Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Richard Aldous (Dick) Arnold (1849–1923)

by G. N. Hawker

This article was published:

Richard Aldous Arnold (1849-1923), public servant, was born on 9 February 1849 at Stradbrook, Paterson River, New South Wales, eldest son of William Munnings Arnold, and his wife Ellen Augusta, née Smith. After private tuition he was educated at Rugby School, England, then spent a year in Germany and returned to Sydney late in 1866. On 3 January 1867 he joined the public service and in May became a clerk in the roads branch of the Department of Public Works at £200 a year. In October 1868 he was temporarily transferred to the Legislative Assembly staff and became permanent next January. Advancement was rapid while his father was Speaker: after two promotions he became clerk of select committees in February 1873, then clerk of records in May, and his salary rose to £400. He was joined on the staff by two brothers.

An enthusiastic sportsman, Arnold help to organize Rugby football in the colony. He founded in 1870 and captained the Wallaroo Club and from 1874 was an office-bearer of the Southern Union (later New South Wales Rugby Football Union). In 1868 he had joined the Volunteer Artillery as a gunner; in 1871-78 he was second lieutenant attached to No.4 Battery and indulged his interest in rifle-shooting. He was a founder in 1872 and later secretary of the Sydney Amateur Athletic Club.

On 21 April 1881 at the parish church, Lower Sydenham, Kent, England, Arnold married Annie Emma, daughter of William Kent, late manager of Jondaryan station, Queensland. In 1888 he was promoted assistant clerk of the Legislative Assembly at £750 and in February 1904 he was appointed clerk. He soon made the sensible innovation of combining certain common papers of the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council into joint volumes, but most of his years as clerk were quiet. The framework established during the great reforms to Standing Orders in 1885-95 endured for forty years: Arnold's task was consolidation as the State parliament adjusted to the Federal system. Although he was somewhat overshadowed by J. J. Calvert, the long-serving clerk of the parliaments, relations with his staff and the Speakers he served were usually harmonious. In 1910 he edited Speaker W. McCourt's decisions and in 1910-11 managed smoothly the election and tenure of J. H. Cann, the first Labor Speaker.

However in 1911-13 Arnold had considerable differences with H. Willis, whose passionate but misguided notions of a Speaker's position and administrative powers led to clashes; he privately complained that 'at no time' did Willis ask him 'for advice, assistance, or opinion' about staff arrangements but rather 'put me on my trial'. Arnold took nine months leave on full pay in 1911 but disagreements continued throughout Willis's term.

Arnold retired in April 1916 and lived at North Sydney until about 1921. He died of chronic nephritis at Bowral on 23 May 1923 and was buried in the Church of England cemetery. He was survived by two sons and three daughters who inherited his estate, valued for probate at £8138.

Select Bibliography

  • G. N. Hawker, The Parliament of New South Wales, 1856-1956 (Syd, 1971)
  • R. A. Arnold diary (Parliamentary Library, Sydney)
  • E. S. Marks sporting collection (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

G. N. Hawker, 'Arnold, Richard Aldous (Dick) (1849–1923)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Richard Arnold, 1915

Richard Arnold, 1915

State Library of New South Wales, 16228

Life Summary [details]


9 February, 1849
Paterson, New South Wales, Australia


23 May, 1923 (aged 74)
Bowral, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

kidney disease

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations