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William Dring (bef. 1767)

William Dring
Born before in South Shields, County Durham, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married 5 Nov 1791 (to about 1797) in Norfolk Islandmap
Descendants descendants
Died [date unknown] [location unknown]
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Profile last modified | Created 21 Nov 2010
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Australian 1788
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William Dring was a convict on the First Fleet.

William Dring was baptised on 28 December 1767 at South Shields, County Durham, England, parents William and Elizabeth Dring (see research by Lynne McDonald in Research Notes below).[1]

William Dring was tried at the Quarter Sessions, at Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire on 7 October 1784 for theft of clothes, brandy and other goods.

The sessions book has the following information:[2]

“A True Bill against Wiliam Dring, Joseph Robinson 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 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 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 Pleaded Guilty to the last mentioned Indictment found against them and the said John Hastings Not Guilty.
“The aforesaid William Dring and Joseph Robinson were Sentenced to be Transported beyond the Seas for Seven Years.”

He was sentenced to transportation for 7 years and was sent to the Ceres hulk on 15 April 1785, his age recorded as 17. On 2 December a petition on his behalf said he had hoped by confession to receive a lighter sentence, and blamed persuasion by two men who had escaped.[3] William Chaytor, Member of Parliament of North Yorkshire wrote on behalf of constituents in Hedon, that William was "born to the sea and Captain Taylor being of good character would employ him for the term of his sentence".[4] However, a pardon was refused, and William was transferred to the Alexander on 6 January 1787. He had no occupation recorded.

The Alexander left England on 13 May 1787, arriving at Port Jackson in January 1788 as part of the First Fleet.[5][6]

Governor Phillip sent a party of officials, marines and convicts to settle Norfolk Island in October 1788 and Dring was one of those sent on the Golden Grove.

On 11 May 1789 he received 3 dozen lashes for being absent from the settlement without permission.[3]

On 22 March 1790 Dring and another convict James Branegan, 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 did so but stayed on board, got drunk, and started a fire on board. Eventually the convict John Arscott swam out, boarded the wreck and sent them off. Dring spent time in the guard-house, where he was confined in irons for two months until 18 May, then released to his own hut, but still in irons.[3]

On 14 May 1791, for stealing potatoes from gardens, William Dring, Charles McLaughlin and Henry Barnet, were sent in irons to Nepean Island. They were provided with only two weeks rations to last for six weeks. They were brought back after four weeks on 12 June, one very ill, but Dring remained under confinement. Ralph Clark called him "the greatest Rascall living".[3]

In October 1791 his sentence expired and he was a free man.

William Dring and Ann Forbes were probably one of the couples married on 5 November 1791 by Reverend Richard Johnson when he visited Norfolk Island. According to Lieutenant Governor Phillip Gidley King's Journal, "Several of the Settlers requested my permission to marry some of the best-behaved female convicts; As the Rev. Mr Johnson, Chaplain to the Territory came here in the Atlantic, I requested him to marry them; Upwards of one Hundred Couples were married in the course of three Days". No records for these marriages have survived.

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.[3] By that time he was working as a coxswain on the island.

Lieutenant Governor King later wrote that he "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".[3]

Dring was subjected to abuse by the rowdy NSW Corps soldiers recently arrived at Norfolk Island, In October 1793 he was goaded into striking private Charles Windsor who had continuously forced attentions on his wife even after having been warned to keep away from her. Though the soldier was court martialled and King's sympathies were clearly with Dring, he was nevertheless fined 20s., for the use of the school and confined until security was given for continued good behaviour towards the soldier for twelve months.[3] However it appears that Ann was complicit in her meetings with Windsor and Lieutenant Governor King later wrote that William had "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 acknowledged to have struck the Soldier".[7]

On Christmas Eve 1793, another dispute broke out between Private Baker and Smith, a neighbour of Dring’s who had provided the security for Dring following his conviction for assaulting Private Windsor. This continued the next day when two other soldiers, Downey and Cardell went looking for Smith but found Dring instead, which was later described by King:[8]

“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”.

On 27 December 1793 King recorded that 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”. 

There were several incidents involving NSW Corps soldiers, culminating in a "mutiny" of some of the soldiers on 18 January 1794 when they refused to lay down their arms, and ten of them were put in the guard-house. Lieutenant Governor King and the NSW Corps officers resorted to having the soldiers' arms seized while they were sent to other parts of the island (including Nepean Island where they were ordered to gather feathers). King's handling of the situation angered Lieutenant Governor Grose in Sydney, and he and King both wrote letters to the Right Honorable Henry Dundas, Chief Secretary of State, in London.[7]

William, Ann and their two daughters Ann and Elizabeth returned to Sydney Cove on the Daeldus in November 1794. Their daughter Ann died in January 1795 and a son Charles was baptised in August 1796.[4]

It appears that William Dring was either dead or had left the colony by the time his wife Ann had taken up with Thomas Huxley before 1798.[4] He may have left on a whaling ship.[9]

Research Notes


Hi LIndsay, William Dring's parents were not Luke and Sarah. He was born in South Shields on 28th December 1767 to William Dring and Elizabeth Harrison. I have a copy of his birth registration from the Church records of St Hilda's Church in South Shields. I also have a copy of the Marriage of William and Elizabeth for August 1766. His father was a Clerk of Customs in Hedon where his father owned the New Sun Inn from which the House of Customs was run. His brother Thomas was a Clerk of Customs in Patringham returning to Hedon William died in 1779. William, at the age of 16 was a 'Tidesman' he went aboard the ships to collect the excise. I have a copy of a certificate stating that he had taken communion in the Holy Trinity Church in Hull that was produced at his trial probably to show good character. This certificate states this occupation. I also have a copy of the letter written by MP William Chaytor which proves that William was a member of the family in Hedon. He states that he writing to ask for clemency for William, ( he describes the items stolen by William proving that he is writing about our William) and states that he is writing on behalf of his constituents of Hedon. I have copies of all his court documents from Hull History Centre. As I have documentary proof that I am correct with his parentage.


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Please direct any questions about the DNA analysis or any DNA confirmation data to Veronica Williams 21:37, 10 September 2019 (UTC)


  1. "England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975", database, FamilySearch ( : 20 September 2020), William Dring, Baptism Date: 28 Dec 1767. Transcript only.
  2. Guildhall, Kingston upon Hull, Sessions Book 1766-88,folios 187, 188 and 189, cited in Cobley, John, The Crimes of the First Fleet Convicts, 1970, p.80.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet (1989), pp. 108-09.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Lynne McDonald (2017). "William Dring". Fellowship of First Fleeters. Accessed 6 February 2022.
  5. New South Wales, Australia, Settler and Convict Lists, 1787-1834 New South Wales, Convicts embarked 1787 Ancestry Sharing Link - Ancestry Record 1183 #12831
  6. New South Wales, Australia, Convict Indents, 1788-1842 for William Dring, Alphabetical List of Convicts on Transports 1788-1800 (Surnames Dar - Hughes, C) Ancestry Sharing Link - Ancestry Record 2024 #1716
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hazzard, Margaret. Punishment Short of Death : A History of the Penal Settlement at Norfolk Island. Melbourne: Hyland House, 1984. pp. 48 - 51.
  8. Eric Harry Daly, Community Contribution, "William Dring", Convict Records database accessed 6 February 2022.
  9. 'Dring, William (1767–?)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 6 February 2022.

See also:


Thanks to the following profile managers for contributing to this profile, Lynne McDonald, John Hunter, Linda Renolds and Suzie Sheridan.

Memories: 2
Enter a personal reminiscence or story.
This is my latest research on William Dring. It is rather long but please read to the end especially about why I can no longer say that his parents were definitely William and Elizabeth.

They were just names on a page - William Dring and Ann Forbes. That's all, just names.  

I wanted to know how they lived; I wanted to know about the families they left behind; and as close as possible I wanted to know who they were. Documents can only tell you so much. They can explain where they were at any one time but not who they were.

A story has to be pieced together by interpreting many documents; interpreting the situation and the society from which they came — the times in which they lived.

Documents are objective, the bones. Interpreting the documents brings evidence, the flesh, and it is from this flesh the story of my family shall take shape.

In previous article ‘Additional information on the Lineage of William Dring’, I have told a story of how my interpretation of the evidence was no longer viable. I was challenged by a colleague Debbie Connolly about the evidence I presented on William Dring and I agree she was correct. My interpretation had a flaw, the evidence was only circumstantial, I had to change my mind. I want my story to be correct. The flaws in my interpretation are as follows:

1. William was born somewhere between 1767 and 1769 we know this because of a document written by William Chaytor MP, Member for Yorkshire. He wrote a letter of clemency in March 1786 and in this letter he states that William was ‘about seventeen’. However, he states that William’s crime was tried in 1784. Therefore, do I interpret this as saying William was ‘about seventeen’ in 1786 or 1784. I do not know and this is part of the problem of finding the correct date for when William was born and of course, his parents.

2. We know William Dring came from Hedon as William Chaytor states in the letter of clemency — he wrote it for, ‘his constituents at Hedon' and yet William’s court records say he was of ‘Kingston upon Hull.’

There could be two reasons why William moved from Hedon to Hull. Firstly, they may have moved to Hull as a result of the Haven of Hedon silting up and therefore boats could no longer be unloaded in Hedon, plus the new docklands had been built in Hull in 1774/5. Secondly, William, Clerk of Customs died in Hedon in 1779, and his widow Elizabeth, remarried John Bedell of Hull.

William Dring Senior was according to his Will, a Clerk of Customs and an Innkeeper (The New Sun Inn); his brother Thomas Dring, also of Hedon was, according to his marriage certificate, a ‘Sailor’ and later a ‘Mariner'. I have always believed they were William’s father and uncle. John Bedell was also a Clerk of Customs and an Innkeeper.

William Chaytor, states in his letter of clemency that William was ‘Bred to the sea service’. My interpretation of this quote is that William was born into a family where being a Mariner was part of family life.

So, William had begun following this family occupation. He was a ‘Tidesman’ or ‘Tidewaiter’. The document below was in the packet of court documents I received from the Hull History Centre. It states that he took the Sacrament on the 28th September 1783.

Transcription of the said Document We Thomas Clarke, Vicar, and Henry Denton Church Warden of the Parifh(sic) and Parifh(sic) of the Holy Trinity of the Town of Kingfton upon Hull, Do hereby certify, That

William Dring Tidesman at the Port of Hull

did (on the Lord’s Day, commonly called Sunday, being twenty eighth Day of September in the Year of One Thoufand Seven Hundred and eighty three immediately after Divine Service on that that Day aforefaid, and in the aforefaid Church) receive the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, according to the usage of the Church of England.

Witness Thomas Clarke Minister William Pratt Thomas Littlewood Henry Denton Church Warden

Sessions 8th October 1783.

Tidesmen were Customs Clerks. They had to be well versed in the working of the tides. It is a position of trust and importance. I have had it suggested to me that William was too young for this position. My thoughts on this are that his father, as a Clerk of Customs, had taken William as an apprentice from as young as eight. There is no record of an apprenticeship but this is not unusual as a father — son apprenticeship was, in those times allowed to be unofficial. This is another reason I believe William is the son of William Dring the Clerk of Customs.

The Sacrament Certificate above was a requirement of being accepted into a position in Customs. As a government position, this certificate was a requirement to prove that he was not a Catholic. Catholics were prohibited from working in Government positions.

Two definitions of “Tideswaiter/Tidesman,” member of the Customs Office are transcribed below.

Definition of a Tidewaiter/Tidesman

An inferior officer belonging to the Custom House, whose employment is to watch or attend upon this until the customs be paid: they derive their name from their going on board ships on their arrival in the mouth of the Thames or other ports, and so come up with the tide.

Definition of a Tidesman and Landing Waiter.

The Landing Waiter, upon receiving the Warrant, fends to the Tidefman who has the Charge of the Ship an Order fpecifying the Marks of Thofe Packages or Casfs defcribed in the Warrant which he is to deliver out; these Goods are in Confequence of that Order brought on Shore, in the Charge of fome Tidefman. The Landing Waiter attends to the Landing of the Goods, and enters in an Official Book, under the Entry of the Warrant, the Marks, Number, Weight, or Meafure of the Goods as they are landed.

Who are his parents?

In my other article on William’s lineage I stated that this cannot be proven. I intend to show why we cannot prove it now.

As explained above he came from a seafaring/customs background. The Dring families of Hedon and Hull were Mariners. Not all going to sea but working in related positions in Customs who were considered Mariners.

1. As previously stated, William Dring Senior was a Clerk of Customs/Mariner and his brother, Thomas a Sailor/ Mariner. Their father, Thomas Dring, was a Weaver and then Innkeeper. In 1763, when his father, died, William Senior inherited the Inn, and he ran the House of Customs from the Inn until his death in 1779. Historically, the Industrial Revolution was seriously beginning to effect the trades of the day, especially Weaving. (more of this in another article.)

2. Draper Dring b.1744 — Hedon: occupation in 1791 Clerk of Customs — Deputy Searcher and Robert Dring, his brother, b.1746 — Hedon — Deputy Controller Bridlington and Riding Officer Patrington. Their father Francis Dring was a Shoemaker

3. William Dring b.1752 — Hedon — Mariner as per birth certificate of Sarah Dring b.1770 and his death certificate in 1822. His father, Nicholas Dring was a Carrier and brother to Francis the Shoemaker. Therefore this William, Draper and Robert were first cousins. William, Clerk of Customs son of Thomas who was an uncle to Francis the shoemaker, therefore he too was a cousin of Draper and Robert, making my William very much born into a seafaring/Mariner family.

Here begins the confusion:- A William Dring, was married in 1767 to Jane Potter in Kirby, Yorkshire. Kirby is a long way from Hedon and there is a large family of Drings in Whitby (a large port at the time is much closer to Kirkby) and it makes sense that this marriage is a William Dring of Whitby. This marriage cannot be William b.1752. It has been bought to my attention by my friend Barbara Parker that he was only 15 years of age at the time of the marriage — too young. However, because of the date of the marriage I cannot discard it entirely. The birth record of a Sarah Dring b.1770 states that her father was William Dring/Mariner. Therefore she could be the daughter of 1. William Dring, Clerk of Customs/Mariner or 3. William Dring, Mariner even though there is no marriage record. I cannot tell which William Dring is her father. There are no mother’s name on the baptisms. There is also another William Dring who married an Elizabeth Dring in 1768 in Hull. There are no records of any births for this couple. The indenture of a William Dring as an apprentice to William Standidge a boat builder in 1777/8 is yet another complication. There are two documents.

Transcription of copy of original Document Samuel Standidge Ship Owner and Burgefs the first day of June 1778 and shows and Indenture dated the same day Where by it appears that William Dring son of William Dring of Kingston upon Hull deceased is bound apprentice to the said Samuel Standidge for Seven Years from the date of the said Indenture and Witnefs is W Brumby Merchant

I have considered that this event may have been my William Dring however:-

He would only be 8/10 years old and therefore a little young for an official apprenticeship which usually began at aged 12 The indenture papers state that his father, also William, was deceased. The only death of a William Dring in Hull and/or Hedon was in 1779 which is the Clerk of Customs previously mentioned. Therefore I believe this apprenticeship is unlikely to be my William whether he is a child of the marriage in 1768 in Hull or the marriage in 1788 in South Shields. They are both too young to enter into an apprenticeship. The death of the father as mentioned in the documents also causes issues as there is no record of a death of a William Dring between 1768 and 1778.

4. The marriage and birth in South Shields which, for many years now, I have believed was my William. I continue to believe it remains the most probable.

Transcriptions of Parish Records of St Hilda’s Church South Shields. William Dring and Elizabeth Harrison married in St Hilda’s Church on the 4th August 1766.

William Dring son of William Dring and Elizabeth baptised in St Hilda’s Church 28th December, 1767.

The fact that I cannot find a letter or document to show that William Dring of Hedon, Clerk of Customs, went from Hedon to South Shields and returned to Hedon is frustrating. I have scoured the available documents to no avail. I have written to the UK Archives; the South Shields Maritime Museum, and the Hull History Centre and nothing has been forth coming. Perhaps one day something will come to light when new documents have become available. Well lets hope so anyway. My disappointment is profound and I hope that one day I will be proven correct.

posted 17 Jan 2018 by Lynne (Morris) McDonald MS   [thank Lynne]
First Fleet convict. William Dring was tried at Kingston upon Hull, Yorkshire on 7 Ocotber 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 and 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.
posted 30 Aug 2011 by Lindsay Foot
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I have added to the biography for the Australia Project. Please contact me privately if you have any questions.

regards, Heather

posted by Heather Stevens
I have posted remarks in the past which state that I was correct with William's lineage but I am writing today to say that after 6 years of research I now have to admit that whilst the evidence we have of William Parents and birth are very strong it is still only circumstantial.
    • That there is NO other William Dring born with any connection to Hedon or Hull who is the correct age we have accepted that it is 99% correct.**

The problem is that the events which took William Dring Clerk of Customs from Hedon to South Shields circa 1760 and returning to Hedon in 1768/9 is circumstantial. There has been no documentation found as yet, at this time to prove it to be so but the search will continue.

Therefore William Dring's lineage can only be said to be highly probable. Regards Lynne

Over the last 3 to 4 years I have been researching the family into which William Dring was born and I have found that some facts here are now not necessarily 100% correct.

In the last 3 months I have enlisted the help of a colleague Debbie Connolly of Hull and we have ascertained that the evidence we have of his parents and birth are strong!

  • That there is NO other William Dring born with any connection to Hedon or Hull who is the correct age so we have accepted that it is most probably 99% correct.

However, the events that took William Senior from Hedon to South Shields circa 1760 and returning to Hedon in 1768/9 are circumstantial.

They can neither be proven nor disproven. Publication of all information will be forthcoming in the not too distant future. Lynne & Debbie

Dring-89 and Dring-3 appear to represent the same person because: Same spouse and child

Rejected matches › William Dring (1740-1779)

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