Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Richard Thompson (1810–1865)

by R. L. Knight

This article was published:

Richard Thompson (1810-1865), journalist, born in England and baptized William Fane, was sentenced to transportation to New South Wales for fourteen years for the theft of some silver spoons. On arrival in June 1834 he was employed by the government at Port Macquarie; in 1840 he received a ticket-of-leave and two years later a conditional pardon. While at Port Macquarie he published a brief account of the geography and geology of north-eastern Australia and tried unsuccessfully to set up a beef-salting plant. In 1842-43 he worked on newspapers in the Port Phillip district, and in 1843 moved to Sydney where he served on the staff of the Australian. In November 1844, when Robert Lowe undertook the publication of the Atlas on behalf of the squatters, Thompson was named editor, a title he held until March 1845 when a difference of opinion with the actual editor, Lowe, brought about his resignation. In 1846 Benjamin Boyd and Joseph Robinson decided that the squatters needed a new medium of propaganda and, with the help of William Bland, established another weekly, the Spectator, of which Thompson was made editor. At the end of the year, when the squatters' demands had been fulfilled by the British government, publication of the Spectator ceased. In 1847 Boyd bought a controlling interest in the Australian and installed Thompson as managing editor. With the collapse of Boyd's fortunes in 1848 the Australian ceased, and Thompson's career as a journalist seems to have foundered. In 1856 he edited the Report of the Proceedings at the National Banquet … to Celebrate the Establishment and Inauguration of Responsible Government in the Colony of New South Wales.

Thompson dabbled in the theatre in Sydney, furnishing scripts, translating librettos, and acting as critic. The pages of the publications which he edited reveal him as a skilful though unoriginal poet and an able editor. On 5 November 1846 he married Mary Ann, daughter of Charles Righton, an officer of the East India Co.; a son was born of this marriage in 1847. Thompson died in Sydney in 1865.

Select Bibliography

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 2 June 1842, 18, 20 Apr 1844, 22 Mar 1845, 6 Jan, 27 Feb, 6. 7 Nov 1846, 14, 19, Apr, 4, 25 Sept 1847, 16 Jan, 25 Aug, 19 Oct 1849, 2 Jan 1850
  • Colonial Observer (Sydney), 4 Jan 1843
  • Duncan's Weekly Register (Sydney), 17 Feb 1844
  • Commercial Journal (Sydney), 5 Apr–2 Aug 1845
  • Examiner (Sydney), 9 Aug–1 Nov 1845
  • Atlas (London), 8 Jan 1848.

Citation details

R. L. Knight, 'Thompson, Richard (1810–1865)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 12 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Fane, William



1865 (aged ~ 55)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Passenger Ship
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: 14 years