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James Arthur Boyd (1867–1941)

by Kay Rollison

This article was published:

James Arthur Boyd (1867-1941), by T. Humphrey & Co.

James Arthur Boyd (1867-1941), by T. Humphrey & Co.

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23251590

James Arthur Boyd (1867-1941), businessman and politician, was born on 7 July 1867 at Portsea, Hampshire, England, son of John Boyd, draper, and his wife Janet Moffatt, née McTurk. About 1869 the family moved to Ayrshire, Scotland. James was educated at St John's Academy, Glasgow, but left school early to become a farm-labourer. He was then apprenticed as a ship's painter on the Loch line. He arrived in Melbourne in 1885 and became first a painter of buildings and later a storeman. He attended night classes at the Working Men's College, dabbling with Henry George's single-tax theories. In 1887-88 he took charge of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.'s models at the Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition.

In the mid-1890s Boyd prospected for gold in Western Australia. He returned to Melbourne and became proprietor of the Fidelity Free Storage Co., where he had previously been employed. For a time he was in partnership with W. J. Bradshaw, but by 1910 traded as Fidelity Storage Co. From small beginnings he expanded his commercial interests. In the 1920s and 1930s he was a director of Mutual Store Ltd, Rolfe & Co. Ltd, and Jumbunna Wool Co. which also had coal interests in Gippsland. From the early 1900s Boyd had been active in the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce and was president in 1920-22 and 1930-32. He was president in 1922-23 of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia which he represented at a congress in London in 1934. By 1941 he was chairman of directors of Melbourne Hotels Ltd, Southern Union Insurance Co. of Australia Ltd and Union Investment Co. Ltd, and was a director of Australian Provincial Assurance Association Ltd, Australian Gypsum Products Pty Ltd, Victor Electric Plaster Mills Ltd and Windsor Hotel Ltd.

Boyd was a member of the Port Melbourne Town Council in 1898-1904, serving as mayor in 1903. In 1897, as a free trader, he had contested the seat of Port Melbourne in the Legislative Assembly. In 1900 he stood for Melbourne, and in March 1901 for the Federal seat of Corio. In July he won Melbourne in a bitterly fought assembly by-election. He continued to defend free trade; on the political issues of the nature and extent of government expenditure and the proper direction of rural development, he remained conservative, but as forceful and independent as his self-made background presaged. He was one of the first to throw off (Sir) William Irvine's attempts in 1902-03 to impose rigid party discipline and was outspokenly critical of the Bent government's policy and tactics in 1904-06. In February 1907 Bent appointed him minister without office. However when Boyd returned in 1908 from London, where he had been Victorian representative at the Franco-British Exhibition, he found the ministry reconstructed in his absence and he resigned in late October in protest against concessions to the country faction. In the ensuing election he stood as a Liberal but lost the seat to his Labor rival. He was a member of the royal commission on the University of Melbourne (1902-04), and of the board of inquiry into cancer remedy claims (1906-11). He was also on the committee of the Queen Victoria Hospital.

In 1913 Boyd won Henty in the House of Representatives as a Liberal. He renewed his long-standing dispute with Labor, especially on mining issues; in 1917, as a strong conscriptionist, he accepted W. M. Hughes's leadership of the National Party. In December 1919 he stood as a Liberal Nationalist but lost on preferences. Without party endorsement, he was defeated once more in 1922, and did not stand again.

'Admiral' Boyd retained his interest in the sea, with yachting as his chief hobby. In 1909-19 he chaired a committee set up to train delinquent boys for maritime life, and was responsible for the purchase of an old Loch line sailing-ship for training purposes. He was a commissioner of the Melbourne Harbor Trust in 1913-41, representing exporting interests. A Presbyterian, Boyd had married Emma Flora McCormack on 5 January 1894 at Flemington. Of their two daughters, Alva became a medical practitioner, and Esna was an Australian tennis champion. Predeceased by his wife, Boyd lived at the Hotel Windsor until his death of coronary vascular disease on 12 April 1941. He left an estate valued for probate at £14,755.

Select Bibliography

  • Punch (Melbourne), 13 Feb 1908, 31 July 1913
  • Argus (Melbourne), 12 Apr 1941
  • K. Rollison, Groups and Attitudes in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, 1900-1909 (Ph.D. thesis, La Trobe University, 1972).

Citation details

Kay Rollison, 'Boyd, James Arthur (1867–1941)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

James Arthur Boyd (1867-1941), by T. Humphrey & Co.

James Arthur Boyd (1867-1941), by T. Humphrey & Co.

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an23251590

Life Summary [details]


7 July, 1867
Portsmouth, Hampshire, England


12 April, 1941 (aged 73)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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