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Young, Richard Alexander (1850–1893)

In consequence of the large demand for our issue of Tuesday, with which, though it was many hundreds greater than usual, we were unable to comply, we reprint our obituary notice of the late Mr. Richard Alexander Young, in connection with the account of the funeral on Tuesday and other matter which possesses a sad interest.]

With feelings of the deepest sorrow we record the sudden death on Sunday night of Mr. Richard Alexander Young, Mayor of West Maitland. Mr. Young was among the mourners at the funeral of the late Mr. J. E. Wolfe on Saturday; he presided at the Hospital Demonstration on Sunday afternoon at the Town Hall; and he was present at the evening service in the same building, which has been placed at the disposal of the congregation of St. Paul's while the church is undergoing repair. His Lordship the Bishop of Newcastle preached, and in the course of the evening took occasion to thank the Aldermen and the Mayor for their kindness and spoke of Mr. Young specially as a large-minded Christian man. On his return home, the Mayor mentioned to his wife that the Bishop had spoken kindly of him, but that if he had known those words were to have been said, he would not have attended the service. He further said that, not feeling very well, he would go to bed at once, and did so. Mrs. Young, who was also somewhat indisposed, followed, and went to sleep, and believes her husband did the same. Between ten and eleven o'clock she was awakened by hearing her husband moan slightly. She rose; and, seeing that her husband was seriously ill, called the children in and sent her eldest son for Dr. Hull. But when the doctor came Mr. Young had breathed his last, quietly, without apparent pain, and without speaking. Thus, suddenly and with scarcely any warning came the messenger of death. For, so far as can be known, even Mr. Young himself had no suspicion that his heart was affected. Nevertheless, heart disease was, in the opinion of Dr. Hull, who has given a certificate, the cause of death. Some fourteen years ago, it appears, Mr. Young suffered a severe attack of rheumatic fever, and has had two slight attacks since. To friends he has complained of oppression amounting to a sense of pain across the chest, but he ascribed the feeling to indigestion. A few evenings ago he walked home with Mr. Crothers, but was compelled to stop several times from pains which he thought due to this cause. He was naturally affected by the death of Mr. Wolfe, and besides, that event cast upon him a large amount of toil and responsibility in his capacity as solicitor to the family. And the work of Sunday had been somewhat greater than usual for Mr. Young. It was noticed that at the Hospital Sunday Demonstration he did not observe his usual placid demeanour, but in all other respects he presented a picture of sturdy health, and gave every promise of prolongation of a life that was of exceptional value to the community. So that the first news of his appallingly sudden demise came like a shock to all who heard it, and hundreds ventured, till confirmation came, to hope against hope that it was not true. The flag at the Town Hall raised half-mast high, gave general intimation of the verity of the sad report.

The late Mr. Young was born in West Maitland in the year 1850, and was therefore forty-three years old at the time of his death. He received his education under Mr. W. K. Colyer at the Maitland Grammar School, having as his contemporaries many who have since also become eminent in various walks of life. Having been articled to Mr. William Briggs, he was himself admitted as a solicitor of the Supreme Court in December 1873, and has been practising in West Maitland for twenty years. He married Agnes A. Wolstenholme, daughter of the late James Wolstenholme, and leaves a family of three boys and two girls, the oldest of whom is about seventeen years of age. Mr. Young was Chairman to the Fire Brigade Board, for many years Secretary to the Maitland Benevolent Society, a member of the Hospital Committee, and President of the newly-formed Water Brigade. He was also a Justice of the Peace, and a member of the Public School Board.

From a very early period Mr. Young had been an active worker in connection with the Wesleyan Church, and his business talents and legal training made him a trustworthy adviser in its affairs. With general public and charitable movements he had always been intimately identified since he began the practice of his profession, and had several times been solicited to place his services at the disposal of the electorate of West Maitland as its representative in the Legislative Assembly. To these requests Mr. Young always returned a negative reply, but had ever been recognised as a prominent man in the ranks of the freetraders of this community, and always gave his support in an election to the freetrade candidate. But though declining to accept a seat in the Legislature Mr. Young did not deny his fellow-townsmen such services as he could render as an alderman. In February 1889, he was elected to this position in the room of the late Dr. R. J. Pierce. He succeeded the present member for West Maitland as Mayor, and has been thrice since re-elected to the office, the current year thus being the fourth year of his Mayoralty. Without derogation from the merits of those who preceded him in the past, it is just to say that Mr. Young was almost an ideal Mayor. As Chairman of the Council or of public meetings presided over by him, he was urbane, courteous, and business-like, resolute in managing refractory elements, but conciliatory and tactful, and his gift of exposition was ever used to place clearly before the assembly a notion of the work it had to do. Enjoying a fair competence, he employed his means liberally and judiciously in the entertainment of distinguished visitors or of the Council, and in the furtherance of philanthropic and charitable objects. Especially were the latter his care: both before his assumption of the Mayoral office and since, Mr. Young, with his amiable and sympathetic wife, had been closely associated as an active labourer in, and generous supporter of, all movements for the alleviation of human want and suffering. All the ceremonial duties which fell upon him as Mayor were gracefully and intelligently discharged, and every townsman of West Maitland felt a pride in its Chief Magistrate which will deepen the poignant regret experienced at his sudden taking off. Alike in the capacity of citizen, philanthropist, church member, alderman and Mayor, it will be difficult to replace him. The community this day mourns the loss of a friend and leader. Personally, Mr. Young was one of the most amiable and genial of men; he was a devoted husband and admirable father. In his professional aspect he was not less noted for skill than for conscientious discharge of duty, and for an exhibition of the high moral purpose which actuated him in all other relations of life. He was as Dr. Stanton truly said of him on Sunday night, a large-minded man, and the toleration of his nature was exhibited in religious matters. He was an earnest and devoted adherent of his own denomination but both officially and socially he enjoyed and deserved the esteem of members of all denominations. It may be of interest to state that among the callers on Monday at Keera House, Mr. Young's residence in Regent-street, were their Lordships the Bishops of Newcastle and Maitland.

In consequence of the death of the Mayor the Ministerial visit which was to have been paid on Tuesday, was postponed. Communications were sent to Ministers both by Mr. Gillies, M.P., and the secretaries. Out of respect to the memory of Mr. Young, all the solicitors' offices in Maitland were closed on Monday, and the bells of St. Paul's gave out a muffled peal. Apart from these public tokens of sorrow, there were to be heard at every street corner throughout the day expressions of unfeigned sorrow for the loss the people have sustained. Moreover, the corporation labourers knocked off work, and the Town Hall was closed for the day. And the common mark of respect, the putting up of a shutter, was generally visible, or in its place, where shutters have been superseded, the draping of windows.


On Monday morning Mr. Gillies, M.L.A., communicated with the Minister of Public Instruction requesting that a half-holiday might be granted the Public Schools in West Maitland in order that the teachers and children might join in the public funeral to the deceased Mayor. The Minister promptly replied acceding to the request of the member for the town.

On Monday afternoon Sir George Dibbs, G.C.M.G., forwarded the following:—
"Mrs. Young, Mayoress.—Kindly accept sympathy in this your great and sudden bereavement."

Later in the afternoon Mr. Gillies received the following wires from the Under-Secretary of Public Works and the Deputy Postmaster-General, in reply to telegrams forwarded by him in the forenoon:—
"J. Gillies, Esq., M.P., West Maitland.
"I am sorry to have to say that Mr. Lyne is confined to his bed, and is not likely to be out for a fortnight. He wishes me to convey his deepest sympathy with the town of West Maitland in the loss it has sustained in the death of so able a Mayor, and he also sympathises with the family in their sad bereavement.
"J. Barling,
"Under-Secretary for Public Works."

"John Gillies, Esq., M.P.
"Closing of West Maitland Post and Telegraph Offices from one to five o'clock as asked by you would lead to public inconvenience, but the officers in charge may use their discretion and close perhaps for half an hour whilst the procession is passing through the town. Could also allow any of the staff who wish to attend to leave the office. Officials have been so informed-S. H. Lambton, Deputy Postmaster-General."

Mr. T. Hughes, the Council Clerk, received the following telegram on Monday evening:—
"The Railway Commissioners notice in the newspapers this afternoon the sudden death of Mr. Young, late Mayor. Kindly convey to the family the Commissioners' deepest sympathy in their sad bereavement.
"H. McLachlan,
"Secretary Railway Commissioners." 

The hon. secretaries to the Ministerial demonstration committee having received the following letters in answer to their telegrams announcing postponement of the demonstration, we deem it right to give them publicity:
— Sydney, 5th Sept., 1893.
"Arthur A. Wall and Hugh G. Dodds, Esqs., hon. secs. Ministerial Demonstration Committee, W. Maitland.
"Dear Sirs,—The hon. the Prime Minister desires me to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of yesterday, confirming your telegram notifying the sudden death of Mr. Young, the Mayor of West Maitland. Sir George, immediately on receipt of the intelligence, wired to the Mayoress conveying his sympathy, and at once recognised the necessity to postpone the intended Ministerial visit.

"Sir George desires me to convey to you, and to the other gentlemen composing the committee, the appreciation of your kindness and proffered hospitality, and to express his heartfelt regret at the cause that renders it impossible at the present time for him to have the pleasure of visiting your important town and district.—Yours faithfully,
"H. Tennent Donaldson,
"Private Secretary."

"Department of Public Instruction, Sydney,
5th September, 1893.
"Dear Sirs,—I received your letter of the 1st instant, and also your telegram announcing the sad and lamentable death of your Mayor (Mr. Young), and I certainly agree that it was the proper course, in view of the esteem in which he was held by all, to postpone the demonstration which was to have been held to-day.

"The news of Mr. Young's most sudden demise pained me very much.—Yours faithfully,
"F. B. Suttor.
"A. A. Wall, Esq., H. G. Dodds, Esq., Hon. Secretaries Ministerial Demonstration Committee, West Maitland."

"Parliament House, Sydney Sept. 4, 1893.
"Dear Sir,—When about to accept your kind invitation to Ministerial banquet to-morrow, I got intimation of the awfully sudden death of Mr. R A. Young. The news came as a great shock to those who knew Mr. Young, and I hasten to convey through you my sincerest sympathy to his family in their sad bereavement, and to the inhabitants of Maitland for the loss they have sustained in being deprived of the counsels of so able and worthy a citizen.
"Yours truly,
"J. W. Bowes. "
"Messrs. Wall and Dodds, Joint Hon. Secs."

Yesterday morning Mr. J. Gillies, M.L.A., for West Maitland, received the following letter from the Hon. F. B. Suttor, M.P., Minister for Public Instruction:—
"Department of Public Instruction, New South Wales,
5th September, 1893.
"Dear Mr. Gillies,—I duly received your wire notifying the lamented death of your worthy Mayor and esteemed townsman Mr. Young. I was deeply pained at the very sad announcement, and would much like you to be kind enough to convey an expression of my heartfelt sympathy with the widow in her great bereavement, if you think she would not consider such a message from me intrusive.
"Yours sincerely,
"F. B. Suttor.
"J. Gillies, Esq., M.P., West Maitland."

The Mayor of Scone has sent the following:—
"Scone, Sept. 5.
"The Council Clerk, Maitland,—The people of this town desire to express their deepest sympathy to Mrs. Young and family, and the residents of Maitland for their great loss.
"H. J. H. Scott, Mayor."

Original publication

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Citation details

'Young, Richard Alexander (1850–1893)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/young-richard-alexander-13692/text24470, accessed 22 August 2019.

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