Thomas Rich

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Thomas Alexander Rich. Rich Family Collection
Bendigo Goldfields Petition Cover, August 1853. State Library of Victoria (MS 12440) and Condemned them to hard labor on the Public Roads of the Colony - A proceeding Your Petitioners maintain to be contrary to the spirit of the British Law which does not recognise the principle of the Subject being a Criminal because he is indebted to the State
That the impost of Thirty Shillings a Month is unjust because the successful and unsuccessful Digger are assessed in the same ratio
For these reasons and others which could be enumerated Your Petitioners pray Your Excellency to Grant the following Petition
* First. To direct that the Licence Fee be reduced to Ten Shillings a Month
* Secondly To direct that Monthly or Quarterly Licenses be issued at the option of the Applicants
* Thirdly To direct that new arrivals or invalids be allowed on registering their names at the Commissioners Office fifteen clear days residence on the Gold Fields before the License be enforced
* Fourthly To afford greater facility to Diggers and others resident on the Gold Fields who wish to engage in Agricultural Pursuits for investing their earnings in small allotments of land
* Fifthly To direct that the Penalty of Five Pounds for non-possession of License be reduced to One Pound
* Sixthly To direct that (as the Diggers and other residents on the Gold Fields of the Colony have uniformly developed a love of law and order) the sending of an Armed Force to enforce the License Tax be discontinued.
Your Petitioners would respectfully submit to Your Excellency's consideration in favour of the reduction of the License Fee that many Diggers and other residents on the Gold-fields who are debarred from taking a License under the present System would if the Tax were reduced to Ten Shillings a Month cheerfully comply with the Law so that the License Fund instead of being diminished would be increased
Your Petitioners would also remind your Excellency that a Petition is the only mode by which they can submit their wants to your Excellency's consideration as although they contribute more to the Exchequer that half the Revenue of the Colony they are the largest class of Her Majesty's Subjects in the Colony unrepresented
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray etc.
A Gold Mine Shaft, Rushworth, c1923. State Library of Victoria (H28738)


Thomas Alexander Rich was born in 1831 in Hampton Wick, Middlesex, England. He was well educated, arriving in Victoria in 1845.[1] Thomas Rich died in 1888 at Rushworth, and was buried in the Rushworth Cemetery.

Goldfields Involvement, 1853-1854

Thomas Rich signed the 1853 Bendigo Goldfields Petition. Agitation of the Victorian goldfields started with the Forest Creek Monster Meeting in 1851, but what became known as the Red Ribbon Movement was centred around the Bendigo goldfields in 1853. The Anti-Gold License Association was formed at Bendigo in June 1853, led by George Thomson, Dr D.G. Jones and 'Captain' Edward Browne. The association focused its attention on the 30 shillings monthly licence fee miners were required to pay to the government. They drew up a petition outlining digger grievances and called for a reduced licence fee, improved law and order, the right to vote and the right to buy land. The petition was signed by diggers at Bendigo, Ballarat, Castlemaine, McIvor (Heathcote), Mount Alexander (Harcourt) and other diggings. The 13 metre long petition was presented to Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe in Melbourne on the 01 August 1853, but their call for a reduction in monthly licence fees and land reform for diggers was rejected. The diggers dissatisfaction erupted into the Red Ribbon Rebellion where agitators wore red ribbons on their hats symbolising their defiance of the law and prohibitive licence fees.


Thomas Rich was the fourth child of Robert Rich (1780 – 1860) and Mary Robbins (1796 – 1862), one of seven children. Robert Rich was a farmer having inherited Weisland Farm in Kent. He became bankrupt and took over his late brother’s tannery at Kingston. Robert’s father and grandfather were ropemakers in Bermondsey, London.

Two of Thomas Rich's brothers also came to Australia, Frederick Birklands Rich (c.1828 – 1883) and Edwin Henry Rich (1836 – 1914). Frederick joined his brother in Australia in 1847. Edwin arrived in Australia in 1852 joining his brothers on the goldfield.[2]

RICH.On the 5th June, 1901, at his late residence, Daisy Hill, near Talbot, Edwin Henry Rich, aged 64 years.[3]
RICH.—Killed in action in France on the 3rd July, Private Claude Ernest, eldest son of Ernest J. Rich, of Geelong, and grand son of Mrs Edwin Rich, of Narrigal, aged 22 years and 2 months. "A noble life and an honorable death."[4]

Thomas Alexander Rich Married Maryanne MacKay in 1855[5] (She arrived Australia around the age of 21). They had five children:-

1. William MacKie Rich (born 1856, Melbourne.[6]

2. Mary Anne Rich (b. 1858, Footscray[7]

3. Catherine Rich (B. 1857, Moonee Ponds[8]

4. Thomas Rich (B. 1860, Tara [Taradale?])[9]

5. Jane Rich (B. 1863, Tara [Taradale?]) [10]

6. Annie Rich (b. 1867, Sandhurst. [11]

7. Harriet Rich (B. 1868, Sandhurst, Victoria)[12]

Mrs Simpson of Rushworth

Mrs Ollerenshaw

Mrs Gilmour of New Zealand

Post 1854 Experiences

Thomas A. Rich was an engineer, and in Australia worked as a mining engineer. He was associated with the Pleasance Mine[13], and the Nuggety Hill mine at Rushworth.[14]

In the early 1880s he went to Daylesford to engage in work there but was ‘attacked’ by paralysis. He returned to Rushworth and died there about five years later.[15]

The hon. treasurer of the Bendigo Hospital (Mr R. F. Howard, Savings Bank), begs to acknowledge with thanks the receipt of the following donations in aid of the institution:— Mr Thomas Rich, £1 1s; Mr Alfred Beeson, £1 1d; Mr J. J., 5s (omitted last week); Easter Fair Committee, per Mr H. M. Marks, balance of half proceeds, £11 5s 1d. Through the collector, Mr J. E. O. Birch — Mr William Murdoch, £1: Rev. E .W.Nye, £1 1s; Rev. Thomas Copeland, £1 1s; Mr Henry Morris, £1 1s; North Old Chum Company's employes, per Mr. S. Curnow, £3 0s 6d; Garden Gully Company mining employes, per Mr John Keam, £5 2s 6d; Loyal "Heart of Friendship" Lodge, M. U. I. O. O.F., per Mr Campbell Houston, £2 2s; Mr. D. G. Coope, 10s; Mr Thomas Milroy, £2; Mrs. Marther Hutchinson, £1; Mr Graham Webster, P.M., £2 2s; Court Bendigo A. O. F., per Mr. R. G. Johnston, £3.[16]


In the Rushworth Chronicle obituary for Thomas he is described as well known in Rushworth for his energy though bedridden for the previous five years. He went to Rushworth c.1860 to take charge of Mr Holmes’ interest in the crushing plant and the Nuggety Hill mine. (Nuggety Reef is 1.5k south east of Rushworth township.) At the cessation of work at that claim Thomas Alexander Rich tried his fortune in various mines in the Rushworth area but was only moderately successful. In Rushworth he was an energetic member of the Board of Advice (possibly the school board?) and in other community based activities.[17]

RICH. —On the 17th inst., at his residence, Rushworth, Thomas Alexander Rich, age 57. Respected by all who knew him.[18]

Death of Maryann Rich

RICH.—On the 12th November, 1916, at Rushworth, Mary Ann, beloved wife of the late Thomas A. Rich, and loved mother of Edwin, Frederick, Mrs. Alice, and Mrs. James Simpson, of Rushworth; Mrs. Ollerenshaw, and Mrs. Gilmour, New Zealand, aged 85 years. A colonist of 64 years.

See also

Bendigo Goldfields Petition

Ballarat Reform League Inc. Monuments Project

Further Reading


  1. Research by descendant Margaret Rich.
  2. Research by Descendant Margaret Rich.
  3. The Argus, 12 June 1901.
  4. Talbot Leader.
  5. Victorian Marriage Record Number 3706.
  6. Victorian Birth Registration No. 11063 Mother registered as McKie)
  7. Victorian Birth Registration No. 11063 Mother registered as McKie)
  8. Victorian Birth Registration No. 8711 Mother registered as McKie)
  9. Victorian Birth Registration No. 21609 Mother registered as McKie)
  10. Victorian Birth Registration No. 5020 Mother registered as McKie)
  11. Victorian Birth Registration No. 10786 Mother registered as McKie)
  12. Victorian Birth Registration No. 26089 Mother registered as McKie)
  13. Research by Descendant Margaret Rich.
  14. Rushworth Chronicle, 24 August 1888.
  15. Research by Descendant Margaret Rich.
  16. Bendigo Advertiser, 16 July 1881.
  17. Rushworth Chronicle, 24 August 1888.
  18. The Argus, 29 August 1888.

External links

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