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Richards, Richard David (Dave) (1929–2012)

by Malcolm Brown

David Richards devoted almost his entire working life to the production of the Sydney Morning Herald, from the hot-metal days to the offset printing era, with all the industrial woe that accompanied such a massive technological change. Rising to management level, he had to roll up his sleeves during strikes, especially the major disruption in 1977 when offset printing was introduced.

He faced up to journalists who demanded he do things that he did not consider possible on existing technology and management sided with him. Steadfast and loyal, he played golf with Kerry Packer from time to time at Bondi but when Packer offered him a job, he turned it down. It was at Bondi one day when Packer, about to tee off, was distracted by the noise of someone in the gallery breaking wind. Packer's shot went astray and he set off in pursuit of the offender. But such affirmative action by Packer was not enough to persuade Richards to switch loyalties.

Richard David Richards was born in Bondi on May 19, 1929, the son of a policeman, Tom Richards and his wife, Kathleen (nee McMahon). During the war, Richards was sent with brothers Tom and Maurice to stay with relatives at Grong Grong in the Riverina because his parents thought Bondi was too vulnerable to Japanese shelling. After the war, the boys moved back to Bondi, where Richards demonstrated his talent as an amateur boxer and took up cycle racing. He gained his Intermediate Certificate at Randwick Boys' High and undertook a printing apprenticeship.

In 1949, Richards joined John Fairfax and Sons as a tradesman stereotyper, responsible for forming the curved plates that fitted around the rollers to print the paper, and rose to be a foreman. In 1951, he married Joyce Woodard and went to live with her in Bondi.

Richards's expertise was so valued that in 1967, after Fairfax took over the Canberra Times, he was sent there to give technical advice on upgrading the printing. That year Joyce died of leukaemia. In 1970, he married a secretary, Margaret Monroe.

When Richards was transferred to manage the Fairfax paper store in Ultimo, he worked out a more efficient way of using paper. Then he moved back to the Fairfax building on Broadway as a manager, and saw through the technological transition. Some of his battles with the unions became famous, as they did with some journalists.

Richards retired in 1988 and moved to North Rocks, where he stayed until his daughter Kate finished university, then moved to the Gold Coast. He occupied his time painting landscapes, playing lawn bowls and learning to fly.

Dave Richards is survived by his children Carolyn, Doug and Kate and granddaughter, Ellie. Margaret died in 2009.

Original publication

Citation details

Malcolm Brown, 'Richards, Richard David (Dave) (1929–2012)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/richards-richard-david-dave-16730/text28626, accessed 20 October 2021.

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