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Walker, Richard Cornelius Critchett (1841–1903)

by A. G. Kingsmill

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

Richard Cornelius Critchett Walker (1841-1903), civil servant, was born on 28 June 1841 at sea, son of Rev. James Walker, Anglican minister, and his wife Fanny, née Billingsley. His family reached Launceston, Van Diemen's Land, on 27 August 1841 in the Arabian. Appointed to George Town, James later went to Sydney in 1843 and became headmaster of The King's School, Parramatta. Critchett was educated at St James's Grammar School, Sydney, and in October 1856 joined the civil service as a sessional clerk in the Legislative Assembly. In 1857 he became a clerk in the Executive Council office and from 1858 undertook personal duties for several ministers. On 1 March 1862 he became an inspector of police under the new Police Regulation Act but resigned in July 1863 to enter the Bank of New South Wales.

On 1 April 1865 Walker rejoined the civil service as a clerk in the Colonial Secretary's Department and was private secretary to (Sir) Charles Cowper. He was promoted to second clerk in 1869 and first clerk in 1878; next year he became principal under-secretary of the colony on the recommendation of Sir Henry Parkes. His unassuming manner, tact and knowledge enabled him to earn the confidence of no less than 13 colonial secretaries and 3 acting colonial secretaries in 24 years. He had a special affection for Parkes and in October 1891 thanked him for his 'great kindness and consideration' during his eight years as colonial secretary. His greatest administrative and political pressures probably occurred when W. B. Dalley, acting colonial secretary in 1885, dispatched the Sudan Contingent.

As principal under-secretary Walker had to supervise not only the ministerial branch of the department, but eight sub-departments and also the government statistician, lunacy matters, hospitals for the insane and the charitable institutions. In evidence to the 1895 royal commission into the civil service, Walker claimed he had 3752 persons under his control and an additional 5782 partially-paid military and naval personnel, but he did not see how any substantial economies could be effected in his department. The royal commission reported that the chief secretary's 'office premises are so constructed that a proper supervision is impossible'.

A magistrate from 1884, Walker was a member of the Civil Service Board in 1887-95. He was an honorary member of the United Service Institution, a committee-man of the Civil Service Club and a founding member of the Australasian Geographical Society in 1883; he was also a New South Wales commissioner for the 1886 Colonial and Indian Exhibition, the 1887 Adelaide Jubilee International Exhibition and the 1888 Centennial International Exhibition in Melbourne. From 1889 he was a trustee of the National Park, where 'he invariably spent his Sundays'. Walker was returning officer for the 1897 Australasian Federal Convention, for the two referenda on the Constitution and for the first Federal elections in 1901. Appointed C.M.G. that year, Walker died unmarried of diabetes and pneumonia at Bligh Street, Sydney, on 13 June 1903 and was buried in the Anglican section of Waverley cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at £4885. His brother R. C. Walker was the principal librarian at the Free Public Library and another brother, Colonel Philip Billingsley Walker, was chief electrician and engineer-in-chief for electric telegraphs, Sydney, and a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, London.

Select Bibliography

  • A. G. Kingsmill, Witness to History (Syd, 1972)
  • Illustrated Sydney News, 17 Jan 1891
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 15 June 1903
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 15 June 1903
  • Town and Country Journal, 11 Aug 1900, 17 June 1903
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Colonial Secretary, general records and special bundles, 2/8020.10 (State Records New South Wales).

Citation details

A. G. Kingsmill, 'Walker, Richard Cornelius Critchett (1841–1903)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/walker-richard-cornelius-critchett-4787/text7971, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 17 February 2019.

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

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