Albert Thomas Dryer (1888–1963) was born in Sydney and educated at various schools in Sydney and Singleton. In 1908 he was appointed a clerk in the Customs Department in Melbourne and in the following year was transferred to Sydney. His political activities led to his dismissal in 1919. He then opened a short-lived Irish book depot and worked for various periods as a book-keeper and shopkeeper. He studied science at Sydney Technical College and later medicine at Sydney University, graduating in 1938. He set up a practice in Fairfield in 1940 and moved to Singleton after World War II, where he lived for the rest of his life.
Dryer’s mother was born in Ireland, but he himself never visited Ireland. In 1914 he read Alice Stopford Green’s Irish Nationality (1911) and immediately became an ardent supporter of Irish independence. He founded the militant Irish National Association of New South Wales in 1915. In 1918–19 he and six other members were gaoled on suspicion of being members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He remained a central figure in the Association right up to his death. He also founded the Australian League for an Undivided Ireland (1948–54). He organised the Sydney visit of Eamon de Valera, the Irish Taoiseach, in 1948.
The Dryer Collection was purchased from Dryer’s son, Albert Dryer, in 1981. He donated further items in 1986 and 1990. Many of the personal papers of Dryer were in the possession of Professor Patrick O’Farrell and were transferred from the O’Farrell papers in 2002.
There are about 1900 books, pamphlets and serials in the Dryer Collection, about half of which relate to Ireland. They include a substantial and important group of books written in Gaelic, mostly published in the 1920s and 1930s, and early Irish texts published in facsimile, such as The Book of Lecan (1937), The Book of Amargh (1937), The Book of Ui Maine (1942), The Book of Kells (1950–51) and The Book of Leinster (1954). There are a large number of books on Irish history from the earliest times, with a special emphasis on Irish nationalism, and also works on Irish saints, folklore, poetry and art. There are a number of novels, in both Gaelic and English.
The subject matter of the remainder of the collection is very broad. It includes Greek and Latin texts, theological works, and books on European, Welsh and Scottish history, Catholic history and doctrine, world religions, music, poetry, metaphysics, medicine, chemistry, the Soviet Union, communism and anti-communism. There are a number of Australian novels and works on the Catholic church and the Irish in Australia.
The Book of Lecan (1937)
The Book of Armagh (1937)
The Book of Ui Maine (1942)
The Book of Kells (1950 –51)
The Book of Leinster (1954)
Elizabeth Hayes, who married Dryer in 1933, was a talented singer and assembled a good collection of books, albums and sheet music, with a particular strength in Irish songs. The albums include Edward Bunting, The Ancient Music of Ireland Arranged for the Pianoforte (1840), P.W. Joyce, Ancient Irish Music (1912), Hubert Rooney, The Well-known Songs of Ireland (n.d.), Mrs Costello, Traditional Folk-songs from Galway and Mayo (1923) and Alfred Moffat, Irish National Songs: A Collection of Favourite Irish Nationalist Songs (n.d.). There is also a substantial quantity of manuscript music scores, including Irish national songs, patriotic songs, military music, folk music, sacred music and arrangements of works by classical composers.
Dryer’s personal papers, dating from 1906 until his death, include correspondence, reports, manuscripts, petitions, minutes, certificates, handbills, newspaper cuttings and photographs. There are extensive papers from World War I, including material on Dryer’s internment, the Irish Prisoners’ Relief Committee and the Irish Book Depot. Other papers relate to the Irish National Association, the Australian League for an Undivided Ireland, the Irish Embassy in Canberra, and the visit of Eamon De Valera in 1948. There are also some papers of Elizabeth Hayes, such as an autograph book, harmony exercises and theory notebooks.
The books and pamphlets in the Dryer Collection have been kept together as a collection, with the exception of five items transferred to the Rare Books Collection. The call numbers of the books have the prefix DRYER. The printed music is kept together as a collection within the Music Collection. The papers of Dryer, which occupy 12 boxes, are held in the Manuscripts Collection at MS 6610. A finding aid is available online at https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-460120609/findingaid. The manuscript music is kept with the papers.
O’Farrell, Patrick, Albert Thomas Dryer (1888–1963), Australian Dictionary of Biography Online
First posted 2008 (revised 2019)