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Dalley was known for his brilliance, style and exciting conversation.

Image title:
William Dalley

Government Printing Office
collection, State Library of
New South Wales

William Dalley (1831–1888)

Acting NSW premier who sent Australian troops to fight for the British Empire

Dalley was born in Sydney as the son of Irish convicts, yet he rose to the highest positions in the colony. He was a leading lawyer, and could have been chief justice if he had wanted. In politics he was often a minister in the government, and in 1885 he was acting premier.

At this time, Britain was sending troops to fight in Sudan, Africa. Dalley offered troops from New South Wales for the war, a move that was very popular in Australia and England. Huge crowds cheered the troops as they marched through Sydney to the wharf. However, they did not take part in the fighting; they worked on repairing a railway. By the time the soldiers returned, the plan to send them looked rather silly. But Dalley was proud of what he had done: it showed that an Irishman in Australia could be loyal to the British Empire. He was also proud of his native colony. He was one of those New South Welshmen who thought the oldest colony did not need to join with the others in Federation.