Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Drummond, John

by R. L. Wettenhall

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

John Drummond (flourished 1808-1823), public servant, was the second son of Captain Francis Pinkerton Drummond (1749-1820) of the 98th Regiment, and a descendant of William Drummond of Hawthornden, Midlothian, the celebrated seventeenth century Scottish poet and historian. He took over certain of his father's interests in Scotland by deed executed in 1808. Within the next few years he married Elizabeth, who was born in New South Wales in 1793, the eldest child of Captain Neil MacKellar of the New South Wales Corps and a convict, Sarah Cooley. To his father this was a most 'unfortunate marriage' and in 1814 Drummond was appointed Naval Officer at Hobart Town. He travelled out to Sydney with his wife and first son, John Duncan Wellington, in the Marquis of Wellington, arrived in January 1815, and moved on to Hobart in July, having been joined in Sydney by Mrs Drummond's two sisters, Isabella and Lilias McKellar.

Drummond appears to have given satisfaction in his official position in Van Diemen's Land. He was active in the suppression of smuggling, and received two land grants totalling more than 1200 acres (406 ha), though bushranging activities prevented their cultivation. He was involved in a pistol duel with Ensign Thomas Lascelles in October 1815, and was a foundation member of the Waterloo Club formed in 1816 to honour the great victory. In May 1817 he was active in trying to check the improper behaviour of Lieutenant Charles Jeffreys in the Kangaroo.

Drummond's downfall came in his domestic behaviour. An intimate association developed between him and his sister-in-law, Lilias McKellar, who was living in his household. In August 1817 Lilias bore him a child, which she allegedly murdered, whereupon he buried it. At the coroner's inquest a Hobart jury found that the child had been murdered by Lilias with aid from Drummond and a servant woman. The three were committed for trial in Sydney where, though the burial was not denied, they were acquitted of the charge of murder for want of sufficient evidence. Drummond, who had been immediately suspended from office, appealed to Governor Lachlan Macquarie for reinstatement and asked that the details of the trial be suppressed in the Sydney Gazette, since the publicity would distress his respected family in Britain. Moved to grant the latter request, Macquarie nevertheless thought that Drummond was unfit to serve the government and dismissed him in December 1817. Lilias, who was only about 20 at the time of her indiscretion, subsequently married Nathaniel Elliot in Hobart in June 1820 and died in December 1896. Mrs Drummond remained loyal to her husband throughout, though distressed by his association with her sister; she bore him a son in 1816 at Hobart, and another in 1819 at Sydney. Drummond sailed for England with his wife and sons in the Admiral Cockburn in March 1820, and settled at Addlestone, Surrey. From there he administered his Scottish interests, and when the deed of 1808 was registered in 1823 he was described as 'Sir John Francis Drummond, formerly Naval Officer at the Derwent, Van Diemen's Land'.

J. F. Drummond is not to be confused with John Drummond, a marine, who was beachmaster at Norfolk Island in 1796-1812 and then lived near Sydney on a small pension.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 8-9, series 3, vol 2
  • M. Hookey (ed), Bobby Knopwood and His Times (Hob, 1929)
  • manuscript catalogue under John Drummond (State Library of New South Wales)
  • correspondence file under John Drummond (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

R. L. Wettenhall, 'Drummond, John (?–?)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/drummond-john-1996/text2409, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 14 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

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