Dalley, William Bede (DNB01)

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DALLEY, WILLIAM BEDE (1831–1888), Australian politician, born in Sydney in 1831, was descended from Irish parents. He was educated at the old Sydney College and at St. Mary's College, where he came under the tuition of the Roman catholic archbishop, John Bede Folding [q. v.]; with him he contracted a friendship which endured till Folding's death in 1877. In 1856 he was called to the bar, and in 1877 was nominated a queen's counsel. In 1857 he was returned for Sydney to the first constitutional parliament, and in January 1858 he would have been returned a second time; but, finding that his election was likely to exclude Sir Charles Cowper [q. v.], with whose party he had identified himself, he drove to the polling-booths and requested the electors to vote for his colleague. He was immediately afterwards returned for the Cumberland boroughs. In November he entered Cowper's ministry, succeeding Alfred James Peter Lutwyche as solicitor-general. He early distinguished himself in parliament by his eloquence, while his popularity was enhanced by his being a native of the colony. In February 1859 Cowper's ministry resigned office.

In 1859 Dalley visited England, and in 1861 accepted a commission to return to that country with (Sir) Henry Parkes [q.v. Suppl.]to continue the work begun by John Dunmore Lang [q.v.] of inducing men of good ability and repute to establish themselves in the colony. They lectured in most of the large towns of Great Britain, but met with little success owing to the anti-democratic feeling aroused by the American civil war. A year later Dalley returned to Syd- ney, but he took little part in politics until the formation of the administration of Sir John Robertson [q.v.] in February 1875, when he accepted the post of attorney-general. Not being in parliament at the time he was summoned to the legislative council on 9 Feb., Robertson was defeated in March 1877, but came into office again in August, and Dalley became attorney-general for the second time. In December the administration once more retired.

Shortly afterwards Dalley received a severe blow in the death of his wife, and he scent the next four years in retirement at his country house at Mossvale, on the slope of the Blue Mountains, abandoning the pursuit of politics and his lucrative practice at the bar. At the close of 1882 the Parkes ministry was defeated, and on 5 Jan. 1883 Dalley reluctantly accepted office for the third time as attorney-general. The illness of the premier, Sir Alexander Stuart [q.v.], at the beginning of 1885 threw upon Dalley the duties of premier and acting foreign secretary, and gave him an opportunity of attaining fame. In February the news of the fall of Khartoum awakened a lively sympathy in Sydney, and a keen desire to assist the imperial government by the despatch of troops. The origination of the idea is claimed both for Dalley and for Sir Edward Strickland, who was resident in Sydney, but to Dalley undoubtedly belongs the credit of carrying out the project. He instantly telegraphed to the home government offering two batteries of artillery and a battalion of infantry, four hundred strong, to serve in Egypt. The offer was accepted by the home government with some modifications, and occasioned considerable enthusiasm in England and Australia, although in Sydney Parkes vehemently censured Dalley's action. In Australia a patriotic fund was started for equipping the troops, by which 50,000l. was raised in a few days. On 3 March a contingent of nine hundred men sailed under Colonel Richardson, a Crimean veteran.

The ministry resigned office early in October 1885, and in June 1887 Dalley, who had refused knighthood and also the succession to the chief-justiceship on the death of Sir James Martin [q. v.], was appointed a member of the privy council, the first Australian statesman to receive that honour. He died at his residence at Darling Point, Sydney, on 28 Oct. 1888, and was buried in the Waverley cemetery on 30 Oct. He married a daughter of William Long, a merchant of Sydney, and left three sons. A medallion portrait by Sir Edgar Boehm was erected in St. Paul's Cathedral by public subscription, and was unveiled by Lord Rosebery on 17 July 1890. A marble bust by Cavalieri Attilio Simonetti is in the chamber of the legislative council of New South Wales.

Dalley had considerable literary ability, and contributed to several Sydney periodicals, especially to the 'Morning Herald.' Most of his sketches and articles were reprinted by George Burnett Barton in 1866 in 'The Poets and Prose Writers of New South Wales' (pp. 164-91).

[Sydney Morning Herald, 29,31 Oct., 1 Nov. 1888; Melbourne Argus, 29 Oct. 1888; Beaton's Australian Dict. 1879; Mennell's Dict. of Australian Biogr. 1892; Times, 5 Nov. 1888, 18 July 1890; Annual Register, 1885; Parkes's Fifty Years in the Making of Australian History, 1892, i. 155-8, 175-6, 329, 333, ii. 139-144, 386; Lyne's Life of Parkes, 1897, index; Hutchinson and Myers's Australian Contingent, 1885; Barton's Literature in New South Wales, 1866, pp. 46-7; Buchanan's Political Portraits.]

E. I. C.