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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Boyd, Edward (1794–1871)

by G. H. Stancombe

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

Edward Boyd (1794?-1871), surveyor general, was born in England, and educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He became an ensign in July 1811, and a lieutenant in the Royal Staff Corps a year later. He saw active service in southern France and in the Peninsula, where he distinguished himself in laying down a bridge of boats across the Adour before receiving severe wounds. After the war he acted as aide-de-camp and private secretary to Major-General Smyth, lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick in 1817-23, and was also engaged on public works. In 1826 he received the rank of captain and the duties of paymaster, retiring on half-pay in July 1829 when appointed deputy surveyor general in Van Diemen's Land at a salary of £350.

He arrived in Hobart Town in the Lady Harewood in July with his wife Jane, and a servant, who was to superintend the office in Hobart. In 1833, after much protest, Boyd was sent to open a branch of the department in Launceston. Disputes arose with the surveyor-general, whom he unjustly accused of failing in duty by himself staying in Hobart and sending Boyd to Launceston. His usefulness there was also limited by delay in the sending of essential maps from Hobart. Ill health, lingering from a paralysis suffered in Canada, prevented him from carrying out the survey of the town of Launceston, so disappointing the lieutenant-governor's hopes. Boyd's resentment at transfer back to Hobart, because his Launceston services were deemed a failure, capped his record of complaints. Nevertheless, as the senior administrative officer in the department, he became surveyor-general in January 1839, after the death of George Frankland, but the appointment was not to be confirmed until Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Franklin had been assured that ill health would not limit Boyd's efficiency in the office. Six months later abusive complaints of Boyd's unanswered correspondence and his indecision on the accuracy of surveys were embarrassing the government. By June 1840 it was obvious to Franklin that, although Boyd's health had improved, his energy and memory were affected, and he appealed to the Colonial Office for a surveyor-general from England. At this time Boyd was also criticized for careless administration of the system of contract surveying. His explanation evidenced his integrity and goodwill, but failed to exonerate him from charges of negligence. In November 1840 the Executive Council advised Franklin to appoint a successor at once and remove Boyd to his former position as deputy, on grounds of ill health. Boyd took the cue; he applied at once for leave, was awarded half-pay at deputy's rates, and prepared to embark in the Emu. At this point a further complaint was referred to the Executive Council: he appeared guilty of putting up for sale land previously promised to settlers. When Boyd refused to answer summary demands for immediate explanation, his half-pay was cancelled. On arrival in England in April 1841 he presented his case to the Colonial Office, but, as his army half-pay was jeopardized by the delay in receiving information from the colony, he resigned and rejoined the army. In November 1841 he was promoted major in the 29th Regiment, and later saw service at Ghazipur, India. In 1854 he received the rank of lieutenant-colonel, having retired on captain's half-pay in 1850. He died in London on 2 November 1871, aged 77.

Boyd lacked both the health and native ability necessary to succeed in the harassed and responsible office of surveyor-general. Army duties with their lesser demands brought more profit to his later years. While in the colony he had established the Launceston Auxiliary Temperance Society and become its first president.

Select Bibliography

  • correspondence file under Edward Boyd (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

G. H. Stancombe, 'Boyd, Edward (1794–1871)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 27 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

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