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William Dring 1767-1854

Journal by janilye

William Dring was convicted of feloniously stealing six bottles of brandy three blue and white shirts two pair of trousers a pair of red leather boots and several other things of the value of ten pence from Joseph Mitchinson.

William Dring was tried at Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire on 7 October 1784 for theft of unknown value. He was sentenced to transportation for 7 years and left England on the 'Alexander' of the First Fleet aged about 17 at that time (May 1787). He had no occupation recorded.

Governor Phillip sent a party of Officials, Marines and convicts to settle Norfolk Island and in October, 1788 Dring was one of those sent. He was employed there in various ways, probably in preparing the land for farming. In 1790 Dring and another convict volunteered to swim out to the "Sirius", which had been wrecked on the reef, in order to throw off the livestock and any remaining stores, which were still on the ship. They were allowed to do this and were successful in their efforts. They remained on board after they had completed the task and got drunk on the alcohol still on the ship. Eventually a marine was sent out and he removed the two men. They were punished by being put in prison and also made to wear leg irons. Even when they were released they were forced to continue wearing the irons.

Dring was apparently a competent seaman and contributed much in the associated work. He was praised by Governor King for his work. He was given a grant of land on Norfolk Island and then formed a relationship with Ann Forbes who had arrived in the First Fleet, on the "Prince of Wales". She had been convicted of stealing ten yards of cotton, the property of James Rollinson. Her trial was held in 1787 at the Surrey Lent Assizes. She was sentenced to be hanged but was reprieved and her sentence changed to seven (7) years transportation. Ann was sent to Norfolk Island and with her was the child she had borne to George Bannister, in 1789.

During their lives together William and Ann had three children, the last of whom was born in 1796. There was a great deal of unrest on the Island, because there were many marines stationed there and they endeavoured to entice the wives away from their husbands or the men with whom they lived. This brought many complaints form the emancipists and Dring had had cause to complain that his wife had been 'tempted away' twice. Finally he assaulted a marine and was charged. Governor King interceded on his bahalf and Dring was only fined 20 shillings. This judgement was another source of trouble on Norfolk Island. The family returned to Port Jackson in 1794 by the "Daedelus". They stayed together at least until the 20 August, 1796, when the last child was baptised. After this the partnership broke up. Little is known about Dring except 'he died in the Colony'.

Surnames: BANNISTER DRING FORBES
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by janilye Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2010-01-29 03:47:58

janilye - 7th generation, Convict stock. Born in New South Wales now living in Victoria, carrying, with pride 'The Birthstain'.

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by Linet52 on 2013-08-25 22:14:55

I am a descendant of William Dring and have just recently had great success in finding out much about him and the family he left behind. He was born in South Sheilds Yorkshire on the 28th December 1767, his parents being William Dring and Elizabeth Harris. HIs father William was a Clerk of Customs as was his Uncle Thomas who was also a Mariner. HIs Grandfather Thomas Dring was the owner of New Sun Inn in Hedon near Hull. This Inn was also the House of Customs and Excise in the mid to late 18th century. It was also from 1774 in the time of William's father a Coach Inn with stabling for 20 horses is described as being double fronted with an arch in the middle for carriage and horses access. The source of this information is an article called Britain's Lost Pubs.

From the National Archives UK I have established that Thomas Dring Snr was a Baliff in Hedon from 1750 to 1755 to 1758 and in his Sacrament Certificates he is described as an Ale House Keeper. I also have a copy of the Will of William Snr dated 1775 which states that he left the New Sun Inn and all the out houses etc. to his mother Susanna. The Executrix of the will is his wife Elizabeth. Susanna's will leaves the same to her son Thomas in 1780. When all this was happening William jun was only a child. His father died of consumption in 1779.

From the Hull History Centre I recently received a packet of documents which confirm all of this research. These documents include a certificate from the Holy Trinity Church in Hull stating the William Jnr took the sacrament in the church in December 1783 which is one year before his arrest. He was 16 years of age and is described on this document as being a Tidesman. What is a Tidesman you may ask? Well it is a Clerk of Customs who boards the ships to collect the excess payments. So he has joined the family business.

It has been well known for some time that a letter of clemency was written by the Member of Parliament (MP) William Chaytor for William Dring. This letter was in the packet of documents mentioned above. It states that the letter is being written on 'behalf of his constituents in Hendon near Hull" It also lists some of the things William stole and that he had claimed that he had 'done so on the persuasion of two other sailors who had escaped'. These sailors we know, were James Walker and Thomas Topping. It is because of the statements in this letter that I now know that I have found William's family.

Other documents in the bundle included the summons to court of three witnesses with 20 pound surety of their appearing. These documents were for Joseph Mitchinson, Morris Wall, James Walker (the latter did not appear as he had escaped). Other documents list of the things stolen which include the clothes and brandy that we know about but also list other things such as 3 empty glass bottles and 4 books. It is the books that have intrigued me, they were entitled 'The Daily Assistance for a Sailor' by John Hamilton Moor; 'A Complete Treatise of Practical Navigation by Archibald Patoun; 'A Pocket Companion for Oxford a Guide through the University' and a Common Prayer Book. These were all the property of Joseph Mitchinson.

Whilst these documents have fully answered my compelling desire to confirm William's family they have also opened up a new can of worms. Just who was Joseph Mitchinson? What made William steal when he had a job with a career path, a family with comfortable wealth and position? Was he framed or as he stated persuaded by the sailors who had escaped? So why did he plead guilty? Perhaps he had met with bad company. These are all questions I am now on a road to discover the answers.

We know now where he came from. We know what happened to him in New South Wales and Norfolk Island. What we don' know is where his went. This is another task I have set for myself. My hypothesis is that he escaped the colony in about 1795/6. Maybe the men of the NSW Corps who had caused him grief on Norfolk Island continued their threats on his life. They may have also been successful in killing him but if not then he found work on one of the many ships coming and going from Sydney Cove. He may have returned to England as I have found marriages of a William Dring in Yorkshire in 1799 ad 1806. However, William Dring is a very common name at this time in Yorkshire.

There are also many court appearances and acquittals of a William Dring during the 1820's. Of course for the reason mentioned above these may not be him. There is also the death of a William Dring off the Will Watch in 1845. I also have the probate packet of this William Dring. There is no proof that his is our William as there is nothing in the probate packet that confirms it one way or the other. One thing I do not believe is that William died in the colony. Why, you may ask? Well if the NSW Corp soldiers killed him then there would I believe be mention of it in the Colony documents unless of course they got away with it unnoticed. Also Ann named her son Charles, not William. The NSW Corp soldier who had enticed Ann away whilst on Norfolk Island was Charles Windsor. Yes there is a possibility that he may have been Charles's father but Charles Windsor married in 1802 and then left the Colony in 1810 when the NSW Corp was returned to England. If Charles was his son would he have not married Ann when she became available when William was out of the way but this did not happen. Therefore Ann was perhaps a mere dalliance for Charles but she obviously loved him or she would not have named her son after him. I believe that it is possible that William was either jealous and left when the child was named or he was already gone.

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