Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Moriarty (1792–1850)

by Jill T. Hansen

This article was published:

William Moriarty (1792-1850), was born on 6 July 1792 at Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland, the son of Vice-Admiral Sylverius Moriarty. At 11 he entered the Royal Naval Academy and at 15 became midshipman in the Nymph. He took part in the siege of Copenhagen, and served on the Home, North American, Baltic and Mediterranean Stations. He passed his examinations at 18, was confirmed lieutenant in October 1813 and promoted commander in November 1822 for gallantry in an expedition to the Persian Gulf. He was locally known as captain, although he never attained this rank. He married Aphra, the daughter of Dr Crump of Tralee, County Kerry; they had three sons and three daughters.

Moriarty, his wife and two children embarked for Van Diemen's Land in the Letitia which was wrecked at St Jago, Cape Verde Islands. They were picked up by an American ship which took them to Rio de Janeiro, whence in the Anne they reached Hobart Town in June 1829. Moriarty lost all his possessions in the wreck and appealed to Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur, who allowed him a maximum grant of 2560 acres (1036 ha) on account of his naval rank; in March 1831 he received an additional grant of 1000 acres (405 ha) adjoining his original property, Dunorlan. He was gazetted a justice of the peace on 24 February 1830.

In July 1832 Moriarty was appointed port officer, first at Launceston and then at Hobart, at £300 a year. During his first three years in office he started the survey of the Actaeon Reef in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel where there had been several recent wrecks. He retired before the survey was completed but was soon asked to resume the work, although in October 1836 he had become assistant police magistrate at Westbury. He was appointed a coroner for Van Diemen's Land in April 1837 and, on the resignation of Captain King, resumed duty as port officer of Hobart at a salary of £500. In June 1841 the Legislative Council awarded him a gratuity of £1280 for his useful services as port officer and for his generous assistance to distressed passengers and crews.

In the Deloraine district Moriarty owned 4160 acres (1684 ha) by grant and 2570 (1040 ha) by purchase. In 1843, after trying to sell his Dunorlan estate, he leased it in small farms; three years later it was again put up for auction and bought by Henry Reed.

Moriarty was a prime mover in forming the Merchant Seamen's Institution and a founder of the Hobart Town Infant School of which he was president for many years. He was also an active member of the Church of England. He died in office on 26 March 1850 and was buried in St George's cemetery, where a tablet was erected in his memory by the mercantile community of Hobart.

Next year his wife sailed with two daughters in the Wellington to England where she died in 1871, aged 70. A son, Sylverius, first practised as a lawyer in Tasmania but later inherited an estate in Ireland, whither he went in 1877 and assumed by royal licence the surname Crump. Another son, William, became a commander in the navy. Captain Moriarty's sister Ellen, who died on 4 October 1849, lived for many years on her property Frogmore at Latrobe and was the first settler in that district. She was well known for her amiability of disposition and demeanour and for her kindness and charity to the poor; her name is preserved in the near-by township of Moriarty. Commander Merion Marshall Moriarty, R.N., a brother, was port officer of Sydney from 1842 until his death in 1847.

Select Bibliography

  • W. R. O'Byrne, A Naval Biographical Dictionary (Lond, 1849)
  • correspondence file under Moriarty (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Jill T. Hansen, 'Moriarty, William (1792–1850)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 21 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


6 July, 1792
Dingle, Kerry, Ireland


26 March, 1850 (aged 57)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

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