Richard Colson was a civil servant who started his career in the Customs Department of the Cape Colony in 1896. From May 1901, during the last phase of the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), he was a clerk in the office of the Director of Prisons for the Transvaal, and from November that year in the magistrate's office in Zeerust. He became a public prosecutor at Lydenburg in October 1902, and at Johannesburg in April 1904. Around this time he passed the civil service law examination. From 1905 to 1914 he served as assistant resident magistrate in various Transvaal towns, including Belfast (November 1905), Lichtenburg (1906), Standerton (February 1907), Wolmaranstad (November 1908), Boksburg (February 1909) and Zeerust (1909). During this period he annotated The Transvaal criminal code and law of evidence (Johannesburg, 1909) for the library of the supreme court. He was a member of the Liquor Licensing Court for the Witwatersrand (1909), Boksburg (1912) and Krugersdorp (1914). During World War I (1914-1918) he served in the First Cape Corps with the rank of second lieutenant. After the war he was magistrate at Zeerust (1922) and Harrismith (1927). In 1938 he was appointed chairman of the Rent Board at Germiston.
Richard Colson, then of Belfast, Transvaal, together with Charles E.S. McCann of Johannesburg, applied for (1906) and were granted (1908) a United States patent for improved means of testing wire ropes used in the mines. Years later, in 1927, he communicated with the South African government about gypsum in Namaqualand.
Richard is presumably the R. Colson, of Lydenburg, Transvaal, who was a member of the South African Philosophical Society in 1906, though he was no longer listed as a member the next year. He is presumably also the R. Colson who published a valuable account of kitchen middens at Port Nolloth (which he may have investigated during his years in the Cape Department of Customs). The paper was published in the journal Man (1905), and remained the only description of middens on the west coast for several decades. Colson found the middens to be mainly composed of limpets and to contain animal bones, ostrich egg shell beads, some crude stone artefacts, grindstones, some bone tools, and pottery. He presented an almost complete conical pot and a (human?) skull from the same midden to the South African Museum. Furthermore, he deduced the method used to make ostrich eggshell beads from the whole, broken and unfinished beads found in the midden.