Captain John and Mary Piper - Convicts daughter marries wealthy pioneer


Captain John Piper Mrs Piper & children


Captain John Piper was born in Maybole, Scotland in 1773. As a teenager he joined the New South Wales Corps and arrived in Sydney, Australia in 1792. At age 30 he became Assistant Commandant of the remote Norfolk Island off Australia's east coast. In this capacity it appears that he fathered around 5 children to at least 3 different convicts daughters. But Captain Piper fell in love with one of these convicts daughters named Mary Ann Sheers. In 1811 he returned to England and resigned from the Army. He was then appointed Sydney's Senior Naval Officer and returned to Australia. There he married Mary.

Captain Pipers new appointment proved very lucrative as he received a 5% commission of the thriving ports takings. Coupled with his land grants and also becoming Chairman of the Bank of New South Wales, Captain Piper became one of the weathiest men in Australia. He owned about 2500 acres (1200 ha) in what are today some of Sydney's most exclusive suburbs. He built the finest private residence that Sydney had seen called Henrietta Villa on some of the best land on Sydneys beautiful harbour. This land was later named Point Piper. Mary became a society Queen and entertained all of the distinguished people of the town with lavish parties.

But Captain Piper was a bit reckless with his fortune. He extended too much credit to traders and approved huge loans with low security to his friends. In 1825 he was investigated for financial negligence and was forced to pay back the money owed to the Commonwealth and his creditors. This was too much for poor Captain Piper who ordered his boat to be sailed out into the heads of the harbour where he promptly jumped overboard! Fortunately he was pulled back on board by one of the crew and though unconcious was able to be revived. In 1843 he was declared insolvent and they retired to a small farm in the country town of Bathurst which had been placed in trust for their children. There they lived out their days.

Captain Piper died on 8th June 1851 Age 78 and his wife Mary died at Age 83. They are interred at Bathurst cemetery. Together they had 13 children. Their story is one of two special people who were part of the interesting makeup of early Australia. In 2013 a property at Point Piper was reportedly sold for an Australian record of $52 million.

Click here to see some quotes about Captain Piper


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Woollahra Local History                                       Australian Biographical Dictionary

Ivory Miniture Painting                                                 Captain Pipers Family Tree

Mary's father's trial                                                               Mary's mother's trial