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William Alcock Tully (1830–1905)

by L. J. Duffy

This article was published:

William Alcock Tully (1830-1905), surveyor, was born on 14 March 1830 in Dublin, son of William Tully, captain R.N., and his wife Mary, née Alcock. Educated privately, in 1846 he matriculated at Trinity College, Dublin (B.A., 1852). He arrived at Hobart Town as religious instructor in the convict ship Lord Dalhousie on 14 August 1852.

Tully entered the public service as a road surveyor on 1 May 1853 and became a third-class surveyor on 1 May 1854. In July 1856 he resigned and became a contract surveyor until 31 December 1858 when he was appointed inspecting surveyor. He also acted for a time as a gold commissioner and in 1859 led a party of twelve to the west coast in a vain search for gold. He was a foundation member of the Tasmanian Club and in 1860 at Hobart married Louisa (d. 26 February 1866), granddaughter of Simeon Lord.

With a glowing reference from Surveyor-General J. E. Calder, Tully arrived in Queensland in October 1863 as a commissioner of crown lands in the Kennedy and Warrego pastoral districts. On 1 December 1864 he was appointed deputy-chief commissioner of lands and on 16 August 1866 under-secretary for public lands and chief commissioner of crown lands. He soon clashed with A. C. Gregory, surveyor-general; on 12 March 1875 he became acting surveyor-general in place of Gregory. On Tully's advice the offices of surveyor-general and under-secretary for lands were divided in 1880; he was made surveyor-general on 9 July and E. Deshon became under-secretary for lands.

Tully had helped to draft the Lands Alienation Act of 1868 which began a comprehensive closer settlement policy, and the Consolidating Crown Lands Alienation Act of 1876. As surveyor-general he directed a wide expansion of activities and strove to make standards better. He also initiated improved reproduction of Survey Office maps. On 4 December 1889 he was appointed to the Land Board under the Crown Lands Act of 1884; when the 1897 Land Act replaced the board with a court the members continued in office. Tully retired on 31 December 1900.

His determination, education and wide experience in surveying, mining and land settlement made Tully an effective administrator. He probably exerted more influence on the land laws, procedures and practices of Queensland than any other person. He died of heart disease in his home, Luciani, Bayswater Road, Sydney, on 26 April 1905 and was buried at St Anne's Church of England, Ryde. On 27 May 1868 at Ryde he had married Sarah Anne Darvall. Their four children and two of his first marriage survived him. The town of Tully and the Tully River in North Queensland are named after him.

Select Bibliography

  • C. A. Bernays, Queensland Politics During Sixty Years (Brisb, 1919)
  • Votes and Proceedings (House of Assembly, Tasmania), 1863 (63), 1866 (52), 24
  • Mercury (Hobart), 25 May 1859, 23 Mar 1866
  • Examiner (Melbourne), 3 May 1862
  • Brisbane Courier, 31 Mar 1875
  • Town and Country Journal, 3 May 1905
  • CSD 4/47/690 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

L. J. Duffy, 'Tully, William Alcock (1830–1905)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 26 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


14 March, 1830
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland


26 April, 1905 (aged 75)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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