Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

George James Molle (1773–1823)

by David S. Macmillan

This article was published:

George James Molle (1773-1823), soldier and lieutenant-governor, was baptized on 6 March 1773, the youngest child of John Mow, of Mains in the parish of Chirnside, Berwickshire, a member of an old Scottish landed family. His mother Margaret, née Crow, died when he was young, his father in 1795. His brother William, a writer to the signet, adopted the name Molle in 1789. George joined the Scots Brigade (later 94th Regiment) in June 1793 as an ensign. He served in Gibraltar, the Cape of Good Hope, India, Egypt and Spain, and was regularly promoted until he attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel in September 1808. After a spell of garrison duty at Gibraltar he transferred to the 46th Regiment; when it was ordered to New South Wales in 1813, as its commanding officer he was appointed lieutenant-governor of the colony, where he arrived in February 1814. He was gazetted brevet colonel in June 1814. He and his wife played an active part in the colony's public and social life, for nearly two years being patrons of the Female Orphan School and members of the committee of the Institution for the Civilisation, Care and Education of Aborigines. He was an active Mason and took part in the first public Masonic ceremony in Australia, at the laying of the foundation stone of Captain John Piper's new house on what is now Point Piper.

While in India Molle had met and become friendly with Governor Lachlan Macquarie, who gave a dinner in his honour the month after he arrived; but the governor did not allow Molle the authority he considered was his due, and in his public activities he became an opponent of Macquarie.

Soon after their arrival Molle and his officers complained of high prices and asked for higher pay. They disliked the favour shown by Macquarie to the emancipists, whom they excluded from the regimental mess, even in cases when the governor looked on them with favour. In 1816 William Charles Wentworth grossly insulted Molle in a 'pipe' or lampoon. Next year, during the investigation of its authorship, some of the officers of the regiment insulted Macquarie in his turn, and he felt that his 'old and Much liked Acquaintance' Molle, on whose 'Friendship and Candour' he had relied, had not seriously tried to check the opposition of his juniors to the governor. Molle insisted that D'Arcy Wentworth, William's father, was responsible for his son's libels, and demanded that he be court-martialled. To end all this bickering, Macquarie asked that the regiment be removed. Fortunately in August 1817 the 48th arrived to relieve it, and Molle departed next month for Madras. In due course Judge-Advocate (Sir) John Wylde decided that D'Arcy Wentworth was not liable for trial by court martial for the offence Molle alleged he had committed.

Molle died at Belgaum, India, on 9 September 1823. His eldest son, William Macquarie, who was born on the voyage to Sydney in 1813, became the owner of the 'Molle's Maines' estate in New South Wales. The Molle Islands in Whitsunday passage are named after the lieutenant-governor.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 8, 9
  • manuscript catalogue under George Molle (State Library of New South Wales)
  • J. Arnold, journal, Aug 1810–Dec 1815 (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

David S. Macmillan, 'Molle, George James (1773–1823)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 3 March 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Mow, George James



9 September, 1823 (aged ~ 50)
Belgaum, India

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.