and ran across the garden in the same section as the other footmarks, about a yard off them. He was certain they were made by the same boots. Prisoners were each ordered to be imprisoned and kept to hard labor for six months.

Source: Cornwall Advertiser, Friday 24 November 1871, page 2

1876: escaping custody
Joseph Walmsley was tried at the Launceston Court of General Sessions on 7th September 1872, transferred to the Hobart Gaol where he was to serve eight (8) years with hard labour for house breaking and stealing. He was photographed by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin on being received at the Hobart Gaol in late 1872.

Four years later, he was charged with escaping custody at Hobart on 29th July 1876, and sentenced to another twelve (12) months with hard labor.

(From the Mercury.)
It will be remembered that on Wednesday morning last three prisoners escaped from the stone shed in Campbell street. The police at once went in pursuit, and the men were traced as far as the top of Kangaroo Valley, going in the direction of New Norfolk, where they were lost. The search has been continued ever since, and we learn that one of them was captured on Saturday night at Sorell Creek, in the district of New Norfolk. A policeman was there at the time, and he managed to secure Walmsley. He could also have captured Bright, but a man in a hut close by refused to take charge of Walmsley, and the constable was compelled, therefore, to let the other prisoner be at large a little longer.

Source: Cornwall Chronicle Wednesday 26 July 1876, page 3

Joseph Walmsley was transferred to the Port Arthur prison on 9th August 1876 and transferred back to the House of Corrections, Hobart Town on 17th April 1877 at the closure of the Port Arthur prison. Contrary to the inscription on the verso of his photograph (see above) held at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, he was not photographed at Port Arthur in 1874, nor was he photographed by the commandant there, Adolarious Humphrey Boyd. Boyd was not even in that position in 1874; he was forced to resign from the position in December 1873 under suspicion of corruption and bullying. He was not a photographer by any definition of the term despite the efforts of Boyd’s descendants and their apologists claiming otherwise. There is a second copy of this photograph taken by Nevin currently held at the Port Arthur prison tourist park on the Tasman peninsula, which explains in some part why the staff there would like to claim it as an original photograph created on site back in the days of Boyd’s tenure. The copy was made in 1983 when at least fifty mugshots, including this one of Joseph Walmsley, were removed from convictarian John Watt Beattie’s collection of government estrays held at the Queen Victorian Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston since 1930. It was numbered 137 on the mount (recto), and taken down to Port Arthur to be displayed in an exhibition (1983-84). Once the exhibition finished, those fifty or so mugshots were deposited at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Galley, Hobart, where they remain.  They were not returned to the original collection at the QVMAG.

So, Thomas J. Nevin’s police mugshot of Joseph Walmsley might be called a “portrait” of a “Port Arthur convict” to satisfy the tourists – Walmsley was undoubtedly imprisoned there in the 1840s – but that was before photography was even invented, and certainly before it was introduced into the administration of the Hobart Municipal Police Office, the Hobart Gaol, and Tasmanian courts in 1872 when Thomas J. Nevin was contracted for the task. Nevin’s photograph of Walmsley and the three hundred or more similar mugshots of Tasmanian prisoners he photographed in the 1870s (some but not all are accessible in public collections) was not taken as an experiment by a dabbling amateur as A. H. Boyd has been constructed, nor was it ever intended to be an artefact of Tasmania’s penal heritage to be viewed on the walls of galleries and museums for the middle-class gaze. This is a mugshot of a prisoner, Joseph Walmsley who – like all the others taken of career criminals, recidivists and repeat offenders – was photographed in the usual circumstances of arraignment, incarceration and discharge according to judicial photographic practice established first in the colonies of South Australia, NSW and Victoria by 1871, and in Tasmania by 1872.

Walmsley, Joseph
Arrived at Port Arthur 9 August 1876
Archives Office of Tasmania Convict records, Port Arthur, CON94-1-2P38

1879: discharged
The police gazette record provides the following information:
Joseph Walmsley arrived in Tasmania on the ship Isabella 2 [1842]
He was tried at Launceston on 17 September 1872 for house breaking and stealing, sentenced to eight (8) years. He was also tried at Hobart on 29 July 1876 for absconding and sentenced to one year. Details of his physical appearance in this notice include England as place of birth; 50 years old at time of discharge in September 1879; height 5 feet 2 and half inches (that’s short!); hair dark brown and scars on little finger (left) upper lip, nose broken, mole on neck near left ear, mole under left eye, and very small ears (how small ?). His status on discharge: Free in servitude (FS).

Joseph Walmsley was discharged from Hobart Town in the week ending 24 September 1879.
Source: Tasmania Reports of Crime for Police [weekly police gazette] James Barnard Gov’t Printer

Very small ears?

1880: attempted burglary
Joseph Walmsley was physically violent when caught in the act. He was found guilty on this occasion, sentenced to ten years. He died in 1891 within a year of finishing it.

ATTEMPTED BURGLARY.-A man named Joseph Walmsley, who had just finished a sentence of eight years’ imprisonment for burglary, was arrested by Constable Wilkins on Thursday night on a charge of being on the premises of Mr Donald Cameron, landlord of the Scottish Chief, for some felonious intent. It appears that on Thursday evening Mr Cameron had occasion to go into his bedroom, and while there discovered Walmsley hidden under his bed. Mr Cameron pulled Walmsley out, and during a struggle which ensued, Walmsley, finding that Mr Cameron was getting the best of him, drew a half-inch mortice chisel out of his pocket and made a blow at Mr Cameron, who managed to wrench the instrument from him. Assistance was sent for to the police station, and the prisoner was taken into custody. On examining a chest of drawers in the room it was found that an attempt had been made to prize open two small drawers containing money, as the marks on the drawers corresponded exactly with the size of the chisel. Walmsley was brought up at the Police Court yesterday and remanded until Monday.

Source: Launceston Examiner, Sat 27 Mar 1880 Page 2

SUPREME COURT. The Civil Sittings of the Supreme Court at Launceston have been postponed to the 12th instant, but the Criminal Sittings open on Thursday next, at 11 a.m. The following is the calendar-: John Hardesty. aged 25, charged with having, on or about the 12th January, 1872, at Flinder’s Island, murdered one Ralph Plaice. Joseph Walmsley, aged 54, charged with having at Launceston, on 25th March, feloniously entered the dwelling-house of Donald Cameron, the Scottish Chief Hotel, with intent to commit a felony.

Source: Launceston Examiner, Monday 5 April 1880, page 2

Joseph Walmsley: summary of trials and sentences in the Tasmanian Supreme Court
Webshot: The Prosecution Project – Historic Trials

1891: death of Joseph Walmsley
This account of the criminal career of 14 year old Joseph Walmsley is incomplete. There were more early offences which remain undocumented because the police gazettes, called Tasmania Reports of Crime for Police, the best source of information for exact dates, aliases etc, were not published until the 1860s. Joseph Walmsley, who arrived in the penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land at Hobart in 1842, having been transported for seven years for stealing insignificant amounts of money, never rose above the status of felon. He never rose about 5 feet 2 inches in height, either, from 1842 when he was a 14 year old boy to his discharge from the Hobart Gaol in 1879 when he was 50 (or more nearly 55) years old, despite the great nourishment provided for him at Her Majesty’s expense. Joseph Walmsley, laborer, died of senility on 16 October 1891 aged 67 yrs at Campbell Town, Tasmania, after years of sentencing with hard labor.

Source: Archives Office of Tasmania$init=RGD35-1-60P58

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