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White, Robert Hoddle Driberg (1838–1900)

by John Atchison

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Robert Hoddle Driberg White (1838-1900), bank manager and politician, was born on 19 May 1838 at Stroud, New South Wales, elder son of James Charles White and his wife Sarah Elizabeth (d.1843), only child of Robert Hoddle and his first wife Mary (d.1862), née Staton. He spent 1846-49 with his Hoddle grandparents in Melbourne before going to school in Sydney.

In 1857 White became a junior clerk at £120 a year in the Bank of New South Wales, Sydney. While accountant at the Deniliquin branch in March 1859 he pursued bushrangers who had stolen some £8000 from it; he recovered some of the money and acquired information which led to the arrest of William Lee, the leader. In 1860 White became agent for the bank at Toowoomba, Queensland, and in February 1862 was manager of the branch. On 2 May 1863 at St Philip's Church, Sydney, he married Eliza Jane, daughter of Rev. William Cowper.

A magistrate for Queensland from 1861, White became manager of the Rockhampton branch of the bank in April 1864. His spirited defence against five armed men at the Currie Hotel on the Gympie road on 19 April 1868 won him rewards from the Queensland government and townspeople. He became captain of the Rockhampton company of the Queensland Volunteer Rifle Brigade from September 1864. After conflict with some of his junior officers in May 1868, he reported the company for insubordination and tried to disband it; as a result Acting Surgeon Robertson challenged him to a duel; White resigned on 28 October. In March next year he returned to New South Wales as manager of the Mudgee branch of the bank. He was briefly relieving manager at Kyneton, Victoria, in 1874-75 and in 1877 opened the branch at Coonamble, New South Wales.

Living on expectations of inheriting his grandmother's property, White had run into debt through speculating; in 1869 he quarrelled with his grandfather after asking him for assistance. Learning of a deed of settlement, in August 1880 he sued Hoddle for his share of the property in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, valued at £250,000 and settled originally on Hoddle's first wife and her children but later on his second wife Fanny. White accepted a compromise of £49,000 (half the accrued rent) and half the property.

He resigned from the Bank of New South Wales on 31 December, took his wife on a visit to England and later bought Tahlee House and estate, Port Stephens, from the Australian Agricultural Co. White represented Gloucester in the Legislative Assembly in 1882-87, supporting Sir Alexander Stuart's government. A New South Wales commissioner for the exhibitions in Melbourne (1880 and 1888), Calcutta (1883) and Adelaide (1887), he was a representative commissioner for the colony at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition, London, in 1886. He was appointed to the Legislative Council on 30 December 1887, was a member of the Aborigines Protection Board from 16 February 1893 and sat on the royal commission on fisheries in 1894-95.

White was popular with miners, selectors and graziers. He was a fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute and a foundation life member of the New South Wales branch of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia. A member of the Union Club, he lived flamboyantly and his steam yacht Kingfisher graced Port Stephens and Port Jackson. He died in the Hospital for the Insane, Callan Park, Sydney, on 20 October 1900 and was buried in the Anglican section of South Head cemetery. He was survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters; his eldest daughter Lily married (Sir) William Portus Cullen. His estate was valued for probate at over £20,000.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Digby (ed), Australian Men of Mark (Syd, 1889)
  • J. L. Chadban, Stroud and the A.A. Co. (Stroud, 1970)
  • D. H. Johnson, Volunteers at Heart (Brisb, 1975)
  • R. H. Pocock, ‘James Charles White’, Descent, 5 (1971) pt 2
  • Argus (Melbourne), 3-7 Aug 1880
  • Australasian, 7, 14 Aug 1880
  • Town and Country Journal, 5 Mar 1881, 17 Mar 1888
  • Bulletin, 9 Dec 1882, 25 June 1892
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 30 Oct 1900
  • Truth (Sydney), 28 Nov 1926
  • Board minutes 1857-68, and staff registers 1868-80 (Bank of New South Wales Archives, Sydney).

Citation details

John Atchison, 'White, Robert Hoddle Driberg (1838–1900)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/white-robert-hoddle-driberg-4839/text8077, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 19 August 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

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