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Richard O'Connor (1810–1876)

by L. A. Jeckeln

This article was published:

Richard O'Connor (1810-1876), by unknown photographer

Richard O'Connor (1810-1876), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 17210 [detail]

Richard O'Connor (1810-1876), parliamentary officer, was born in March 1810 in County Cork, Ireland, eldest son of Arthur O'Connor of Mangan Castle, Bandon, and his wife, née O'Neal. He arrived in Sydney on 15 April 1835 in the American brig Black Warrior from the Pacific Islands and New Zealand. From 8 June to 8 July he was an extra clerk to the Legislative and Executive Councils and from 12 January 1836 assistant clerk under William Macpherson, clerk of the councils from 1837. As town clerk from 7 September to 16 November 1842 he organized the elections for the first city council. With the establishment of the Legislative Council Library in 1843 he became librarian and published its first three catalogues.

On 15 May 1856 O'Connor became clerk of the new Legislative Assembly with a salary of £800 and relinquished the post of librarian to Walter McEvilly. With Macpherson he planned the staffing of both Houses. O'Connor applied his knowledge and experience to the assembly, drafting its standing orders, guiding its procedures and relations with the council. He acted as chairman for the assembly's first meeting which elected Daniel Cooper as Speaker. On 1 January 1860 he became clerk of the Legislative Council but the assembly refused to vote him an extra £100. In 1864 he was designated clerk of the parliaments and in 1868 produced the first edition of the Parliamentary Handbook.

About 1837 O'Connor had joined the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts. In 1845 he was a member of the provisional committee of the Australian Clerks' Benevolent Society Fund. Active in establishing St John's College in the University of Sydney, he was a fellow in 1858-76. He was also a trustee of the Savings Bank of New South Wales from 1860, served on the management committee of the Roman Catholic Orphan School at Parramatta from 1861 and on the board of management of the Government Asylums for the Infirm and Destitute in 1862-72. He played the flute, concertina and guitar.

In June 1870 O'Connor wanted to retire because of age and failing health but continued in office until 31 March 1871 at the request of the council president, Sir Terence Murray. Dedicated, with a high sense of public service, O'Connor contributed much to the smooth functioning of parliamentary government. E. Deas Thomson among other associates testified to his zeal and ability. He died from heart disease at his home, Mary Ville, Glebe Point, on 27 June 1876 and was buried in the Catholic cemetery at Petersham. He was survived by his wife Mary, née Harnett, whom he had married at St Mary's Cathedral on 7 January 1845, and by two of their four sons and two of their six daughters. His goods were valued at £500. His son Richard Edward, a faithful supporter of Edmund Barton and Federation, became an original High Court judge.

Select Bibliography

  • H. E. Maiden, The History of Local Government in New South Wales (Syd, 1966)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 30 June 1876
  • Legislative Council letters (Legislative Council, New South Wales)
  • manuscript catalogue under O'Connor (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

L. A. Jeckeln, 'O'Connor, Richard (1810–1876)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 20 April 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 O'Connor (1810-1876), by unknown photographer

Richard O'Connor (1810-1876), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 17210 [detail]

Life Summary [details]


March, 1810
Cork, Ireland


27 June, 1876 (aged 66)
Glebe, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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