Many of our first settlers in Westbury early last century were Irish ex-convicts or retired soldiers. Each received a land grant of five acres reputedly complete with a well and a pear tree. Visitors late last century remarked about the strong Irish accents, even amongst the children.
Richard Dry. public servant and pastoralist, was born near Wexford, Ireland, the son of a gentleman farmer, and became a woollen draper. A Protestant, he was convicted in Dublin in September 1797 on a political charge and sentenced to transportation to New South Wales for life. He was given a free pardon in 1809. He was able to construct a large house on his 30,000 acre farm in the Belle Vue District(later Quamby), building of which began in 1828 and finished 10 years later. Mr Richard Dry died in May 1843 and the estate was inherited by his children including his son Richard Dry Junior, who was later to become Sir Richard Dry.
Sir Richard Dry was knighted by Queen Victoria, the first Tasmanian-born citizen to be so honoured, and one of the first Australians. . In 1866 he became the second Premier of Tasmania and died in 1869 whilst in office.
Thomas Francis Meagher was noted for his oratory. The son of a wealthy Catholic merchant, Meagher’s ancestors could be traced back to a royal line
in the Second century AD. Meagher drew monstrous crowds and won over their support when he addressed outdoor meetings.
His sentence: Death – commuted to transportation for life. a little more than two years in an escape bid as spectacular as Mitchel’s and received a hero’s welcome in New York. He became a Brigadier-General in the American Civil war for the North and later became Governor of Montana. His infant son is buried in the Richmond (Tasmania) cemetery.
An event occurred in 1853 which has forever won special recognition In Ireland. Seven patriotic leaders of the Young Ireland independence Movement were transported to Van Diemens Land (later Tasmania) in 1848 for their rebellious activities. Four of the young Irelanders escaped from the island. John Mitchel, the most radical, renounced at Bothwell his promise not to try to escape, then made a daring, epic and ultimately successful bid by riding over the wild central plateau to Westbury in the middle of winter.
The Irish people of Westbury harboured Mitchel while soldiers searched intensively for him. After a fascinating series of failed attempts, and keeping ahead of his pursuers, Mitchel cast caution aside and travelled to Hobart on a public coach. The recently retired Attorney-General was also on board – one can only imagine their conversation! From Hobart, Mitchel boarded a ship for America and eventually found his way back to Ireland.
Several Young Irelanders carved out successful careers in the United States, one becoming a Brigadier-General in the Civil War, and another becoming an influential journalist in New York.
These intriguing Young Irelanders left their mark on three continents and are revered Irish heroes today.