Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dry, Richard

DRY, Sir RICHARD (1815–1869), Tasmanian statesman, born at Elphin, near Launceston in the island of Tasmania, on 15 June 1815, was educated at a private school in Campbell Town. In February 1844 he was nominated to a seat in the old council by Sir John Eardley Wilmot, then the lieutenant-governor, and afterwards formed one of the ‘patriotic six’ who opposed Wilmot's financial schemes. They resigned in 1846, as a protest against Wilmot's unconstitutional government, but were subsequently reappointed when Sir William Thomas Denison succeeded Wilmot as lieutenant-governor. Dry became one of the prominent members of the anti-transportation league, and in 1851, when representative institutions were first introduced into Tasmania, he was elected member for Launceston. On 30 Dec. 1851 Dry was chosen speaker of the new legislative council, and soon afterwards an address to the queen strongly remonstrating on the influx of criminals was adopted by the majority of the council. After further struggles on the part of the colonists, it was at length officially notified, in May 1853, that transportation had absolutely ceased. In 1855 Dry resigned the office of speaker, and visited Europe for the sake of his health. He was knighted by letters patent in March 1858. In 1862 he was elected to the legislative council as member for Tamar, and in November 1866 became colonial secretary and premier, in the place of James Whyte, whose government Dry had successfully opposed on the question of direct taxation. He died in office on 1 Aug. 1869, in his fifty-fifth year, and was buried in Hagley Church, the chancel of which was erected to his memory by his fellow-colonists. Fenton states that Dry ‘was perhaps the most popular statesman Tasmania ever possessed.’ This was in great measure due to his tact and conciliatory demeanour, which secured him the respect of his supporters and opponents alike. Dry inherited a large estate at Quamby from his father, who had left Ireland during the political troubles of the 18th century, and amassed a considerable fortune in the land of his adoption. Dry married Clara, daughter of George Meredith of Cambria, Great Swan Port, but left no issue.

[Fenton's Hist. of Tasmania (1884), passim; Melbourne Age for 9 Aug. 1869, p. 3; Heaton's Australian Dict. of Dates (1879), p. 58; West's Hist. of Tasmania (1852), i. 252; London Gazette, 1858, vol. i. pt. ii. p. 1415.]

G. F. R. B.