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James Ian Craig Boyd 1921-2009

On Friday 20th March 2009, J.I.C.Boyd was laid to rest with his beloved wife Dorothy at St James the Great Church, Colwall.

The following Eulogy was given by Patrick Keef of Alan Keef Engineering Ltd.

The passing of James Boyd is undoubtedly the end of an era.  To most people, publicly, his name will always be synonymous with research, writing and preservation of narrow gauge railways - particularly in North Wales, the Isle of Man and Ireland.  This legacy alone forms the cornerstone of much subsequent research by others and the foundation of the now worldwide railway preservation movement.

The great-grandson of a railway civil engineer with direct links to Brunel, James was born, brought up and lived for more than half of his life in the Manchester area.  He was always very proud of the North West of England so much so that in his latter years, if his carers had Manchester connections they would always have a head start.

James went to Prep School at the Downs, here in Colwall, where he was taught by W H Auden (among others) and through the offices of the then headmaster, Geoffrey Hoyland, had his first practical railway experiences on the Downs Light Railway. It was also whilst on a field trip with the Downs that he had his first contact with the Festiniog Railway.  Following the Downs, he went to public school at Bryanston where he formed the school Model Railway Society and was able to make extensive official - and some unofficial - trips on the railways of southern England, befriending many local railwaymen along the way.

During the school holidays he would be involved with both the Manchester Locomotive Society and the Manchester Model Railway Society and both organisations benefited from James' input for many years thereafter. Family holidays were taken on the Isle of Man, based at Port St Mary where his lifelong interest in the railways of that island was undoubtedly developed.

James' family were in the textile and clothing industry and upon leaving school, as eldest son, James was obliged to join the family textile firm and although he ran the business successfully, I don't think his heart was ever really in the commercial world. However, business trips did take him to Ulster for the purchasing of linen and lace - a happy coincidence of destination that allowed him to indulge in excursions to the lesser railways of the Irish Republic, another one of James' lifelong passions.

The outbreak of the Second World War brought further changes. James' asthma meant that he was unable to go into active service but became a map reading instructor based in Prestatyn in North Wales. Once again, circumstances were turned to his advantage by making the location a base for investigation and research into the North Wales narrow gauge railways, particularly the Festiniog Railway, where he was once famously arrested on suspicion of spying whilst making detailed notes of the moribund rolling stock at Portmadoc Harbour Station. It also surely has to be the source of a nearly full set of Ordnance Survey maps, all marked "War Office Issue" which he used thereafter for the rest of his life. 

His marriage to Dorothy in 1940 proved to be a very successful and mutually supportive union. She ran their home in Brooklands, Manchester and was involved in the family business. She travelled with James on many field trips and became intimately involved with his work undertaking much of the research herself.  She also typed and proof-read many of his manuscripts.

James' meticulous fieldwork, note-taking and research, combined with photographs, courtesy of War-rationed film provided via a copyright agreement with Locomotive and General Railway Photographs, finally bore fruit with the publication of his first book, "Narrow Gauge Rails to Portmadoc" in 1949. This book was a landmark in many ways: it was one of the first in-depth studies of any narrow gauge railway, setting the benchmark for future research and it was a leap of faith for the publisher, Oakwood Press. His collaboration with Oakwood was to last for the rest of his life and between them they published the vast majority of James' output; running to numerous revisions, updates and reprints. Other volumes were published by Wild Swan, Bradford Barton and Rail Romances.

James' books were all definitively researched and comprehensively illustrated both photographically and with beautiful drawings and maps by Jim Lloyd. They have proved inspirational to over three generations and been the catalyst for many becoming actively involved in railway preservation.

James, of course was a founding-father of the preservation movement and after a brief and unsuccessful attempt to reopen the Festiniog Railway, turned his attentions to the fledgling Tal-y-Llyn Railway Preservation Society. He was a founder member of the North West Area Group and as a family, James, Dorothy and by now their two daughters, Elizabeth and Diana would head to Towyn with other volunteers all crammed into the Boyd Landrover for weekend working parties.  Over the ensuing years, James was to serve the Tal-y-Llyn in many capacities; as a volunteer, co-ordinator of the North West Area Group, a member of Council for many years, Director, Society Chairman, Trustee of the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum and, ultimately, Vice-President. 

In the late 1960s, James and Dorothy decided to sell the family business and take what would now be termed as "early retirement" in order to allow James to devote more time to his research and writing. They moved to Colwall into a new bungalow, "Rineen" (named after land they owned in West Cork, Ireland) in 1970.  This, coincidentally, brought James back into contact with the Downs School and more particularly the Downs Light Railway where he commenced his 30-year campaign to restore the railway.  James became further involved in the Downs community by teaching woodwork and taking on the role of Bursar.  In due course, the Downs was to support James as his health started to fail.

By this time, Elizabeth and Diana were married. However, shortly after the move to Colwall, Elizabeth died suddenly and James and Dorothy took on the responsibility for bringing up Angela, Elizabeth's young daughter. Diana and her children Elizabeth, Sarah and Michael, grew up in Gloucester and were regular visitors to "Rineen" until Diana's untimely death in 1985. The deaths of both their daughters hit James and Dorothy very hard. 

Apart from the railway interest, there were many other aspects to James' life which are not so widely known. Although brought up in the Non-Conformist tradition, James allied himself to the Church of England and derived great pleasure from singing in church choirs. As a boy, he sang at the memorial service in Worcester Cathedral for Sir Edward Elgar in 1934 and was immensely proud of this connection with Elgar. More recently, James sang in Ledbury Church choir.  He would always take his cassock and surplice with him on holiday to Ireland and the Isle of Man so he could sing in the local church choir whilst away. He also became involved in taking services - Evensong was a particular favourite of his and this led to him being known in the local church community as the "Semi-Reverend Boyd". 

In addition to his singing, James was also an accomplished pianist. He loved sailing and for many years kept his own dinghy on the west coast of Ireland and it was in was in this vessel that both his daughters and grandchildren learnt to sail.  He enjoyed model railways and was a very fine modeller - his Irish prototype railway being a testament to his skills.  His photographs are well-known but he was an extremely skilled photographer in his own right with a very good eye for picture composition. In his youth he played hockey and in later life enjoyed watching rugby on the television. He enjoyed travel (rail in particular, of course) and in addition to the many trips to Ireland, in later life he went further a field to India, Portugal and the USA, always in pursuit of railways. 

In 1992 he was hit by his first stroke and this blow was compounded by the death of his beloved Dorothy eighteen months later. These events could have broken him but his tenacity and determination brought him through and Volume 3 of his "History of the Isle of Man Railway" was published, followed by the two anecdotal autobiographical volumes of "Saga by Rail".

He maintained his impish sense of humour and dazzling smile to the end.  As we all know, he had his stubborn and infuriating side but he kept going despite his failing health and a further stroke which ultimately led to his requirement for full time care at home. 

James was a distinguished railway writer and researcher and his books are of historic significance. However, the private James Boyd was much more, a family man, a husband, father and grandfather, a good friend and correspondent, musician, photographer, sportsman and adventurer. He bore personal tragedy with great dignity and leaves a legacy not only of exceptional books but of so much more…

May his soul rest in peace.

Following the Service the large congregation retired to The Downs School for refreshment and rides on The Downs Light Railway, engines being driven by pupils from the school, ending the day with a fitting tribute to a former Scholar and Master.