BOYD, Benjamin (C. 1796-1851)


BOYD, Benjamin (C. 1796-1851)
pioneer
was born about the year 1796 at Merton Hall, Wigtonshire, Scotland. He was the second son of Edward Boyd by his wife Jane, daughter of Benjamin Yule. In 1824 he was a stockbroker in London and on 8 October 1840 he addressed a letter to Lord John Russell, stating that he had recently dispatched a vessel entirely his own at a cost of £30,000 for the purpose of trading in Australian waters. He also stated that he intended to send other vessels, and asked for certain privileges in connexion with the purchase of land at various ports he intended to establish. He received a guarded reply promising assistance, but pointing out that land could not be sold to an individual to the "exclusion or disadvantage of the public". About this period Boyd had floated the Royal Bank of Australia, and debentures of this bank to the amount Of £200,000 were sold. This sum was eventually taken by Boyd to Australia as the bank's representative. He arrived in Hobson's Bay on his yacht, the Wanderer, on 15 June 1842, and reached Port Jackson on 18 July.
Boyd seems to have lost no time in investing his own and his bank's money. In a dispatch of Sir George Gipps (q.v.) dated 17 May 1844 he mentioned that Boyd was one of the largest squatters in the country, with 14 stations in the "Maneroo" district and four at Port Phillip, amounting together to 381,000 acres of land. At about the same period the firm of Boyd and Company had three steamers and three sailing ships in commission. Large sums of money were also being spent on founding the port of Boyd Town on the south coast, which involved the building of a jetty 300 feet long, and a lighthouse 75 feet high. Four years later a visitor, speaking of the town, mentioned its Gothic church with a spire, commodious stores, well-built brick houses, and "a splendid hotel in the Elizabethan style". At this time Boyd had nine whalers working from this port. In 1847 he began shipping natives from the Pacific islands, hoping thus to get an unlimited supply of cheap labour. This scheme turned out to be a complete failure. The beginning of Boyd's troubles was the loss of two law-suits for the insurance money on one of his vessels which was wrecked, but generally one gets the impression, that though he was always keen to obtain his labour as cheaply as possible, his schemes were too grandiose for the then state of Australia. The shareholders in the Royal Bank became dissatisfied, and eventually not only was the whole of the capital lost but there was a deficiency of £80,000. Boyd was apparently allowed to keep his yacht the Wanderer, for he sailed on her to California on 26 October 1849. In America he went to the gold-diggings but had no success, and in June 1851 he sailed in the Wanderer for a voyage among the Pacific islands. On 15 October 1851, while at the Solomon Islands, Boyd went ashore with one native to shoot game and was never seen again. A party was landed and search was made for him, but no trace of him could be found except a belt which had belonged to him. It appears to be certain that he was killed soon after he landed. There were afterwards rumours that he had escaped, and at the end of 1854 an expedition was sent to the islands to make further inquiries. The search was quite fruitless.
Boyd was a man of "an imposing personal appearance, fluent oratory, aristocratic connexions, and a fair share of commercial acuteness" (Sidney, The Three Colonies of Australia). Mrs Georgiana McCrae (q.v.), with whom he had dinner when he first came to Port Phillip, looked at him with an artist's eye and said: "He is Rubens over again. Tells me he went to a bal masque as Rubens with his broad-leafed hat." He belonged to the eternal type of the adventurer, always sanguine, and seldom stopping to count the cost. All that remains to remind us of him are the decaying buildings of Boyd Town near Eden on Twofold Bay.
J. H. Watson, Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. II, pp. 129-49; Historical Records of Australia, vols. XXI, XXIII, XXIV, XVI; J. Webster, The Last Cruise of "The Wanderer"; Hugh McCrae, Georgiana's Journal.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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