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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Sheridan, Richard Bingham (1822–1897)

by Dorothy Jones

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Richard Bingham Sheridan (1822-1897), public servant and politician, was born on 1 August 1822 at Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland, son of Henry S. Sheridan of Pheasant Hill, Castlebar, and his wife Margaret, née Martin. He arrived in New South Wales in 1842 and till 1844 was farm manager for Captain William Oldrey of Broulee. On 18 November 1845 in Sydney he married Adele Eulalie Masse.

Sheridan joined the Customs Department on 7 February 1846. In February 1853 because of ill health he transferred to Moreton Bay and on 31 May became a member of the local Steam Navigation Board. He became sub-collector of customs at Maryborough on 10 December 1859, the first appointment made by a Queensland government. Later he held several related positions in the Wide Bay-Maryborough area.

Sheridan was deeply involved in the life of Maryborough and was respected for his integrity, fairness and humanity. When an explosion left many families fatherless he distributed the funds donated by the citizens. He initiated the Botanic Gardens, was involved in the foundation of the School of Arts and the hospital and was first chairman of the building society. He was active in the establishment of public (non-state) schools. In 1866 he became a partner in the Tinana Creek Sugar Plantation. He was an active officer of the Queensland Volunteer Force, being captain on 7 September 1861, major unattached on 6 November 1878 and honorary lieutenant-colonel on the retired list on 23 December 1884.

In 1861 Sheridan was a chief witness in an inquiry into the shooting of Aboriginals by a native police detachment stationed at Owanyilla. In 1876 he was under pressures, including a select committee, because in an official report he had allowed his opposition to the abuses of Polynesian labour to overrule his discretion. He was forced to resign as inspector of Polynesians.

Sheridan won the Maryborough seat in the Legislative Assembly on 17 August 1883 and held it till 5 May 1888. He was minister without portfolio in the Griffith ministry from 13 November 1883 until 3 January 1885 and postmaster-general from 3 January to 17 February. His efforts in parliament to reform the Polynesian labour system were commended by the press and by Governor Sir William Cairns. In 1885 he had become a trustee of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.

Sheridan lived in retirement in Brisbane but in 1897 moved to Sydney and died at Manly on 8 June, survived by two of his three sons. He was buried in the Catholic section of Waverley cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 27, p 510
  • Returns of the Colony of New South Wales, 1846
  • G. E. Loyau, The History of Maryborough (Brisb, 1897)
  • J. Lennon, Maryborough and District, Queensland, 1842-1924, G. I. Roberts ed (Maryborough, 1924)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1877, 2, 1207
  • Brisbane Courier, 9 June 1897
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 1897
  • W. Oldrey, insolvency papers 1154 (State Records New South Wales).

Citation details

Dorothy Jones, 'Sheridan, Richard Bingham (1822–1897)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 20 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

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