William and his partner in crime Joseph
Robinson were arrested and tried in Kingston-upon-Hull
in 7th October 1784.
They stole 2 pairs of trousers, 1 pair of
red leather boots, 3 blue and white shirts, and six
bottles of brandy. Further research has found the
following further items to be added to the list, one
canvas bag, two pairs of yarn stockings, one pair of
worsted stockings, 3 empty glass bottles and 4 books.
The four books were,
Complete Daily Assistant’
by John Hamilton-Moor,
Treastise of Practical Navigation’
by Archibald Patoun,
Pocket Companion for Oxford a Guide through the
and were the property of Joseph
They were also accused of stealing two
jackets, one pair of drawers, one pair of trousers and a
knife the goods of Morris Wall.(2) One pair of boots the
goods of James Walker and a brown jacket the goods of
Thomas Topping. All of these men were sailors.
According to Mollie Gillen, the goods had
also passed through the hands of two other sailors James
Walker and Thomas Topping but they were not charged as
they had left the port escaping out to sea.
Further research found in court
documents, showed that James Walker was to have appeared
as a prosecuting witness.(3) He did not appear and
forfeited his 20 pound surety.
Two letters were written for clemency,
one by William Chaytor, Member of Parliament of North
Yorkshire to Lord Sydney (5). He stated that he was
writing on the persuasion of his constituents in Hedon
(Williams family), that William was
to the sea and Captain Taylor being of good character
would employ him for the term of his sentence.’
(7) William Chaytor also states in his
letter of clemency that William claimed that
other persons were equally concerned with him in the
Felony and that both had escaped’(4)
As mentioned above.
The letter from Lord Sydney to the
Justices of the Peace at Kingston-upon-Hull, who had
tried William, asked for an account of the case against
far he may be an object of the Royal Mercy’.(6)
An answer was not forthcoming. A third letter by Mayor
Etherington of Hull was against mercy and proclaims him
to be a
of general bad character (9)’.
(This I would like to research further.)
sentence of transportation beyond the seas for 7 years
William was immediately sent to Hull Gaol
and from there he was transferred by order of King
George III and carried out by Lord Sydney to the Hulk,
on the 15th April,1785. (11)
On the 7th of December 1786 an order was
sent that a list be made of all convicts imprisoned on
any of the hulks be sent to the Commissioner with names,
crime and date of conviction.
William was transferred to the Alexander
on 6th January 1787 and sailed for Botany Bay on the
13th May 1767 arriving in January 1788. Perhaps he would
have helped unload the ships and erect tents.
In October 1788 he left for Norfolk
Island on the Golden Grove. Here he had an uneasy time,
bucking the system. He received three dozen lashes for
absenting himself from the settlement without
On March 22nd 1790 he volunteered to swim
out to the wreck of the Sirius and jettison livestock
and stores but he and his fellow volunteer found casks
of rum and decided to help themselves to as much as they
could, before being found, and whether purposely or by
accident set two fires on the deck. James Arscott of the
NSW Corp swam out and persuaded them to come ashore, and
for his trouble William received six weeks in the guard
house with further time in irons within his own hut.
On the 15th May 1791 he was in strife
again after stealing potatoes from gardens with Charles
McLaughlin and Henry Barnet and for this they were sent
to Nepean Island for 6 weeks with 2 weeks rations.
Captain Clark of the NSW Corp called
greatest rascal living’.
He must have been a very strong character as Mollie
Gillen states `all three were brought back in June, and
one very ill, Dring remained under confinement.’
By the end of 1792 William seems to have
settled down and was selling grain to the stores. It
appears he was literate as he was able to sign a receipt
for payment of his grain. Being a mariner it is
interesting that he had learned to grow food but I
suspect this may have been more the doing of Ann Forbes
whom he had married in November 1791. A daughter Ann had
been born by the end of 1792.
In December 1793 in the words of Phillip
Gidley King William had become
well behaved and very useful freeman’.
Things changed however, after the arrival
of the soldiers of the NSW Corp, who began enticing the
women of both convicts and emancipist, away from their
men. We must remember that most of the relationships
were not love matches but arranged marriages through
assignment, this appears to have been the case with Ann
and William as they were married in a mass ceremony
presided over by Reverend Johnson.
It has been suggested in various books,
that some convict men did not regard their marriages
within the colony to be legal and binding. There is no
evidence however, to suggest that William felt this way
as he fought with Charles Windsor, a private of the NSW
Corp, over Ann. Ann had been found in the company of
Windsor on more than one occasion, between October and
December 1793. William was fined 20 shillings for
hitting both Ann and Charles.
Phillip Gidley King blamed Charles
Windsor and his fellow Corp soldiers, Cardell, Baker and
Downey for starting the rebellion on 26th December 1793
and it was after this rebellion that a group of Corp
soldiers including Charles Windsor and Downey were
court-martialed and returned to Sydney in February 1794.
William, Ann and their two daughters Ann
and Elizabeth returned to Sydney Cove on the Daeldus in
November 1794. Why they returned is a mystery. Their
daughter Ann died in January 1795 and a son Charles born
in August 1796 who unfortunately i believed to have died
in infancy as there is no 'proof of life' thereafter. It
is presumed that William was still in the colony at this
Charles Windsor married in 1802 and
remained in the Colony until the NSW Corp disbanded in
1810. I have considered as a hypothesis that baby
Charles was his son but this assumption is only made on
the fact that Ann named him Charles and not William. I
wonder if this was the cause of the break down of the
There is no further information about
William after this arrival time. He is presumed to have
either died or to have left the colony by 1798.
A growing number of whaling ships were
sailing to and from Sydney by 1795. It is possible that
he may have joined the crew of one of them.
There is also the death of a William
Dring off the Will Watch in 1845. For this to have been
him he would have been 78 years old. I believe too old
to still be at sea. There is also another William Dring
aged 29 in our Gaol records in 1836.(10) I have not
been able to prove or disprove that this is the William
Dring from the Will Watch there is not enough evidence
for a conclusion to be made.
This is an ongoing project for me with
much work still to be done.
Further Information:- Inlcuded 10th
After much research and much still to do
I have included here a short explanation of the
direction my research is taking.
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? I
believe, int eh hope for clemency. Also the biggest
question of all - have we got the correct family. These
are all questions for which
trying to discover the answers.
We know when he arrived, that he went to
Norfolk Island but what we don't 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
In 1790/91 Watkin Tench writes in his
“Settlement at Port Jackson” chapter 18 ‘Observation on
the Convicts’ that “several men whose terms of
transportation had expired, and against who no legal
impediment existed to prevent their departure have been
permitted to enter in merchant ships wanting hands”.
Whilst he disappeared some five of six
years later it is a a possible assumption that he may
have returned to England. 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
There are also many court appearances and
acquittals of a William Dring during the 1820's. Of
course for the reasons mentioned above these may not be
him. There is also the death of a William Dring off the
Will Watch in 1845. I 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. I also might
suggest that his daughter Elizabeth called her son born
in 1811 William and I wonder if she had some contact
with him. There has been suggested that there was a
death of a William Dring in the colony in 1854 but there
are no records to substantiate this.
Why did he leave? 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 after
William was out of the way? So we can, I believe, safely
say that 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 left before or soon after Charles was born.
(1) Hull History Centre Archives No. CQB/60/44
(2) Ibid; CQB/60/45
(3) Ibid; CQB/60/19
(4) Letter of clemency written by William
Chaytor Member of Parliament for North Yorkshire, Hull
History Centre Archives No CQB/6/52b
(6) Hull History Centre Archives No. CQB/61/52a
(7) Ibid; CQB/6/52b
(8) Ibid; CQB/61/51c
(9) National Archives of the UK Item
reference HO 47/5/73
(10) Colonial gaol records - Colonial
(11) UK Archives England & Wales, Crime,
Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935 HO/47
Lynne McDonald #7709
Descendant of FF William Dring.