William Bede Dalley

William Bede Dalley
William Bede Dalley

William Bede Dalley (5 July 1831 – 28 October 1888) was an Australian politician and barrister and the first Australian appointed to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. He was a leading lay representative and champion of the Catholic community and was known for his parliamentary and legal eloquence.[1]


Early life

Dalley was born at Sydney in 1831 son of Irish parents, John Dalley and Catherine Spillane, who were both convicts. He was educated at the Sydney College and St Mary's College. He was called to the bar in 1856.[2][3]

Political career

A (vandalised) statue of Dalley in Sydney.

In 1857 Dalley was elected to the Legislative Assembly as one of the representatives of Sydney (City). In 1858, he successfully contested Cumberland Boroughs to help Charles Cowper's re-election in Sydney.[4] He pressed for several reforms including an unsuccessful attempt to abolish the death penalty for rape.[3] He joined the second Cowper ministry as Solicitor-General in November 1858, but held this position for only three months. In 1859, he became the member for Windsor, but resigned in February 1860 in order to visit Europe. He returned to Sydney in early 1861, and later in the year he was appointed a commissioner of emigration by the New South Wales government, went to England in 1861 with his fellow commissioner Henry Parkes, and was away about a year. He held many successful meetings in southern England and in Ireland.[2]

After his return to Australia in 1862, Dalley took up his legal practice again and became the leading counsel in criminal cases in Sydney and represented Carcoar from 1862 to 1864.[4] In 1868, he defended Henry James O'Farrell for attempting to assassinate Prince Alfred, on grounds of insanity, but was not able to prevent him from being speedily hanged. In 1872, he married an Anglican, Eleanor Long, which strained his relations with the Catholic Church. She died of typhoid fever in 1881, leaving him with three young children. He supported a petition for the feeeing of Frank Gardiner, by his sisters on the grounds of the harshness of his sentence, which led to his freeing and exile in 1874, and the collapse of the Parkes government.[3] He became a QC in 1877.


In February 1875 Dalley joined the third Robertson ministry as Attorney-General of New South Wales and was nominated to the Legislative Council. Robertson resigned in March 1877 but was in power again five months later with Dalley in his old position until December. For the next five years Dalley took no part in politics, although in 1881 he petitioned against the Chinese restriction bill on the floor of the Legislative Council and managed to change some of its worst features.[3] In January 1883 he became Attorney-General in the Stuart ministry, and in 1884 his Speeches on the Proposed Federal Council for Australasia was published.[2]

In February 1885 Dalley, as Acting-Premier during the absence of Stuart from the colony, offered a detachment of New South Wales troops to go to the Sudan. Though there was opposition in some quarters this was taken up with great enthusiasm in others and a contingent was sent. The Stuart ministry resigned in October 1885 and Dalley did not hold office again.[2] In 1887, he joined with Parkes and Cardinal Moran in unsuccessfully pleading against the hangings for the Mount Rennie rape case.[3]

His health began to weaken and his last two years were spent practically in retirement. He died in the Sydney suburb of Darling Point. One of his sons John Bede Dalley became well-known as a journalist and novelist in Sydney.[2]


Dalley refused a knighthood and the office of chief justice, but in 1886 was appointed to the privy council, the first Australian to be given that honour.[2]


External links

Parliament of New South Wales
Preceded by
New seat
Member for Sydney City
Succeeded by
George Thornton
Preceded by
William Bowman
Member for Cumberland Boroughs
Succeeded by
Preceded by
New seat
Member for Windsor
Succeeded by
William Walker
Preceded by
William Watt
Member for Carcoar
Succeeded by
Barnard Stimpson

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  • William Bede Dalley — (5 juillet 1831 28 octobre 1888) est un homme politique et avocat Australien et a été le premier australien nommé au Conseil privé du Royaume Uni. Il a été l un des principaux représentant et champion de la communauté… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • DALLEY, William Bede (1831-1888) — orator and politician was born at Sydney in 1831 of Irish parents, and was educated at the Sydney College and St Mary s College. He was called to the bar in 1856, in the following year was elected to the legislative assembly as one of the… …   Dictionary of Australian Biography

  • Dalley, William Bede — • Lawyer and statesman, born in Sydney, New South Wales, 1831; died there 28 October, 1888 Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006 …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • John Bede Dalley — (5 October 1878 – 6 September 1935) was an Australian journalist and novelist, editor of Melbourne Punch . Dalley was born in Rose Bay, Sydney, the second son of William Bede Dalley (1831 1888) and Eleanor Jane, née Longcite web… …   Wikipedia

  • William Timothy Cape — (25 October 1806 – 4 June 1863) was an early school master in Sydney, Australia; several of the Premiers of New South Wales attended his school.Cape was born at Walworth, Surrey, England, the son of William Cape, a London bank manager who… …   Wikipedia

  • DALLEY, John Bede (1878-1935) — journalist and novelist younger son of William Bede Dalley (q.v.), was born at Sydney on 5 October 1878, and was educated at Beaumont College, England, and at Oxford. He was called to the bar in London in 1901 and practised at Sydney until 1907,… …   Dictionary of Australian Biography

  • Dalley — /ˈdæli/ (say dalee) noun William Bede, 1831–88, Australian barrister and politician; the first Australian to become a member of the Privy Council, 1887 …  

  • CAPE, William Timothy (1806-1863) — schoolmaster was born at Walworth, Surrey, England, on 25 October 1806. His father, William Cape, was a London bank manager who emigrated to Australia with his family in 1821, and at the end of 1822 became master of a private school, the Sydney… …   Dictionary of Australian Biography

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  • Henry Parkes — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Parkes. Sir Henry Parkes Sir Henry Parkes (27 mai 1815 – 27 avril 1896) est un homme politique …   Wikipédia en Français

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