Lalor, Peter (1827–89), politician and leader of the Eureka Stockade rebellion in Australia, was born 5 February 1827 at Tinnakill, Queen's Co. (Laois), son of Patrick Lalor (qv), a substantial farmer and later MP for Queen's Co. (1832–5), and Ann (née Dillon). James Fintan Lalor (qv) and Richard Lalor (qv) were elder brothers. Peter was educated in Carlow lay college and qualified as a civil engineer. Unlike his brothers, it seems that he did not actively participate in the revolutionary agitation of the later 1840s. In 1852 he emigrated to Australia, accompanied by his siblings Richard, Margaret, and Maria, arriving in Melbourne in October of that year. In conjunction with another Irishman, the brothers opened a wine, spirits, and provisions merchant business in Melbourne, and Peter also worked on the construction of the Melbourne–Geelong railway. The joint business venture ended in late 1853, when Peter moved to the gold fields known as the ‘Ovens’, and then in early 1854 to Ballarat, where he sank a shaft on Red Hill and established himself as a prospector and provisions merchant on the Eureka lead, a site where Irish prospectors concentrated. His siblings, meanwhile, returned to Ireland.
Discontent over the working conditions of miners had steadily increased across Victoria for several years, and in 1854 the imprisonment of three prospectors (for allegedly burning a local hotel) prompted the formation of the Ballarat Reform League. The organisation adopted chartist principles, and agitation quickly focused on the long-standing grievance of the monthly government licence fee, which allowed prospectors to work their claims, but not to own them. At a mass meeting on 29 November 1854 (at which Lalor made his first public speech), it was decided not to pay the fee and to protect those arrested for non-possession of a licence. Lalor was elected commander-in-chief of the insurgents, many of whom were Irish. The numbers involved in the protest gradually dwindled, and when soldiers and police attacked the stockade early in the morning of 3 December 1854, there were only about 120 men left. An estimated twenty-two miners were killed; many more were wounded, including Lalor, who was hit in the shoulder and arm. He escaped to Warrenhip and later to Ballarat, where his left arm was amputated by local doctors. A reward of £200 was offered for information leading to his arrest; but, such was the public sympathy for the miners, he was never arrested. The reward was revoked in March 1855, and the following month thirteen Eureka miners charged with treason were tried before Sir Redmond Barry (qv) and acquitted. Lalor remained in Ballarat for some weeks, before moving to Geelong, where he married (10 July 1855) Alicia Dunne; they had two children, Anne and Joseph.
Lalor next embarked on a political career. He was elected in November 1855 to represent Ballarat in the legislative council, and was appointed inspector of railways. His conservative views on property and suffrage so alienated his Ballarat constituents, however, that in 1859 he stood instead for South Grant, where he was elected. He was appointed chairman of committees in this year, and subsequently endorsed the 1860 and 1862 land acts, as well as reform of the legislative council. His idiosyncratic and independent political outlook hindered promotion under the McCulloch administration, and from 1868 to 1871 he focused on private business interests, operating as a land and mining agent and as director of several mining companies, notably the New North Clunes. As chairman of the Clunes water commission he successfully introduced legislation that raised some £65,000 for the Clunes waterworks. He lost his seat in 1871, but was returned for South Grant in 1874, and became a staunch supporter of the radical politician Graham Berry, who formed a government in 1875. Lalor held the positions of commissioner for customs (1875) and postmaster general (1877) in successive Berry administrations. In 1880 Lalor was appointed speaker of the Victoria parliament; he was reappointed by successive parliaments until September 1887, when he retired due to ill health and the deaths of his daughter and wife. Duncan Gillies, then premier, successfully proposed that Lalor receive a grant of £4,000. After a brief trip to San Francisco in an effort to improve his health, Lalor died 9 February 1889 at his son's home in Melbourne. A requiem mass was held in Melbourne, where he was buried, and there was a special service in Ballarat, where a statue was later erected. Some of his personal correspondence is in the NLI.