Dry, Richard (1771–1843), United Irishman and later farmer and businessman in Tasmania, was born in 1771 near Wexford town, son of a gentleman farmer. He became a weaver, based himself in Dublin, and worked in cooperation with his brother Thomas Dry (sometimes spelt Drye), a clothier. Both men were influenced by the American and French revolutions and were associated with radical societies such as the Philanthropic and Telegraphic societies and the Defenders. Yet there were limits to their radicalism, and in 1792 they brought prosecutions against a number of combining journeymen who were campaigning for wage regulation.
Richard Dry became known as ‘Delegate Dry’ and came to the notice of the authorities during the Royal Exchange meetings of August 1793. On one occasion during a disturbance he held a picture of Thomas Paine above his head as a rallying point for his supporters. During one of his later public speeches he waved a copy of Paine's The rights of man in the air and was promptly arrested. He later stated that he spent a two-year period in jail. From around 1795 he became increasingly active in the United Irishmen and was instrumental in convincing many Defenders to join the society. He was a close associate of James Hope (qv), and became one of the main recruiters for the United Irishmen, travelling through the country making preparations for the planned rebellion. In 1797 he was sent to Roscommon to arrange the bail of an arrested United Irishman, John O'Leary. He was arrested but managed to escape when Hope, William Putnam McCabe (qv), and Major James Plunkett appeared at the Roscommon assizes disguised as an army recruiting party and claimed him from the prisoner's dock as a recruit for the army. He escaped to Cork, where he continued his recruiting work for the United Irishmen but was arrested again in May 1797. His trial took place on 21 September 1797 and he was defended by Henry Sheares (qv) and John Sheares (qv). The prosecution was led by crown prosecutor Robert Day (qv), who realised that he would find it difficult to provide enough evidence to support a charge of treason; instead, Dry was charged with the lesser crime of administering an illegal oath. He was found guilty and sentenced to be transported for life.
He arrived at Port Jackson (Sydney), New South Wales, on 11 January 1800 aboard the Minerva convict ship. He was then transferred to the distant Norfolk Island, a penal colony in the Pacific Ocean. He was returned to Sydney in 1805, after which he was sent to Port Dalrymple, another penal settlement, on the north coast of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). Lieutenant governor William Paterson appointed him storekeeper at Port Dalrymple in 1807, and in April 1809 he was granted a free pardon. He acquired land in Tasmania and, despite the fact that his livestock was rustled by gangs of bushrangers, he objected to the declaration of martial law in October 1815. In December 1817 he was appointed as a commissariat clerk, but he resigned in November 1818 when this appointment was not confirmed. Governor Macquarie insisted that he be given a grant of land as a reward for his public services, and he was given a 500-acre parcel of land on the Quamby plains, near Westbury. By 1820 he owned around 1,000 acres and had 4,000 cattle and 7,000 sheep. He was a shrewd businessman and often bought up sections of outlying estates, buying the Adelphi and Hagley estates in their entirety. In 1827 he was recorded as owning over 12,000 acres, and in 1828 was one of the founding members of the Cornwall bank. Around 1830 he established his main residence at a large farmhouse that he named ‘Elphin’, near Launceston, and was soon one of the most prominent members of the community. In 1832 he became a partner in the Tamar Steam Navigation Company. He was also a leading member of the anti-transportation campaign. He died in 1843 at his farm.
Between his transportation to Australia and his pardon, he married Anne Maughan; they had two sons and three daughters. Their elder son, Sir Richard Dry (1815–69), was a distinguished politician, premier of Tasmania, and one of the first Australians to be knighted. The younger son, the Reverend William Dry, was the first Tasmanian-born clergyman to receive holy orders.