Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Ritchie (1832–1897)

by R. M. Green

This article was published:

William Ritchie (1832-1897), solicitor, was born on 31 August 1832 at Scone, near Perth, Van Diemen's Land, sixth son of Captain Thomas Ritchie and his wife Hannah, née Harris. Educated at Rev. W. L. Gibbon's school, Launceston, and Christ's College, Bishopsbourne, he worked in the office of Melbourne solicitor W. D. Wickham before going to England where he studied law and was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple on 26 January 1857. In 1858 Ritchie returned to Tasmania and went into partnership with William Douglas, after whose death he became a partner with Robert John Parker. In 1862-64 they were associated with J. W. Gleadow. By 1884 the firm was doing most of the land conveyancing in northern Tasmania; it still operates as Ritchie and Parker Alfred Green & Co.

Ritchie was interested in the mineral development of the colony and in 1873 floated the Mount Bischoff Tin Mining Co., acquiring James 'Philosopher' Smith's. claim for cash and shares. For a number of years he was chairman of the board. He was also interested in the Back Creek goldfield and other prominent mining companies. He strongly favoured widespread legal reform: in 1883 when questioned as to the working of the Lands Titles Office he criticized the Real Property Act as founded on false principles which caused the system to be costly, complicated, dilatory and unreliable. In 1884-85 he wrote over forty letters to the editor of the Launceston Daily Telegraph and later had them reprinted in three pamphlets: Letters on Fiscal and Land Law Reform, Letters on the Decay of Agriculture in Tasmania and The Assessment of Real Property in Tasmania. He argued for a larger colonial population, taxation on capital value and free trade.

On 20 December 1860 Ritchie had married Margaret Bowman, daughter of John Fawns of Launceston; they had six sons and three daughters. He died on 4 April 1897 after a long illness.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Foster, Men-at-the-Bar (Lond, 1885)
  • E. A. Beever, Launceston Bank for Savings 1835-1970 (Melb, 1972)
  • Votes and Proceedings (House of Assembly, Tasmania), 1884, 3 (n.s.) (69)
  • Examiner (Launceston), 5 Apr 1897.

Citation details

R. M. Green, 'Ritchie, William (1832–1897)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 15 July 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

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