James Boyd was born in Inchyra village on the River Tay on December 27, 1827. His parents were James Boyd, a weaver and fisherman and Mary Brown. James had six full siblings, Mary, John, Janet, Ann, Catherine and Alexander and one older half-brother David. Tragically his father and two older sisters, Mary and Janet died in a six week period. Mary was buried on 25 December 1840, aged 22, Janet was buried on 1 January 1841 and his father James on 7 February 1841. They were all buried in Kinfauns cemetery which overlooks their village of Inchyra and the Tay.
Between 1836 and 1842 there were major epidemics of typhoid, cholera, influenza and typhus in the United Kingdom. If anyone has any more detailed information about this area in 1840/1 I’d love to hear from you.
Later that year when the census was taken his mother Mary was a dealer and had her five remaining children with her ranging in age from 7 to 20. The eldest John was a shoemaker. Her eighty-one year old neighbour Thomas Smith was a shoemaker which was perhaps where John learned his trade. Alternatively he may have learned his trade from his half brother David who lived nearby in Newlands and was also a shoemaker. Although there is no evidence of how close (or not) the family was David and his family were buried with the Boyd’s in Kinfauns cemetery, suggesting a close relationship. David’s mother Ann Kinmond was also buried there but in a different part of the graveyard.
I next came across James in a list of small boat owners who lived on the Tay. In 1849 he had all the shares (64) in the Earl of Seafield a 31 tonne sloop and he was a coal merchant. He was declared bankrupt in 1850 which is why he probably went back to sea. On March 31, 1851, he joined the Horn, from Dundee as a seaman. The Horn was a whaling ship. They were ‘Greenlanders’ spending about seven months away from home in the Davis Straits in the Arctic. There would be about 50 men on the wooden sailing ship, more than was needed to sail her, but needed for the whale hunting. Not something that I am happy about now but part of history. He was the last man to be signed on. I obtained a copy of the crew list from the National Archives, UK (TNA) when I was there in 2009. This also told me that he had been previously on the Earl of Seafield.
Dundee was the centre of the jute industry and whale oil was used to process the raw jute. One of his grand nephews became a jute merchant. I visited the jute museum in Dundee when I was there last year and will enlarge upon that in a future post. What I haven’t discovered yet is whether this was his first journey to the Arctic or if he had been on other boats in the 1840s. He was 23 when he sailed on the Horn in 1851. I would suspect he had been whaling during the previous decade to have raised the money to purchase a boat, the Earl of Seafield, but this is speculation. I have since found that his father James was a ferryman on the Tay from Inchyra village. in 1837 James senior rescued two men from the Tay whose boat had been ‘upset by a violent gust of wind’. James was in ‘an excellent double oared boat’.
From the Horn James joined the Commerce as a mate. When I obtained the ships list from TNA there were only three of them listed as on board. The master was his brother-in-law, Alexander Boyter, the husband of his sister Ann. The Commerce was a 38 tonne coastal trader. Their voyage in 1851/52 went from Dundee to Campbelton to Belfast to Alloa to Dundee. His younger brother, Alexander was to join the Commerce in the mid 1850s.
James next appears at Pentland Hills, Victoria, Australia where he married Sarah Elizabeth Sims at the Pentland Hills hotel on January 10, 1860. He was 32 and she was 16. They were married with the permission of Charles Shute, guardian of minors of the area. He said he was 27 and she 18. He was a ship’s carpenter and she engaged in domestic duties. The family story has always been that he was a wheel wright and jumped ship in Adelaide. I haven’t found his arrival into Australia to date and cannot corroborate or disprove this story, although it is unlikely he arrived in Adelaide. Sarah was from there and is probably how Adelaide crept into his story.
Presumably James followed his older brother John to Australia. John had married Isabella Nicholl Reid in Melbourne on December 13, 1853. He was in Dundee in 1851 living with his sister Ann and her husband, working as a shoemaker. He hasn’t been found on a passenger list either but this was when gold was discovered in Victoria and many passenger lists do not survive.
I will elaborate on James’ life and those of his brothers in Australia at a future date. As usual if anyone knows anything about anyone mentioned here or has any photos, documents etc to share I’d love to hear from you. For sources for my story please contact me.