Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Cleburne, Richard (1799–1864)

by John Reynolds

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

Richard Cleburne (1799-1864), merchant, was born in Ireland, the fourth son of Micajah Cleburne and Sarah, née Carroll. He arrived in Hobart Town about 1821 and soon had a variety of business interests. After his partnership with C. Wright was dissolved in April 1825, Cleburne built up a large trade, buying produce and selling all kinds of equipment at his store in Liverpool Street. In 1832 he brought an action against the collector of customs for seizing eight casks of American tobacco on which no duty had been paid, and had them returned to him as 'the law was found to be deficient'. Gossips credited him with more deliberate smuggling when he later bought Uplands, 1560 acres (631 ha) near Mount Direction, with an extensive frontage to the Derwent. Here he cultivated 300 acres (121 ha) and built a fine stone house, with attractive gardens and an orchard. He was responsible for opening the first direct trade between Melbourne and Hobart in the Blossom, built to his order. He was a director of the Colonial Bank in 1840-43 and an active promoter of the Derwent and Tamar Insurance Co. and later of the Tasmanian Steam Navigation Co. As his business enlarged he moved his warehouse to a capacious new building in Murray Street in 1840. Always an enthusiastic supporter of local manufactures, he began a soap, salt and candle industry on the Old Wharf and enlarged it in 1849. In 1848, on behalf of a coal-mining company, he applied for a lease of Schouten Island, but rejected the government's terms of 2d. a ton in place of rent. In April 1854 he bought the Ferry House at Risdon, and in 1860 took over the government's irregular ferry; the service in his new Risdon Queen was formally opened with a lavish levee at his expense.

Cleburne was also prominent in public affairs. In November 1824 he signed the petition for the separation of Van Diemen's Land from New South Wales. By 1833 he had become a local deacon of the Freemasons. In October 1851 he was elected for Huon to the Legislative Council, where he fought zealously against the continued transportation of convicts. At responsible government he failed to win the Kingborough seat for the House of Assembly, but was returned with a majority of one by Huon to the Legislative Council. In 1859 he resigned in protest against a proposed constitutional amendment, but was re-elected unopposed for Huon. He retained his seat until 1864 giving active support to the Real Property Act and to the regulation of state aid to churches although failing health kept him from the last two sessions. He died at Risdon on 29 October 1864, aged 64.

Cleburne had married twice and was survived by two sons and eight daughters. His first wife was Margaret Magill (1802-1837), and his second was the widow, Harriet Beauvais, second daughter of Edward Miller.

Select Bibliography

  • correspondence file under Cleburne (Archives Office of Tasmania).

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Citation details

John Reynolds, 'Cleburne, Richard (1799–1864)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/cleburne-richard-1903/text2249, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 26 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

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