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Richard Dry

Robert Beauchamp, 'Dry's Bluff', 1860s? (ALMFA, SLT)

Richard Dry (1815–69), politician, was Tasmania's first native-born Premier and Knight of the Realm. His father, Richard Dry senior, an Irish political prisoner, came to Van Diemen's Land with Colonel Paterson in 1804 to the first settlement in the north. By the time Richard was born the family was well established in Launceston with considerable land, wealth and social standing.

Richard threw himself into political life in Van Diemen's Land during a turbulent era of the state's history. In 1845, when a non-official member of the Legislative Council, he gained fame as one of the Patriotic Six. These men resigned in protest at what they saw as the injustice of the colony having to pay crippling taxes to support the convict system yet with no representative voice. Richard Dry was one of the key figures in the successful fight to end transportation of convicts, and was a leading member of the Select Committee which drafted the Tasmanian constitution. Highly esteemed, he was elected to the Legislative Council for Launceston in 1851, and was unanimously elected Speaker, 1851–54. Knighted in 1858, he was elected again in 1862. He encouraged a north–south railway, and served as Premier from 1866 until his death in 1869, promoting railways, roads and education. No business manager, he was still the most widely esteemed public man of his day. Despite his wealth and social position, Dry exhibited a strong egalitarian streak, and the affection with which he was regarded owed much to his personal principles and actions.

Further reading: ADB 1; A Baker, The life and times of Sir Richard Dry, Hobart, 1951; F Green, A century of responsible government, Hobart, 1956.

Louise James