Daniel Draper was known as the ‘second founder’ of Wesleyan Methodism in South Australia. During his nine years of leadership in Adelaide from 1846 to 1855 membership increased ten fold. After this, he became superintendent of the Wesley church in Melbourne.
In 1865 he returned to England as a representative at the British Conference. He made arrangements to return to Australia, booking a passage on the steamship London, bound for Melbourne.
The badly overloaded ship foundered in the Bay of Biscay on 11 January 1866, and sank during a storm. There were only 19 survivors out of a total of some 239 passengers on board.
The survivors told the story of how Draper prayed on deck, urging the doomed passengers to make ‘the port of heaven’. He sang the hymn ‘Rock of Ages’ as the ship went down. He brought hope where there was no hope.
When news reached Australia of his death, friends recalled the fervour with which he had often sung the lines of Charles Wesley:
Happy, if with my latest breath
I may but gasp His name;
Preach Him to all, and cry in death;
Behold, behold the Lamb!
It was Draper’s lot to be given the opportunity to make those words a tragic reality amid the heaving waters off the coast of France.
What a way to go!
Everyman ready for glory!
Memorial to a church planter
Abridged from This side of heaven, Arnold D. Hunt, page 38-39 and other sources