Geeran, Thomas (DNB00)

GEERAN or GUERIN, THOMAS (d. 1871), reputed centenarian, was, according to his two credulous biographers, son of Michael Geeran, a farmer, and was born at Scarriff, co. Clare, on 14 May 1766. The same authorities make the following doubtful statements respecting him. He remained at school until his twentieth year, during which time he learnt a little French and Latin, and became a master of arithmetic. On the death of his father he removed to Limerick, where he lived some years, until he enlisted in the army in March 1796. After a voyage of twelve months and two days he landed at Madras, joined the 71st highlanders, and was present in 1799 at the siege of Seringapatam. In 1801 his regiment was sent to Egypt. In 1809 he was present with his regiment at the battle of Corunna, and in 1815 at Waterloo. He returned to England in 1819, and was discharged from the army at Gosport, but without any pension. After this he worked at his trade of a sawyer in various parts of the country. Finally he settled at Brighton, where he made a living by relating his military experiences and dilating on his great age. He died in the infirmary of the Brighton union on 28 Oct. 1871, aged, according to his friends, 105 years and five months.

Mr. W. J. Thoms, F.S.A., investigated this case, and at the Public Record Office, London, obtained access to the original muster-rolls, pay-sheets, and description-rolls of the 71st regiment. From these he established the facts that Geeran had never served abroad with that regiment, and that the regiment had not been in many of the places as mentioned by him. Geeran's case was, on his own applications for a pension, investigated several times by the authorities of Chelsea Hospital, who failed to find any record of his services. However, from the pay-sheets of the regiment it appeared that a Michael Gearyn or Gayran enlisted on 3 March 1813, and deserted on 10 April following. If this were the same person as T. Geeran, as is most likely, he was in the army for about a month only, and at the time of his death was probably about eighty-three. Two lives of Geeran were written. The first, published by subscription for his benefit, was entitled ‘Life of Thomas Geeran, a Centenarian, with photograph and autograph. [By H. R. Williams, M.A., Ph. D.] London; Brighton Circulating Library,’ 1870. The second was called ‘Longevity, with Life, Autograph, and Portrait of Thomas Geeran, a Centenarian, Brighton,’ 1871. In these two works, published within two years, appear many notable contradictions.

[Thoms's Human Longevity, 1873, pp. 12, 131–54; Times, 20, 22, 24, 25, 27 Nov. 1871; Medical Times, 25 Nov. 1871, pp. 642–3.]

G. C. B.