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Thomas Burnham Boyce (1844–1909)

by Ruth Teale

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Charles Boyce

Thomas Boyce, n.d.

Thomas Boyce, n.d.

photo supplied by Helen Gordon-Gibson

Charles Boyce (1835-1917) and Thomas Burnham Boyce (1844-1909), newspaper proprietors, were born in London, sons of John Neal Boyce, farrier, and his wife Maria Sophia, née Burnham. They emigrated to Victoria in 1849 with their parents, but by the 1860s had settled on the north coast of New South Wales. In May 1864 Charles, helped by Thomas, began his first newspaper, the Macleay Herald, published twice a week at East Kempsey and the first on the Macleay River. Circulation was limited and frequent floods damaged the plant; by 1867 Thomas was sole proprietor.

Charles moved to Taree, where on 8 January 1869 he started the Manning (River) Times, which almost a century later still flourished over the Boyce name. As the terminus of the sea-going steamers to Sydney, Taree developed from a town of 200 inhabitants in 1870 to over 400 in 1876 and 650 in 1885 with 3000 in the surrounding district. By the 1870s it was the centre of the Manning River police district; the Court of Petty Sessions provided copy for the paper. In his cottage office Boyce was proprietor, editor, reporter, printer and advertising agent for the paper, which was run in the interests of smallholders and timber getters as opposed to the large pastoralists. Charles retained control till December 1885 when he sold out to his brother.

Meanwhile Thomas had moved to Tenterfield. In 1871 he started the Tenterfield Star. As its proprietor for about three years his policy favoured the townspeople and small farmers. In April 1874 he bought the Murrurundi Times, expanded its circulation, and within six months had standing advertisements from Sydney and Melbourne and reports from city correspondents. He also engaged in job-printing.

On 9 September 1874, with Henry Pinchin as partner, Thomas bought the Singleton Argus. The previous owners 'were not bright and shinning lights and in many ways gave great dissatisfaction'. With a £1000 printing machine he gave Singleton its first twice-weekly newspaper, at 3d., half its former price. Singleton's importance as a railway terminus faded as the line crept north, but the town still had a very large trade in the rich agricultural district of Patrick's Plains. Boyce established the Argus in the interests of small farmers and in opposition to the urban working class and the local pastoralists like the Dangars. Its editorials discussed the politics of the colony: it supported John Robertson's land bill amendment of 1875 and Henry Parkes's proposal for democratic reform of the Legislative Council; it opposed payment of members, denominational schools and the Roman Catholic Church. In 1875 Boyce added a weekly advertising supplement which featured the major Sydney stores and many intercolonial firms. In January 1877 he could claim that the Argus was 'second to none in the Northern districts', and that he had trebled its circulation in two years. Pinchin left the partnership in 1876 and in March 1878 Boyce sold out to John Willis, who lived at Singleton and had earlier run the Argus himself.

Thomas ran the Murrurundi Times till the early 1880s. Eager for a larger setting, he moved to Sydney, but on 1 January 1886 settled at Taree and bought from his brother the Manning River Times. Under Thomas it appeared with four pages on Wednesdays and eight on Saturdays. It advertised Sydney firms and overseas shipping lines, government tenders and crown land sales. Its editorials discussed such affairs as the Dreyfus case and the Spanish-Cuban war in 1898; a large agricultural section included notes on poultry and dairying. In the 1900s it supported collective action by the farmers' and settlers' associations, and opposed socialism and the Labor Party. In 1865 at Sydney Thomas married Minnie Gaul; they had no children. After she died in 1872, at Murrurundi in 1874 he married Daisy Gordon; they had six sons and two daughters. In 1902 he was paralysed by a stroke, and his sons William and John ran the paper. Thomas died on 21 June 1909, and his son John in 1914. William ran the Times until October 1951 when he sold it to his son T. R. B. Boyce and C. G. Morgan, who in 1961-62 floated the Times as a public company.

When Charles sold his newspaper interests in 1885, he opened a 'furniture emporium' in Taree, and in March 1898 he became agent for W. H. Paling & Co. He was active in town affairs and mayor in 1894 and 1907. On 18 June 1860 at Wollongong he had married Elizabeth Pinchin, sister of his brother's future partner. He died at Taree on 19 March 1917, aged 81. Of his six children, one son and one daughter survived him. The son, Charles Macleay, became a solicitor in Taree and in May 1898 moved to Sydney; his son (Sir) Harold Leslie Boyce (1895-1955) became a Rhodes scholar, was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1922, was conservative member for Gloucester in 1929-45, became alderman of the City of London in 1942-54 and in 1951-52 its first dominion-born lord mayor.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Newspaper Directory (Melb, 1886, 1888)
  • R. G. Pogonoski, ‘The history of journalism and printing in the north of N.S.W.’, Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 26 (1938)
  • Murrurundi Times, 8 Aug, 14 Nov 1874
  • Singleton Argus, 9, 16 Sept 1874, 17 Jan 1877, 6 Mar 1878, 24 June 1909
  • Manning River Times, 12 Mar 1898, 8 June 1907, 8 Jan 1964
  • Tenterfield Star, 25 June 1909
  • Municipality of Taree records
  • private information.

Citation details

Ruth Teale, 'Boyce, Thomas Burnham (1844–1909)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 23 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Thomas Boyce, n.d.

Thomas Boyce, n.d.

photo supplied by Helen Gordon-Gibson

Life Summary [details]


London, Middlesex, England


21 June, 1909 (aged ~ 65)

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