Daly, Sir Dominick (1798–1868), colonial administrator, was born 11 August 1798 at Ardfry, Co. Galway, third son of Dominick Daly of Benmore, Co. Galway, and his wife Joanna Harriet, daughter of Joseph Blake of Ardfry, widow of Richard Burke of Glinsk, and sister to Joseph Henry Blake, 1st Lord Wallscourt. Educated (1812–18) at St Mary's College at Oscott, Birmingham, Daly may have briefly attended university before receiving clerical experience (1820–21) at his uncle's bank in Paris.
In 1822 he secured, through family connections, the position of secretary to Sir Francis Burton (1766–1832), lieutenant governor of Lower Canada. Travelling with Burton to Canada in 1823, Daly diligently supported his efforts to placate a predominantly French-Canadian population exasperated by the indolence of British colonial government. When Burton was forced (1827) to yield his post to a rival in the colonial office, George Ramsay Dalhousie (1770–1838), Daly nimbly skipped away from his first patron to service under Dalhousie, and was made provincial secretary in 1827 for Lower Canada. Respected for unbiased administration and receptiveness to the grievances of French-Canadians, Daly took part in routine civic life in Montreal as an associate of reformist politicians. He survived the upheavals following the French-Canadian rebellion of 1837 by maintaining shrewd silence on contentious matters of sovereignty. Previous to the establishment of the new system of government under the proposed union of Upper and Lower Canada, Daly was advised to resign and seek election to the new legislative assembly in Kingston, as high office was henceforth to be restricted to elected members. Winning a seat for the township of Megantic, Daly was nominated (10 February 1841) by the governor, Lord Sydenham (1799–1841), to the executive council of the new government, as provincial secretary for the United Canadas. He was one of only three officeholders in the old regime to make the transition.
Until the ministerial crisis of late 1843 Daly was affectionately regarded both by French-Canadian reformers and by the established colonial authority. When these reformers sought to bring. When Baldwin sought to bring about a mass resignation of representatives (November 1843) to protest against the intrusive, undemocratic supervision of legislative development by Sir Charles Metcalfe (1785–1846), the latest colonial governor, Daly was one of the few to stand by the governor. He spoke in the assembly for ‘patriotic government’ above party while reformers clamoured for accountable representation. His claim to exemption from political commitment as a non-partisan bureaucrat did not honestly acknowledge the deeply politicised nature of higher appointments. On 1 January 1844 he was appointed provincial secretary for both sides of the United Provinces. Daly was showered with public derision by angry reformers and avoided attendance at the new assembly in Montreal, immersing himself in administrative work. He was forced to take part in a duel – one of the last in Canada – with one excited reformer (March 1845); neither party was hurt. Reformers tried to make his expulsion a central condition for cooperation with the executive. He was obliged to resign office (March 1848) when the reform party became a majority in the assembly.
Returning to England, he served on the forests commission (1850–51). Appointment as lieutenant governor of Tobago (September 1851) lasted only six months due to ill-health. After prolonged convalescence he was made lieutenant governor of Prince Edward Island, Canada (May 1854). His cautious distance from the workings of the provincial government barely satisfied a protestant party suspicious of his catholic faith. His views were considered moderate; the practical effect of his policy was to put a brake on the separation of the executive from the legislative branches of government and to veto land reform on behalf of the small tenants on the enormous island estates – virtually a holding action for the remains of conservative colonial rule. He was knighted in 1856.
Resigning in 1859, he was next appointed governor of South Australia (October 1861). Confronting a disgruntled population with imperturbable geniality, he won popular acclaim, especially by encouraging expeditions into the Northern Territory with a view to annexation. The Daly river in Northern Territory was named after him in 1865. Though required to sign an order for the removal of Judge Boothby from the bench for misconduct (1867), he largely abstained from interference in provincial elected government, and cultivated an avuncular public personality. He died in office on 19 February 1868 after six months’ illness, and was buried in Adelaide catholic cemetery.
He married (20 May 1826) Caroline Maria Gore (1801–72), third daughter of Col. Ralph Gore of Barrowmount, Co. Kilkenny; they had three sons and two daughters. One son, Malachy Bowes Daly (1836–1920), later became lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, Canada.