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Hon. Robert Stanley Richards (1885-1967)
Diary of Overseas Tour, 1933

MSS 0214

Biographical Note

The 32nd Premier of South Australia, Robert Richards was born at Moonta on the Yorke Peninsula, approximately 100 miles north-west of Adelaide.  He was the youngest of Richard and Mary Richards' twelve children and was locally educated until the age of thirteen, when he left school to work in the Moonta mines.

In his early twenties Richards moved to Burnie, Tasmania, where he managed a copper mine.  He then returned to Moonta, marrying Ada Dixon in 1914, before his election has President of the mining section of the Australian Workers' Union in 1917.

Richards was a popular man who enjoyed playing cricket and football and was well-known in the local community.  So his election to the district of Wallaroo (which covered Moonta) in the South Australian House of Assembly in 1918 was not surprising.  He was a great leader and debater and was soon named Chairman of Committees, first in the John Gunn led government and then in Lionel Hill's cabinet.

In 1933 Lionel Hill resigned as Premier just nine weeks prior to the election.  His abrupt departure left Richards a reluctant Premier.  He spent nine weeks in the position, trying desperately to emphasise the achievements of his cabinet but the effects of the Depression combined with a fragmented Party, led to a heavy defeat for Labor.

Richards worked to reunite the ALP over the next year, serving as Deputy Leader from 1934 and was eventually returned to Labor leadership in 1938.  He remained opposition leader for eleven years and although Labor increased its vote at three consecutive elections, it could not win government.  The realisation that there was little chance of Labor returning to government under the current electoral systems, combined with the death of his wife in 1949, saw Richards retire from politics to serve as the Commonwealth Government's Administrator to Nauru.

On his return from Nauru, Richards spent time as the Director of Radio 5KA, was appointed to the S.A. Government Forestry Board and was commissioned to investigate issues relating to delinquent children, as well as mining and housing issues.  He died in Moonta in 1967 and received a state funeral.

Biography adapted from his entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography by Donald J. Hopgood

Contents Listing

Handwritten travel journal of Robert S. Richards, previously Premier of South Australia. Travel takes place from August 1948 to February 1949 to countries including: United Kingdom, U.S.A., Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, France, Ceylon, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Colombo, Panama, Suez and Aden. The journal includes handwritten and typewritten content, interspersed with a variety of programs, letters and newspaper clippings. 

Contents of the journal include:

  • Program of concert held on board S.S. Orion Thursday, 23rd Sept. 1948
  • The good road: the new musical revue [program]
  • Typewritten notation of train journey times, Southampton to Waterloo
  • Typewritten notation of route taken on Sunday, 26/9/48
  • Several sections of the diary typewritten and pasted amongst the handwritten sections [London, late September 1948]
  • Letter from Robert McCall, BBC, dated 8th October, 1948
  • Letter from Thomas Tinto, Corporation of Glasgow, Welfare Services Department, dated 11th November, 1948
  • Typewritten account of visit to Big Nein Seam No. 1 Pit South, Celynen Colliery
  • Handwritten note dated 27.10.48 from Ben Harcombe
  • Small page of autographs related to colliery visit
  • Typewritten note of tour arrangements, October 31
  • Typewritten note of tour arrangements, November 3
  • Typewritten itinerary, Killarney, 5 November
  • Typewritten itinerary from Canadian National Railways
  • Typewritten plus carbon copy schedule for American leg of tour, includes list of attendees at luncheon on 3rd January, 1949
  • Press & other items of interest / R.S. Richards
  • Undated newspaper clipping: 'Newsboy to Premier: sold papers at Moonta
  • Poem: 'Greetings 1950!' (handwritten note explaining this was sent to Richards by his brother)
  • Poem: The church / J.R. Lowell
  • Undated newspaper clipping: 'Home is first interest of new Premier's wife: shares musical taste with daughter'
  • Undated newspaper clipping: 'Wallaroo the centre of national interest: Premier returns to home town to declare government's policy'
  • Undated newspaper clipping: 'An interesting group photograph taken at the Moonta Mines more than 35 years ago, showing the burly miners in their picturesque garb. The newsboy on the extreme left of the front row is "Bob" Richards, who this week became Premier of South Australia' with handwritten notation of names
  • Undated newspaper clipping: 'Land for workless : announces policy tonight'
  • Undated newspaper clipping: 'Australian urges drive to aid peace' with handwritten notation
  • List of names from photograph clipping
  • Undated newspaper clipping: handwritten title 'Caucus'
  • Undated newspaper clipping: 'Dedication - and fulfilment' with handwritten notation
  • Newspaper clipping from 'Truth', Saturday, February 4, 1933: 'The man who is to lead: Moonta miner who will not sacrifice his principles'
  • Printed extract: 'The meaning of life' / by Henry George
  • Newspaper clipping: Premier's first show' handwritten date, 1933
  • Printed extract: 'Life's golden rule' / R. Hare
  • Purple carbon copy extract: Poem by Charles Dickens
  • Printed extract: 'Babyland' / Ella Wheeler Wilcox
  • Printed extract: 'Wheat' / C.J. Dennis
  • Printed extract that has been covered over with blank paper
  • Printed extract: 'Contentment' / Sir Edward Dyer
  • Undated newspaper clipping: 'Mrs Birt returns home: Moonta in Adelaide says good-bye'
  • Newspaper clipping from 'The Mail', Saturday 4th February, 1933: 'To S.A. electio[remainder of title missing]
  • Undated newspaper clipping, handwritten title of newspaper, 'The Moonta people's weekly': 'The Premier of S.A. (Honorable R.S. Richards, M.P.) : an appreciation' / by "Onlooker"
Rare Books & Special Collections
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