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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Ride, Sir Lindsay Tasman (1898–1977)

by J. R. Poynter

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Lindsay Tasman Ride (1898-1977), by unknown photographer

Lindsay Tasman Ride (1898-1977), by unknown photographer

Herald & Weekly Times Portrait Collection, State Library of Victoria, H38849/3802

Sir Lindsay Tasman Ride (1898-1977), physiologist, soldier and university vice-chancellor, was born on 10 October 1898 at Newstead, Victoria, fifth child of Australian-born parents William Ride, a 'pioneer' Presbyterian missionary, and his wife Eliza Mary, née Best, daughter of a stonemason. After attending three state schools in the country, Lindsay was awarded a scholarship to Scotch College, Melbourne, where he excelled in sport and won a senior government scholarship. Red-headed and 5 ft 10 ins (178 cm) tall, 'Ginger' Ride enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 14 February 1917 and joined the 38th Battalion on the Western Front early in 1918. Twice wounded (once severely), he was 'invalided out' of the army on 24 April 1919. In retrospect, he was disgusted by trench warfare, but concluded that sportsmanship and teamwork had been vital to the A.I.F.'s victories.

Enrolling in medicine at the University of Melbourne, Ride took a commission (1921) in the Melbourne University Rifles, represented the university in athletics, rowed and played cricket and football for Ormond College, and presided (1921-22) over the Students' Representative Council. He was elected Victorian Rhodes scholar for 1922. At New College, Oxford (B.A., 1924; M.A., B.M., B.Ch., 1928; D.M., 1939), 'Blue' Ride was captain of boats and steward of the junior common-room; although his academic results were mediocre, he impressed authorities as 'a good Rhodes Scholar' and a 'first rate fellow'.

At St Columba's Church, Chelsea, London, on 30 June 1925 Ride married with the forms of the Church of Scotland Mary Margaret Louise Fenety, a Canadian. Entering Guy's Hospital, he qualified as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, England, and as a licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians, London. He showed a flair for medical research. On 21 October 1928 he was appointed professor of physiology at the University of Hong Kong, where he investigated blood groups of the peoples of the Pacific and wrote Genetics and the Clinician (Bristol, England, 1938). Committing himself to the colony, 'Doc' Ride was commissioned in the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps and appointed a justice of the peace. He played for the Hong Kong Cricket Club, rowed, and became an elder in the Union Church. An excellent baritone, he helped to found (1934) the Hong Kong Singers.

Foreseeing war, Ride sent his wife and children to Australia in 1938. (The marriage did not survive the long separation). He commanded the Hong Kong Field Ambulance in 1941, but was taken prisoner by the Japanese in December. On 9 January 1942 he escaped to unoccupied China, a feat for which he was appointed O.B.E. (1942). He then formed and commanded (as a colonel in the Indian Army) the British Army Aid Group which helped escapees from Hong Kong, provided medical and other assistance to prisoners of war, and gathered intelligence. Nicknamed 'The Smiling Tiger', Ride was elevated to C.B.E. (1944) for his outstanding leadership. He later served (1948-62) as colonel commandant of the Royal Hong Kong Defence Force.

In April 1949 Ride was appointed vice-chancellor of the university. He set about rebuilding its shattered fabric: during his fifteen-year tenure twenty-two new buildings were erected and student numbers increased threefold. A decisive man, genial but authoritarian, he had a loyal following among older staff but his paternalism was challenged in later years by some more recently appointed. He was knighted in 1962, awarded honorary degrees by the universities of Toronto, Melbourne, London and Hong Kong, and made an honorary member (1962) of the Royal Academy of Music, London.

On 12 November 1954 at the Union Church, Hong Kong, Ride married Violet May Witchell; she had been his secretary before the war. He was a member of the 1967 commission of inquiry into the Kowloon riots, honorary colonel of the Hong Kong Regiment, president and conductor of the Hong Kong Singers, chairman of the Hong Kong Music Society and author of 'a monumental survey' of the old Protestant cemetery at Macao. Sir Lindsay died on 17 October 1977 in Hong Kong and was cremated; his wife survived him, as did the two sons and two daughters of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Mellor, The University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong, 1980)
  • E. Ride, BAAG (Hong Kong, 1981)
  • C. Matthews and O. Cheung (eds), Dispersal and Renewal (Hong Kong, 1998)
  • Rhodes Trust, records (Rhodes House, Oxford, and University of Melbourne Archives)
  • Ride papers on the British Army Aid Group (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

J. R. Poynter, 'Ride, Sir Lindsay Tasman (1898–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 7 August 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

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