Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Richard Smith (1836–1919)

by Marjorie Findlay

This article was published:

Richard Smith (1836-1919), merchant, was born on 27 July 1836 at Brasted, Kent, England, son of William Smith and his wife Ann, née Solomon. Educated in private schools, he received commercial training in the office of a Coventry hardware merchant. At 27 he migrated to South Australia, arriving on 19 June 1863 in the Countess of Fife. Employed by Lanyon and Harris as a traveller on Yorke Peninsula and in the south-east of the colony, he and G. Scarfe were taken into partnership within three years, the firm then being called Geo. P. Harris Scarfe & Co. In 1873 he and Scarfe became proprietors and under them the company expanded; by 1886 it held the government contract to supply iron and had sold imported railway engines to the Holdfast Bay Railway Co. In 1889-91 he was councillor for New Glenelg Ward and in 1892-95 was mayor of Glenelg.

Smith also had pastoral interests; in 1894 he bought Kindaruar near Lake Alexandrina where he established his Shropshire stud with twenty-five pedigreed ewes, but finding the country unsuitable bought Sweetholme, a 1200-acre (486 ha) property at Strathalbyn; he added ewes from England and Tasmania to his flock. He also had a smallholding at Virginia for watering stock. In 1906 he bought Nomgetty station, 35,000 acres (14,164 ha) in Western Australia which he improved; he started a Shorthorn stud and also ran sheep.

Smith was a director of the Mutual Life Assurance Co. and a member of the boards of the Executor, Trustee, & Agency Co. of South Australia, the Union Insurance Co., the Stannary Hills Mines, the Adelaide Steam Rope and Wire Nail Works and the Adelaide Chemical and Fertilizer Co. He was also a foundation and life member of the South Australian Commercial Travellers' and Warehousemen's Association. In 1899 he was appointed vice-consul for Spain.

On 20 March 1869 Smith had married Emma Law of South Australia. In 1879 he bought Woodlands at Glenelg from the trustees of the Collegiate School of St Peter and made it his home. Closely associated with St Peter's Church of England, Glenelg, he was warden in 1879-83 and was made a trustee in 1906. A tennis player and later a bowler, he took an active interest in local and sporting affairs. He was a modest, tireless man of unvarying habits and went daily to work until three months before his death on 27 March 1919. Survived by five daughters and five sons, he was buried in St Jude's cemetery, Brighton. A stained glass window was installed in St Peter's in memory of him and his wife. His estate in South Australia was sworn for probate at £600,000 and in Western Australia at £69,645. He left nearly £5000 to employees of Geo. P. Harris, Scarfe & Co. and £500 each to the Adelaide Children's Hospital and Training school for Nurses, to the Minda Home for children and to the South Australian Institution for the Blind, and Deaf and Dumb.

Select Bibliography

  • H. T. Burgess (ed), Cyclopedia of South Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1908)
  • Garden and Field Pty, Our Pastoral Industry (Adel, 1910)
  • Mutual Life and Citizens' Assurance Co. Ltd, The First Fifty Years of Service, 1886-1936 (Syd, 1937)
  • W. H. Jeanes (ed), Glenelg: Birthplace of South Australia (Glenelg, 1955)
  • Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1887, 2 (27), 1888, 3 (90)
  • Minutes (St Peter's Church, Glenelg).

Citation details

Marjorie Findlay, 'Smith, Richard (1836–1919)', 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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


27 July, 1836
Brasted, Kent, England


27 March, 1919 (aged 82)
South Australia, Australia

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