Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Christopher O'Reilly (1835–1910)

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Christopher O'Reilly (1835-1910), farmer, mining engineer and politician, was born at Ballybeg, County Meath, Ireland, youngest son of Terence O'Reilly and his wife Anna, née Blundell; his first cousin was Bernard O'Reilly, Catholic bishop of Liverpool. Educated privately, Christopher went into commerce. In 1854 he migrated to Victoria and thence to Tasmania, where he farmed in the Huon District and worked as a mining engineer near Scottsdale in the north of the island.

In 1871 O'Reilly won the Kingborough seat after surviving a challenged election. He became commissioner for works and crown lands under Thomas Reibey in July 1876. Though not forceful in debates he was very knowledgeable on mining and agriculture. He submitted a scheme for the Mersey-Deloraine railway for £400,000 but the House of Assembly, preferring a property and income tax, rejected it and in August 1877 the government resigned. O'Reilly was appointed commissioner for works and land under Dr W. L. Crowther but the Opposition was so strong that nothing could be done and in October 1879 the ministry was defeated by one vote. W. R. Giblin succeeded in forming a coalition with O'Reilly again commissioner. He was prominent in adding to the Statute Board and proposed the survey of a railway to Scottsdale and Fingal. His elaborate scheme for public works was passed by the assembly but modified by the Legislative Council and he resigned on 31 December 1882. In that year he was appointed a knight of St Gregory by Pope Leo XIII.

O'Reilly became stipendiary magistrate and coroner at Ringarooma, near Scottsdale, and later commissioner of the Court of Requests and Mines for the north-eastern districts of Tasmania. He retired from the public service in December 1903. In the Legislative Council he represented South Esk from May to December 1909. In his last electoral campaign he had an attack of bronchitis and could not throw it off. He had sold his estate, Brefney, Scottsdale, which he had bought in 1885, and moved to the home of his niece Mrs Catherine Blundell Dove in Longford. He died there on 11 January 1910 of cancer, leaving an estate of £3110. Among his many legacies he bequeathed his Agnus Dei, piano, cutlery and chinaware to his sister Helen and his insignia of knighthood with the jewelled sword and appurtenances to Mrs Dove. He left £1500 to the Sisters of Charity at St Joseph's Convent, £500 to the Launceston Catholic Mission, £550 for support of the Scottsdale Convent Poor School and £10 to the priest at Longford 'in payment for the offering of forty public masses for the repose of my soul'.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania (Hob, 1900)
  • Mercury (Hobart), 12 Jan 1910.

Citation details

'O'Reilly, Christopher (1835–1910)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 18 July 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

Christopher O'Reilly (1835-1910), by J. W. Beattie

Christopher O'Reilly (1835-1910), by J. W. Beattie

Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, State Library of Tasmania, AUTAS001125880443

Life Summary [details]


Ballybeg, Meath, Ireland


11 January, 1910 (aged ~ 75)
Longford, Tasmania, Australia

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