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William Dring

** community contributed record **

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: William Dring
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 9th April, 1769
Occupation: Mariner
Date of Death: 15th March, 1845
Age: 75 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 58 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to 7 years

Crime: Stealing
Convicted at: York. Kingston upon Hull Session
Sentence term: 7 years
Ship: Alexander
Departure date: 1787
Arrival date: 1788
Place of arrival New South Wales [Port Phillip]
Passenger manifest Travelled with 13 other convicts


Primary source: http://firstfleet.uow.edu.au
Source description:

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Community Contributions

Eric Harry Daly on 9th January, 2013 wrote:

William Dring, records not modified;

DRING, William Transport:- Alexander PLACE AND DATE OF TRIAL Quarter Sessions, held at Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire on 7 October 1784. CRIME AND SENTENCE. “A True Bill against Wiliam Dring, Joseph Robinson [q.v.] and John Hastings for feloniously Stealing an taking away Six glass Bottles filled with Brandy, three Blue and White Shirts, two pair of Trowsers, one pair of Red Leather Boots and several other things of the value of ten pence of the Goods and Chattels of Joseph Mitchinson. “The aforesaid William Dring and Joseph Robinson [q.v.] Pleaded Guilty to the aforesaid Indictment found against them and the said John Hastings Not Guilty.” “Another True Bill against the said William Dring, Joseph Robinson [q.v.] and John Hastings for feloniously Stealing and taking away Two Jackets, one pair of Drawers, one pair of Trowsers and one Knife of the Value of Tenpence of the Goods and Chattels of Morris Wall.” “The aforesaid William Dring and Joseph Robinson [q.v.] Pleaded Guilty to the last mentioned Indictment found against them and the said John Hastings Not Guilty.” “The aforesaid William Dring and Joseph Robinson [q.v.] were Sentenced to be Transported beyong the Seas for Seven Years.” (1) OCCUPATION AGE APPEARS IN Sessions Book, Sessions next after the Feast of Thomas aBecket (2); Order in Council No. 1, p. 2; Ross’s Returns, p. 236; Richards’s Returns, p. 259. REFERENCES (1) Guildhall, Kingston upon Hull, Sessions Book 1766-88,folios 187, 188 and 189; (2) Guildhall, Kingston upon Hull, Sessions Book 1766-88, folio 205. William Dring confessed to two counts of stealing at Kingston-upon-Hullin 1784 and was sentenced to seven years’ transportation. He arrived on the Alexander. In 1788, he was sent to Norfolk Island and employed landing stores. In March 1790, he and James Branegan volunteered to swim to the wreck of the Sirius, in a heavy surf, and throw off the remaining livestock and stores. They did so but stayed on board, got drunk, and started a fire in the hold. Eventually John Ascott boarded the wreck and sent them off. They were confined in irons for two months, then released, still wearing irons. Dring later proved himself as a coxswain, was commended by King, and granted land. He married and had two children. In December 1793, after the arrival of a new detachment of marines, King noted that they became ‘very intimate with the convicts, living in their huts, eating, drinking and gambling with them, and perpetually enticing the women to leave the men they were married to, or those they lived with.’ Frequent complaints were made by the emancipists and the situation came to a head when Dring assaulted Private Wilson, who had twice ‘tempted away’ Drings wife. Dring had earlier been assaulted with a firestick, when two soldiers who mistook him for another settler who had earned their displeasure. After King had pleaded on Dring’s behalf at his trial, citing good character and extenuating circumstances, he was fined the moderate sum of 20s. This was one of the grievances that led to the soldier’s mutiny on Norfolk Island in January 1794.
William Dring was born in Hull, Yorkshire, UK 1784 - 7 October - William Dring was tried at Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire for stealing brandy and clothing. He was sentenced to transportation for 7 years. He was said to be 17 years old at the time and had no occupation listed. His partner in the original crime was Joseph Robinson.) 1785 - 15 April - William Dring was sent to the ‘Ceres’ hulk   1785 - 2 December - “a petition on his behalf said he hoped by confession to receive a lighter sentence, and blamed persuasion by two men who had escaped. Pardon was nevertheless refused”  1785 - 6 January - William Dring was delivered to Alexander 1786 - 22 March - A second letter written by William Chayter asking that the court pardon William Dring & informing the court that a Captain Taylor of London would employ him 1787 - 13 May - William was one of 195 males on board the Alexander which set sail from Portsmouth. The trip lasted for 251 days. Master of the ship was Duncan Sinclair and the surgeon was William Balmain. NOTE: In the book, Morgan’s Run, by Colleen McCoulough, William Dring is referred to numerous times for the voyage of the Alexander from England to New South Wales. Reading the story, you get the impression that William Dring was very much the seaman. 1788 - 26 January - Arrived on Alexander as a convict 1788 - 2 October - Sent to Norfolk Island on Golden Grove 1788 - 13 October - William Dring arrived on Norfolk Island. 1789 - 11 May - William Dring received 36 lashes for being absent without leave. 1790 - 22 March - William Dring spent time in irons for starting a fire on the wreck of Sirus. “He had volunteered with James Branagan to bring livestock from the wreck Sirus, both got drunk and started a fire on board.”  1790 - “brought ashore by James Arscott, Dring, spent time in the guardhouse until 18 May, where he was released to his own hut, but still in irons.”  1791 - 14 May - William Dring spent time in irons for stealing potatoes from gardens with Charles McLaughlin and Henry Barnet. “He was sent in irons to Nepean Island, provided with two weeks rations to last for six weeks. Clark called him ‘the greatest Rascall living’. All three were brought back in June, one very ill, but Dring remained under confinement.” 1791 - 5 November - William Dring and Ann Forbes married by Rev. Johnson 1792 - “By the end of 1792, Dring had begun to sell grain to government from the small piece of ground allotted to him, signing the receipt for Payment”.  1793 - October - William Dring confronted Charles Windsor, a private of the detachment, who had been pursuing Ann Forbes, which lead to Dring striking Windsor. This is described in King’s letter as follows: Among the many who had repeatedly complained of the ill treatment they had received from the Soldiers in seducing their wives & troubling their domestic quiet, was a man named Dring, whose term of transportation has been three years expired, the Man (who is married and has a Child) has been employed from the time I first settled in the Island, as a Cockswain, & is as such, and having the care of the Boats, a very usefull Man, and is of the greatest service, for which he receives no other gratuity than Provisions for his Family, & a small Piece of Ground on which his house stands; many complaints were made to me by this Man, that a soldier was continually with his Wife during his absence, & to add to the injury, he frequently received the grossest abuse from the Soldier, who was (on complaint being made to the Commanding Officer of the Detachment) forbid going near the Cockswain’s House or Wife, but this Prohibition did not prevent the infamous wretch from enticing the Woman out to meet the Soldier, of which the Husband had notice and detected them together when he beat his wife, the Soldier interfered, & (as the Cockswain says in his defence) called him a “Rascal” on which he ackowledged to have struck the Soldier, Complaint was made, & the Justices finding the Cockswain guilty of assault, fined him Twenty Shillings for the use of the School and to find security for his good behaviour towards the Soldier for Twelve months. 1793 - December - William Dring was listed as “a well behaved free man.”  1793 - December 24 - On Christmas eve 1793, another dispute broke out between Private Baker and a neighbour and friend of Dring’s who had provided the security for Dring following his conviction for assaulting Private Windsor. This continued the next day when Downey and Cardell went looking for Smith but found Dring instead, which is described by King as follows: “A soldier has in disobedience of orders, & the rights of humanity gone on a settler’s ground with a lighted stick, near wheat which was laying in stacks, & on which the settler’s existence depended, a quarrell ensued, blows passed, & the soldier (Baker) was confined - two others (Downey & Cardell) actuated by a spirit of revenge, soon after went near the settler’s ground with a design of giving him a severe beating, but missing him, Downey without provocation, designedly knocked down Dring a freeman, for which atrocious offences they were tried by a court martial, & sentenced to receive a punishment, but at the recommendation of the court, Baker (who the Lieutenant Governor is happy to say has always borne a good character) was forgiven - Downey who knocked down the freeman was (at the intercession of the freeman, Dring, who was beaten, & a number of settlers) forgiven. Such conduct on the part of those who were injured ought to have excited gratitude, but unfortunately it had a different effect on Cardell, who has been acquitted from the apparent partiality of the evidences, he, still breathing revenge, publicly avowed his intentions of giving Dring a beating, little short of death, & that too, at a time when they were to drink their cup of reconciliation together, for which offence he now lies under the sentence of a court martial” 1793 - On 27 December 1793, King recorded that before the sentence on Downey could be enforced Smith & Dring sought forgiveness for Downey and this was granted: “as I hoped every thing would be forgot” [and King advised that they should] “drink the gallon of rum together, this they promised, & I once more hoped that evey difference would be amicably settled. Still I was however so unhappy as to find that rancour yet existed, the next day (Dec. 28th) Cardell the soldier who had been evidently acquitted by the partial evidence of the witnesses, still breathing revenge vowed the most horrible threats against the cockswain (Dring) & to put it in execution at the time they were drinking their cup of reconciliation together; Those repeated & malicious proceedings were of such enormity that it was now become absolutely necessary to make an example, Cardell was tried by a court martial, which sentenced him to receive one hundred lashes; the culprit received only twelve which it was hoped would be a sufficient example to the soldiers, & as Her Majesties birthday was approaching, I decided to forgive him the remainder of his punishment on that occasion”.  1794 - On 18 January 1794 an incident occured at the Playhouse and King arrested Thomas Bannister, one of the soldiers. This sparked anger amonst the detachment, which King labelled mutiny. The day after the mutiny he [a convict] was considering with the soldier who was then centinel at the store house, about the disturbance which had happened the preceding evening by whom he was told that there would have been a serious business if they could have caught a freeman called Dring (the Cockswain before mentioned) whom they had been determined to murder. On the convict asking the Centinel why the soldiers were so inveterate against the cockswain, he answered that nothimg only but any of the others should share the same fate, because the convicts were more indulged than the soldiers, & that they had that morning (the 19th) taken an oath to be true to each other and not suffer any of their commrades to be punished for an offence against a convict any more. One of them Cardell who had threatened to assassinate the cockswain & (was on the 18th forgiven his punishment) said now that they had already began they must go through with it, & that he had since his last trial repeatedly said that he would murder Dring (the Cockswain) before he left the Island. 1794 - February - When a later court of enquiry was held in Sydney in February 1794 dealing with the incidents which lead King to send nine members of the detachment back to Sydney for trial, the court criticised the way in which King and the judges dealt with assaults by ex-convicts against the soldiers. In defending his position King explained: “The cockswain who was the other culprit, I have before observed is one of the above description [ex convict] & as an individual is of the greatest service on this island &for; which he receives no other gratuity than provisions for himself & his family, & a small piece of ground on which his house stands & which is not more than half an acre, as the whole of this man’s property at that time (1793) consisted of the produce of that ground & a small box which held his wife and children’s rags (for clothes they could not be called) the magistrate did not fine him more than twenty shillings which certainly was as much as his circumstances could afford; on his being sentenced to pay this fine, he was further ordered to acknowledge to the soldier that he had done wrong insulting him, which from a sense of the wrong he had received from the soldier, he refused doing in a very improper manner, on which account the Justices further sentenced him to be imprisoned until he found security for his good behaviour. The settler who was so ill-treated by the soldiers on Christmas day (Smith) became his security & was bound in the penalty of five pounds, & the recognizance particularly specified the conditions with especial regard to the soldier. .... It appeared to me as it did to the magistrates, that every just atonement was made by the settler & cockswain, who had assaulted the soldiers in defence of their wives.” 1794 - 6 November - William Dring departs Norfolk Island with Ann Forbes and his children, Ann and Elizabeth on Daedalus 1798 - William Dring is listed as either being dead or having left the colony as Ann Forbes had moved on to Thomas Huxley. In Doug’s supplement for “Transported to Paradise” he writes, “What happened to William after his return from Norfolk Island is not certain. However, the NSW Archives contain a reference to a William Dring, seaman, who was lost at sea from the “Wills Watch’ on 15 March 1845, enroute to Tahiti.” 1845 “THE SCHOONER. “WILL WATCH” - We regret to state that Captain Forbes, who left Sydney in the Will Watch, died about five weeks since, owing to the following circumstances : Having made Saunder’s Island, they stood in shore for the purpose of trading, and having lowered a boat a native swam off to her outside the surf, and pointed out a place where he said it was practicable to land. Captain Forbes, Mr. John Russell, and three of the crew were in the boat, but on standing for the shore she was swamped in running through the surf and two of the seamen were drowned. Mr. Russell was in the water about a quarter of an hour, and after great exertion reached the shore much exhausted. Captain Forbes having caught hold of an oar was buffeted about among the rocks, but was eventually washed ashore insensible. The usual remedies being resorted to, he was partially recovered, but about ten days after expired from the bruises

Eric Harry Daly on 9th January, 2013 wrote:

William Dring:
williams wife Ann Forbes is recorded as dying 29 Dec 1851
Their children were:
Ann: 1792
Elizabeth: 30 Aug 1794
Charles: 20 Aug 1796

Lynne McDonald on 30th August, 2013 wrote:

William was born in South Shields Yorkshire.  His Father was William Dring Clerk of Customs and married Elizabeth Harrison of South Shields on the 4th August 1766.  William and Elizabeth bought their young son home to where William worked in the Customs office which was run out of his Fathers Inn.  This was the New Sun Inn in Hedon.  William joined the family occupation becoming a Tidesman - he went onto the boats to collect the excise.  I am working on why he stole the goods he did and feel a little confused why he would done so given that he had a family with influence and a job. One hypothesis is that he may have wanted to go to sea as he also stole 4 books 3 of which were about being a sailor and on navigation.  I have copies of the documents to prove this information which I recieved from the Hull HIstory Centre.  I also have a copy of William Chaytors second letter of clemency and I am waiting on taking delivery of the first letter.  In this letter William Chaytor comments on Williams crimes which are those of our William and he also states that he is acting on behave of his constituants in Hedon. Whilst I have the information on the incident of the Will Watch I am not totally convinced that it is our William Dring. I think it makes him too old but I would love to hear from some one with their ideas on this

Lynne McDonald on 30th January, 2014 wrote:

i would like to ask a question of the person who entered this information. 

What documents do you have to prove that the date of death is of this person and not someone else?


Lynne McDonald on 25th July, 2014 wrote:

The death of William Dring is still in question.  Whilst it is possible that he is the William Dring who died on the Will Watch it has not been proven beyond doubt. My biggest question mark on this is that he would have been 78 years old and perhaps too old to still be at sea.  In my research I have found another William Dring who came to Australia in 1836 on the Douglass. He was 29 years old and came from London and was a Sailor.  He is recorded in our Gaol entry books in this year but there is no further information about him.  Also the Will Watch was built in Australia in 1840.  This makes him a very good candidate for being the William Dring who died on the Will Watch.  I would like to know what anyone else thinks of this.

Lynne McDonald on 22nd June, 2015 wrote:

There was other William Dring sent to Tasmania one in 1845 and also another in gaol in Sydney in 1836. Therefore there is no proof that the William Dring off the Will Watch is the William Dring of the First Fleet.  Therefore putting the date of 1845 as his death with out proof cannot be accepted. I believe that the death of William Dring of the Will Watch was the William Dring in gaol in Sydney in 1836 as he was 29 years of age and a sailor and was only in gaol for a short time for disorderly behaviour. This makes him a very good candidate in my book as this said William Dring of the Will Watch. I would be most interested to hear what other people feel about this.

Helen Bates on 18th March, 2020 wrote:

William was then transported to Norfolk Island

Julia Perry on 27th March, 2020 wrote:

As his job as a tidesman was to go on board ships, I think it is possible that he confiscated the goods from the sailors who had stolen them in the first place,in order to return them to their owners, and was falsely convicted of ‘receiving stolen goods’

Convict Changes History

Eric Harry Daly on 9th January, 2013 made the following changes:

convicted at, term 7 years, voyage, source, firstname, surname, alias1, alias2, alias3, alias4, date of birth 1767, date of death 0000, gender, occupation, crime

Eric Harry Daly on 9th January, 2013 made the following changes:

date of death 15th March, 1845

Lynne McDonald on 30th August, 2013 made the following changes:

voyage, date of birth 0000, occupation

Helen Bates on 18th March, 2020 made the following changes:

date of birth: 9th April, 1769 (prev. 0000)

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