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Orchard, Richard Beaumont (1871–1942)

by D. G. Abbott

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Richard Beaumont Orchard (1871-1942), jeweller and politician, was born on 14 October 1871 at Cockatoo, near Maryborough, Victoria, eighth child of Cornish parents John Henry Orchard, blacksmith, and his wife Alicia, née Thomas. The family moved to Sydney in the mid-1870s. Little is known of his childhood. In 1885 he became a post-office messenger-boy, then for four years was a jewellery salesman travelling rural New South Wales with a brother, supplementing their income with 'magic lantern' shows. When he married Maria Annie Austen on 14 February 1895 in Sydney, Orchard was a photographer living at Ultimo. By 1899 he had begun a watchmaker's business at Newtown, emerging after two years as a jeweller at George Street, where he rebuilt his premises in 1910. The now prominent firm of R. B. Orchard Ltd, jeweller and watchmaker, was converted to a public company in 1913. Dick Orchard, noted for the 'unvarying suavity of his demeanour', became a Sydney personality, racing 18-footers on the harbour and appearing in the amateur theatricals that he relished. He was known in business and community organizations as president of the New South Wales Watchmakers & Jewellers' Association and of the Cornish Association of Sydney.

Though Orchard failed in bids for the Sydney Municipal Council in 1909 and the State seat of Hawkesbury in 1911, he won the Federal seat of Nepean from Labor for the Liberals in May 1913. In World War I he championed the interests of the ordinary soldier, attacking in July 1915 the administration and conditions at the Liverpool military camp in his constituency. A royal commission vindicated his charges. In 1916 Orchard's tour of troops on the Western Front, while a member of the British Empire Parliamentary Association, strengthened his reputation as 'the Soldier's Friend'. A supporter of W. M. Hughes's National government and a good platform speaker, he was a member of the parliamentary recruiting committee in 1917-18. Appointed honorary minister (assistant minister in charge of recruiting) in March 1918, he served until 31 January 1919. He then became chairman of the peace celebrations committee and member of both the war and peace loan committees before retiring from politics that year. He was appointed C.B.E. in 1920.

In 1924 Orchard was a New South Wales commissioner to the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, England, speaking on trade reciprocity during his return through Canada. He was an unsuccessful Nationalist candidate for the Federal seat of East Sydney in 1925, and for the Senate in 1928.

A member of the wireless advisory committee from 1929, Orchard was a founding member, sometimes referred to as the lowbrow member, of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1932-39. He was a director for twelve years and president for four years of the Smith Family and president of the Ku-ring-gai Chase Trust (1938-41). In 1938 he was briefly joint secretary of the Australian Defence League. A Methodist, he died on 24 July 1942 at Darling Point, Sydney, and was buried in Rookwood cemetery. His wife, a son and three daughters survived him. Orchard Park at Bobbin Head is named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • L. F. Fitzhardinge, The Little Digger (Syd, 1979)
  • K. S. Inglis, This is the ABC (Melb, 1983)
  • Lone Hand, 1 May 1918
  • Punch (Melbourne), 12 Aug 1915
  • Australian National Review, 21 Jan, 18 Dec 1924
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25 July 1942.

Citation details

D. G. Abbott, 'Orchard, Richard Beaumont (1871–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/orchard-richard-beaumont-7912/text13763, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 28 August 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

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