LAST MODIFIED Sunday 15 October 2017 11:09

Piper family and Captain Piper's Band

Dr GRAEME SKINNER (University of Sydney)


To cite this:

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney), "Piper family and Captain Piper's Band", Australharmony (an online resource toward the history of music and musicians in colonial and early Federation Australia):; accessed 18 August 2018

PIPER, John (Captain PIPER)

Patron of music, private employer of musicians

Born Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland, 20 April 1773
Arrived Sydney, NSW, February 1792 (ensign per Pitt)
Died Westbourne, Macquarie River district, NSW, 8 June 1851 (NLA persistent identifier)

See on Captain Piper's Band:'s+Band (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)

PIPER, Mary Ann (Mrs. John PIPER)

Cellist ? (unlikely)

PIPER, Ann Christiana Frances

Amateur dancer, dance instructor

Born Sydney, NSW, 24 June 1820
Active Bathurst, NSW, 1840s
Died St. Leonards, NSW, 4 November 1890



"Sydney", The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (9 November 1816), 2 

On Saturday last a large party of Officers and other Gentlemen, accompanied by a number of Ladies, proceeded by water to Elizabeth Point, near to South Head, at the invitation of Captain Piper, who gave an elegant fete champêtre on the occasion of laying the foundation of his intended building on that beautiful and commanding point; to which the Gentlemen proceeded in Masonic order. The company took water at the Governor's Wharf, about 12 o'clock, in barges and other boats handsomely decorated; - the full Band of the 46th Regiment leading, with agreeable and appropriate airs. At half past one they landed on Elizabeth Point, when the procession commenced, and the ceremony of laying the foundation stone being performed, an elegant cold collation was presented to the company; which separated at a late hour in the evening.

Communication of Lodge No. 227 to the Grand Lodge of Ireland, 14 February 1817 (ed. in Karl R. Cramp and George Mackaness, A history of the United Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of New South Wales (Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1938), vol. 1, 22-23; 28-30

From this the full colour of the day is apparent, the boats bearing Piper's guests and Masonic brethren making their way up the harbour, passing the merchant ship Willerly, commanded by a fellow Mason who fired seven guns as a salute, and the members retiring to a secluded spot upon landing and opening the lodge. The Masonic procession was led by Brother Hetherington as Junior Tyler and closed by Brother Drummond as Senior Tyler. Each of the thirty-two Masons present carried a symbol of Masonry, including the corn, oil and wine that were ceremoniously poured over the foundation stone. The band played Pleyel's "German Hymn", "The Hallelujah Hymn" and "God Save The King". The Bible used at the ceremony is reputed to have been the West Bible on which George Washington was obligated.

Elizabeth Macquarie, letter to Mary Ann Piper, 9 February 1822 (ed. Eldershaw 1939/73, 123))

I have to request your and Captain Piper's acceptance of a violoncello, which I hope will be found to sound well in your house at Point Piper.

George Boyes, letter to Mary Boyes, 6 May 1824; Chapman 1985, 189

... Captn. Piper is the Naval Officer here ... He lives in a handsome house just after you enter Port Jackson ... there is nothing like it in the Colony. He laid out immense sums upon the place and making roads to it - and no expence whatever has been spared, I am told, to ornament this Fairy Palace. He keeps an immense establishment - they say he has upwards of a hundred men employed about him. He does things properly - for he sends carriages and four and boats for those who like the water, and returns his guests to their homes in [190] the same manner. He keeps a band of Music and they have quadrilles every evening under the spacious verandas that surround the house. At the table there is a vast profusion of every luxury that the four quarters of the globe can supply, for your must know that this fifth or pickpocket quarter contributes nothing of itself. I was invited but declined. There is no honor in dining with Piper, for he invites everybody that comes her indiscriminately ...

Journal de la navigation autour du globe de la fregate La Thetis, et de la corvette L'esperance pendant les annees 1824, 1825 et 1826 par M. le baron de Bougainville (Paris: A. Bertrand, 1837), 538 

[September 1825] ... Le bon capitaine Piper ne se montra pasle moins empressé, comme on pense bien, et sa musique et sa petite artillerie nous saluèrent au passage, ainsi qu'elles l'avaient fait le jour de notre arrivée. J'y répondis cette fois par le canon de la frégate, et de la terre comme de nos vaisseaux, s'échangèrent trois houras qui firent bruyamment vibrer les échos de Rose-Bay.

Hyacinthe de Bougainville, journal, July 1825 (translation Dyer 2009, (133) 134)

[Dinner at Henrietta Villa] Captain Piper has a large family. We were served an English dinner and a very sumptuous one at that. An abundance of wine was served as soon as were sat down, but we were given small portions of food. The coffee was dreadful, but the music was excellent. A number of toasts were proposed ... Then there was a family dance; I did my best out of politeness, and in the end I enjoyed myself ... At 9.30 we returned to the ship in my skiff ...

"CAPTAIN PIPER", Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser (18 May 1827), 3

CAPTAIN PIPER. The circumstances attendant upon the removal of office upon this Gentleman, are singular and afflicting. He was aware, for some days before the Deficit in his accounts became known, that such existed. The amount was between twelve and thirteen thousand pounds. Had he communicated the fact to his friends, the money would have been, without difficulty, advanced for him. Mr. Wentworth would not have hesitated to have paid it instantly, but Captain Piper withheld from every one the state of his accounts. On the morning preceding the day when he was to settle them, he invited a few intimate friends to dinner at his beautiful seat, about five miles from Sydney down the harbour. In the evening he ordered his boat, stating that he was obliged to be absent for a short time upon some matter of public duty connected with the Light-house. He ordered his band of music to accompany him. There was a very strong breeze, and he carried and he carried his boat under sail between the Heads, where, while she was going with much velocity through the water, he suddenly threw himself overboard! One of the men instantly jumped after him, and succeeded in keeping him above water until the boat was pulled round, and the men drew them both on board, Captain Piper senseless, and the brave fellow who had thus nearly sacrificed his own life to save that of his master, nearly exhausted. They returned home immediately, and the scene which ensued when the above circumstances were made known to his afflicted, large, and interesting family, can better conceived than described. Previous to his departure in the boat in the boat, he had dispatched a letter to Mr. Balcombe, the Colonial Treasurer, which evidently shewed the inward perturbation, of his mind, if not the disordered state of his intellect. He therein communicated the defalcation which existed in his accounts, and his determination to destroy himself; but he added, that he had taken effectual means to prevent his mortal remains being subjected to exposure before a Coroner's in quest - evidently alluding to the means of death on which he had determined. Ten thousand pounds of the deficit have been paid, and it is understood that the remainder will be forthcoming without delay, and that a large property will yet remain. This event has been witnessed by the whole Australian Public with the deepest regret, for no man was more generally beloved, by all classes, than the unfortunate, but generous Captain Piper.

[Advertisement], The Australian (25 May 1827), 1

BY MR. PAUL, At Point Piper, on Monday the 4th of June, and following days, ALL THE GENUINE ELEGANT FURNITURE and other valuable effects ... a fine tone cabinet piano ...

"VERSES", The Australian (22 June 1827), 3

VERSES Written by a Lady in passing through the house of Point Piper, after the retirement of Captain Piper from that seat of hospitality.
[Tune - The harp that once through Tara's halls]

The band which once through Piper's halls,
The soul of music shed;
No longer sounds through Piper's walls,
As if that soul was fled.

So sleeps the pride of former days,
So friendship's thrill is o'er,
And hearts that once beat high for praise,
Now feel that pulse no more.

No more the lads and lasses bright,
On tiptoe now rejoice,
Since Piper left, there's nought but night,
And dreary is the choice.

Thus friendship now so seldom wakes,
The faithful knot to give;
But all his friends, for Piper's sake,
Exclaim - "may he for ever live."

[Advertisement], The Australian (8 August 1827), 4 

AT MR. BODENHAM'S; TO BE RAFFLED FOR - A MOST CELEBRATED Piano Forte, well, known to the Fashionable World, at Point Piper, forty chances, at two pounds sterling each; chance money to be paid before throwing. One respectable person to throw for absentees.

"CAPTAIN PIPER ...", The Monitor (4 October 1827), 8 

CAPTAIN PIPER, the promoter of harmony and good fellowship whereever he goes, is at last firmly fixed on his estate at Bathurst. His bugles, which accompanied the last waggon of furniture, struck up as they were passing the Blue Mountains, the lively tune of "Over the hills and far away," to the great delight of the drivers of all the carts and drays they met with on the road. "The Bathurst Hunt" will now we think no longer languish.

"THE THEATRE", The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (11 June 1835), 2 

On Monday evening an unusually crowded audience assembled to witness the performance, and to welcome the return of Captain Piper to town, who, agreeably to advertisement, honoured the theatre with his presence on that night. The worthy Captain, whoso general hospitality, and liberal patronage of every thing in times gone by that tended to "advance Australia," entitle him to the flattering appellation of the Maecenas of this rapidly rising, though infant Empire of the South, was greeted on his entrance into the house with the most enthusiastic cheering - thereby proving that, although the gallant gentleman has ceased to live in the capital of the colony for the last eight or nine years, his many acts of public benefit and of private benevolence are gratefully cherished in the remembrance of the "old hands" of Sydney. The orchestra struck up "See the conquering Hero comes;" and Captain Piper, in the fullness of heart occasioned, no doubt, by the cordial welcome he met from his fellow-colonists, shortly addressed the audience, thanking them for the feeling of kindness they had manifested towards him, and assuring them that it should remain indelibly impressed on his mind to the latest moment of his existence ...

John Dunmore Lang, An historical and statistical account of New South Wales ... volume 1 (London: A. J. Valpy, 1837), 123 

... Several of the more respectable wool-growing settlers in the Bathurst district can afford to run carriages or curricles of their own; but the expense of maintaining an equipage in New South Wales is much less than in England. This of course gives the plains rather a brilliant appearance - very different I apprehend from that of most of the back-settlements of Upper Canada; and the cottages of some of the settlers (for such is the general style of building in the interior) would do credit to some of the more tasteful suburbs of the British metropolis. I was particularly struck with the admirable taste and even elegance displayed in the cottage and grounds of Captain Piper, a Scotch gentleman from Ayrshire, well-known in the colony, who has resided with his large family for several years past in the Australian Highlands. Captain Piper's cottage is situated on a gentle eminence to the eastward of the plains, over which it commands an extensive and highly interesting view; the prospect in front being bounded in the distance by a range of hills of moderate elevation in the western interior: indeed I do not know, that "the banks an' braes o' bonnie Doun," the well-known classical locality in the west of Scotland, so beautifully celebrated in the Doric dialect of Ayrshire by the poet Burns, can exhibit features more interesting or more beautiful than those of the Australian locality which Captain Piper has named after it [Alloway Bank] to keep it in remembrance. I spent an afternoon at Captain Piper's during my visit to Bathurst, and I was much gratified to find that the evening oblation was offered up with all due solemnity, in the midst of a numerous family circle, on the going down of the sun. Shortly afterwards, when we were just about taking leave, to pursue our course across the plains to our head-quarters in the clear moonlight, a musical band, consisting entirely of a few of the farm-servants, who had each learned to play on some musical instrument, struck up a lively Scottish air under the verandah, which, I confess, was, on my own part at least, equally unexpected and animating ...

"MARRIED", Launceston Advertiser (30 March 1843), 2

"Reading for the Bush", Bathurst Advocate (21 April 1849), 4

"DEATH OF AN OLD COLONIST", Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (14 June 1851), 2 

"L.W.: Fifty Years a Dancing Teacher in Sydney", Australian Town and Country Journal (12 July 1905), 29

When the polka first became fashionable, it was a little short jog, to "Pop goes the Weasle." Miss Piper, the daughter of Captain Piper, of the Point named after him, first introduced it in Bathurst, where she taught the young officers stationed there.

Bibliography and resources:

Meredith 1844, 90 

IT savours strongly of an Irishism to say so, but the chief inhabitants of Bathurst live at some distance from it; many of the wealthy, and also higher class of settlers, having farms and good residences within a few miles, which renders the society superior to that of Colonial settlements in general. Nearly all are situated on the verge of the plains, combining both the flat and hilly country in their surrounding scenery, and their gardens and vineyards, which at the time we were there were slowly recovering their former verdure and luxuriance, seemed morsels of a brighter world, when compared with the arid waste around the township. Among these the pretty and picturesque residence of our good and venerable friend Captain Piper is as much distinguished by its beautiful situation as by the long-proved worth and hospitality of its owner, than whom I heard of no person in New South Wales more universally respected. Hospitality is so general a feature in Australian society, and I remember with so much pleasure the kind attentions which I, as a "stranger in the land," received for my husband's sake, that only a very remarkable preeminence would induce me to break my prescribed rule of abstaining from all personal allusions in these pages.

Marjorie Barnard Eldershaw, The life and times of captain John Piper (Sydney: Australian Limited Editions Society, 1939; Ure Smith, 1973)

Marjorie Barnard, "Piper, John (1773-1851)", Australian dictionary of biography 2 (1967)


Captain Piper's Band of Music

© Graeme Skinner 2014 - 2018