DRY, Sir Richard (1815-1869)


DRY, Sir Richard (1815-1869)
premier of Tasmania
was born at Launceston on 20 September 1815 (at least three other dates have been given by various authorities, but the Hobart Mercury, on 4 August 1869, stated there had been some misapprehension on this point, and that the date should be as above). He was the son of Richard Dry an officer in the commissariat department, afterwards a successful pastoralist, and was educated at a private school kept by the Rev. J. Mackersey at Campbell Town. At the age of 20 he voyaged to Mauritius and India, but returned to Tasmania and carried on his father's estate. He was made a magistrate in 1837, and on 2 February 1844 was nominated to the legislative council. He resigned his seat with five others, henceforth to be known as the "patriotic six", after a conflict with Governor Wilmot (q.v.). An important political question was raised, the point being, was the legislative council merely a council of advice or of control, was it empowered to legislate or merely recommend? In 1848 the six resigning members were renominated to the council, and when the council was reconstituted in 1851 Dry, who was then a leading member of the Anti-transportation League, was elected for Launceston. When the council met at the end of that year Dry was unanimously appointed its speaker. He resigned his seat in July 1855 and took a long trip to Europe for reasons of health. He was back in Tasmania in 1860, was elected to the legislative council in 1862, and on 24 November 1866 became premier and colonial secretary. He had been much interested in the introduction of railways, was chairman of the Launceston and Deloraine Railway Association, and president of the Northern Railway League. His government succeeded in making some economies, introduced the Torrens real property act, and, with questionable wisdom, endeavoured to push the sale of crown lands. In 1869 it established telegraphic communication with Victoria by laying a cable under Bass Strait. On 1 August 1869 Dry died after a short illness. He married a daughter of George Meredith who survived him. He had no children. He was knighted in 1858.
Dry, the first native of Tasmania to enter its parliament, was the outstanding man of his time in that colony. He was barely 30 when his fight for political freedom made him extremely popular, and he retained this popularity all his life. He expressed a wish that he might be buried at Hagley church near Quamby; a church he had himself built and endowed. At Hobart all business was suspended on the morning of his funeral, and during the four days' journey to the church the residents of every township on the route joined in the procession. His modest kindliness (it was said of him that he never condescended because he never thought of anyone being inferior to himself), his public and private charities, his completely honourable character, earned the respect and affection of the whole colony. A chancel was added to Hagley church by public subscription as a memorial to him, and there his body was laid. The "Dry Scholarship" was also founded by public subscription in connexion with the Tasmanian scholarships.
The Mercury, Hobart, 2, 3, 4 August 1869; Fenton, A History of Tasmania; P. Mennell, The Dictionary of Australasian Biography; A reference to Dry in R. W. Giblin's Early History of Tasmania, vol. II, pp. 186-7 confuses him with his father.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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