Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Andrew Geils (?–1843)

by P. R. Eldershaw

This article was published:

Andrew Geils (d.1843), military officer, was born probably in India, the eldest son of Lieutenant-General Thomas Geils of the Madras artillery in the East India Co.'s service and later of the Ardmore, Geilston and Dumbuck estates, Dumbartonshire, Scotland. Andrew joined his father's artillery in 1790 and saw much action before he became a cornet in the 19th Light Dragoons in April 1798. As a lieutenant he transferred to the 6th Regiment in May 1800 and as a captain to the 92nd in July 1803 and to the 73rd in April 1804. He was promoted major in July 1808.

Before leaving England he made the acquaintance of John Macarthur. Geils arrived in Sydney in July 1811 in charge of the guard in the convict transport Providence. He brought with him his wife Mary, née Noble, and six children. In February 1812 Lachlan Macquarie appointed him the third of a series of commandants who administered the Hobart Town settlement after the death of David Collins, and gave him to understand that he would take command of the northern settlement when a new lieutenant-governor arrived. At first, Geils, whose wife was a friend of Mrs Macquarie's, enjoyed the governor's favour; this he sought to invoke to get 3000 acres (1214 ha) of land on account of his children, but Macquarie would grant him only 1200 acres (486 ha) on account of his wife. The governor's benevolence soon wilted and by January 1813 he was reprimanding Geils for excessive withdrawals from the Police Fund and for failure to send returns. When Lieutenant-Governor Thomas Davey arrived in February 1813 Geil's succession to the northern command was prevented first by ill health and then by charges of debt brought by Deputy-Commissary Leonard Fosbrook. Geils, who had been promoted lieutenant-colonel in June 1813, went to Sydney with his wife and daughter in January 1814, but the court of inquiry investigating the case found that there were no grounds for a court martial; when Macquarie informed him of this decision he took the opportunity to list his shortcomings in Van Diemen's Land: having taken large quantities of spirits, grain, sugar and hardware from the store, having made no progress with Macquarie's building programme, and having had as many as twenty-nine convicts on the store for his own use at one time.

In 1814 Geils accompanied his regiment to Ceylon, leaving his family in Van Diemen's Land. He told Macquarie that he intended to apply for the lieutenant-governorship if Davey were removed from it. Macquarie's opinion, as expressed to the Colonial Office, would not have helped his candidature: 'a Man of weak judgment, extremely venal and rapacious, and always inclined to sacrifice the interests of the Public to his own sordid and selfish views'.

In 1815 four of his sons were drowned in a shipwreck, his father died, and Geils inherited the Dumbuck estate. In April 1818 he was placed on half-pay. The Tasmanian property which he owned at Geilston and Pittwater was put up for sale in the same year and again in 1821. In 1834 and 1835 he sought from the Colonial Office the balance of the land Macquarie had promised Mary Geils, but it was decided that a claim which had lain so long dormant could not be revived. Geils died at Dumbuck on 11 February 1843.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 7, 8, series 3, vols 1, 2
  • Hobart Town Gazette, 18 Apr 1818, 21 Apr 1821
  • Scotsman, 15 Feb 1843
  • manuscript catalogue under Geils (State Library of New South Wales)
  • correspondence file under Geils (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

P. R. Eldershaw, 'Geils, Andrew (?–1843)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


11 February, 1843

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