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Meares, Richard Goldsmith (1780–1862)

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Richard Goldsmith Meares (1780-1862), soldier, settler and public servant, joined the army in 1808 and next year became a lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers. In 1812 in the 2nd Life Guards he joined Wellington's forces at Lisbon and later served in Belgium, attending the Duchess of Richmond's ball and distinguishing himself at Waterloo. In 1817 he was promoted captain and next year, on half-pay, retired to practise horticulture and sketching. In 1808 he married Eleanor Seymour of Newcastle upon Tyne. They lived at High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire and at Huish Cottage near Barnstaple in Devon. With his wife and eight children, he arrived at Swan River in December 1829 with Thomas Peel in the Gilmore.

Before leaving England Meares had sold his commission and had given Peel £500 to be repaid in land and materials in the colony. Living at first in a carpeted marquee on Rockingham Beach and then at The Rocks, Clarence, he had great difficulty in feeding his family and seven servants while he struggled without success to make Peel fulfil his agreement. He revealed his plight to Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur who in March 1831 urged the commandant at Launceston to find him good land for the maximum free grant available to a valiant soldier. Meares received permission next month to go to Van Diemen's Land, but he did not do so. In 1832 he moved to Guildford, where he was threatened in September with no further government rations unless he surrendered one of his horses. Appeals to London officials brought him brief appointment as district superintendent for Guildford in 1834 and a £300 remission certificate for his land purchases as an ex-serviceman. He sold the certificate to E. H. Pollard who used it to buy land in Van Diemen's Land. In 1837 Meares became a justice of the peace and in 1840-41 was government resident for the Murray district where he had 15,500 unproductive acres (6273 ha). At the same time he acquired land in the Avon valley and in September 1842 he moved to York as its government resident at a salary of £100. In addition to magisterial duties, he was registrar, statistician, collector of land fees and dog taxes, organizer of road repairing and bridge building parties and a member of the local school committee. He shared in founding the York Race Club and the York Fair. The opening of a convict hiring depot at York increased his responsibilities, but the district gained a court-house, hospital, good roads and an Anglican chaplain. His early administration was enlivened by squabbles with settlers, Aboriginals and neighbouring government residents, some being ventilated in the press to the embarrassment of Perth officials. But he mellowed with the years and became proudly patriarchal as his family began to marry. He resigned as government resident in 1859. His wife died on 20 January 1854 and Meares on 9 January 1862. He was buried in the old York cemetery.

His Guildford home, Bower, and his residency at Avon, were furnished with great style and noted for conviviality befitting a dashing army officer. He was the first secretary of the club formed in 1839 for importing English thoroughbreds, and he also became an early director of the Western Australian Agricultural Society, had a fine garden and fruit trees at Guildford, and at York cultivated grape vines and introduced a new type of barley.

Select Bibliography

  • J. E. Deacon, ‘Captain Richard Goldsmith Meares and His Times’, Early Days: Journal and Proceedings (Western Australian Historical Society), vol 10, Dec 1948, pp 4-11
  • J. E. Deacon, A Survey of the Historical Development of the Avon Valley, with Particular Reference to York, Western Australia, 1830-1850 (M.A. thesis, University of Western Australia, 1947)
  • CSO 1/508/11147, 1/876/18546 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

'Meares, Richard Goldsmith (1780–1862)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/meares-richard-goldsmith-2442/text3255, published in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 25 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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