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John Carre Riddell (1809–1879)

by Ronald McNicoll

This article was published:

John Riddell, by Edward Gilks, 1874

John Riddell, by Edward Gilks, 1874

State Library of Victoria, 51834451

John Carre Riddell (1809-1879), pastoralist and politician, was born on 4 June 1809 at Linthill, Roxburghshire, Scotland, third son of Thomas Riddell, of Camieston, and his wife Jane, née Ferrier. (The name is pronounced Riddle.) He was educated at the High School, Edinburgh, and at the University of Edinburgh. With his cousin T. F. Hamilton he reached Sydney in the Abberton on 20 August 1839, and next month rode to Melbourne. They went first to the Western District and were briefly with Niel Black before buying, in early 1840, the stock and depasturing licence of the Mount Macedon run, north-west of Melbourne.

They survived the depression of 1843. In 1845-50 Riddell was in charge while Hamilton visited Scotland. By 1846 their run amounted to thirty sq. miles (78 km²), but in August 1850 they lost a great deal of it to W. J. T. Clarke, whose freehold purchase of 28,000 acres (11,331 ha) took even their woolshed and sheepwash. The partners reconstituted their run as Cairnhill and Turitable and turned to cattle-raising and farming. When they dissolved partnership in 1861 Riddell owned much land nearer Melbourne and in the Gisborne district.

In 1847 Riddell had declined election to the Legislative Council in Sydney but in 1852 he was appointed a non-official member of the Victorian Legislative Council. In 1860-77 he held West Bourke in the Legislative Assembly. In parliament he spoke rarely and briefly, disapproving of 'long speeches which were frequently to no purpose'. In the 1860s he supported the ministries of Nicholson, O'Shanassy and, especially, McCulloch. When McCulloch resigned in March 1868 Riddell, as a respected moderate, was asked to form a government but could not persuade his friends to leave the former premier. He broke with McCulloch in June 1871. Riddell was a liberal, favouring compulsory and secular education and the reduction of state aid to religion. A moderate free trader in 1864, he had become a moderate protectionist by 1877. He was not at ease in the turbulent assembly, and might well have been happier in the Upper House. As the Argus said, 'He was distinguished for gentlemanlike bearing and high character rather than for political activity or demonstrativeness'.

Riddell was an early member and in 1852 president of the Melbourne Club. From 1866 he lived in his large house Cavers Carre in Elsternwick. He had married on 22 October 1846 Marianne Sibella Stephen (d.1890), whose sister later married T. F. Hamilton. Of their six children, three daughters and two sons, including Walter John Carre (1859-1930), survived him when he died at Elsternwick on 22 December 1879. He was buried at Gisborne in what has become the family cemetery; the town of Riddell bears his name.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Henderson (ed), Early Pioneer Families of Victoria and Riverina (Melb, 1936)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 18 Apr 1877, 23 Dec 1879
  • Herald (Melbourne), 18 Apr 1877, 23 Dec 1879
  • R. R. McNicoll, Memoir on John Carre Riddell (State Library of Victoria)
  • Riddell papers (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

Ronald McNicoll, 'Riddell, John Carre (1809–1879)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 17 June 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

John Riddell, by Edward Gilks, 1874

John Riddell, by Edward Gilks, 1874

State Library of Victoria, 51834451

Life Summary [details]


4 June, 1809
Linthill, Roxburghshire, Scotland


22 December, 1879 (aged 70)
Elsternwick, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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