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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


RICHARDSON, Sir John Larkin Cheese


Superintendent of Otago, Speaker of the Legislative Council, social reformer.

A new biography of Richardson, John Larkins Cheese appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

J. L. C. Richardson was born on 4 December 1810 in Bengal, India, the son of Robert Richardson, a civil servant in the East India Company, and of Marianne, née Romney. Intended for the company's military service, Richardson was educated at Addis-combe College (near Croydon), England, and, in 1828, returned to India where he joined the Bengal Horse Artillery. In 1834, at Agra, India, he married Charlotte Laing, by whom he had one son and two daughters. He served in the Afghanistan campaign (1842), and was aide-de-camp to Sir Harry Smith throughout the Sikh Wars, being twice wounded. In 1846 he became Commissary-General of Ordnance at Ferozpore, a post he held until his retirement from the company's service in 1852, with the rank of major. Richardson had visited Cape Colony in 1848 but, not being impressed by the country, made a brief trip in 1852 to New Zealand where he travelled extensively in Otago, Wellington, and Taranaki. On his return to England in 1854 he published, anonymously, an extremely readable account of this journey under the title A Summer Excursion in New Zealand. In 1856, having decided to settle permanently in New Zealand, Richardson brought his children to Otago where he purchased in the Clutha district a station he named Willowmead. Although he was content to lead the life of a country squire, he was elected in February 1860 to represent Clutha in the Otago Provincial Council, becoming its Speaker two months later. By virtue of this office he was obliged to lead the impeachment proceedings against James Macandrew, the Superintendent, and as a consequence Richardson assumed the Superintendency. He was elected to this office on 17 May 1861 and served until 7 February 1863 when he was defeated, largely on account of the new goldfields vote, by John Hyde Harris, his former deputy.

In 1862 Richardson was elected to the House of Representatives for Dunedin City, and in 1863 for Dunedin Suburbs, which he represented until his defeat in 1866, when the Government found him a seat in Taranaki. He served as Postmaster-General in Weld's Ministry (1864–65), and in the reconstructed Stafford Ministry (1866–68) without portfolio. He represented Stafford's Ministry in the Legislative Council until his elevation to the Speakership in 1868. In the 1870s Richardson was appointed New Zealand's commissioner to report on the British – New Zealand accounts outstanding from the Maori Wars, a task he carried out most competently. In politics Richardson remained a staunch provincialist, and supported Grey on the land question. He also aided Bradshaw in his controversial Act (1873) to limit female labour in factories.

Apart from politics, Richardson took a keen interest in education, defence, and the Anglican Church. He founded, and was honorary captain of, the Otago Boys' High School Cadet Corps. He supported female education, and in November 1869 was chosen Vice-Chancellor of the newly constituted Otago University. On the death of the Rev. Dr Burns in January 1871, Richardson succeeded to the Chancellorship until ill health forced him to retire in 1875. When, as a mark of public esteem, Richardson was presented with a large popular subscription, he devoted this money to founding the “Richardson Scholarship” available to students attending Otago University. He was knighted in 1874, and died at the Imperial Hotel, Dunedin, on 6 December 1878.

Sir John Richardson, or “the old Major” as he was universally known, was a loved and respected figure. He was a popular lecturer, a polished conversationalist, and a witty and entertaining public speaker. His funeral evoked a great public demonstration and it is perhaps fitting to note that the then Minister of Lands, the same James Macandrew whom he had impeached so many years before, declared the occasion a State funeral.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • History of Otago, McLintock, A. H. (1949)
  • Bruce Herald, 10 Dec 1878 (Obit).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.