Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Boyd, Adam Alexander (1866–1948)

by J. M. B. McInerney

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Adam Alexander Boyd (1866-1948), mining engineer, was born on 15 April 1866 at Eastwood near Glasgow, Scotland, son of Adam Boyd, commission merchant, and his wife Margaret, née Stewart. Educated at the Alan Glen School and Glasgow Technical College, he was articled to Dixon & Marshall, civil and mining engineers, and on 21 December 1888 was granted his certificate as a coal-mine manager. In 1889 he migrated to Melbourne but soon moved to New South Wales where he was assistant mine-manager at the Bellambi Colliery in 1891 and at the Newcastle Wallsend Colliery in 1893.

Appointed mine-manager at the Broken Hill Proprietary Mine in 1898, Boyd devised the steel water-curtain, applying coal-mine practice to restrict underground fires, and modernized practice by standardizing extraction methods and introducing improved systems of haulage and handling. When he left Broken Hill for the Wallsend Colliery in 1911 he was considered one of the best mining engineers in Australia.

In 1913 Boyd went to Queensland as general superintendent of the Mount Morgan Gold Mining Co. Ltd and became its general manager in 1915, when it had settled down as a big, prosaic, hard-to-manage industrial firm. The mine lost heavily after the war from falling copper prices, increased costs, industrial unrest and technical problems. It closed down in 1921-22 and in 1925, but was reopened with State government assistance. An experimental open-cut scheme and new ore-treatment processes introduced in June 1926 revived methods used when the mine produced only gold, but after an adverse technical report in 1927 the directors announced a voluntary liquidation.

On 7 March 1929 Boyd was appointed to the Queensland Mining Industry Commission, for which he toured America and Australia. He floated a new Mount Morgan company on 1 July 1929; the Australian Loans Council provided £15,000 to begin operations on 28 June 1932 — the loan was soon repaid. By 1935 the mine's treatment of low-grade ore had made it an assured success. Boyd resigned to live in retirement at Emu Park near Rockhampton, but returned as chairman and managing director in 1938-41 and was a director till his death. In 1939 he wrote a history of Mount Morgan, but it was not published. Believing that industrial unrest derived from concentration of union power in a few hands, he urged all workers to be active unionists; he also provided recreation, profit-sharing and family security as positive incentives for industrial peace.

Boyd had joined the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy in 1910, was a council-member in 1917-48 and vice-president in 1925-26. He read a paper on the history of Mount Morgan to the institute in 1939 and won its medal in 1941. That year he became a foundation member of the Central Queensland Advancement League, and was elected first vice-president representing country interests. His scheme 'covering greater production of copper and cotton to meet the Commonwealth's requirements and the industrialization of the Central District by the establishment of a copper refinery and pyrites production works', presented to the Federal Manpower and Resources Survey Committee on 3 August 1941, helped to ensure the reopening of the Mount Chalmers copper-mine in 1942.

On 3 August 1892 Boyd had married Margaret Moses (d.1917) at Hamilton, New South Wales. He died at Brisbane on 16 December 1948 after an operation and his ashes were buried in his wife's grave in Box Hill cemetery, Melbourne. His estate, valued for probate in Queensland at £23,117 and £9713 in New South Wales, was left to their three children. His son Eric Ewart Gladstone made a notable career in Malaya and at Mount Morgan.

Select Bibliography

  • Mount Morgan Ltd, The Story of the Mount Morgan Mine 1882-1957 (Mt Morgan, 1957)
  • Chemical Engineering and Mining Review, 10 Jan 1949
  • Government Gazette (Queensland), 27 Aug 1927, 7 Mar 1929
  • Queensland Government Mining Journal, 50 (1949), no 567, Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Proceedings, 31 Mar 1942
  • Morning Bulletin, 21 Dec 1948
  • A461 C373/1/6 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

J. M. B. McInerney, 'Boyd, Adam Alexander (1866–1948)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/boyd-adam-alexander-5322/text8991, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 10 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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