This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967
Richard Jones (1816-1892), journalist, politician and company director, was born on 4 October 1816 at Liverpool, England, the son of John Jones, innkeeper, and his wife Elizabeth, née Bond. Both parents died when he was young, and he was educated at free schools of the Church of England in Liverpool. In 1831 he was apprenticed as a printer on the Liverpool Chronicle. Indifferent health induced him to emigrate to New South Wales soon after his apprenticeship ended in 1837. He and his wife Martha arrived at Port Jackson as bounty immigrants in the Fairlie in 1838.
Jones soon became a compositor on the Sydney Monitor, and in August 1839 joined the staff of the Australasian Chronicle where he remained until December 1842. In this period he began to take an active interest in public affairs and politics. He spoke at several meetings in Sydney against the Masters and Servants Act, was one of a delegation who presented a petition to Governor Sir George Gipps for extending the municipal franchise, and at the first municipal elections was urged to stand as a candidate but declined. About this time he met (Sir) Henry Parkes, and their mutual interests and similar political outlook drew them into a close and enduring friendship.
In December 1842 Jones and Thomas William Tucker, a young reporter on the Sydney Morning Herald, formed a partnership to establish a newspaper at Maitland. A year earlier Thomas Strode, a printer from Port Phillip, had set up the Hunter River Gazette, the first newspaper in the area north of Sydney; unable to run it profitably, he was forced to cease publication in June 1842. Undaunted by Strode's failure Jones and Tucker went to Maitland and on 7 January 1843 issued the first number of their Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser. Commenced on the eve of the first elections for the Legislative Council it soon prospered and by 1848 was described by Governor Sir Charles FitzRoy as one of the colony's leading newspapers.
Much of the success of the Maitland Mercury sprang from provocative editorials written by Richard Jones. Under his keen guidance it became a powerful organ dedicated to the development of local resources and to the education of public opinion in the district. Jones was actively interested in many local movements, at various times serving as president of the Maitland School of Arts, treasurer of the Hunter River Agricultural Society, secretary of the Anti-Transportation Committee, and of the Committee to Establish a Free Port at Newcastle. In 1846 Jones had become sole proprietor; in 1854 he sold out to Tucker, Cracknell & Falls for £6000. In March 1855 he returned to Sydney, and soon accepted nomination as a candidate for the electorate of New England and Macleay, but was defeated by R. G. Massie. Next year he was one of three successful candidates elected for Durham to the first Legislative Assembly under responsible government. In September 1857 he became treasurer in the second Cowper ministry, but resigned in January 1858. He was elected as the representative of the Hunter electorate in 1859 and on the resignation of the Forster ministry was invited to form a government by Sir William Denison; Jones refused, and advised the governor to send for John Robertson. In April 1860 he retired from politics and devoted his time to commerce.
He was elected to the board of directors of the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney Ltd in 1860, and acted as chairman for some twenty years. During his association with the bank its assets rose from £2,500,000 to £14,000,000. In July 1892 the shareholders presented him with a cheque for £2500 in recognition of his 'invaluable services' for thirty-four years. He also served as chairman of directors of the Alliance Assurance Co., and a director of the Sydney Marine Insurance Co., the London, Liverpool and Globe Insurance Co., and the Australian Gaslight Co. In 1862-66 he served on the committee of the Australian Library, later the Public Library of New South Wales.
As a pioneer of the provincial press in New South Wales Jones proved by his astute management of the Maitland Mercury and his vigorous editorials that it could be run profitably and with benefit to its readers. As a journalist he was 'a compact, vigorous, plain writer of temperate tone, displaying considerable power of reasoning', and always conscientious in his efforts 'to cultivate a sound public spirit'. In politics he played a major part in the framing of the Electoral Act.
Jones was married twice, first in Liverpool to Martha Olley, a dressmaker, and after her death to Emma Felton of Sydney in 1860. Nine children were born of his first marriage and seven of the second. He died at his home, Stoneleigh, at Darlinghurst on 25 August 1892, after an illness of four months. He was an active member of the Church of England.
Elizabeth Guilford, 'Jones, Richard (1816–1892)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jones-richard-2281/text2933, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 25 August 2016.
This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967