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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Dry, Richard (1771–1843)

by W. V. Teniswood

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

Richard Dry (1771-1843), public servant and pastoralist, was born near Wexford, Ireland, the son of a gentleman farmer, and became a woollen draper. A Protestant, he was convicted in Dublin in September 1797 on a political charge and sentenced to transportation to New South Wales for life.

He arrived at Port Jackson on 11 January 1800 in the Minerva. He was later transferred to Norfolk Island and returned to Port Jackson in 1805. From there he went to Port Dalrymple where William Paterson appointed him a store-keeper in 1807, 'which responsible situation he … fulfilled with much propriety, and having Married a Woman born free in the Colony', namely Anne Maughan, on 11 April 1809 he received a free pardon. In December 1817 he became a commissariat clerk but, despite Governor Lachlan Macquarie's recommendation, this appointment was not confirmed and when he was relieved by Thomas Walker, rather than return to his former post, he resigned from the public service in November 1818. Though Macquarie regretted losing 'so useful and honest' a man, he told Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell to reward Dry's service with a grant of 500 acres (202 ha) in addition to land he already had, with rations for himself, his family and three convict servants for twelve months. The grant, part of Quamby's Plains, near Westbury was called Belle Vue (later Quamby) and was the residence of his son, Richard. Although his salary had been only £50, by this time Dry and his tenants were farming more than 300 acres (121 ha), and he had nearly 4000 cattle and 7000 sheep. In 1820 he received some of the merino rams Sorell had bought from New South Wales and by 1827 he owned about 12,000 acres (4856 ha), most of which had been bought, for his applications for additional grants were always refused.

Dry was a respected citizen of Launceston. He had shown his political independence in October 1815 by expressing his disapproval of Davey's declaration of martial law against the bushrangers; less than a month later Michael Howe's gang killed some of his sheep. Ten years later his property was attacked by Matthew Brady's gang. In 1822 Dry became assistant secretary to the Port Dalrymple branch of the British and Foreign Bible Society. In 1828 he was one of the founders of the Cornwall Bank and in 1832 of the Tamar Steam Navigation Co. He lived from 1830 until his death in 1843 at his farm, Elphin, near Launceston. He also bought the Adelphi estate from Alexander Clerke and Hagley from the Lyttleton family. Of his three daughters, the eldest, Harriett, married Dr Thomas Landale and lived at Elphin; of his two sons, Richard became a distinguished politician, and William was the first Tasmanian-born to receive holy orders.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 7-10, series 3, vol 1
  • A. D. Baker, The Life and Times of Sir Richard Dry (Hob, 1951)
  • L. S. Bethell, The Story of Port Dalrymple (Hob, 1957)
  • correspondence file under R. Dry (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

W. V. Teniswood, 'Dry, Richard (1771–1843)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 23 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

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