• Illuminated address presented to Sir Charles Lilley on his resignation from the Spring Hill and Fortitude Valley volunteer Rifle Corps

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    State Library Qld
Illuminated address presented to Sir Charles Lilley

One of the most enthusiastic supporters of the Volunteer Defence Force which was raised during Queensland’s formative years was Charles Lilley, an influential politician and later Chief Justice of Queensland. Born at Newcastle upon Tyne in 1827, Lilley began his working life as an articled clerk for a local solicitor before enlisting in the 1st Royal Dragoons as a private. While serving in Lancashire, Lilley conducted adult education and industrial relations classes until he was briefly imprisoned by military authorities for fraternising with local workers who were threatening to take strike action. Considering his treatment unjustified, Lilley purchased his discharge and returned to the legal profession, though he continued to interest himself in military matters. Lilley migrated to Sydney in 1856 and moved north to Moreton Bay later the same year. In 1860 he was elected to Queensland’s first Legislative Assembly as the Member for Fortitude Valley, and shared Governor Bowen’s concern over the colony’s lack of military protection. As an officer in the Spring Hill and Fortitude Valley Volunteer Rifle Corps, Lilley was also aware that membership of this force fluctuated considerably according to perceived threats. In 1862 Lilley created a furore when he brought before parliament a Bill to introduce compulsory military conscription. Condemned by his political opponents, the Bill almost cost Lilley his life when he narrowly escaped lynching by his own constituents at a public meeting. Not surprisingly, he withdrew the Bill when it again came before parliament and was able to continue in politics. Apart from a small garrison of British regulars between 1866 and 1870, Queensland’s defence continued to rely on local volunteers such as Charles Lilley.


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