Bendigo High School alumnus, Richard W Richards (enrolled 1907), is the subject of a recently published biography, penned by Melbourne author Wilson McOrist (‘The Boy From Long Gully’, published by Simon and Schuster).
Richards was born in Long Gully in 1893 and enrolled at the Bendigo Continuation School in 1907 (the school that would become Bendigo High School and eventually Bendigo Senior Secondary College).
He went on to study Maths and Science at Melbourne University before taking up his first teaching post at the Ballarat School of Mines in 1914.
Soon after, Richards abandoned his comfortable life as a science teacher, to join a support party for Ernest Shackleton in the Antarctic. Due to their supply ship being blown out to sea by a blizzard, Richards and a number of his companions became stranded in the Antarctic. However, despite his comparative youth (he was 22 at the time) and inexperience in polar conditions, Richards adapted and survived against near-impossible odds.
After his rescue in 1917, Richards returned to Australia and once again taught at the School of Mines in Ballarat. After acting as a government advisor on optical apparatus during WWII, he returned to Ballarat and became Principal of the college until his retirement in 1958.
Simon and Schuster describes ‘The Boy from Long Gully’ as an utterly riveting story of survival and the human spirit.
Richard Richards was awarded the Albert Medal in 1923, for his heroism and gallantry in saving life in the Antarctic, the only Australian ever to be so honoured.
He is an unsung hero, but ranks alongside Douglas Mawson in any yardstick of famous Australians from the early 1900s ‘Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration’.