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The Reverend Daniel Draper (1810-1866)

Reverend Daniel DraperReverend Daniel Draper is a name well-known at Wesley College. He is remembered as one of our founders and indeed as one of the key drivers behind the idea of establishing a new Wesleyan school.  Today, Wesley acknowledges Draper’s role in many ways, but notably with a named House, classroom and of course the Draper Scholarship. 

2010 marked the 200th anniversary of his birth and 2016 marks the 150 years since his tragic death. 

Draper was born on 28 August 1810 in the parish of Wickham, Hampshire, England. Sadly, his untimely death in 1866 occurred as one of his greatest projects, the newly completed Wesley College, Melbourne, opened its doors for the first time. 

The son of a carpenter he was educated in the village school and was later apprenticed to his father. In 1830, he joined the Methodist Society at Fareham, and became a local preacher. He would spend time in Wales and, after being approached, decided to travel to Australia to continue his ministry as a fully ordained Minister. He arrived in Hobart Town in February 1836. 

Draper’s thirty years in Australia were divided between the colonies of New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria. A true Wesleyan minister he not only led boldly from pulpit, but he applied his professional skills as a builder of churches and schools. He also progressed the cause of Methodism. Draper played a key leadership role in the Methodist Church in Australia. In Victoria, he visited the goldfields and rural communities, encouraging the building of chapels. In Melbourne, Draper oversaw the construction of three large churches in bluestone in Lonsdale Street (Wesley Church), North Melbourne and St Kilda.

Education was a passionate interest of Daniel Draper. He was an advocate for the establishment of Methodist schools. However, there was debate on how education should be offered in colonial Victoria, which would see the development of a system of public and private schools. The Wesleyan conference
of the day eventually agreed to a system of education but did not, however, withdraw completely from the educational field as Walter Powell, a Melbourne merchant and Draper combined forces to establish Wesley College, Melbourne.

In January 1865, Draper was in Europe on church business where he and Powell selected Dr James Corrigan, an Irish Methodist local preacher, to be the first headmaster of Wesley College.

“On 5 January 1866 Draper and his wife boarded the SS London at Plymouth for their return journey. Caught in a fierce storm in the Bay of Biscay, the ship sank with all but seventeen of the 263 souls aboard. The survivors reported that Draper had comforted and exhorted those doomed to perish with him ‘by recommending that Pilot by Whom all might arrive safely at the Port of Heaven’.” Draper actually died on 11 January 1866, the day after the opening of Wesley College. Those assembled at the opening honoured his work, and when news of the calamity came later, nearly every Wesleyan church in the colony had a memorial service. Among the ways in which his work was commemorated were the endowment of a Draper Scholarship at Wesley College, Melbourne, the erection of the Draper Memorial Church in Adelaide, and the Daniel J Draper, a lifeboat given by British Wesleyans to the Royal National Lifeboat Association and launched at Penzance, Cornwall, in 1867.