Driscoll, Cornelius (1782 - 1847)

Birth:
  • 1782, England
Death:
  • 25 December 1847, Hobart Town (Hobart), Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), Australia
Cultural Heritage:
  • English
  • Irish
Religious Influence:
  • Catholic
Occupation:
  • banker
  • convict administrator
  • Member of Upper House
  • public servant

DRISCOLL, CORNELIUS (1782-1847), public servant and banker, was born in England of an Irish family, kinsmen of Daniel O'Connell. He went into business in London and 'on the loss of a brilliant fortune' in 1830 decided to emigrate, at the instance of his brother Terence O'Driscoll who, after retirement from the Indian army with a few thousand pounds, had applied for a maximum land grant in Van Diemen's Land, but died on the passage there in August 1830. A year later Cornelius arrived at Hobart Town in the Vibilia. He was recommended by the Colonial Office for help in finding a post in a mercantile house, but he asked Lieutenant-Governor Sir George Arthur for a government position instead. In March 1832 he was appointed to the colonial secretary's office as a clerk at a salary of £300 and became chief clerk in March 1834. He also acted as assistant police magistrate. Although praised by Arthur for his correct and zealous conduct, he failed to obtain a salary increase, and in January 1835 appealed to the Colonial Office as his brother's legatee for the land grant asked for in 1830. When this appeal failed he bought 980 acres (397 ha) in the Sorell district, and 800 (324 ha) at Pembroke in 1838-39.

In January 1836 Driscoll complained that overwork was undermining his health and applied for a less arduous post. Arthur appointed him a stipendiary member of the board for the assignment of convicts. Driscoll resigned this office in September 1838 to become manager of the Hobart branch of the Union Bank of Australia at a salary of £500, with a house. Next year he left this position and in July 1840 became a founding director and first manager of the Colonial Bank. It started at a time of great financial difficulty and although Driscoll won a small share of the government account, the bank was forced to close in December 1843 through the internal dissension of its shareholders. Contrary to general expectation nearly all the subscribed capital was realized and Driscoll obtained the confidence of the public for his integrity and ability. In January 1845 he became an original trustee of the Hobart Savings Bank.

In 1844 Driscoll refused nomination to the Legislative Council but in December 1845 the offer was renewed after the Patriotic Six walked out of the council. Knowing that he risked unpopularity, Driscoll accepted from a sense of public duty, and next year he also joined the commission for building Bridgewater bridge. In March 1847 Lieutenant-Governor Sir William Denison reinstated the Patriotic Six in place of the loyalists, and in a long and angry letter Driscoll charged him with discourtesy, ingratitude and a breach of the law. His remonstrance caused deep concern at the Colonial Office, but a soothing reply reached Hobart after Driscoll had resigned all his public positions through ill health. He died at his home in Warwick Street, Hobart, on 25 December 1847. At his funeral service in St Joseph's Church which he had helped to build, Bishop Robert Willson spoke of the church's great loss. By his will most of Driscoll's estate was divided between his two daughters and the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and Van Diemen's Land, and by a specific bequest for the education of priests he became the first in Tasmania to make provision for missionary work in the island colony.

Driscoll's death left one score unsettled. In 1846 he had written to the lieutenant-governor of Guernsey seeking news of Captain Feast, with whom his brother had contracted a debt of £27 while smuggling brandy and tobacco to Ireland in 1806. A needy descendant was traced, but the information reached Hobart too late.

Select Bibliography

S. J. Butlin, Foundations of the Australian Monetary System, 1788-1851 (Melb, 1953); correspondence file under Driscoll (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Author: Ella K. Mulcahy

Print Publication Details: Ella K. Mulcahy, 'Driscoll, Cornelius (1782 - 1847)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, Melbourne University Press, 1966, pp 323-324.

Ella K. Mulcahy, 'Driscoll, Cornelius (1782 - 1847)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition,
Copyright 2006, updated continuously, ISSN 1833-7538, published by Australian National University
http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A010307b.htm