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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Dalley, Right Hon. William Bede

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Dalley, Right Hon. William Bede, P.C., Q.C., was born in Sydney in 1831, of Irish Roman Catholic parentage, and was admitted to the New South Wales bar in 1856. Having early displayed great oratorical ability, he was returned to the Assembly for the city of Sydney in the first Parliament elected under responsible government, and was Solicitor-General in the Cowper Ministry from Nov. 1858 to Feb. 1859. Subsequently he retired from political life, and devoted himself to the practice of his profession, with the exception of a short interval, during which he visited England, in conjunction with Mr. (now Sir) Henry Parkes, on an official mission for the promotion of emigration to New South Wales. They delivered addresses at most of the main centres of population in the United Kingdom: but little or no success attended their efforts, owing to the anti-democratic feeling aroused by the outbreak of the American war. Having been nominated to the Legislative Council in 1875, he accepted office under Mr. (now Sir) John Robertson, and was Attorney-General from February of that year to March 1877, when he resigned with his colleagues, resuming office in the same capacity in Sir John Robertson's fourth Administration in August 1877. This Government only lasted till December of the same year, and Mr. Dalley remained out of office till Jan. 1883, when he became Attorney-General in the Ministry of Mr. (afterwards Sir) Alexander Stuart. It was whilst filling the post of acting Premier in this Administration, during the absence through illness of Sir Alexander Stuart, that Mr. Dalley took on himself the responsibility of despatching the New South Wales contingent to the aid of the Imperial troops operating in the Soudan. The Ministry resigned in Oct. 1885, and Mr. Dalley (who had refused knighthood, and also the succession to the Chief Justiceship vacated by the death of Sir James Martin in 1886) was in the latter year appointed a member of the English Privy Council, being the first Australian statesman upon whom that honour was conferred. He retired from the Legislative Council in 1887 on the ground of ill-health, and died on Oct. 30th, 1888. Mr. Dalley, who was not only an accomplished orator, but a man of remarkable artistic culture and great literary ability, was looked upon as the foremost representative of the Roman Catholic party in Australia. He had been a widower for some years, and left two sons. A medallion tablet, executed by Sir Edgar Boehm, was erected to his memory in St. Paul's Cathedral by public subscription in 1890, the ceremony of unveiling it being performed by Lord Rosebery, who delivered an impressive address on the occasion.