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Sailmaker's ditty bag belonging to William Dring, made from coarse linen sailcloth.

Contains two sailmakers palms, marked "SHRIMPTONS & SONS REDDITCH"; pair of steel sailmaker's shears; an original outer of sailmaker's needles containing two packets of sail needles, the original label proclaiming "BEST FORCED Cast Steel SAIL NEEDLES, ALFRED SHRIMPTON & SONS REDDITCH, NO 14; cedar-handled steel knife, the blade deliberately truncated as was usual for sailmaker's knives; a small container of sailmakers needles; a few steel tools; five wax balls; and lastly a sailmakers whalebone thread dispenser, marked WILLIAM DRING * HULL with-in a decorative border. On the verso, a tableau scene of a whale hunt with two whalers, a sounding whale and a ship's boat and crew. Small (155mm) but a rare piece of scrimshaw.

William Dring was a sailmaker and the original compiler of the ditty bag.  A William Dring was transported for seven years to Australia for stealing clothes, brandy and other goods in company, from other sailors. He arrived in Sydney on the transport ALEXANDER with the First Fleet and was sent to Norfolk Island in October 1788. He was punished with three dozen lashes for infractions and after the wreck of the SIRIUS off Norfolk Island, was imprisoned in irons for pilfering casks of rum and setting fire to the wrecked ship. Captain Clarke of the NEW SOUTH WALES CORPS called William "the greatest rascal living". However by 1793, Phillip Gidley King the commandant of Norfolk Island noted that William had become "a well behaved and very useful freeman". He formed a relationship with Anne Forbes, (solemnised in 1791) and two daughters were born, one in 1792 and another in 1794. They left Norfolk Island in 1794 and returned to Sydney. The trail runs cold for this William after 1798 but no death is recorded. Researchers into the First Fleet transportees are generally of the opinion that he returned to sea. There is a recorded death in Sydney of a William Dring in 1845, who was a sailor on the ship WILL WATCH, active in the Pacific during this period. If this was the transportee William Dring, he would have been aged 77. The WILL WATCH was associated in transporting whale oil and whalebone and is well documented. His wife Anne remained in Sydney and other children are recorded. The knife is an important clue. The handle is of Australian cedar, stamped W D , the blade of steel deliberately truncated as was usual for sailmaker's knives. William Dring was from Hull, a port city in Yorkshire and an important whaling town. The provenance of the ditty bag is soley that it was aquired from a collector in Australia. Given the markings on the knife and the thread dispenser, the fact that it was aquired in Australia, it would not be too big a leap to suggest that the collection belonged to the transportee, William Dring. 

William Dring. Sailmaker's Ditty Bag and contents.

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