ANGAS, George Fife (1789-1879)

ANGAS, George Fife (1789-1879)
a founder of South Australia, philanthropist
was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, on 1 May 1789. He was the seventh son of Caleb Angas, a prosperous coach manufacturer and shipowner, and was educated at a boarding school under the Rev. J. Bradley. At 15 he was apprenticed to his father as a coachbuilder. After serving four years he went to London for further experience and in 1809 returned to Newcastle to become an overseer in his father's business. On 8 April 1812 he was married to Rosetta French. During the next 20 years Angas steadily developed his business, spending some time in Honduras. On his return to Newcastle he took much interest in Sunday schools (he had been brought up in a religious household), and became one of the two secretaries of the Newcastle Sunday School Union. He continued his support of this kind of work for the rest of his long life. In December 1822 he became president of the Newcastle Seamen's Society and on his removal to London in 1824 was an active member of the British and Foreign Seamen's Friend Society and took a personal interest in the seamen employed on his own ships. During the first years in London Angas went through a period of financial depression and had many business anxieties; but in the main his affairs prospered. He was twice asked to stand for parliament but declined partly for reasons of health. He was largely instrumental in founding the National Provincial Bank of England, afterwards one of the most important banks in England, and sat as a director on its first board. He had become a comparatively wealthy man, anxious about the wise use of his money. A new interest came to him in the foundation of the South Australian Land Company, and he soon began to set out his views on the proposed settlement. His principal points were the exclusion of convicts, the concentration of the settlers, the taking out of persons with capital and intelligence, and especially men of piety, the emigration of young couples of good character, free trade, free government, and freedom in matters of religion. He was disheartened by the failure of the company to get the support of the government, but nevertheless associated himself with the South Australian Association formed in 1834 with Robert Gouger (q.v.) as secretary. In the long negotiations about the price to be paid for the land, Angas was in opposition to Wakefield (q.v.) and fought for the price to be reduced to 12 shillings an acre. There were difficulties too in raising money for preliminary expenses and Angas eventually formed the South Australian Company of which he was appointed chairman of directors. Land was purchased from the South Australian Association and on 22 February 1836 the John Pirie set sail, loaded with emigrants, provisions and live stock, and two days later it was followed by the Duke of York and the Lady Mary Pelham. The heads of departments of the company were all furnished with letters giving minute instructions regarding almost every problem that might arise. All three vessels arrived by the middle of August. That so much had been achieved was principally due to Angas but his difficulties were by no means over. Three powerful bodies were concerned in the success or failure of the settlement, the colonial office, the board of commissioners, and the South Australian Company, and it was still unsettled which would be the controlling body. Early in 1837 there was friction between the commissioners and the company but gradually these troubles were overcome. The establishment of the South Australian Banking Company in 1837, as suggested by Angas, was an important factor in the early growth of the colony. Angas was working hard for it in England, lecturing, writing pamphlets, and supplying information to the newspapers. He helped also to establish the South Australian School Society and sent out German colonists, and missionaries for the aborigines. Despite his work in these directions Angas found time to establish in England the Union Bank of Australia, and to do work for the colonization of New Zealand. It may in fact be said that only the energetic actions of Angas and Wakefield prevented New Zealand from becoming a French colony. The government recognized the work of Angas by offering him first a knighthood and then a baronetcy, but both were declined.
In 1839 Angas through no fault of his own was in danger of financial ruin. He had advanced much money to settle German emigrants in South Australia and had sent out his chief clerk, a Mr Flaxman, who spoke German, to look after them. Flaxman, thinking he saw an opportunity to make money for both his employer and himself, invested largely in land. Angas had great difficulty in finding the necessary money. He was compelled to borrow considerable amounts and to sell his interests in the Union Bank and other companies. While still under these anxieties he heard that the British government had dishonoured the drafts drawn by the governor, Colonel Gawler (q.v.), and that the colony was thus in danger of ruin. Angas appealed to the government, and as a result of his efforts it was decided to guarantee a loan and the dishonoured drafts were paid. During 1842 Angas was doing much lecturing on South Australia throughout England, and he also wrote a pamphlet, Facts Illustrative of South Australia, which was widely distributed. Gawler had returned to England and suggested to Angas that he should settle in South Australia. At the beginning of 1843 his affairs were in a bad state (in his diary he speaks of being "at my wits' end"), and in April 1843 he sent his son John Howard Angas (q.v.) to the new colony, to look after his land and to try and retrieve his fortunes. The boy was less than 20 years old but he was helped by the gradual recovery of the colony from its troubles, and the land eventually became valuable. His father's difficulties in England still continued and in 1847 everything was at its worst. It was not until 1850 that Angas was able to sell his properties in the north of England. Fortunately, too, the German settlers were now repaying some of the money Angas had advanced to them. His health had been feeling the constant strain for some years, prospects were now better in Australia, and it was felt that a change would be all for his good. On 3 October 1850 with his wife and youngest son he sailed for Adelaide, and arrived in the middle of January 1851.
Angas was now nearly 62 years old, a late age to settle in a new country, but he was met by his two sons and his eldest daughter and he could not but feel that he was surrounded by friends, for his efforts for the good of the colony were everywhere well known. A few days after he landed a public dinner was given in his honour, and he renewed his acquaintance with the officers of the South Australian Company. He was soon elected a member of the legislative council for the Barossa district. He interested himself especially in education and other public business, and found that every hour had its occupation. His health improved and his affairs so prospered in Australia that he soon discharged all his English liabilities. He began to buy high-class merino sheep and cattle and in 1855, finding many emigrants were out of work, thought it his duty to make work for them. One piece of work was the building of a bridge with stone piers over the Gawler near his house at Angaston. In 1857 he paid a visit to England in order to complete matters in connexion with his father's estate and did not return until September 1859. He continued his parliamentary work and fought hard but unsuccessfully against the colony being saddled with the responsibility of the Northern Territory. In 1866 he resigned his seat in the legislative council feeling he was no longer able to discharge his duties properly. He had long been contributing liberally to schools, churches and benevolent institutions, and continued to do so for the rest of his life. He was now very wealthy and his benefactions amounted to thousands of pounds every year. In 1869 he published a History of the New castle-on-Tyne Sunday School Union which was compiled with the help of his secretary W. R. Lawson. In 1867 his wife died. She had been his friend and companion for 55 years. Though retired from parliament he still lived a busy life managing his estate, and when past 82 years of age he was able to say that time passed more agreeably with him then than ever before in his past life. In his eighty-seventh year he had a serious illness but recovered. He completed his ninetieth year on 1 May and died on 15 May 1879. He was survived by three sons, two of whom (John Howard Angas and George French Angas) are noticed separately, and three daughters.
George Fife Angas was a sincerely religious man and the Bible was the great influence of his life. That he also became very wealthy arose from the fact that he was naturally a first-rate business man of excellent judgment. But he did not seek wealth, and when it came he was chiefly exercised in considering the wisest way of spending it. There was no limit to his hours of work and this at times affected his health and temper, but essentially he was a thoroughly good and great man. He was somewhat puritanical in his outlook and disapproved of dancing and theatres. That was part of his early training and, having a passion for hard work himself, it was difficult for him to realize the need for relaxation felt by other people. He ranks high among the early philanthropists of South Australia, but his greatest importance lies in the invaluable part he played in saving the South Australian colonization scheme when it was in grave danger of being completely wrecked, and his consistent fostering of the colony in its early years.
Edwin Hodder George Fife Angas, Father and Founder of South Australia; A. Grenfell Price, Founders and Pioneers of South Australia; The South Australian Register, 17 May 1879.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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  • George Fife Angas — (* 1. Mai 1789 in Newcastle upon Tyne, Großbritannien; † 15. Mai 1879 in Angaston, South Australia, Australien) war ein Geschäftsmann, Parlamentarier, Philanthrop und wird auch als einer der Gründer von …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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