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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Dry, Hon. Sir Richard

Dry, Hon. Sir Richard, formerly Speaker and Premier of Tasmania, was the son of an Irishman who was exiled to Van Diemen's Land in the early part of the century in connection with the United Ireland troubles. He was born at Elphin, near Launceston, Tasmania, on August 15th, 1815, and at an early age succeeded to his father's estate at Quamby. Having been appointed a member of the old Legislative Council, he became the leader of the party which sought to compel the Imperial Government to relieve the local Treasury of the expenses of the police and gaol system rendered necessary by the existence of convictism. This and the agitation for responsible government brought the non-official members of the council into collision with Governor Wilmot, who forced his financial measures through the Council with a high hand. The dispute came to a head in 1845, and after much unavailing opposition, Sir Richard Dry and five of his colleagues in the first instance absented themselves from the Legislative Council, so as to prevent the forming of a quorum, and ultimately resigned their seats in that body. Henceforward they were known as "the Patriotic Six," Sir Richard becoming the idol of the hour, and securing a popularity which his exceptional qualities enabled him to retain to the last hour of his life. In 1848 the Patriotic Six were reappointed to the Council by the Queen's mandate. As the first native politician to take the leading part in championing the rights of his native land, Sir Richard Dry will always be an interesting figure in Tasmanian history. When the first instalment of representative institutions was granted, in 1851, he was elected to the new Legislative Council for Launceston, and was chosen Speaker, a post which he retained till 1855, when he retired from ill-health, the Council complimenting him by a request that he should sit for his portrait to be placed on the walls of the chamber in which he had played so high-minded a part. Sir Richard subsequently visited England, and was knighted in 1858. After his return to the colony he re- entered Parliament, and took office as Premier and Colonial Secretary in Nov. 1866, his term of power being ended by his death on August 1st, 1869. The "Dry Scholarship" was founded in his honour in connection with the Tasmanian Scholarships by public subscription. Sir Richard married a daughter of George Meredith, of Cambria, Great Swan Port, who still survives.