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Walter O'Malley McEvilly (1820–1867)

by L. A. Jeckeln

This article was published:

Walter O'Malley McEvilly (1820-1867), parliamentary librarian, was born in County Mayo, Ireland. As a labourer who could read and write he was tried on 24 March 1840 at Tipperary for forgery and sentenced to seven years' transportation. He reached Sydney on 17 August in the King William. On 23 February 1841 he was transferred from the Hyde Park barracks to the Legislative Council offices as door-keeper and paid the usual rate of 1s. 9d. a day. He petitioned for a ticket-of-leave; granted on 25 January 1844 it was replaced by a government ticket on 22 March. In that year he signed a petition to the Queen against the exclusion of 63 Catholics from the special jury list and all Catholics from the jury impanelled for the state trials in Dublin.

In 1843 Richard O'Connor was appointed as librarian of the Legislative Council library. McEvilly was assistant librarian from 1 July 1850 at a salary of £109 and on 20 May 1856 was promoted librarian with a residence in the parliamentary premises. He was reported to have 'zealously and well discharged the duties of Librarian'. After his appointment the library more than doubled its 6990 volumes and important administrative changes were made. In May 1860 the library committees of the council and assembly recommended one general parliamentary library and reading rooms for each House in place of separate libraries. The proposal was adopted and in 1862 the management of the parliamentary library was entrusted to a joint committee from both Houses; the duties of McEvilly and future librarians were also set down. In February 1859 McEvilly was a leader in a meeting of Roman Catholics protesting the appointment of Dr W. F. Bassett to the board of the Parramatta Catholic Orphanage. Threatened with excommunication by Archbishop Polding he withdrew but the case went to Rome on appeal.

On 4 August 1863 a long-standing disagreement between McEvilly and his assistant, Francis Robinson, led to a fight in which both were hurt. A testimonial from 63 of the 72 members of the assembly attested to McEvilly's 'zeal, efficiency, uniform quiet and obliging and peaceful disposition'. Robinson was later dismissed.

McEvilly was fond of field sports and a sound judge and breeder of thoroughbred bloodstock. As 'Mr. O'Malley', his mother's maiden name, he owned and trained such successful horses as Yattenden, winner of the first Sydney Cup in 1866. His first off-spring, Yatterina, bred by McEvilly in 1865, was reputed one of the best thoroughbred mares exported to New Zealand. Yattenden also sired Dagworth, one of the best performers of the 1870s, and two Melbourne Cup winners.

A sporting challenge to a fellow guest of J. Morrice, M.L.A., at Moss Vale to race up and down a railway embankment resulted in a broken leg and brain injury to McEvilly. He died intestate four days later on 16 October 1867 at his residence at Parliament House and was buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery, Sydney. He was survived by his wife Mary Anne, née Farrell (d.1907), whom he had married in St Mary's Cathedral on 6 November 1847, and by three sons and four daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • D. M. Barrie, The Australian Bloodhorse (Syd, 1956)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales) 1867-68, 1, 949
  • Bell's Life in Sydney, 19 Oct 1867
  • Freeman's Journal (Sydney), 19 Oct 1867
  • Legislative Council letters (Legislative Council, New South Wales).

Citation details

L. A. Jeckeln, 'McEvilly, Walter O'Malley (1820–1867)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 24 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Mr O'Malley

Mayo, Ireland


16 October, 1867 (aged ~ 47)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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.

Passenger Ship
Convict Record

Crime: forgery
Sentence: 7 years