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.

John Randal Carey (1834–1923)

by Heather Radi

This article was published:

John Randal Carey (1834-1923), businessman and newspaper proprietor, was born on 14 April 1834 at Cork, Ireland, son of John Westropp Carey, of the Connaught Rangers, and his wife Margaret, née McCarthy. Educated at Hamblin's College, Cork, he worked for a merchant before leaving for the Australian goldfields. He reached Victoria in the Countess of Yarborough in December 1853 and tried his luck on the diggings before setting up as a general agent and auctioneer as partner in Richards & Carey at Castlemaine. An excellent horseman, he rode his own steeplechasers and later owned Mazeppa, a champion trotter. About 1862 he followed the goldseekers to New Zealand and joined Arthur William Gilles as general agents, auctioneers and importers of stock from the Australian colonies; they soon established branches at Invercargill, Hokitika and Auckland. From April 1869 Carey was captain of the Auckland Troop of the Royal Cavalry Volunteers; he probably fought in the Maori wars.

On 14 June 1873 at St John's College, Auckland, he married Mary Taylor; that year he and Gilles moved their business to Sydney. With experience of auctioneering and shipping, Carey recognized that transport and land development were inextricably linked. In 1875 he acquired the Manly run which had five boats operating a freight, passenger and towing service across the harbour; he continued as managing director and a major shareholder in the Port Jackson Steamboat Co. in 1877, remaining a director of the reconstituted Port Jackson Steamship Co. Ltd and, on its absorption of a competitor, of the Port Jackson Co-operative Steamship Co. Ltd in 1896-1904. In 1877 he visited England to oversee construction of ferries. He also helped to form the Balmain Steam Ferry Co. Ltd in 1882 and, as a partner in Mann, Carey & Co., extended his activities to railway construction, tendering successfully for the Nyngan to Bourke line. With less success he set up the Sydney Tramway & Omnibus Co. Ltd which was in liquidation in 1899.

In 1879 he was one of a syndicate which started the Daily Telegraph, a four-page penny newspaper. With Watkin Wynne as manager, and Carey as chairman of the company from 1884, it succeeded: other newspapers were forced to drop their prices. In 1890 its editorial staff Frederick Ward, L. J. Brient and Henry Gullett resigned when a direction on editorial policy restricted them from commenting on Carey's other business enterprises. The paper featured sensational news and in 1894 introduced linotype machines against opposition from printers. He remained chairman and the controlling influence of the paper until February 1921.

In 1899 the Daily Telegraph campaigned to send troops to help Britain in the South African War and sponsored an insurance fund for Australian volunteers. Carey believed the Australian outback produced the right type of man for South Africa: in 1900, as chairman of a Citizens' Bushmen's Committee, he organized the recruitment of the Bushmen's Contingent and the purchase of horses. A major in the reserve of officers from January 1900 to December 1904, he rode at the head of the contingent when it paraded through Sydney.

Carey was also a trustee of the Savings Bank of New South Wales, a member of the Rocks Resumption Advisory Board, and a director from 1899 and chairman in 1906-23 of Royal North Shore Hospital. His business enterprises and membership of the Athenaeum Club had brought him into close association with leading politicians and he used his connexions to obtain additional land for the hospital. His wife presided over its fund-raising committee and his daughter Beatrice was for some years its masseuse.

Survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters, Carey died at his residence at Milson's Point on 9 June 1923. After the funeral his body was taken by special ferry to be buried in the Anglican section of South Head cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £79,052.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • H. Mayer, The Press in Australia (Melb, 1964)
  • R. B. Walker, The Newspaper Press in New South Wales, 1803-1920 (Syd, 1976)
  • Select Committee on …the Military Department, Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1900, 4, 900 — Evidence, 225
  • Royal North Shore Hospital, Annual Report, 1923
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 14 Oct 1899, 5 Jan, 1 Mar 1900, 11 June 1923
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 14 Apr, 12 June 1923
  • military records (Archives New Zealand).

Citation details

Heather Radi, 'Carey, John Randal (1834–1923)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 23 July 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

Life Summary [details]


14 April, 1834
Cork, Cork, Ireland


9 June, 1923 (aged 89)
Milsons Point, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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.