Prisoner John WILLIAMS and his scar 1874

The mugshot: positive and negative views
The photograph taken of John Williams on discharge at the Hobart Gaol for Municipal Police Office records by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin in late January 1874 is held in the Beattie Collection at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania. Unlike dozens of these prisoner mugshots which were removed from the QVMAG and exhibited at the Port Arthur Heritage site in 1983, this one was not chosen. There may be a reason for the oversight. This prisoner was free to the colony of Tasmania, he was not transported prior to 1853 when transportation to Tasmania ceased. He had no history of daring or blood chilling crime to titillate the tourists on their visit to Beattie’s Port Arthur convictaria museum in Hobart where many of these mugshots were displayed in the 1900s. Although imprisoned eventually at Port Arthur 60 kms south of Hobart in 1871 on sentencing to three years for housebreaking and burglary at the Supreme Court Launceston, this prisoner with no known alias, John Williams, was not photographed at Port Arthur. He was photographed by Nevin on removal to the Hobart Goal (HHC – Hobart House of Corrections) on 19th January 1874 prior to discharge two weeks later.

The police gazette description on discharge of this prisoner John Williams noted a scar – “cicatrix on right side of chin”. A strong black mark running from the prisoner’s mouth down his chin on his left side rather than his right in the positive print looks to be an ink mark over the scar, possibly drawn by a viewer years or decades later. The scar appears on the viewer’s right and therefore on the prisoner’s left when facing the photograph, perhaps because the police gazette notice was written from the photograph in the absence of any prior record –  note the lack of detail on the conduct record below. Then again, the glass negative might have been used by the writer of the police gazette notice, fresh from the sitting, in which case the writer was probably the photographer Thomas Nevin or his assistant, his brother Constable John Nevin at the Hobart Gaol. The glass negative would therefore show the black mark extending from the prisoner’s mouth to his chin on his right side, correctly so as the police gazette states, as in this flipped version on left:

Left:    scar on his right (glass negative view)
Right:  scar on his left   (paper print view)

Prisoner John WILLIAMS 1874
Photographed by T. J. Nevin 20-30 January 1874
QVMAG Collection
Ref: QVM 1985_P_0132
Recto inscription: “196”
Verso inscription: “63 John Williams per Tasmania Taken at Port Arthur 1874″
Plus various QVMAG accessioning numbers and dates in 1958 and 1985

Prisoner John WILLIAMS 1874
Photographed by T. J. Nevin 20-30 January 1874
QVMAG Collection
Ref: QVM 1985_P_0132

Prisoner/convict John Williams
Caption: Arrived free per Tasmania. Tried Launceston and sent to Port Arthur. Photo taken at Port Arthur by Thomas Nevin.
Ref: PH30/1/3224
Archives of Tasmania

Discharge 1874
John Williams arrived free to the colony (FC) at Launceston on the intercolonial vessel Tasmania. He was sentenced at the Supreme Court Launceston on 1 June 1871 to 3 years for house breaking and robbery. He was born in England, 43 years old, 5 feet 3 inches in height with brown hair. He had a cicatrix on the right side of his chin, and was balding on top. He was formally discharged in court at the Port Arthur prison, and removed to the Hobart Goal (HHC – Hobart House of Corrections) on 19th January. The Office of Inspector of Police, Hobart Town, gazetted his discharge on 30th January 1874.

Prisoner John WILLIAMS was discharged from Port Arthur, and released free at Hobart, 30 January 1874. Source: Tasmania Reports of Crime for Police (Police Gazette)

Conduct Record 1871-74
This page from the Hobart Gaol record is devoid of any physical descriptors of the prisoner John Williams. It simply records offences while imprisoned at Port Arthur and movements from Port Arthur. John Williams received 3 months for misconduct on 8 October 1872. On 19 January 1874 the residue of his sentence was remitted. On 24 January 1874 he was moved from Port Arthur to the House of Corrections at Hobart (Hobart Gaol). On 30 January 1874 he was discharged from Hobart.

Williams, John
Record Type: Convicts
Ship: Tasmania
Remarks: Free to colony. Tried Launceston June 1871
Index number: 76631
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1446804
Conduct Record: CON37/1 Page 6097
CON37/1/10 Page 5829