Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Chiniquy Riots, Hobart Town Hall 1879

CHINIQUY RIOTS Hobart Town Hall 1879
THOMAS J. NEVIN Special Constable

Extreme left: Hobart Town all, Macquarie St. Hobart Tasmania ca. 1880
ePrints University of Tasmania

Thomas J. Nevin at the Hobart Town Hall
Commercial photograph and government contractor Thomas J. Nevin was appointed above 23 other applicants to the position of Keeper at the Hobart Town Hall in 1875. Prior to this full-time position in the civil service, he held contracts with the Hobart City Council's  Lands and Survey Department and the Colonial Government's Prisons Department on the recommendation of his family solicitor, the Hon. W. R. Giblin, Attorney General and Tasmanian Premier. From January 1876 to December 1880, Thomas J. Nevin was both Town Hall and Office Keeper for the Mayor's Court (Mercury 1st January 1878), as well as photographer for the Municipal Police Office, each housed under the one roof at the Hobart Town Hall with cells in the basement. His duties ranged from supervising inebriated constables on night watch, making sure the chimneys were swept, maintaining the grounds and watering the trees out front to preparing the Hall for exhibitions, lectures and concerts, in addition to  keeping police photographic records taken by him of prisoners at the Mayor's Court and MPO current with those taken at the Hobart Gaol, mostly with his brother Constable John Nevin.

Office-keeper, Thomas Nevin
The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) Tue 1 Jan 1878 Page 1 MUNICIPALITY OF HOBART TOWN.

Mayor, W. P. Green. Aldermen: W. H. Burgess, jun., F. J. Pike, E. Maher, E. Espie, J. Harcourt, John Watchorn. J. E. Addison, M. F. Daly. Auditors, A. T. Stuart and W. F. Brownell. Town Clerk and Treasurer, H. Wilkinson. Accountant, W. H. Smith. Municipal Clerk,W. T. Birch. City Surveyor, J. Rait. Director of Water Works,W. C. Christopherson. Health Officer, E. S. Hall Collectors, F. H. Piesse and W. Brundle. City Inspector and Inspector of Weights and Measures, W. Mason. Lessee of Old Market, J. G. Turner ; New Market, T. H. Turner. Inspector of Stock, G. Propsting ; assistant to Inspector of Stock, Joseph Turner. Office-keeper, Thomas Nevin ; messenger, L. Marks.
Police.-Superintendent, Richard Propsting ; clerk, S. W. Rheuben. Sub-Inspectors, W. M'Connell, C. Pitman ; Detectives, W. Simpson, J. Connors. Summoning Officer. John Dorsett.
In 1879, Thomas J. Nevin was made Special Constable during the visit of the Canadian renegade Catholic priest, Charles Chiniquy. Freeman et al in a recent publication (2016) include a carte-de-visite of Charles Chiniquy (Bardwell Studio ca. 1880) and an account of the "riots" during Chiniquy's visit to the Town Hall on page 87, yet no mention is made in the text of the Special Constables, nor indeed of the Town Hall Keeper himself during the years of Thomas J. Nevin's incumbency.

Page 87 of Freeman, Peter, 1942 (Aug. 25)- & Evans, Kathryn, 1964-, (researcher.) & Lennard, Brendan, (author.) & Hobart (Tas.). Council (issuing body.) (2016). Municipal magnificence : the Hobart Town Hall 1866-2016. Hobart, [Tasmania] Hobart City Council
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2017
Taken at the National Library of Australia 8th June 2017

Cdv of Charles Chiniquy, Bardwell Studio 1880
Detail of page 87 of Freeman, Peter et al 2016
Photo copyright © KLW NFC 2017
Taken at the National Library of Australia 8th June 2017

Omitted too is any indication among the multitude of plans and architectural designs of the whereabouts of the Keeper's residence. Thomas J. Nevin, his wife Elizabeth Rachel Nevin and their two children born before 1875 - known to descendants as May and Sonny - arrived there at the Hobart Town Hall as their new home in 1876, and by 1880, three more children had been born there, two of whom survived to adulthood - William John and George Ernest Nevin - and one who lived less than four months, Sydney John Nevin. These five children with their parents Thomas and Elizabeth Nevin were housed at the Hobart Town Hall between early 1876 and late 1880, a fact mentioned in the police report regarding Nevin's alleged involvement with the appearance of a "ghost" frightening the girls of Hobart Town in 1880. Two more were born after 1880 when Thomas Nevin resumed photographic practice at his New Town studio.

Children of Thomas James Nevin and Elizabeth Rachel Nevin nee Day
  • May (Mary Elizabeth Florence) (19 May 1872 - 4th June 1955)
  • Thomas James ("Sonny") Nevin jnr (16 April 1874 -17 January 1948)
  • Sydney John Nevin (26 October 1876 - 28 January 1877)
  • William John Nevin (14 March 1878 - 28 28 October 1927)
  • George Ernest Nevin (2 April 1880 - 30 July 1957)
  • Minnie (Mary Ann) Nevin (11 November 1884 - 14 September 1974)
  • Albert Edward Nevin (2 May 1888 - 3 November 1955)
A very questionable omission in this book is information from authentic historic sources regarding the presence of the police and their operations in the Hobart Town Hall during the 1870s, the years of Thomas Nevin's residency as Office and Hall Keeper. The Hobart Municipal Police Office was housed on the right-hand side as the visitor enters the building from the Macquarie Street entrance, and the Mayor's Court was housed on the left hand-side down the corridor past the office of the present Keeper.

Memo of the process of selection for Thomas Nevin as Town Hall Keeper 1875
Source: MCC16/129 Minutes of Meetings of the Hobart City Council 1853-1967
TAHO Ref: Z1060
Taken at the Archives Office Tasmania 7 March 2014
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2014

Thomas J. Nevin was paid £78 for the year 1879 as Town Hall Keeper. He received an allowance for the residence - "30 shillings per week with free quarters, fuel and light" (Mercury, 29 December 1875). He was also paid out of the City Surveyor's Department to meet photographic contracts held since 1872 to provide visual documentation for changes in landscapes (eg. the Glenorchy landslip, the waterworks, rock formations on Mt. Wellington etc); for urban development within streetscapes; and for portraiture of HCC employees and families (eg. Constable McVilly's children). From the Police Fund he was paid for the provision of prisoner identification mugshots and warrants as bailiff to detectives (e.g. Detective Dorsett), out of the costs of Printing, Stationery etc at the Municipal Police Office housed within the Town Hall. During the visit of Canadian renegade priest Charles Chiniquy in 1879 he was also paid for service as a Special Constable to the HCC.

Source: MCC16/129 Minutes of Meetings of the Hobart City
Council 1853-1967
TAHO Ref: Z1060
Taken at the Archives Office Tasmania 7 March 2014
Photos copyright © KLW NFC 2014

Special Constable during the Chiniquy Riots
Thomas J. Nevin took the same oath as members of the regular police force when he was made Special Constable during the emergency in 1879, namely -
"I do swear that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady the Queen in the office of special constable for the City of Hobart Town ..."

Thomas Nevin's MPO supervisor,
Superintendent Richard Propsting
Unattributed, MPO 1879
AOT Ref: 30-282c

Thomas J. Nevin's appointment to the Hobart City Council at the Town Hall appeared in the Mercury Supplement on January 24, 1876, Page 1, column 6:

Mr. Thomas Nevin, photographer, has been appointed Town Hall keeper, Hobart Town, in succession to the late Mr. Needham. There were 24 applicants for the office.
Life as a full-time civil servant employed by The Hobart City Council at the Hobart Town Hall from January 1876, as Office-keeper by 1878, and Hall-keeper until December 1880 was both an interesting and stressful time for Thomas and Elizabeth Rachel Nevin (nee Day). Their third child, second son Sydney John died there aged four (4) months, reported in the Mercury on January 29th, 1877. Two more sons were born there; William John in 1878, and George Ernest in 1880.

The New York Times on February 9th, 1875, printed an account by the American team visiting Hobart to photograph the Transit of Venus in December 1874. Their description of the Hobart Town Hall mentioned the Public Library and the availability of overseas newspapers:

New York Times, February 8th, 1875
Read the full article here:

Other early accounts detail not only the Library, but other areas of the building which housed the Municipal Police Office, a municipal court and a number of lock up cells in the basement. Thomas J. Nevin's office duties included the provision of criminal identification photographs for the Police Office, taken of repeat offenders on incarceration and release from the Hobart Gaol, the Supreme Court, and the MPO for the central criminal registers.

The Town Hall was the busiest venue in Hobart for a wide range of entertainments, including flower and poultry shows, art and music conversazione, bazaars of furniture, and packed-out evenings featuring dioramas of "Zulu" Thompson's American, Zulu and Prussian wars.

Crowded houses:
Thompson's Dioramas
The Mercury 14 February 1879

Tensions within the local population were running high in June 1879 when Keeper Thomas J. Nevin was sworn in as Special Constable to maintain the peace during the visit and lecture at the Town Hall by the Canadian lapsed Catholic priest, Charles Chiniquy. Mention of this fact was made in the report which appeared in the Mercury December 4, 1880, of Nevin's dismissal from his position at the Town Hall for inebriation while on duty some eighteen months later:
BY THE MAYOR: Witness had never been sworn in to act as a special constable except on the occasion of the disturbances which arose during the visit of Pastor Chiniquy ...
Read the full article [pdf]
Swearing in Special Constables
The Mercury, 28 June 1879, page 3

Differing reports of the Chiniquy Riots

There are several accounts of the Chiniquy riots, depending on the teller. Some saw the events as a disturbance, others called them riots. Chiniquy's account tells how the door of the Town Hall was broken down, and hand-to-hand combat ensued between the Protestant guard and the Catholic protesters, resulting in wounds on both sides. Thomas Nevin would have been armed with a constable's baton as a Special Constable and issued a white armband.

Charles Chiniquy, in his own words apparently, gave this account:
The very next day (21st of April) at Castlemain[e], I was again fiercely attacked and wounded on the head as I came from addressing the people. One of the ministers who was standing by me was seriously wounded and lost much blood. At Geelong, I had again a very narrow escape from stones thrown at me in the streets. In 1879, while lecturing in Melbourne, the splendid capital of Victoria, Australia, I received a letter from Tasmania, signed by twelve ministers of the Gospel saying:

"We are much in need of you here, for though the Protestants are in the majority, they leave the administration of the country almost entirely in the hands of Roman Catholics, who rule us with an iron rod. The governor is a Roman Catholic, etc. We wish to have you among us, though we do not dare to invite you to come. For we know that your life will be in danger day and night while in Tasmania. The Roman Catholics have sworn to kill you, and we have too many reasons to fear that they will fulfill their promises. But, though we do not dare ask you to come, we assure you that there is a great work for you here, and that we will stand by you with our people. If you fall, you will not fall alone."

I answered: "Are we not soldiers of Christ, and must we not be ready and willing to die for Him, as He did for us? I will go."

On the 24th of June, as I was delivering my first lecture in Hobart Town, the Roman Catholics, with the approbation of their bishop, broke the door of the hall, and rushed towards me, crying, "Kill him! kill him!" The mob was only a few feet from me, brandishing their daggers and pistols, when the Protestants threw themselves between them and me, and a furious hand-to-hand fight occurred, during which many wounds were received and given. The soldiers of the Pope were overpowered, but the governor had to put the city under martial law for four days, and call the whole militia to save my life from the assassins drilled by the priests.
From: Fifty Years in the Church of Rome by Charles Chiniquy

Architect Henry Hunter wrote to the Mercury, published on June 24, 1879, complaining of "orgies" at the Town Hall:

The Mercury on the 25th June 1879 was scathing of the incompetence of the police and Superintendent Richard Propsting, who was caricatured by T. Midwood in his cartoon "The Light of Other Days" 1880:

T. Midwood's cartoon of Supt Propsting
State Library of Tasmania,
Ref: AUTAS001124067547

... A more helpless display of cowardice, imbecility, and ignorance of duty, was never manifested on the part of the police of Hobart Town, and that is saying a great deal.... But the presence of the police, and their inactivity, though jostled by the rowdies, countenanced disturbance rather than repressed it; and when Mr Superintendent Propsting publicly declined interference, he admitted that the police were present where they were useless, while, to allow them to be present, the city was left unprotected ...

The Mercury, June 25, 1879

DISTURBANCE IN THE TOWN HALL.-The freedom with which we have on previous occasions, and more especially to-day, opened our columns in connection with Pastor Chiniquy's mission, will show that we are prepared to afford to all the opportunity of obtaining a fair hearing, while at the same time excluding questions of theology and creed, which are certainly not suited for our columns. We offer no opinion on the wisdom or otherwise of that mission, or on the countenance the Pastor is receiving. But we do strongly object to the disgrace which has been cast upon Hobart Town by the lawless violence of a body of men who yesterday mustered in the Town Hall to prevent the purpose of an advertised meeting, which, whether judicious or not, was lawful. We shall say no more on this subject, except to express a hope that those engaged in last night's disturbance feel ashamed of the part they took, and that they will be disadvised from proceeding with their threatened meeting and action tonight. But the question assumes altogether a different phase when the part tho police took, or rather did not take, is considered. A more helpless display of cowardice, imbecility, and ignorance of duty, was never manifested on the part of the police of Hobart Town, and that is saying a great deal. The ringleaders in the disturbance were few in numbers, and the exercise of a little firm determination on the part of some dozen constables present would have maintained the peace without the necessity of an arrest. But the presence of the police, and their inactivity, though jostled by the rowdies, countenanced disturbance rather than repressed it ; and when Mr. Superintendent Propsting publicly declined interference, he admitted that the police were present where they were useless, while, to allow them to be present, the city was left unprotected. But it was evident that if Mr. Propsting knew his duty, the men under him were ignorant of theirs. They were helpless spectators of a disgraceful row, because he either did not know or would not do his duty. In dealing with the conduct of the police, the object of the meeting is altogether immaterial. If the police were justified last night in looking contentedly on at a row, they would be equally warranted in standing idly by at any political or other meeting while violence was being done, or grievous bodily injury inflicted. Is the public prepared for such a probability? We feel assured not, and therefore, since any reform or improvement seems impossible under the present régime, we think it would be well that the citizens should learn, through the Police Committee, what are the relations between the police and the citizens, and for what purpose the force is kept up.
Source: Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), Wednesday 25 June 1879, page 2

William Henry Burgess (1847-1917) was a Wesleyan, a wholesale merchant, and the Hobart Town Mayor at the time. His biographer in the Australian Dictionary of Biography gives this account:

Believing that civic administration in Hobart needed improvement he offered himself as an alderman. He was elected in 1876, was made a justice of the peace in 1878 and became mayor in 1879. In that year Charles Pasqual Chiniquy, a priest expelled from the Roman Catholic church, caused great disturbance when he applied for the use of the Hobart Town Hall. The premier, W. L. Crowther, notified Burgess that he was responsible as mayor for the public peace. The City Council supported the right to liberty of speech and decided to enforce law and order with their own resources. Burgess recruited 150 volunteers to act as special constables, but when violence seemed imminent Governor Weld and his Executive Council decided to call out the volunteer corps. Two buglers were stationed at the Town Hall to give the alarm, but Bishop Murphy appealed to his flock and Chiniquy addressed a capacity audience without interruption. This was perhaps the most remarkable military episode in the otherwise peaceful history of Hobart.

Mayor W. H. Burgess
Reprint by Beattie, J. W. Date: 19--?
Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts
ADRI: AUTAS001125880815

The Catholic Archbishop Daniel Murphy's biographer saw it this way:
In July 1879 when the Canadian lapsed priest, Charles Chiniquy, lectured in Hobart, Catholic Archbishop Daniel Murphy (1815-1907) was praised by Governor Weld for preventing bloodshed. He persuaded a large gathering of armed Catholics in the Domain not to march to the Town Hall which was guarded by Orangemen; instead they escorted the bishop home.
And the Premier of Tasmania's son, Edward Crowther, contributed by mustering the militia:
Like many others [Edward] Crowther (1843-1931) was alarmed by Russian infiltration towards India and he decided to reform the neglected Southern Tasmanian Volunteer Artillery. With carefully selected recruits and experienced officers he helped to make an efficient unit, despite official reluctance to provide powder and shell for gun practice; their discipline and appearance with field guns had a steadying effect when martial law was proclaimed in the Chiniquy riots.
An academic assessment appeared in the journal Labour History, Number 75, 1998, titled "Creating an Orderly Society: The Hobart Municipal Police 1880-1898" by Stefan Petrow:
The late 19th century witnessed a remarkable decline in urban crime and disorder in Australia, England, and America. Historians have suggested various reasons for this decline including the spread of education, the introduction of social reforms, and greater economic prosperity. Another key factor was the development of more numerous and efficient police forces. As the importance of these factors differed from city to city, local studies of particular cities are needed to help understanding of the wider processes at work. This article examines the role of the Hobart municipal police in helping to make Hobart into an orderly city. It considers the reform of the police after the Chiniquy riots of 1879, the role of Superintendent Frederick Pedder in enforcing a new code of conduct on the police and the improved working conditions enjoyed by the police. The article considers how successfully the municipal police dealt with disorder created by the Salvation Army, prostitutes, and pubs. The conclusion examines why centralisation of the police was introduced in 1898.
Rioters injuring the Town Hall

Hobart Town Hall interior 1879.
Artist unknown. Private Collection,
Copyrighted Antique Print Room

The Hobart newspaper the Mercury of June 26, 1879 was a special edition in many ways for photographer and Town Hall keeper Thomas Nevin. It contained a dramatic account of the riot at the Town Hall the previous evening, details of which may well have been supplied to the reporter by Nevin himself who was not mentioned as the Town Hall keeper probably because he was in the ante-room of the Town Hall keeping the source of the trouble, the Canadian renegade Catholic Pastor Chiniquy, hidden from view of riot leader O'Shea in the "Irish Corner" of the Hall. Chiniquy did not deliver his scheduled lecture that evening, nor the next.

The Mercury, 26 June 1879

Thomas J. Nevin would have taken a very keen interest indeed in the proceedings at the City Police Court on July 10th, 1879 when criminal charges were dropped against eight men alleged to have rioted at the Hobart Town Hall while the Canadian renegade Catholic priest Pastor Chiniquy attempted to give a lecture.

As the Keeper of the Hobart Town Hall appointed in December 1875, Thomas J. Nevin was responsible, among other duties, for the protection of the building itself. And for the duration of Chiniquy's visit to Hobart, Nevin was also appointed a Special Constable, one of several assaulted during the riots. So his involvement with these proceedings against the rioters was not only in the interest of damages to the Town Hall buildings, it was damages to his own person and the threat to the safety of his family who were residents that he was keen to see vindicated.

Interior of Hobart Town Hall ca. 1880
Unattributed, Archives Office of Tasmania

The eight rioters "were charged with riotously injuring a building", "riotously injuring the Town Hall" and specifically - "the breaking open of the ante-room of the Town Hall" . The charges would have incurred a severe penal code punishment of seven years' imprisonment and a trial at the Supreme Court. However, Attorney-General Giblin sought to substitute the charge with the lesser one of disturbing the peace, and at this sitting, reported in The Mercury on 11th July 1879, the charges were withdrawn entirely because of Giblin's concern with excessive costs involved in such a trial.

etc etc

TRANSCRIPT (see end of this post for the full report)
THURSDAY, JULY 10, 1879.

THE TOWN HALL RIOTERS.-James Macdonald, George Cleary, John Scanlon, George Flynn, Brian Molloy, John Gleeson, sen., John Gleeson, jun., and Michael Gleeson, were charged with riotously injuring a building. Mr. W. R. Giblin prosecuted on behalf of the Superintendent of Police, by whom the information was laid ; and Mr. C. H. Bromby and Mr. A. I. Clark appeared on behalf of six of the defendants. Michael Gleeson and Cleary did not appear. The summoning officer said the former information had been issued in mistake. It should have been James Gleeson,

Mr. Giblin said he was instructed to appear on behalf of the Superintendent of Police for the Hobart Town Corporation. The information appeared to have been laid under a highly penal clause, vis., the 12th section of the 27th Victoria, No. 7, in which it was provided-" If any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together to the disturbance of the public peace shall unlawfully and with force injure or damage" any building etc,, "every such offender shall he guilty of a misdemeanour and being convicted thereof, shall be liable to be imprisoned for seven years." The information having been submitted to him by the solicitor of the corporation, he had advised that this proceeding should not be gone on with ; and he had therefore to apply for permission to withdraw tho charge against the defendants, with a view to substituting a charge of disturbing the peace and assaulting constables in the execution of their duty, a charge which could of course be summarily dealt with by the bench. The present charge, if proved to the satisfaction of the magistrates, would necessarily entail the committal of the defendants for trial at the Supreme Court ; but it was not desired to take that form of proceeding, hence he wished to withdraw the information. The information was not drawn under legal advice, but in a very natural ignorance of the difficulties which would surround a prosecution of that nature.

Mr. Bromby said he appeared with his learned friend (Mr. Clark) to answer a charge of riot brought against their clients - an offence they had never committed, and they were naturally anxious to be vindicated from having committed it all . But as the learned counsel for the prosecution asked leave to withdraw the charge, he could say no more.

Mr. Tarleton: No charge being pressed, no defence can be heard. It is not for the Bench to put any obstacle in the way of the course that is proposed by the counsel for the municipality. I presume he has looked into the case in all its bearings and advised the course most expedient for the interests of justice, peace, and order, Therefore I shall not attempt to urge upon him to proceed with the case, but shall allow the information to be withdrawn, as he has desired.

Mr. Bromby suggested that the defendants were entitled to costs. They were most respectable citizens, and they had been taken away from their occupations only to find when they got there that the prosecutor was obliged to withdraw from the charge.

Mr. Tarleton: The bench has no power to order any costs. Let the defendants be discharged.
Adjunct to Office and Hall Keeper, Nevin's other duties as Special Constable and police photographer at the Municipal Police Office, which was housed within the City Corporation's Town Hall buildings, were overseen by Superintendent Richard Propsting. It may have been Thomas Nevin who brought the charges in the first instance without seeking the City Corporation's legal counsel, as Attorney-General Giblin stated in proceedings that " the information was not drawn under legal advice" . Nevin would have reported the damage caused by the rioters, including their names to Supt. Propsting, who proceeded with the charges. Propsting's lack of control of the riots and mismanagement of police resources gave rise to endless criticism in the press, alleging incompetence and sympathy with those who howled down Chiniquy during the lecture. This one in the same issue of The Mercury, 11th July 1979 had reached Adelaide:

Outside opinion of the Police
The Mercury, 11th July 1979

Thomas J. Nevin on the steps of the Hobart Town Hall 
Archives Office of Tasmania Ref: PH612 TAHO)

The Aftermath
The riots culminated in three key events: the withdrawal of charges against the rioters in July 1879 and Richard Propsting's somewhat sudden resignation from the police force a few months later. Thomas Nevin's dismissal from the position of Keeper of the Town Hall followed soon after in late 1880 on a trumped-up charge of drunkenness while on duty surrounding "The Ghost" incident. Other criticisms were levelled at Nevin, including one sneering article in The Mercury, 19th September 1879, which accused him of finding "too infra-dig" the job of watering the trees in front of Hobart Town Hall.

Photograph - All Nations Hotel, Hobart.
Archives Office Tasmania [unattributed, no date]
View online: LPIC147-3-172

Testing the By-Laws at the All Nations Hotel
Thomas J. Nevin was retained as police photographer and assistant bailiff by the Hobart City Corporation on compassionate consideration for his family after his dismissal in December 1880 from the full-time civil service position of Town Hall keeper. He subsequently continued with photographic contracts for the Territorial Police from his studio at New Town, and worked as assistant bailiff to detectives. His dismissal from the Town Hall position was ostensibly for inebriation while on duty, later discovered to be based on false complaints made in retaliation for reporting a particular constable asleep and drunk on duty. There were in fact much larger extenuating circumstances leading to his dismissal. The Hobart City Corporation had stopped payments to civil servants in the aftermath of the public outcry at police mismanagement of the Chiniquy riots in 1879, and a failing economy underscored by corruption within government ranks and over-expenditure on railways led to default of the Supply Bill. With payments stopped to the Civil Service, Thomas Nevin's position at the Town Hall had become untenable, both in terms of his family's upkeep, and maintenance of the Town Hall building.

In addition to complaints, there was residual resentment by Thomas J. Nevin and others at the law's laxity in pursuing the Chiniquy rioters when charges were dropped against the ringleaders in July 1879 by Magistrate Wm Tarleton at the Bench.

Magistrate W. Tarleton
Cartoon by Thomas Midwood [ca. 1880]
[William Tarleton] "Five Shillings or Seven Days in Default" T.M.
State Library of Tasmania Link:

By early 1881, just weeks after his dismissal from the Town Hall keeper position, Thomas Nevin found himself in a situation to test the legislation pertaining to the rights of assembly, congregation and disturbing the peace. On 28th February 1881, Nevin and with two others, Thomas Hodgson and Thomas Paul, were standing on the footpath outside the All Nations Hotel at the corner of Elizabeth and Collins Streets, Hobart, when they were reported by the police for obstructing the thoroughfare. In the Police Court, they presented as "respectable citizens ... talking over business affairs" before Magistrate Wm. Tarleton who saw no harm and dropped the charges.

Portion of Town Chart of Hobart, showing situation of the valuable property known as "The All Nations Hotel" and "Eldon Chambers" corner of Collins and Elizabeth Streets, Hobart
Publication Information: [Tasmania? : s.n., 1905?]
View online:

Archives Office Tasmania
"All Nations Hotel" corner of Elizabeth St and Collins St Hobart (SW aspect)
Item Number: NS392/1/741
Creating Agency: Cecil Percy Ray (Photographer) (NG392)

The All Nations Hotel, corner of Elizabeth and Collins Street, Hobart; 
Demolished, replaced by The Commercial Bank, corner of Elizabeth Street and Collins Streets, Hobart
Item Number: PH30/1/438. State Library of Tasmania.

Appearance in Court as "Respectable Citizens"
Thomas J. Nevin had acquired extensive experience working with police by 1881. From 1872 while still a commercial photographer, he worked on government contract in local courts and gaols, providing photographic records of prisoners to the Hobart Municipal Police Office and the Tasmanian colonial government's Prisons Department. In the years following his appointment to the Hobart City Council as  Hall and Office Keeper at the Hobart Town Hall (1876-1880), he was sworn in as a Special Constable during the Chiniquy riots. On several occasions he had to deal with inebriated constables on night duty who put the security of the Town Hall  at risk. His younger brother Constable John Nevin (1851-1891) was resident messenger and his brother Thomas's photographic assistant at the H. M. Gaol, Campbell St. until his death from typhus there in 1891. Between them, the Nevin brothers were well-acquainted with the town's by-laws and members of the constabulary who worked the streets applying them. Not surprising therefore, that Thomas J. Nevin assumed he might have some authority and rank over constables on the beat. When approached by Constable Beard, he not only challenged the constable, he told Beard to "move on." Although charges were brought, Wm Tarleton on the Bench dismissed them.

Thomas J. Nevin: Obstructing the Thoroughfare
The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. )  Wed 9 Mar 1881  Page 2  CITY POLICE COURT.

OBSTRUCTING THE THOROUGHFARE - Thomas Nevin, Thomas Paul and Thomas Hodgson were charged with having on the 28th of last month stood on one of the footways of a public street within the city, so as to prevent the free passage of others, and refused to pass on when ordered to do so by a constable.

Plea: not guilty. Mr. SARGENT for the defence.

Constable Beard deposed to the three defendants having ... standing at the corner of Elizabeth and Collins Streets and causing other passers-by to go into the gutter. He asked the defendants to move on one side, when they said they were going away in a minute. When he returned in five minutes' time, Paul said, "Look out, here comes Beard again". Hodgson replied, "It don't matter; we're talking on business." He again asked them to move on, but they declined to do so, and ten minutes afterwards, when he again returned, he found them in the same place. Paul then wanted to know why he was disturbing them so much and could not go and look after other people; and Hodgson asked if he wanted to put them out in the road. Nevin said, "We'll not move till we're forced", and took a piece of chalk out of his waistcoat pocket, and marked with it on the footpath. He then stood on the mark and said he would continue to do so until he was taken into custody. Nevin then waved his hand to witness and told him to "move on" .

TO Mr. SARGENT: The defendants were standing outside the All Nations Hotel. When he spoke to them the third time they moved about a foot from the kerbing. Could not say the width of the footpath. He ordered them all to move on. There was a good deal of traffic on this evening. Nevin was setting the police at defiance by his action. To the Bench: Mr. Hodgson is a contractor on the wharf, and the other two are in his employment. He did not listen to their conversation, or know what it was about.

Mr. TARLETON said that the Bench did not think it necessary to ask for any defence, as the by-law under which the charge was enacted, as its preamble explained, for the preventing of the congregation of idle and disorderly persons in the streets and public places, and was certainly never meant to prevent two or three respectable citizens talking over social matters or business affairs, as in this case. It would be a monstrous strain of the by-law to consider this a breach of it, and the information was therefore dismissed.
Thomas J. Nevin: Obstructing the Thoroughfare
 The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.) Wed 9 Mar 1881  Page 2  CITY POLICE COURT.

These and other by-laws were to become the testing ground as the Labor and Union Movement gathered strength through the 1890s Depression. "We, the Working Men of the City of Hobart Town" were how the supporters of Superintendent Richard Propsting - the man held chiefly responsible for police mismanagement of the Chiniquy riots - identified themselves in The Mercury on 8th July 1879:

The Mercury 8th July 1879 p. 3


We, the undersigned Working Men of the City of Hobart Town, hereby respectively address the City Council on behalf of the Superintendent of Police, Mr. Richard Propsting, and beg to state that in our opinion he is in every way qualified to hold his present position.
We therefore most earnestly request that the Council will not remove him from that position, but show him by their support that he still enjoys their confidence.

Photograph - Richard Propsting
Item Number: PH30/1/282 
Start Date: 01 Jan 1870
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania

Addenda: Photographs of The Hobart Town Hall 1880s

Town Hall Hobart Town 1875,
H.H. Baily photo
W.L. Crowther Library
ADRI: AUTAS001124850751

Town Hall & Public Library
Anson Bros Date: ca. 1878
Description: 1 photograph : sepia toned ; 105 X 180 mm.
Notes: View taken from the corner of Macquarie and Elizabeth Streets.
Location: W.L. Crowther Library
ADRI: AUTAS001127111730

Macquarie Street looking west
Anson Bros Date: ca. 1878
Description: 1 photograph : sepia toned ; 105 X 180 mm.
Notes: View taken from the corner of Macquarie and Argyle Streets.
Location: W.L. Crowther Library
ADRI: AUTAS001127111755

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