Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Sir Dominick Daly (1798–1868)

by Marjorie Findlay

This article was published:

View Previous Version

Dominick Daly (1798-1868), by unknown photographer

Dominick Daly (1798-1868), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 5973

Sir Dominick Daly (1798-1868), governor, was born on 11 August 1798 at Ardfry, Ireland, the third son of Dominick Daly of Benmore, County Galway, and his wife Joanna Harriet, daughter of Joseph Blake of Ardfry, sister of Lord Wallscourt and widow of Richard Burke of Glinsk. He was educated at Oscott College, Birmingham, and at 24 went to Lower Canada as secretary to the lieutenant-governor, Sir Francis Burton. As secretary to the Executive Council created by Lord Durham he won mention in Appendix C of the famous report and appointment as secretary to the United Province Council in 1841-48. The last survivor of Colonial Office 'bureaucracy' in Canada, he was nicknamed 'the perpetual secretary' but respected for his firm, if detached, belief in democratic processes, and popular for his conviviality. After responsible government he joined the Executive Council and later became commissioner of woods and forests. He was lieutenant-governor of Tobago in 1851-54 and of Prince Edward Island in 1854-59. He was knighted in 1856.

Daly was appointed governor of South Australia in October 1861. With his wife and two daughters he arrived in February 1862 at Melbourne where he visited Governor (Sir) Henry Barkly and met leading politicians. He reached Adelaide on 4 March, the day his predecessor, Sir Richard MacDonnell, was farewelled. That Daly ignored the lack of an official welcome because of his early arrival was indicative of a disposition which was also able to dispel the early prejudice against him as a Roman Catholic. South Australians came to know him as a kindly ageing gentleman, accessible, devoted to duty and a peacemaker noted for his cheerful impartiality. His first duty of sending condolences to the Queen on the death of the Prince Consort was melancholy but it was followed by the happier report of the return of John McDouall Stuart's expedition which led to annexation of the Northern Territory to South Australia in 1863. Stuart had reached a series of natural springs in 1861 which he named Daly Waters in the governor’s honour; the Overland Telegraph passed through the district in 1872 and the township of Daly Waters was located 590 km south east of Darwin. County Daly and Daly Head on Yorke Peninsula in South Australia were named for the governor in 1862. Unfortunately pastoral expansion was halted by drought in 1864 but the boom in copper mining revived the economy and led to an extension of railways and agricultural settlement. Political crises were therefore frequent and the administration changed nine times in 1862-68. More serious was the controversy which led to the removal of Judge Benjamin Boothby from the Supreme Court bench in 1867. Daly loyally supported each premier in turn, zealously advocating more production and immigration as the surest roads to prosperity, and more than any other governor he recommended leading colonists for royal honours. A month before the Duke of Edinburgh's visit in October 1867 Daly asked for an extension of his term, chiefly because of his wife's paralysis, but his own health was rapidly declining and he died in office on 19 February 1868. Despite searing heat, people lined the streets for the state funeral and he was buried in the Catholic section of West Terrace cemetery.

On 20 May 1826 he had married Caroline Maria, daughter of Ralph Gore of Barrowmount, County Kilkenny; she died at Glenelg on 16 July 1872, aged 71, survived by three sons and two daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • W. S. Kelly, Rural Development in South Australia (Adelaide, 1962)
  • Register (Adelaide), 20-28 Feb 1868
  • Illustrated Adelaide Post, 25 Mar 1868
  • Governor's confidential dispatches (State Records of South Australia)
  • CO 13/111-25.

Citation details

Marjorie Findlay, 'Daly, Sir Dominick (1798–1868)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 21 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Dominick Daly (1798-1868), by unknown photographer

Dominick Daly (1798-1868), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 5973

Life Summary [details]


11 August, 1798
Ardfry, Galway, Ireland


19 February, 1868 (aged 69)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.