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
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
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
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
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
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