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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Dalrymple, David Hay (1840–1912)

by Rosemary Howard Gill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

David Hay Dalrymple (1840-1912), chemist, pastoralist and politician, was born on 14 December 1840 at Newbury, Berkshire, England, son of James Dalrymple, tea dealer, and his wife Georgina Hay, née Dalrymple (or Dalrymple-Hay). He was educated at the West of England Dissenters' Proprietary School at Taunton; his qualification as an associate of the Pharmaceutical Society, was followed by attendance at the Bristol Medical School. Dalrymple reached Melbourne in 1862; next year he went to Rockhampton, Queensland, and then to Mackay where he bought land at the first sales, opened in Gordon Street the town's first chemist shop and began his pastoral investments. He became a magistrate from 1870. In July 1878 he was in the second party to climb Mount Dalrymple.

An executive-member of the Mackay Hospital and the School of Arts, Dalrymple was the town's first mayor in 1869-71 and later served again. He was a member of the Road Board before the Divisional Boards Act of 1879, and then of the Pioneer Divisional Board until 1888 when he left local government and became a member for Mackay in the Legislative Assembly. At first he was a staunch advocate of northern separation, but in 1899, when speaking on the Federation enabling bill, he no longer identified himself with the northern separation bloc.

In 1895-1903 Dalrymple served in ministries under (Sir) Hugh Nelson, T. J. Byrnes, (Sir) James Dickson, and (Sir) Robert Philp, holding successively public instruction, public works, public lands, agriculture and public instruction. Dalrymple was a middling administrator but succeeded in the Department of Public Instruction because of his own intellectual interests. He improved the system of grammar school scholarships and simplified the payment of teachers. His bill for a university in 1898 was lost in prorogation. In 1901 as minister for agriculture, he secured the Agricultural Bank Act which facilitated rural finance.

'Awkward, shy, ridiculously nervous and aggressively unkempt', Dalrymple yet became a notable debater. His parliamentary speeches and his pamphlet Letters on Socialism (Brisbane, 1894) illustrate his eclecticism and polished sarcasm. Although the Worker deplored 'Dal's' conservative politics, it described him as 'a man of wit, philosophy, intellectual dexterity and ingenuity and a certain nerve and vim'. He was respected but not especially popular in the House; but his real abilities were wasted in parsimonious conservative administrations.

Dalrymple lost his seat in August 1904 and lived in retirement at Hamilton; he died there on 1 September 1912. He was survived by his wife Euphemia Margaret, née McLean, whom he had married at Mackay on 23 December, 1880; his estate, valued for probate at £33,719, was left to their four children. He was buried in the Anglican section of Toowong cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Alcazar Press, Queensland, 1900 (Brisb, nd)
  • C. A. Bernays, Queensland Politics During Sixty Years (Brisb, 1919)
  • J. Kerr, Pioneer to Leader (Brisb, 1980)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1897, p 932, 1899, p 236, 690-708
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Aseembly, Queensland), 1898, 1, 917
  • Echo (Brisbane), 20 Feb 1897
  • Mackay Mercury, 10, 12 Apr, 8 May 1888
  • Worker (Brisbane), 25 Apr, 3, 10 Oct 1896
  • Brisbane Courier, 2 Sept 1912
  • J. Martin diary, MS617 (State Library of New South Wales)
  • C. Lack, vol 1, and Turner, vol 7, cutting books (State Library of Queensland).

Citation details

Rosemary Howard Gill, 'Dalrymple, David Hay (1840–1912)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 24 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

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