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John Driver

John Driver, one of 1063 convicts transported on the Neptune, Scarborough and Surprize, December 1789

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: John Driver
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1773
Occupation: Cordwainer
Date of Death: 23rd February, 1810
Age: 37 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 60 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to 7 years

Crime: Stealing
Convicted at: Gloucester Quarter Sessions
Sentence term: 7 years
Ship: Neptune, Scarborough and Surprize
Departure date: December, 1789
Arrival date: 26th June, 1790
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 1072 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/1, Page Number 33 (18)
Source description: This record is one of the entries in the British convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database compiled by State Library of Queensland from British Home Office (HO) records which are available on microfilm as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project.

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Community Contributions

Merilyn Pedrick on 19th January, 2013 wrote:

“The Second Fleet - Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790” by Michael Flynn
Driver, John (c1773-1810). John driver, a cord wainer aged 14, was committed to Gloucester
Castle goal on 6 December 1787 charged with assaulting a man at Dursley and stealing a
silver watch valued at two guineas (he had actually picked his pocket). He was convicted on a
lesser charge of theft and sentenced to seven years transportation at the 15 January 1788
Gloucester Quarter Sessions and was sent on board the “Dunkirk” hulk at Plymouth on 24
June. At the end of November 1789 he was embarked on the “Neptune” transport.

Although only seventeen on arrival, Driver displayed an early talent for business in the colony
and prospered quickly as a retail trader after the expiry of his sentence in December 1794. In
June 1797 he fathered a daughter by the First Fleet convict Elizabeth Needham (b. 1762, tried
Old Bailey) baptised Mary at Sydney in July. Needham’s parents had been servants in the
household of Lady Charlotte Finch (who had been governess to the children of George III) and
her son George (later the Earl of Winchelsea). Needham had two children by her first
husband, the First Fleet convict William Snailham (who appears to have died). In 1796 she
received a 40 acre land grant at Bulanaming in her own name. In March 1796 the couple were
living next door but one to the Chapel (which was at the corner of Hunter and Bligh Streets).
Elizabeth held the licence of the Wheatsheaf public house at Sydney in 1787-99 and was an
able businesswoman in her own right. Around 1799 the couple went back to England and
returned to the colony as free settlers with three children on the “Minorca” in 1801.

From June 1803 Driver and his wife operated a warehouse and general store at No. 3 Chapel
Row (later known as Castlereagh Street) Sydney, on an 81 rod lease allotment adjoining
Thomas Taber’s school. He also occupied premises on a site adjoining the new bridge in
Sydney. This was probably the 66 rod allotment he leased jointly with Simeon Lord in July
1809 at the north end of the row on the west side of the spring (it may have been this, rather
than the Chapel Row site, on which the Universal Warehouse was built). In August 1803
Driver advertised a great variety of goods for sale which illustrate how quickly the colony was
developing from a penal encampment into a western consumption-oriented society. The
goods for sale included green tea (unmixed and Souchong), sugar, butter, brazil tobacco,
candles, soap, starch and blue, Capital Writing Fools-cap Paper, good coarse paper,
stationery, copy and memorandum books, Juvenile Publications for the entertainment and
improvement of Children, children’s watches and toys, china tea sets, delft and manchester, cups, saucers and plates (plain and coloured), jugs, wash hand basins and tureens, fish
plates and slides, soup plates, pepper mustard and salt islands, gridirons, flat smoothing
irons, cutlery, scissors, men’s and women’s shoes, bonnets, perfumery, feathers, bands and
flowers for bonnets, ribands, red flannel frocks, duck trousers, striped cotton shirts, Irish shirts
(plain and frilled), leather breeches and boots, fine corded dimity, printed cotton and callico,
checks, dungaree, flannel Laced Mode Cloaks (costing 3 to 5 guineas each), men’s and
women’s stockings (black and white), gloves, cotton handkerchiefs, bandana and black
Barcelone handkerchiefs, shoe strings, gloves, thread, tape, pins, needles (and other
haberdashery), combs, gilt buttons, watch keys, seals, earrings, blacking cakes and tobacco

Driver’s advertisement in the Sydney Gazette of 16 October 1803 indicates a broadening of
his clothing range with the additional items including glassware, English pint mugs in various
sizes, looking glasses, common and fine hats, scarlet bird eyes and laces. The advertisement
of 8 July 1804 included such additional items as raisins, Bengal printed cotton, Norwich and
other fine shawls, gentlemen’s and ladies’ patent silk stockings, finger rings, beads, neck
chains and other trinkets, punjums, nankeens, pens, India rubber, fancy waistcoats, artificial
flowers and wreathes, Spanish shoes, tumblers and glasses.

Driver held 40 acres by lease and purchase in 1806 which were not cultivated. Elizabeth held
a publican’s licence from 1803-1809 and was recorded with three male and two female
children in 1806. Two of them Richard (1803) and Charles (c1805) were born at Sydney. The
couple were strong supporters of the Rum Rebellion which resulted in Bligh’s removal from
power. John Driver was one of sixteen of the colony’s principal inhabitants who signed a letter
of support addressed to Major Johnston and written by John Macarthur on 26 January 1808,
the day of the coup. Elizabeth subscribed £30 towards Macarthur’s expenses for his
anticipated trial in England. The Drivers are said to have displayed a sign in the hall of their
house (probably their public house) on which a message painted in large characters read:
“Success to Major George Johnson, may he live for ever! Our Deliverer and Suppressor of
Tyrants”. Driver received a 200 acre land grant at Cabramatta from the anti-Bligh regime. He
died at his Chapel Row house on 28 February 1810 (aged about 36) having signed a will
which appointed his wife sole executor and beneficiary. An obituary notice in the Sydney
Gazette stated that he left a wife and five children “to regret the loss of a fond husband, and
an indulgent parent, of whom it may also be asserted, that no man in existence had ever
fewer enemies, or deserved them less”. This widow married the Sydney dealer and publican
Henry Marr on 29 October of the same year; she died on 3 January 1825 at the Star and
Garter Inn at Portsmouth. She had only reached England three days earlier on her third return
visit, and was buried in St. Thomas’s Cathedral, Portsmouth, two days after her death. She
rivalled Mary Reibey as the most prominent female emancipist of her day and was clearly a
woman of considerable enterprise and ability.

John Driver was probably the son of John Driver and Hester Harris born at Dursley and
baptised at nearby Berkley on 25 July 1773; trial ref. Glos. RO Q/SO/10; Q/S/1a 1788; Driver
had initially been charged with what was technically a capital offence of highway robbery, but
the prosecution was undertaken on a less serious charge of theft, probably because of the
boy’s age and the fact that the theft was really a case of pick-pocketing. Driver’s somewhat
illegal will left his estate to Elizabeth, mentioning that they had been married ten (?) years on
29 May, suggesting a marriage in England in 1800; he was described as an innkeeper aged
38 at burial; in December 1808 Driver was granted a second lease in Chapel Row for an 81
rod allotment (whether this was the same land as the 1803 lease, or an adjoining or nearby
allotment is not clear); some details contributed by J.R. Richards and G. O’Hagan, author of a
booklet titled: “The Jewel Beyond the Sea: the Life and Times of Elizabeth Needham, 1762 to
1825 (Melbourne, 1991).

Convict Changes History

Merilyn Pedrick on 19th January, 2013 made the following changes:

gender, occupation

Denis Pember on 22nd October, 2016 made the following changes:

date of birth: 1773 (prev. 0000), date of death: 23rd February, 1810 (prev. 0000), crime

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