WINDEYER, Richard (1806-1847)


WINDEYER, Richard (1806-1847)
advocate and politician
was the son of Charles Windeyer (1780-1855), first recognized reporter in the house of lords. The elder Windeyer came to Sydney in 1828, intending to go on the land, and obtained a grant of 2560 acres. He, however, accepted the position of chief clerk in the police office and afterwards became a police magistrate at Sydney. In 1841 he was offered and refused the office of sheriff, which carried a salary of £1000 a year and allowances for expenses when absent from Sydney. Two years later he was an unsuccessful candidate at the first election for the legislative council, and he retired from his magistracy at the end of 1848 with a pension. His work was spoken of in the highest terms. He died in 1855. He married in 1805 Ann Mary, daughter of R. Rudd, and Richard Windeyer was the eldest of their nine children. He was born in London on 10 August 1806, like his father became a parliamentary reporter, and was employed on The Times and other leading papers. Taking up the study of law he was admitted a barrister of the Middle Temple in 1834, and in the following year went to Sydney where he built up a large practice as a barrister. By 1840 he was one of the leaders at the bar and had made a reputation especially in nisi prius work. At the first election for the legislative council held in July 1843 he was elected for the county of Durham and promptly brought in a measure, the monetary confidence bill, which was designed to relieve the depression under which the colony was then suffering. In spite of brilliant speeches in opposition to it made by Robert Lowe (q.v.) this was carried by 14 votes to seven. The measure was, however, vetoed by the governor, Sir George Gipps (q.v.), and nothing more was heard of it. In October 1844 Windeyer moved an amendment to a bill proposing to bring in Lord Stanley's system of national education, to the effect that a general system of education should be established by which the children of the poorer classes might receive gratuitously (if possible) primary and religious instruction. Another amendment proposed by Wentworth (q.v.) was, however, carried. In 1845 Windeyer, though almost overwhelmed with work, took up the cause of the already fast-dwindling aborigines and obtained a select committee to inquire into the question. He was also in the forefront of the struggle with Gipps concerning generally the powers of the council and the governor on the land question, and in 1846 moved and carried an address to the governor acquainting him that the council could not entertain a bill he had originated. Windeyer had, however, become financially involved in the long-continued depression, and although he had made a large income at the bar, was obliged to assign his estate. His death occurred on 2 December 1847 while on a visit to friends at Launceston, Tasmania, largely as the result of anxiety and overwork. He married in 1832 Maria, daughter of William Camfield, who survived him with a son, W. C. Windeyer, who is noticed separately.
Windeyer had a great reputation at the bar as an advocate of much power and ability, and during his short career in parliament showed himself to be a strong and conscientious man. He was a great advocate for representative government and when he died Wentworth declared he "had lost his right hand man". His early death robbed Australia of a man who might have done his country much service, and reached almost any position in it.
Burke's Colonial Gentry, 1891; Historical Records of Australia, ser. I. vols. XIV, XXI, XXIII, XXVI; J. H. Heaton, Australian Dictionary of Dates; G. W. Rusden, History of Australia, vol. II; Aubrey Halloran, Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. X, pp. 3049. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald, 29 December 1847, reflects the strong feelings of the time, and does not appear to be free from malice and bias.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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