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Sir Richard Dry KCMG

In office
November 24, 1866 – August 1, 1869
Preceded by James Whyte
Succeeded by James Milne Wilson

Born September 20, 1815(1815-09-20)
Launceston, Van Diemen's Land
Died August 1, 1869 (aged 53)
Hobart, Tasmania
Spouse(s) Clara Meredith

Sir Richard Dry, KCMG (20 September 1815 – 1 August 1869) was an Australian politician, who was Premier of Tasmania from 24 November 1866 until 1 August 1869 when he died in office. Dry was the first Tasmanian-born premier, and the first Tasmanian to be knighted.

Dry was born in Launceston, Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania), the son of Richard Dry, an officer and pastoralist, and his wife Anne, née Maughan. Dry was educated at a Kirkland's private school in Campbell Town. In 1835 Dry voyaged to Mauritius and the British ports in India, on his return to Tasmania he managed his father's estate. He was made a magistrate in 1837, and was nominated to the Tasmanian Legislative Council in 1844. He resigned his seat with five others, who together became known as the "patriotic six", after a conflict with Governor Wilmot over the power of the Legislative Council. 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 as a member for Launceston, defeating Adye Douglas.

When the Council met at the of 1851, Dry was unanimously appointed its Speaker and remainsed so for four years before resigning his seat in July 1855. Dry then took a long trip to Europe for health reasons . Dry returned to 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 pushed the sale of crown lands.

In 1869 Dry's government established telegraphic communication with Victoria by laying a cable under Bass Strait. On 1 August 1869 Dry died in Hobart, Tasmania after a short illness. He married Clara Meredith, daughter of George Meredith who survived him. He had no children. He was knighted in 1858, the first Tasmanian to be granted that honour.

Dry was the first native of Tasmania to enter its parliament. He was barely 30 when his fight for political freedom made him extremely popular, and he retained this popularity all his life. He declared 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 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.


Additional sources listed by the Australian Dictionary of Biography:

  • A. D. Baker, The Life and Times of Sir Richard Dry (Hobart, 1951); W. A. Townsley, Struggle for Self-Government in Tasmania (Hobart, 1951); F. C. Green (ed), A Century of Responsible Government 1856-1956 (Hobart, 1956); L. L. Robson, Press and Politics (M.A. thesis, University of Tasmania, 1954); Examiner (Launceston), 13 Aug, 6 Dec 1855, 24 Nov 1859, 3 Aug 1869; GO 33/53/931, 33/57/1327 (Archives Office of Tasmania).
Political offices
Preceded by
James Whyte
Premier of Tasmania
1866 – 1869
Succeeded by
James Wilson


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