Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Samuel Elyard (1817–1910)

by M. J. Saclier

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with William Elyard

William Elyard (1804-1865), public servant, and Samuel Elyard (1817-1910), public servant and landscape painter, were the eldest and fourth sons of William Elyard, a half-pay naval surgeon, and his wife Sarah, née Gilbert. Compelled by his health and finances to emigrate to New South Wales, William senior arrived with his family on 18 December 1821, as surgeon-superintendent on the convict ship John Bull. William junior was born on 23 May 1804 at Rochester and educated in England. On 6 February 1822 he was appointed temporary clerk in the colonial secretary's office and became second clerk on 1 October. In February 1841 when Thomas Harington resigned, Elyard was already doing much of the executive work of the office. His promotion to chief clerk, when the assistant secretaryship was abolished in the name of economy, was a recognition of the existing state of affairs rather than a fundamental change. Elyard was an important junior link in the Macleay-Darling administrative revolution. On 26 June 1856, as a result of the change to responsible government he was appointed under-secretary. His long service in the colonial secretary's office provided administrative continuity at a critical transitionary time.

Elyard died unmarried and in office on 20 March 1865 and was buried at St Peter's Anglican Church, Cook's River. His funeral cortège, which 'extended the entire length of William-street', was a tribute to 'the importance of his services'. He left most of his estate, consisting of land at Balmain and on the Shoalhaven, to his brother Alfred, but made provision for the children of his late brother Arthur.

Samuel was born on 9 May 1817 on the Isle of Wight. He was educated at Mr Gilchrist's school and the Australian College where he showed talent at portrait painting. He then studied under Conrad Martens and taught drawing. He sought secure employment and on 16 April 1837 was appointed an extra clerk in the colonial secretary's office. On 1 January 1846 he was promoted to second clerk, from which position he was retired on 18 August 1868 with a pension. From his twenties, when he studied under John Skinner Prout, he specialized in landscape painting in water-colours and oils: he 'always painted his studies directly from nature in colours, and of a large size'. He exhibited in Sydney in 1847 and 1857 and in Paris in 1867. Some of his works are in the Dixson galleries, Sydney. Interested in photography, he himself printed and published facsimiles of his work as Scenery of Shoalhaven (Nowra, 1892).

In the 1840s Samuel became mentally disturbed and his brother arranged frequent leave in the country. On 10 April 1849, while delirious from drugs, he went through a form of marriage with Angelina Mary Hughes Hallett, née Scott, an alleged prostitute. He later repudiated the marriage on the ground of his insanity and accused her of blackmail. He published many pamphlets to vindicate himself and, at the same time, to convert the Jews to Protestantism. In mid-1857 he started a journal, the Salem Standard, and imported a press with Hebrew type. He suffered from prophetic and royal delusions, but moderated after his retirement and became an Anglican lay preacher and a justice of the peace. He died at Nowra on 23 October 1910.

Select Bibliography

  • F. McCaffrey, History of Illawarra and its Pioneers (Syd, 1922)
  • Empire (Sydney), 21 Mar 1865
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Mar 1865
  • Nowra Leader, 28 Oct 1910
  • Bulletin, 3 Nov 1910
  • Colonial Secretary's in letters, memorials (State Records New South Wales)
  • Elyard papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • manuscript and printed catalogues (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

M. J. Saclier, 'Elyard, Samuel (1817–1910)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 23 June 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

Life Summary [details]


9 May, 1817
Isle of Wight, England


23 October, 1910 (aged 93)
Nowra, New South Wales, Australia

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