It is time for another update on my Directed Study about South Australia’s founding father. I was sitting here, in front of my computer, writing a section for my Directed Study about how George Fife Angas was perceived by his peers and by the public. While I was researching this I struck upon something that I found particularly interesting and as I need to write these blog posts I thought I would share it with you as well.
According to some documents I have been reading, Angas was not particularly liked by his Barossa constituents during his 16 years as mayor. He was respected for his abilities as a businessman and for his common sense when dealing with legislation and colony growth. But he was also seen as a man who thought he was above everyone else and only he knew the right way. His overly pious attitude and his reserved demeanour when dealing with people he did not know probably didn’t win him any friends in the public either. Along with this he also voraciously collected on even the smallest of debts, which might have been a bad habit he picked up after going broke just before he came to Adelaide. His unlikability is not the thing I found interesting, however, it was that as soon as he died this view of him disappeared almost immediately. All of the newspapers and the public seemed to shift from this mentality to one that is now known for him being the founding father and one of South Australia’s most generous men. It was not until quite some time later that an unbiased look at him and his history was completed and this still didn’t shift the way the majority of the public saw him.
So this got me thinking, of all the great men and women in history both here in Australia and around the world, how many of them have been coloured by the information and stories that were written after their deaths? There has probably been research done on this subject but to see this unfold within my Directed Study is interesting, for me at least.
George and the Germans
It’s time for another fantastic post about my Directed Study on George Fife Angas. Today we are going to delve into one of the interesting events from his life that not only shaped how people viewed him but also how he shaped South Australia. As you might have gathered from the title, Angas had a little bit to do with the German heritage that we see throughout the state. Some of you reading this may have been to Hahndorf, a little town south east of Adelaide and one of Australia’s oldest surviving German settlements.
The German Arms Hotel, Hahndorf (source: australia.com)
Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because without George Fife Angas none of our German heritage would be present in the state. He paid the way out of his own pocket for the Germans to travel and settle within the state, approximately 20,000 pounds, which wasn’t just chump change back in 1838. I guess now is the time to lay out the history of how this act came about and how prolonged the process was.
It all started when Angas was approached by a German religious group who were persecuted in their country. Because Angas and his family had been in a similar situation in the past he agreed to help them move to South Australia and settle on land that he owned himself. After failing to get the South Australian Company to pay for their way over, he finally agreed to pay out of his own pocket. Of course, this agreement had the German population paying him back after they had settled, which they did with interest, but nevertheless to pay that amount of money for a group you don’t know is admirable. However, this was not the end of the issue because the German government were reluctant to give the people their travel papers so that they could leave the country. After all of this was finally settled George Fife Angas was still willing to pay for their journey to South Australia, and, even though it sent him almost broke, they finally got to their new home.
I found this to be interesting and it really hit at the core of the way that a lot of history books have portrayed him: A man who would go out of his way to help people in need no matter the cost.
Who is George Fife Angas?
Who exactly is George Fife Angas? This is what I am looking at for my Directed Study this semester thanks to the National Trust of South Australia. I am going to be honest for a moment: when I initially chose this topic I had no idea who the man was or what he had accomplished, I didn’t even know that Angas Street in Adelaide was named after him. In hindsight, I am slightly ashamed that I don’t know more about my own state’s history, however, this is something I plan to rectify throughout this Directed Study. So now that my embarrassing short comings are done with let me explain exactly what I want to do in this study.
There has been a tonne of stuff written on this guy, although not as much as the other famous South Australian pioneers, and I hope to be able to collate all of this into the report. The sources vary from books about the founding of Adelaide to newspaper articles (which I found to be particularly interesting reading). With all of this information, then, it can be difficult to define exactly how you should go about explaining a person’s life and achievements. So, what I want to achieve would be to articulate both the public perception of the man and also the historical perception to see how they compare to each other. This will hopefully show a more unbiased view of the man and what he has done for South Australia.