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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Boyes, George Thomas (1787–1853)

by Margriet Roe

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

George Thomas William Blamey Boyes (1787-1853), public servant and diarist, was born probably at Stubbington, Hampshire, England, the son of George Thomas Boyes of Winchester. After education by various private tutors, in 1809 he took his first public post in the Commissariat Department of the army. From 1810 to 1815 he served under Wellington in the Peninsular war.

In 1818 Boyes married Mary Ediss. In 1823 the Treasury appointed him deputy assistant commissary general in New South Wales. His wife stayed in England with their children when he sailed in the Sir Geoffrey Webster. He arrived in Sydney in January 1824. Within a month he reported to his wife that he had dined at Government House and come to know 'everyone in the colony worth knowing, but disliked them all, preferring his own fireside and a book'. In November 1826 when the commissariat in Van Diemen's Land was separated from that of New South Wales, Boyes transferred to Hobart Town and soon afterwards was appointed auditor of civil accounts. His wife and children joined him in 1832.

As auditor, Boyes automatically became secretary of the committee of management of the Orphan School, but resigned that post in November 1836. In February 1840 he was appointed to the Legislative Council. When Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Franklin dismissed John Montagu from office Boyes became acting colonial secretary from 2 February 1842 to 20 April 1843 and then he resumed his former office. Franklin indicated his regard for the auditor by appointing him to this most important administrative post, and Boyes's discharge of the office further increased Franklin's opinion. Boyes also held a number of minor offices, including that of commissioner for the settlement of land grant claims. He died at Hobart on 16 August 1853. Of his seven children, the eldest son, George Lukin (1819-1875), became chief clerk in the colonial secretary's office.

Boyes was a capable, prudent, agreeable, and eminently respectable official. So were many others now forgotten. Other aspects of his character, revealed in his diaries and private letters, gave Boyes distinction. Ostensibly a cultivated man of the world, an amateur water-colourist and singer of duets, his diaries reveal a misanthropic, censorious, irascible man who felt society had not recognized his merits. Outwardly cordial and modest, Boyes privately scorned his superiors as a 'dirty pack of unprincipled place hunters', and the colonists as 'radicals of the worst kind … ever ready to impute the basest motives to their fellow[s] … Lying, slandering, every hatred and malice are their daily aliment and the consumption is incredible'. He considered himself refined, and bitterly regretted that circumstances forced him to live in a society given over to gross commercialism and sordid political intrigue. From this discontent sprang his writing.

Interesting in its time and place Boyes's literary talent, like his musical and artistic ability, had some intrinsic merit, but less than some commentators have indicated. Any comparison with Samuel Pepys or John Evelyn is misleading, for much of Boyes's writing is tedious, his sentiments often commonplace, and his information frequently inaccurate. Waspish comment on his contemporaries was Boyes's forte, and this extreme and often misleading bias severely limits the historical value of his diaries.

Select Bibliography

  • W. D. Hudspeth, Hudspeth Memorial Volume: An Introduction to the Diaries of the Rev. Robert Knopwood, A.M., and G.T.W.B. Boyes (Hob, 1954)
  • R. Crossland, ‘The Boyes Diaries’, Papers and Proceedings (Tasmanian Historical Research Association), vol 3, no 3, May 1954, pp 46-51
  • G. T. W. B. Boyes diaries and letters (Royal Society of Tasmania, Hobart)
  • G. T. W. B. Boyes letters (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Margriet Roe, 'Boyes, George Thomas (1787–1853)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 29 September 2020.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

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