Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Reibey (1821–1912)

by Peter Bolger

This article was published:

Thomas Reibey (1821-1912), clergyman, farmer and politician, was born on 24 September 1821 at Entally House, Hadspen, Van Diemen's Land, son of Thomas Haydock Reibey, merchant, and his wife Richardie, née Allen, and grandson of Mary Reibey. Educated at W. G. Elliston's school in Longford, Thomas and his brother James were sent to England to be coached for university and holy orders. He was barely equal to his parents' aspirations, being remembered at Trinity College, Oxford, more for his rowing and vigour in the hunt than for academic success. On 28 October 1842 at Plymouth he married Catherine Macdonald Kyle. Though he returned to Tasmania without a degree his prestige, wealth and sociability amply repaired this omission. At a ceremony performed by Bishop Nixon in 1844, Reibey became the first native Tasmanian ordained in his homeland. On 22 October 1853, while in England with his wife, he received an honorary M.A. from the archbishop of Canterbury.

Reibey was an excellent cleric, popular with his parishioners as rector of Holy Trinity, Launceston, and the church at Carrick. The Anglican synod also liked him, for he needed no stipend from the faltering Sustentation Fund or its successors but endowed Carrick with land, church and rectory and would have done the same at Hadspen but for disagreements with Bishop Bromby. In May 1858 Reibey was created archdeacon and in 1863-68 he and his wife again visited England. As adviser to the widow of James Cox and trustee of the Clarendon estate he was drawn into a family quarrel about the division of property among the daughters. In 1868 Cox's son-in-law, H. W. Blomfield, in a letter to synod, accused Reibey of attempts to seduce his wife Margaret. Reibey unsuccessfully sued for libel and the ensuing scandal rocked the colony. He resigned in 1870.

Still vigorous, the failed archdeacon languished as a farmer for a year or two. Yet colonial society was mobile and scandals were commonplace. In 1874 Reibey campaigned for the House of Assembly seat of Westbury, a district in which he owned the Oaks estate, and was returned by an enthusiastic majority which he sustained until 1903. From July 1876 to August 1877 the man the Mercury had labelled 'the ecclesiastical debauchee' was premier of Tasmania. He had a progressive public works policy, including purchase of the privately-owned railways, but was frustrated by the Opposition. He was colonial secretary in 1876-79, Speaker of the House in 1887-91 and was on the Executive Council in 1894-99 while minister without portfolio in Braddon's government.

Reibey's greatest sporting interests were hunting and horse-racing. With his all rose colours he won the Launceston Cup in 1882 with Stockwell. He once owned Malua, winner of the 1884 Melbourne Cup. He was president of three local racing clubs at Carrick, Rosedale and Newnham as well as the Northern Agricultural Society. He also bred stags and dogs. He died on 10 February 1912 at Entally, predeceased by his wife. They had no children.

Select Bibliography

  • A Full Report of the Great Libel Case: Reiby v. Blomfield (Launceston, 1870)
  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania, vol 1 (Hob, 1900)
  • K. R. von Stieglitz, Entally 1821: Pageant of a Pioneer Family 1792-1912 (Hob, 1950)
  • F. C. Green (ed), A Century of Responsible Government 1856-1956 (Hob, 1956)
  • Hobart Town Gazette, 2 Nov 1822
  • Hobart Town Courier, 7 Mar 1846
  • Mercury (Hobart), 9 June 1870, 12 Feb 1912
  • Examiner (Launceston), 16 June 1870
  • Argus (Melbourne), 12 Feb 1912.

Citation details

Peter Bolger, 'Reibey, Thomas (1821–1912)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 16 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Thomas Reibey, 1890

Thomas Reibey, 1890

Archives Office of Tasmania, PH30-1-3111

Life Summary [details]


24 September, 1821
Hadspen, Tasmania, Australia


10 February, 1912 (aged 90)
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

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