Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Fryar (1828–1912)

by June Stoodley

This article was published:

William Fryar (1828-1912), politician, surveyor and mining inspector, was born on 25 January 1828 at Willington, Northumberland, England, son of Thomas Fryar, mining engineer, and his wife Mary Ann, née Scott. He went to Queensland in 1853, and at intervals between 1864 and 1882 worked in the Lands Department as a licensed surveyor in the south-eastern parishes of Maroochy and Mooloolah. On 6 January 1874 he joined the seventh Queensland parliament as an independent member for East Moreton in the Legislative Assembly where he was mainly interested in land policy. In spite of some criticisms he was in general accord with the secretary for public lands, Thomas Stephens, and upon the latter's resignation he replaced him in the third Macalister ministry, from 27 May 1875 to its fall on 5 June 1876. He remained member for East Moreton until he resigned in 1877 and then returned to surveying. He had become one of the first directors of the Queensland Evangelical Standard, a Dissenting weekly of strong political character, established on 10 June 1875. In 1882 he became the first Queensland inspector of mines and held the senior post, the Southern Division, until he retired in June 1904. In 1857 at Brisbane he had married Margaret Louisa Lewis; of their ten children only two sons and two daughters survived him when he died in Coorparoo, Brisbane, on 22 December 1912.

Fryar's public life was not entirely smooth. As a surveyor he was involved in some local conflicts; because of his comparative youth and inexperience he was a somewhat unpopular choice as lands minister; his land alienation policy—he was an advocate of throwing open more land to closer settlement—brought scathing criticisms during a particularly stormy and short-lived government; and in his later career as mining inspector he was often attacked by Labor politicians and miners campaigning for elected, rather than appointed, inspectors. Nevertheless it seems clear that his efforts on the miners' behalf were sincere and unremitting, and would have had greater success if the miners themselves had given their inspectors more support. In his twenty-two years as inspector of mines he undoubtedly did much to improve the conditions of the Queensland miner.

Select Bibliography

  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1874-76
  • Reports of Inspector of Mines, Southern division, Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1883-1904
  • A. A. Morrison, ‘Religion and Politics in Queensland (to 1881)’, Journal (Historical Society of Queensland), vol 4, no 4, Dec 1951, pp 455-70
  • J. Stoodley, The Queensland Gold-Miner in the Late Nineteenth Century (M.A. thesis, University of Queensland, 1964)
  • M. Gaylord, Economic Development in the Maroochy District until 1915 (B.A. thesis, University of Queensland, 1967).

Citation details

June Stoodley, 'Fryar, William (1828–1912)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 24 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]


25 January, 1828
Willington, Northumberland, England


22 December, 1912 (aged 84)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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