Thursday, July 18, 2013

"Lines on the much lamented death of Rebecca Jane Nevin" by John Nevin 1866

JOHN NEVIN snr (1808-1887)
DEATH of daughter Rebecca Jane NEVIN (1847-1865)

John Nevin (1808-1887)
Photo taken by his son Thomas Nevin ca. 1874
Copyright © The Shelverton Collection 2005-2009 Arr.

Thomas Nevin's father, John Nevin snr (1808-1887) was an accomplished poet. Three poems (to date) have been located in Australian libraries, and one published in the press. Although he died peacefully in his garden overlooking the Lady Franklin Museum at Kangaroo Valley, Hobart in 1887, he had already suffered the loss of both daughters - Rebecca Jane in 1865, and Mary Ann in 1879 - as well as his wife, their mother Mary Nevin (1810-1875). He married again in 1879, and died mercifully four years before the death from typhoid fever of his youngest child, Constable John (William John aka Jack) Nevin (1851-1891). The last remaining child, his eldest and first-born son, photographer Thomas J. Nevin (1842-1923), survived them all by decades.

State Library of Tasmania
TAHO Ref: NS434/1/155
John Nevin senior (1808-1887), photographed in 1879, aged 71 years, on the occasion of his marriage to his second wife, Martha Genge (aged 46 yrs).
Photo © KLW NFC 2012

Rebecca Jane Nevin (1847-1865)
A few photographs by Thomas Nevin of his parents and siblings Mary Ann Nevin and Jack (William John) Nevin have survived and are held in family collections, but no information about the second sister Rebecca Jane Nevin was found until recently. It is just possible, even likely in retrospect, that this photograph (below) which surfaced at an auction in 2019 of a small collection taken by Thomas Nevin of family and clients and thought to be a photograph of his sister Mary Ann, is actually a photograph of his sister Rebecca Jane, taken just months before her death in 1865. If indeed it is Rebecca Jane, she appears to be frail and already at the advanced stages of an unnamed disease which would claim her life before the year's end when she posed for her brother. In her father's poem written on her death (below), he spoke of her as fragile, whereas her older sister Mary Ann, photographed by their brother Thomas a few years later, appears to be a strong and healthy young woman.

Subject: Rebecca Jane Nevin (1847-1865) ca. 18 years old
Photographer: Thomas J. Nevin, her older brother
Location and date: Thomas Nevin's New Town studio, ca. 1865
Details: verso is blank, companion photo to another early photograph of younger brother Jack Nevin from same collection.
Provenance: Sydney Rare Books Auctions 2019. Private collection.

The death of their sister on November 10th, 1865, was a terrible blow to this pioneer family. None could have paid a better tribute than her father in this exquisite poem, written and printed just six weeks after her death.

On the much lamented Death of
R E B E C C A   J A N E   N E V I N 
Who died at the Wesleyan Chapel, Kangaroo Valley,
On the 10th NOVEMBER, 1865, in the 19th year of her age.


In early childhood's joyous hour,
We brought her from her native soil,
To seek some calm and peaceful bower
Far on Tasmania's sea-girt Isle;
While yet a gentle, fragile thing,
Her infant steps were tottering.

Here, by a mountain streamlet's side,
Its soothing murmurs lov'd to hear,
Or watch its limpid waters glide,
And cull the flow'rs were blooming near;
And tho' her life was mark'd with pain,
Was seldom heard for to complain.

Death early chose her for his prey,
For slow disease with stealthy tread,
Had swept the hues of health away,
And left a sallow cheek instead;
Like some young flow'ret, sickly pale , -
She droop'd and wither'd in the vale.

Full eighteen summer suns have shed,
Refulgent beams on that pale brow,
Ere she was number'd with the dead;
Beyond the reach of anguish now.
The wint'ry blast of death has come,
To lay her in the dark lone tomb.

Cut off in girlhood's hopeful morn,
She pass'd without a murm'ring sigh,
From friends and weeping parents torn,
To higher, fairer worlds on high.
She's gone to join the blood-wash'd throng,
And mingle with the seraphs' song.

The struggle's o'er - loved shade adieu! -
No more shall grief or pain molest;
The wint'ry storms may howl o'er you,
But cannot break thy dreamless rest:
Pluck'd like a rose from parent stem,
To deck a royal diadem.

Her life was guileless as a child,
Nor pride, nor passion ever knew;
A book, a flower - her hour beguiled,
Nor breath'd a heart more kind or true;
No longer kneels with us in prayer: -
Now I behold her vacant chair!

That head in pain shall throb no more,
Nor weary night of restless sleep;
The Jordan pass'd, thy journey's o'er,
And thou shalt never wake to weep;
When the last trumpet loud will sound,
Thou'lt rise triumphant from the ground!

Kangaroo Valley,
27th January, 1866.

This is the envelope in which the poem is housed at the University of Melbourne Library, Special Collections. The hand-writing may well be John Nevin's.


The poem is held at the University of Melbourne Library, Special Collections. The original catalogue entry showed an error with regard to the location: i.e. Kangaroo Valley NSW, to be corrected to Kangaroo Valley, Hobart Tasmania (renamed Lenah Valley in 1922), notified 18 July 2013. Assistance from Special Collections gratefully acknowledged.

Contributed by Libraries Australia
Title Lines on the much lamented death of Rebecca Jane Nevin : who died at the Wesleyan chapel, Kangaroo Valley, on the 10th November, 1865, in the 19th year of her age /​ John Nevin.
Author Nevin, John, 19th cent.
Published Kangaroo Valley [N.S.W.] : [s.n.], 1866.
Physical Description 1 sheet ; 29 x 12 cm.
Language English
Dewey Number A821.1
Libraries Australia ID 10001707

APA citation
Nevin, John (1866). Lines on the much lamented death of Rebecca Jane Nevin : who died at the Wesleyan chapel, Kangaroo Valley, on the 10th November, 1865, in the 19th year of her age. [s.n.], Kangaroo Valley [N.S.W.]- (to be amended to Kangaroo Valley, Tasmania.)

Two more poems by John Nevin snr (1808-1887)

"My Cottage in the Wilderness" by John Nevin, 1868. 
Mitchell Library NSW
Photo © KLW NFC 2009

State Library of Tasmania, Ref: P820A NEV.
Title: “Lines written on the sudden and much lamented death of Mr William Genge who died at the Wesleyan Chapel, Melville-street, Hobart on the morning of 17th January 1881, in the 73rd year of his age” by John Nevin, Kangaroo Valley, January 31st, 1881.

Family portraits by Thomas J. Nevin 

Mary Nevin, mother of Thomas Nevin and siblings, taken early 1870s
Copyright © KLW NFC Imprint & Private Collections 2007

Mary Ann Nevin (1844-1878), sister of Thomas J. Nevin,
dipping a glass at New Town rivulet, Kangaroo Valley Hobart Tasmania, ca. 1870.
Salt paper stereograph taken by Thomas J. Nevin ca. 1870
Photo copyright © KLW NFC Imprint  Private Collection 2012

Family portraits taken by Thomas J. Nevin of himself and three of his wife Elizabeth Rachel Day (top row);
his brother William John aka Jack Nevin, himself, his sister Mary Ann Nevin, and himself again (bottom row).
Copyright ⓒ KLW NFC Imprint & Private Collection 2007

The cottage that John Nevin built at Kangaroo Valley
“T. J. Nevin Photo” inscribed on verso, ca. 1868.
Courtesy of © The Liam Peters Collection 2010.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Prisoner mugshots by Constable John Nevin to 1890

Constable William John Nevin (1851-1891), younger brother of professional photographer Thomas J. Nevin, died suddenly of typhoid fever on 17th June, 1891. The earliest date on record of his service with the police is 1875 when he was stationed at the Cascades Prison for Males, Hobart. His service continued at the Hobart Gaol, Campbell Street, as "Gaol Messenger", a rank which covered his duties as photographer, until his untimely death while still in service, aged 39 yrs old. The registrar of his death gave his age as 43 yrs old; however, his burial records at Cornelian Bay Cemetery on 19th June 1891 listed his death at 39 yrs, i.e. born 1851, and this date is consistent with the Fairlie sick lists shipping records which recorded that he was a babe in arms, less than 9 months old, when he arrived in Hobart on 3rd July 1852 with his settler parents, John and Mary Nevin, and his three older siblings Thomas, Rebecca Jane, and Mary Ann.

Constable John (W. J.) Nevin ca. 1880.
Photo taken by his brother Thomas Nevin
Copyright © KLW NFC & The Nevin Family Collections 2009 ARR. Watermarked.

The Electoral Roll of the Electoral District of North Hobart, year commencing 11th April, 1884:
NEVIN, William John
Place of Abode: H.M. Gaol
Nature of qualification: Salary
Particulars of Qualification: H.M. Government

Archives Office Tasmania
RGD 35/13
Death of John Nevin, Goal Messenger, of Typhoid Fever
17th June 1891

Older brother, commercial photographer Thomas J. Nevin was commissioned by the family solicitor W.R. Giblin, later Attorney-General and Premier from 1872 to 1876 to provide the colonial government of Tasmania with photographs of prisoners while he was still operating from his commercial studios in Elizabeth St and New Town, Hobart. And from 1876 to 1880, when employed in full-time civil service as Office and Hall keeper of the Hobart Town Hall, his photographic services for police continued at the Hobart Gaol with the Municipal Police Office and at the Mayor's Court, housed within the Town Hall. Thomas Nevin was assisted by his younger brother Constable John Nevin at the Hobart Gaol in producing photographic records of prisoners until ca. 1886, his last record (to date) of service to police as assistant bailiff.

During the early to mid-1870s, Thomas Nevin deployed the conventional techniques of 19th century commercial studio portraiture in matters of posing, photographing and printing the final official prisoner identification photograph (mugshot) as mounted carte-de-visite portraits. The prisoner was usually posed with his upper torso turned 45 degrees from the photographer, with sightlines deflected to the edge of the oval mount, and backgrounded by a plain backcloth. The majority of Nevin’s prisoner photographs taken between 1872-75 evince his use of this commercial technique, for example:

State Library of NSW
James Ogden, photographed by T.J. Nevin 23 September 1875
Call Number DL PX 158

National Library of Australia
John F. Morris, photographed by T.J. Nevin 25th April 1875
nla.pic-an24612762 PIC P1029/36 LOC Album 935

Most prisoner photographs taken in the 1880s in Tasmania required the subject to face the camera, and in some instances, show the backs of the hands clearly. The full frontal gaze marked the transitional phase between Thomas Nevin's early to mid-1870s commercial mounted carte-de-visite portraits and the 1880s prisoner photographs, taken more often than not at the Hobart Gaol by his brother John Nevin.  No full profile photographs, in addition to the single full frontal shot, were taken until the late 1890s when the methods of Bertillon took hold.

Roland Hill, 23 yrs old, 20th February 1890.
Ref: TAHO GD 6719, p. 148. Gaol Register from the Sheriff's Office Hobart.

Remarkably, this prisoner identification photograph dated 1890 was printed in the commercial oval mount format, its sole difference from the earlier prisoner portraits taken by Thomas Nevin being the full frontal gaze of the prisoner. This photograph is not an old one, reprinted from an earlier photograph of the 1870s. It was taken of Roland Hill, 23 years old, a clerk and a first offender, sentenced to two years for larceny, and taken on incarceration at the Hobart Gaol by Constable John Nevin when Roland was transferred from Launceston.

Roland Hill, 23 yrs old, 20th February 1890.
Ref: TAHO GD 6719, detail mugshot from criminal sheet p. 148

Many of the photographs in this register GD 6719 dating to 1890 were reprinted from an earlier photograph of the prisoner, some quite visibly showing the original oval mount under the second printing within an oblong mount with rounded corners.

This photograph of Charles Dawson was taken by Constable John Nevin on 11 December 1888 at the Hobart Gaol adjacent to the Supreme Court where Dawson was sentenced to 4 years for uttering a forged cheque. The print from the negative was framed initially in an oval mount , and reprinted within an oblong mount, as an overlay, for reasons best known to the printers, whether at the gaol itself in Campbell Street or at the Municipal Police Office, Town Hall in Macquarie Street, or even at the government printing office and registrar in Davey Street. The duties of Constable John Nevin by 1888 was both photographer and gaol messenger. He would have conveyed copies of these prisoner photographs and criminal record sheets back and forth to any of these three authorities.

Charles Dawson, 33 yrs old, 11 December 1888.
Ref: TAHO GD 6719, detail mugshot printed with oblong overlay p. 101


Mugshots removed: Thomas RILEY aka Ryley/Reilly 1875 and 1892


This prisoner Thomas Riley aka Ryley or Reilly and Spenser was 59 years old when he was first photographed by commercial photographer and government contractor Thomas J. Nevin on release with a ticket of leave in February 1875 at the Municipal Police Office, Hobart Town Hall. Another photograph was either reprinted from the first, or taken again when Riley re-offended in 1877. He was then was 61 years old, but that photograph was removed from the blue rap sheet of the Hobart Gaol prison records by persons unknown and on an unknown date. The last photograph of Thomas Riley or Reilly, now calling himself Thomas Spenser, was taken in 1892 at the Police Office, Hobart, when he was 76 years old.

NLA Catalogue (incorrect information)
Thomas Reilly, per Isabella Watson, taken at Port Arthur, 1874 [picture]
Call Number PIC Album 935 #P1029/41
Created/Published 1874
Extent 1 photograph on carte-de-visite mount : albumen ; 9.4 x 5.6 cm., on mount 10.4 x 6.4 cm.

Ticket of Leave photograph 1875

The police gazette recorded his name with the spelling "Ryley" - as Thomas Ryley - when T. J. Nevin took his photograph on the prisoner's discharge with a Ticket of Leave from the Mayor's Court, Hobart Town Hall, February 12, 1875.

Mugshot removed 1877
In 1877, Thomas Riley was 61 years old. His last offense - larceny on this rap sheet - was recorded at the Police Office, Hobart in 1890. The photograph taken at that time was removed. It may not have been a fresh photograph; instead it may have been a reprint from Thomas J. Nevin's original glass negative of the cdv printed in 1875 since Riley was only two years older since his release with a TOL. Its removal from the Hobart Gaol and Police Office record (TAHO Ref: GD 6719) and its accession into the National Library of Australia's collection of 84 "Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874" at an unknown date by an unknown person was an act of defacement of Tasmanian government records.

When questioned about this collection, the NLA staff have professed ignorance on more than one occasion of both the provenance of their photographs of "convicts" and their change of photographer attribution from T. J. Nevin to a Port Arthur prison official called A. H. Boyd. The fiction that it was not Thomas J. Nevin who photographed these men in the 1870s, it was rather the Port Arthur prison commandant A. H. Boyd, has surfaced in the NLA catalogue purely in the commercial interests of promoting tourism to the present-day penal heritage site on the Tasman peninsula. The NLA's original accession records of these particular photographs in 1964 and 1985 with T. J. Nevin as the historically correct name of the commissioned photographer are actually held within the NLA's own MS records in Canberra. However, for reasons to do with the personal ambitions of a cohort of art historians including Warwick Reeder, Chris Long (1995) and their acolyte Julia Clark (2010), these items are regarded as artistic artefacts rather than mere vernacular evidence used by Tasmanian police in daily surveillance, and treated as such within the NLA collection. As a result, the NLA has loosely collated these photographs of Tasmanian prisoners under the title "Port Arthur convicts 1874" despite wide variance of the date, place and occasion on which each prisoner was photographed. In the vast majority of instances, these men were photographed in the 1870s -1880s by T. J. Nevin with the assistance of his brother Constable John Nevin at the Hobart Gaol and at the Police Office, Hobart, on incarceration and discharge per legislation introduced from Victoria in 1872.

Mugshot removed
Hobart Gaol record of Thomas Riley/Reilly 1877-1890 TAHO Ref: GD 6719

The last mugshot 1892
If Thomas Riley was 61 years old in 1877, he was 76 years old in 1892 when this photograph was taken at the Hobart Police Office. The photographer's name for prisoners' photographs taken at the Hobart Gaol in the last decade of the 19th century is not readily discoverable. It was not Constable John Nevin - he had died the year previously in the typhoid epidemic of 1889-91 - nor was it his brother Thomas J. Nevin who retired from professional photography in 1886, although family BDM records regularly listed his occupation as "photographer" right up to 1923, eg. the marriage certificate of his youngest daughter Minnie Drew nee Nevin (1907); the marriage certificate of his youngest son Albert Nevin (1917); and his own burial certificate (1923).

Thomas Riley/Reilly as Spenser, 1892 Item Number GD63/2/1
Series Prisoners Record Books. (GD63)
Start Date 01 Jan 1890 End Date 31 Dec 1892
Archives Office Tasmania Ref: GD63-2-1

Thomas Riley/Reilly as Spenser, 1892
Item Number GD63/2/1
Series Prisoners Record Books (GD63)
Start Date 01 Jan 1890 End Date 31 Dec 1892
Archives Office Tasmania Ref: GD63-2-1

Transportation and Conduct Record 1842-1875

Thomas Riley's convict record of offenses from 1842 to 1875
Archives Office Tasmania TAHO Ref: CON37-1-5 Image 138

Riley, Thomas
Record Type: Convicts
Also known as: Reilly, Thomas
Departure date: 2 May 1842
Departure port: Dublin
Ship: Isabella Watson
Voyage number: 197
Index number: 59822
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1428773

On board the "City of Hobart" 31st January 1872