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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Casey, Richard Gardiner (1846–1919)

by F. C. Green

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Richard Gardiner Casey (1846-1919), pastoralist, company director and member of parliament, was born in Van Diemen's Land, son of Cornelius Gavin Casey and his wife Letitia, née Gardiner. He began his education at Hobart High School and at 14 went to Launceston Church of England Grammar School. He left in 1863 after his mother died and his father moved to Victoria. Casey worked as a jackeroo and later head overseer on Murray Downs, a sheep station near Swan Hill, for six years. In 1870 he became overseer of Willandra and Bellingerambil stations near Hillston. In 1875-83 he was manager of Kilfera, a station of 830,000 acres (335,893 ha) in the central west of New South Wales. When he took over, only a third of this 'open salt bush and cotton bush country' was used; the rest was thought to be useless, but Casey showed that with fencing and water it became good sheep country which greatly enlarged the station's carrying capacity. At Kilfera he once helped the police to capture a gang of bushrangers who had held up and robbed a store at the village of Hatfield; for this service he received a presentation and the thanks of the government. In 1883 he became a partner in a stock and station agency which brought him into contact with prominent men in the pastoral industry with the result that he entered into partnership with Donald Wallace, owner of several stations in central Queensland and many famous race-horses. Casey became the managing partner in the stations, the most important of which was Terrick Terrick, near Blackall. The total area under his management was about 1,387,000 acres (561,305 ha); it carried some 370,000 sheep and 5000 cattle. In ten years of arduous work he made no profit; because the price of wool was falling he resorted to over-stocking, but abnormal droughts and floods, losses by disease and increasing costs brought ultimate defeat, and in 1893 the partnership was dissolved.

At Brisbane in 1888 Casey had married Evelyn Jane, daughter of George Harris, merchant, shipowner and politician. On his wedding day he was elected to the Queensland Legislative Assembly for Warrego, a large pastoral electorate. His speeches in parliament were confined to the problems of the pastoral industry such as scientific investigation of stock diseases, the land tenure system, the need for roads and artesian bores, the lack of personal contact between England and her Australian colonies, and the rabbit threat, the northward advance of which he claimed to be at the rate of 150 miles (241 km) a year.

Casey went to Melbourne with his wife and two children to start a new life, with few assets except experience. He had wasted ten years in Queensland and if success were to be achieved he had to move quickly. The goldfields of Western Australia attracted him, and on behalf of a syndicate he went to Coolgardie, then a hive of activity with speculators from America, Britain and other Australian colonies. Casey became interested in the Londonderry mine from which two tons of quartz had just produced 8000 ounces (227 kg) of gold. His syndicate invested in this mine which was floated as a public company in London, but by 1896 it was obvious that the mine was not up to expectations, and in spite of occasional rich patches it gradually faded out. By then most of the Coolgardie field had become unprofitable.

In 1896 Casey had become a director of Goldsbrough, Mort & Co. and visited London where he obtained financial support for its reconstruction. He also became a director of the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Co., and in 1912 became chairman of directors. Under his direction the company became independent of overseas refineries for treating copper when it established at Port Kembla its subsidiary, the Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Co. Always unwilling to accept defeat, he had come a long way since struggling as a pastoralist; now because of his recognized ability he controlled two large and wealthy companies. He later became chairman of the Walter and Eliza Hall Trust. He was noted for his charity and kindness; 'many old employees of his father and himself practically lived on the annuities granted them by the man they affectionately called “Master Dick”.' From his youth he had always been a good horseman, and with prosperity he became owner of many race-horses with which he won some important events in Melbourne. He was chairman of the Victoria Racing Club from 1907 to 1916, when he and his wife went to London in order to be nearer to his two sons who were on active service in France. He died of pneumonia at Honolulu in April 1919 when returning to Australia. His personal estate was valued for probate at more than £100,000. He was survived by his wife, who died in 1942, and by his two sons. The elder, Richard Gardiner, became governor-general of Australia in 1965; and the younger son, Dermot Armstrong, became an anthropologist.

Select Bibliography

  • Lord Casey, Australian Father and Son (Lond, 1966)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1888-92.

Additional Resources

Citation details

F. C. Green, 'Casey, Richard Gardiner (1846–1919)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 31 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

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