Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Robert Travers Atkin (1841–1872)

by A. A. Morrison

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Robert Travers Atkin (1841-1872), journalist and parliamentarian, was born on 29 November 1841 in County Cork, Ireland, the fourth and last son of William Francis Atkin and his wife Alice Hungerford, née Stewart. After his father died the family moved to France where Robert was educated. He went to England and held a commission in the Shropshire militia. On 7 July 1864 at the parish church of St Mark's, Notting Hill, Middlesex, he married Mary Elizabeth Ruck; they had four sons, the eldest of whom, James Richard (1867-1944), became Baron Atkin and a judge in the King's Bench.

In 1864 Atkin went to Queensland where he spent eighteen months in the central part of the colony. In a fall from a horse he damaged his chest, which continued to affect his health. In Brisbane he became editor of the Guardian but resigned because of disagreement with its policy. When it was taken over by the Courier, Atkin in partnership with W. C. Belbridge immediately started the Queensland Express in August 1868. Although brilliantly written and very informative about current political intrigues, it was unable to compete with the Brisbane Courier and was closed in March 1871. Not discouraged, Atkin with two other journalists, W. O'Carroll and W. W. Rutledge, established in the same building and with the same press the Colonist which he conducted, despite failing health, until a few days before his death.

In 1868 Atkin had won the poll for the Clermont seat in the Legislative Assembly, but his election was challenged because he was not enrolled. In January 1869 he resigned before the committee of inquiry had completed its sittings. In 1870 he was returned for East Moreton, but resigned on 27 March 1872 because of ill health and in protest against the confused state of politics. He always remembered his Irish descent and was an enthusiastic member of the Hibernian Society. For some time he lived at Hamilton, Brisbane, with his sister who ran a school for young ladies. Later he moved to the seaside at Sandgate. There he died from pneumonia on 25 May 1872 and was buried in the new Anglican cemetery. Nearby the Hibernian Society erected a monument at a spot where Atkin had liked to sit and rest. His widow returned to her family home near Aberdovey, Merionethshire, Wales, where her sons began their education.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1868-69, 29, 85
  • Queensland Express, Aug 1860–Mar 1871
  • Colonist (Brisbane), June 1871–Sept 1872
  • Brisbane Courier, 25 May 1872
  • Guardian (Brisbane), Feb 1883–June 1884.

Citation details

A. A. Morrison, 'Atkin, Robert Travers (1841–1872)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 23 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


29 November, 1841
Cork, Ireland


25 May, 1872 (aged 30)
Sandgate, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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