Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Richard Ford (1837–1898)

by Carole Woods

This article was published:

Richard Ford (1837-1898), administrator and accountant, was born at Liverpool, England, the eldest son of Richard Henry Ford and his wife Sarah, née Swingwood. He was educated at the Collegiate Institute, Liverpool, and then served for three years in the office of Mellor, Cunningham & Powell, Liverpool cotton-brokers. He arrived in Australia in 1852, worked in the office of the Melbourne solicitor George S. Horne and in 1854 went to England and became a clerk with the Liverpool Dock Trust for three years. Ford returned to Victoria in 1858 in the Ellen Stuart; he spent three years in the office of the Ballarat solicitors, L. G. & I. Hardy, and then set up as a share-broker in Daylesford. Later he returned to Ballarat to work as a professional accountant, auditor and mining agent and was elected auditor to the councils of Ballarat and Ballarat East. He won the office of town clerk of the City of Ballarat from fifty-three applicants on 8 May 1871 and was later appointed city treasurer. In 1873 he gave evidence to the royal commission on local government legislation. Three years later when he left Ballarat, councillors, district legal managers and citizens expressed through testimonials and gifts their appreciation of his 'marked ability, and unremitting zeal and energy'.

Ford was chosen from many applicants to serve as first secretary to the new Melbourne Harbor Trust Commission, a post which he held from May 1877 to January 1884. His work was highly esteemed by the trust, and he was sent to London in 1883 with Robert Murray Smith to float a loan for £250,000. On 30 January 1884 Ford was appointed third commissioner for a seven-year term under the 1883 Victorian Railways Commissioners Act which transferred general authority over railways from the Board of Land and Works to three commissioners. In 1887 Ford became second commissioner and controlled the department while the chairman, Richard Speight, was absent. After the huge construction programme in the 1880s, the railways showed a large deficit in 1890 and the Munro and Shiels governments came into conflict with the commissioners. Ford's appointment was renewed in January 1891 but rudely interrupted on 17 March 1892 when the commissioners were suspended under the 1891 Railway Amendment Act for 'inefficiency and mismanagement'. They were scheduled to appear before the bar of the Legislative Assembly on 7 June 1892 but instead submitted their resignations and rejected the government's charges. The Shiels ministry, unwilling to 'blight or blast' the future of the commissioners, offered them a retirement allowance equal to half their salaries for the unexpired portion of their terms and, for Ford, the option of some other place in the public service. Though greatly distressed, he rallied to accept further responsibility as the legal manager of such major companies as Broken Hill South, North Broken Hill and Rocky River Mining Co.

Ford married Annie Mary, née Maugan; they had two sons and five daughters. His wife died on 5 May 1894, aged 49. Ford became ill in 1898 and was removed from his home, York House, Albert Park, to Auburn. Aged 61 he died there on 23 September and was buried in the St Kilda cemetery, survived by his children.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • B. Hoare, Jubilee History of the Melbourne Harbor Trust (Melb, 1927)
  • L. J. Harrigan, Victorian Railways to '62 (Melb, 1962)
  • Ballarat Courier, 29 May 1877
  • Age (Melbourne), 18 Mar, 8 June 1892
  • Argus (Melbourne), 26 Sept 1898.

Citation details

Carole Woods, 'Ford, Richard (1837–1898)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 15 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Liverpool, Merseyside, England


23 September, 1898 (aged ~ 61)
Auburn, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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