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Richard Ash Kingsford (1821–1902)

by M. O. Walmsley

This article was published:

Richard Ash Kingsford (1821-1902), by unknown photographer

Richard Ash Kingsford (1821-1902), by unknown photographer

Brisbane City Council Library, BCC-B120-33427

Richard Ash Kingsford (1821-1902), merchant, politician and landowner, was born on 2 October 1821 in Canterbury, Kent, England, son of John Kingsford, maltster, and his wife Mary, née Walker. He arrived at Sydney in 1852 and went to Brisbane in 1854 as partner in a drapery business in Queen Street with his brother John, who later became pastor of the Jireh Baptist Church in Fortitude Valley. While assisting his brother as a lay preacher Kingsford became a fluent and sincere speaker. In May 1875 he was elected by a large majority against the attorney-general, Ratcliffe Pring, for the South Brisbane seat in the Legislative Assembly. He also served as an alderman on the South Brisbane Municipal Council in 1875-76 and was elected mayor of Brisbane in 1876. As a supporter of Thomas McIlwraith he lost his seat in the 1883 election.

After an unsuccessful attempt at poultry farming at the Springs, Tingalpa, Kingsford left for Cairns where his son-in-law, William Charles Smith, was a bank manager. He bought property in the town and selected an area near Kuranda for growing fruit. In 1884 he was elected chairman of the Cairns Divisional Board and next year became president of the School of Arts, his keen love of reading ensuring the firm establishment of the town's first library. Cairns was proclaimed a municipality on 28 May 1885 and at the council's first meeting on 22 July he was unanimously elected mayor by his fellow aldermen; he was re-elected for a further term.

In 1888 Kingsford stood for the new Cairns seat in the Legislative Assembly, still an ardent supporter of McIlwraith. He was defeated after a bitter and costly fight by Frederick Thomas Wimble, founder and editor of the Cairns Post, who contested the seat because he had become a follower of Samuel Griffith. In 1890 Kingsford bought the Hambledon sugar plantation from Thomas Swallow and leased it to the sons, Swallow Bros; in 1897 it was acquired by the Colonial Sugar Refining Co.

In 1892-95 Kingsford had lived in Tasmania but on returning to Cairns he built his home, Fairview, some four miles (6.4 km) from Cairns. In World War II it became well known as 'The House on the Hill', the experimental station for Z-force of the Inter-Allied Services Department. He was senior justice of the peace for North Queensland and for some years served on the Licensing Board. He died in Cairns on 2 January 1902 and was buried in the old McLeod Street cemetery. He was married twice: first, in 1852 at Bridge, Kent, to Sarah Southerden; they had one son and three daughters, of whom the eldest became the mother of the aviator, Sir Charles Edward Kingsford Smith; and second, on 31 August 1892 at St Paul's, Launceston, to Emma Jane Dexter who survived him with one daughter.

Kingsford was tall, heavily-bearded and dignified. His speeches in parliament show his liberal mind and generous understanding of others. He was widely read and his rich fund of apt quotations was used to good effect both in the pulpit and in parliament. He was devoutly religious and loyal to his colleagues.

Select Bibliography

  • R. S. Browne, A Journalist's Memories (Brisb, 1927)
  • J. W. Collinson, Early Days of Cairns (Brisb, 1939)
  • J. W. Collinson, More About Cairns: The Second Decade (Brisb, 1942).

Citation details

M. O. Walmsley, 'Kingsford, Richard Ash (1821–1902)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 19 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Richard Ash Kingsford (1821-1902), by unknown photographer

Richard Ash Kingsford (1821-1902), by unknown photographer

Brisbane City Council Library, BCC-B120-33427

Life Summary [details]


2 October, 1821
Canterbury, Kent, England


2 January, 1902 (aged 80)
Cairns, Queensland, Australia

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