Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Richardson, John Larkins Cheese

RICHARDSON, Sir JOHN LARKINS CHEESE (1810–1878), speaker of the Legislative Council of New Zealand, was son of Robert Richardson of the Bengal civil service, and Mary Anne his wife. He was born in Bengal on 4 Aug. 1810, and sent to England to be educated for the East Indian military service, entering in 1827 Addiscombe College. In 1828 he returned to India, and on 12 Dec. entered the East India Company's service as a cadet in the Bengal artillery, becoming lieutenant on 19 Aug. 1837. He served in the Afghan campaign of 1842, and was wounded at the capture of Istaliff on 29 Sept. He also served through the Sikh wars, and during part of the time acted as aide-de-camp to General Sir Harry Smith; was wounded at Ferozeshah, and received medal and clasps (22 Dec. 1845). He was made commissary-general of ordnance on 21 Aug. 1846, was promoted captain on 6 Oct. 1846, and retired on 18 March 1852. On 28 Nov. 1854 he became major.

After the death of his wife, Richardson decided in 1854 to go out to New Zealand, with a view to settling his family there if the prospect were promising. He made a thorough tour of the colony, of which he gave, on his return to England, a very useful practical account in an anonymous book entitled ‘A Summer Excursion to New Zealand.’ In June 1856 he left England as a settler, and, arriving at Port Chalmers in October, purchased an estate in Otago, which he called Willowmead. He occasionally contributed to the ‘Otago Witness,’ and in March 1860 became member, and subsequently speaker, of the provincial council for his own district of Clutha. In May 1861 he was elected superintendent of Otago province, and displayed marked capacity in controlling the gold rush which took place in that year. He rapidly organised an effective police and escort service, and prevented all trouble. In 1863 he was defeated in the new election for superintendent, but was returned to the provincial council, of which he again became speaker; in October he also entered the House of Representatives as member for Dunedin district. He continued to represent his own district in the provincial council till 1866, when he was beaten, and was elected for New Plymouth.

In November 1864 Richardson became postmaster-general in the Weld ministry, and in 1865, on the reconstruction of that ministry, continued in office as executive councillor without portfolio. He was largely responsible for legislation connected with the militia and the regulation of the goldfields. In 1867 he was summoned to the legislative council, and in 1868 was elected speaker and left the ministry. He filled his new office with dignity, and was at once courteous and firm. In 1874 he was knighted. He died at Dunedin on 6 Dec. 1878. He left three children, settled in New Zealand.

Richardson took particular interest in the educational progress of the young colony. He started the girls' high school, founded a scholarship tenable by boys of the high school at Otago University, and was first chancellor of the latter.

[New Zealand Times, 8 Dec. 1878; Mennell's Dictionary of Australian Biography; official records.]

C. A. H.