Select Boyd Miscellany

Here are some Boyd stories and accounts over the years:

Kilmarnock Castle

Kilmarnock Castle, or Dean Castle, is located just outside the town of Kilmarnock. It was built in the 14th century, not long after the lands of Kilmarnock and West Kilbride were given by King Robert the Bruce to Sir Robert Boyd in recognition for his services at the Battle of Bannockburn.

Dean means “wooded glen” and Dean Castle was the seat of the Boyd's for over four hundred years.  The keep was constructed around 1350 and the palace about a hundred years later when the Boyds were at the height of their powers. 
In 1735 an accidental fire caused by a careless maid was started in the kitchen.  The fire spread onto the thatched roof and then engulfed the roof of the keep.  The castle and the palace ended up in complete ruin and they were sold by the Boyds in 1746.

At one time the Boyds had the right of pit and gallows, a privilege conferred on all barons for having on their grounds a pit for drowning women and gallows for hanging men convicted of theft.  The Gallows Knowe stood at Kilmarnock Castle, if not used, until 1861.

The estate changed hands many times.  When
the 8th Lord Howard de Walden inherited the castle in the late 19th century, he began an extensive restoration.  He completed the keep in 1908 and the restoration of the palace in 1946.  The estate was acquired by the Kilmarnock and Louden District Council in 1977.

Epitaph of Robert Lord Boyd

Robert Lord Boyd died in 1589 and the following epigraph was inscribed on a stone in the interior of the Low Church in Kilmarnock.

"Heir lyis yt godlie Noble wyis lord Boyd
Quha Kirk and King Commin well decoir'd
Quhilke war (quhill they yis jowell all injoyed)
Defendit, consailed, governd, be that lord
His ancient hous (oft parreld) he restoired
Twyis sax and saxtie zeirs he lived and syne
By death (ye third of Januare) devoird
In anno thrys fyve hundreth auchtye nyne."

Penkill Castle

Penhill Castle in Ayrshire was probably built around 1490 by Adam Boyd, a younger son of Lord Boyd.  There were seventeen Lairds of Penkill until the castle was acquired by an American Al Eckstrand in 1978.

However, the castle came with a curse.  Villagers have talked about the curse which dooms anyone who dares to bring harm to Penkill to certain death.  Alice Boyd had noted in her diary in the 1860’s what she had seen when she had opened the window one morning.  There was a stranger impaled on a tree branch in the glen below.  This would-be burglar, apparently slipping from the castle wall, must have fallen to his death.

By the 1970’s, the 25 room castle was the home of Evelyn May Courtney-Boyd, a distant relative of Alice Boyd.  Aged 94, she was described as “a strange, impulsive but generous woman, with no head for money, who continually found herself in debt with the fuel bills and the like.”  A milkman, William Hume, took advantage of her situation.  He suggested that he and his wife could look after her in the gatehouse while they resided in the castle itself. 

However, the curse reasserted itself.  The milkman began to sell the castle’s paintings.  One painting, that of the 14th and 15th lairds of Penkill, came with this warning on the back: “Move not this picture.  Let it be, for love of those in effigy.”  The milkman, attempting to pry the painting free from the mantel with a poker, suddenly began choking and fell to the floor.  He died later that night.

Reader Feedback - Boyds from Dominica

William Boyd was an extremely well thought of trader and merchant on the island of Dominica in the early 1800's and perhaps from the late 1780's.  His will can be found online at ‘  William’s descendents were very prominent people and even today the current Speaker of the House is a woman named Alix Boyd. The engineer who did the roads on the island was a Donald Boyd.  The roads on that island are extremely narrow and dangerous as the island is volcanic.  

These Boyds also had an extremely strong network amongst themselves for trade and social purposes, providing an influence that might be considered to be unsurpassed in the Caribbean.  They married other influential planter class families such as the Watts - Edmund and Henry David Watts being famous for employing the first steamboat to drop mail around the Caribbean.  

William’s descendants were also British Leeward island scholars, all of them brothers, my grandfather Dr. Peter Boyd being one of them.  Dr. Phillip Boyd was the man who headed and formed the Caricom Health Desk, a pioneering institution for health care in the latter days of British rule.  Philip Boyd was given an OBE from the Queen. 

The Name is Boyd is a book highlighting the family and their presence in the Caribbean.  The book does not go further back than the 1700's (I believe a family history is in the works).  But it does show the marriages and positions of the various members of the family and their accomplishments.  The book is a relatively new publication.  

The Dominica Story
by Lennox Honey Church highlights the influence of the Boyd presence strongly and, towards the end, shows an early original advertisement of a lost slave belonging to William Boyd.  The famous book Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Ryse was set on a plantation the Boyd family kept on the island of Dominica.  

So far in the last two centuries there does not seem to have been another family that has ties with the Caribbean of such longevity.  It appears that the Boyds have been living and trading and migrating back forth in the Caribbean for almost 350 years.  They have been present in Jamaica and St. Kitts with the Augustus Boyd line as well as in Dominica for the last century and a half.  It should be noted as the islands have gained independence the Boyd family is considered as the last of the Caribbean Anglo heritage. 

The Father of Wytheville

Thomas Jefferson Boyd was born in 1804 in Albemarle county, Virginia near Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello.   His parents Thomas and Mary Boyd ran Boyd’s Tavern (a building that is still standing) on the Charlottesville road, which they had started a year earlier. 

Thomas educated himself and became an attorney practicing law in Wytheville in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In fact he became known as “the father of Wytheville.”  He was the local surveyor, railroad promoter, town mayor and Virginia legislator, and is commemorated today by the Thomas J. Boyd Museum in the town.  

The Boyd Hotel, a five story brick hotel and restaurant across from the train station, was built by him in 1856.  Boyd lost most of his wealth during the financial panic of 1857 and subsequently retired from his other activities to concentrate on operating the hotel.  During the Civil War, a number of "out of town men" who helped defend Wytheville after Toland’s raid of 1863 received a "square meal free" from the hotel.  Boyd had to sell the hotel in 1878 to settle his debts.  He died in 1893.

Belle Boyd, Confederate Spy

One of the most famous of Confederate spies, Belle Boyd served the Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley.  

Born in Martinsburg, now part of West Virginia, she operated her spying operations from her father’s hotel in Front Royal and provided valuable information to Stonewall Jackson during the spring 1862 campaign in the Valley.  Jackson made her a captain and honorary aide-de-camp on his staff.  Betrayed by her lover, she was arrested on July 29, 1862, and held for a month in the Old Capitol Prison in Washington.  Exchanged a month later, she was in exile with relatives for a time but was again arrested in June 1863 while on a visit to Martinsburg.  

On December 1, 1863, she was released, suffering from typhoid, and was then sent to Europe to regain her health.  The blockade runner she attempted to return on was captured and she fell in love with the prize master, Samuel Hardinge, who later married her in England after being dropped from the navy's rolls for neglect of duty in allowing her to proceed to Canada and then England.  Hardinge attempted to reach Richmond, was detained in Union hands, but died soon after his release.  

While in England Belle Boyd Hardinge had a stage career and published Belle Boyd in Camp and Prison.

The Boyds, Maunawili and Aloha Oe

Edwin Boyd and his wife Maria bought the Maunawili estate in 1869 and they made it into one of the largest cattle ranches on windward Oahu in the 19th century.   They also entertained at the ranch and the King of Hawaii, King David Kalakaua, and his sister, Princess Lilioukalani, would often attend their parties.  Guests would walk between two parallel rows of royal palms, farewells would be exchanged, and then they would ride away on horseback or in their carriages.

It was on a visit to the ranch in 1877 that Princess Lilioukalani received the inspiration that lead to her composition of Aloha Oe or “Farewell to Thee.”  Aloha Oe, her most famous song, came about on her horseback ride away from the Boyd estate.  She happened to witness a farewell embrace between Colonel James Boyd and one of the young ranch ladies.   A tune came into her head and she composed the words on her return home.  Aloha Oe is a treasured song amongst the Hawaiian people for its bittersweet evocation of a fond farewell.

The Maunawili estate remained with the Boyd family until 1893.

Famous Boyds in Panama

Archibaldo Boyd was an American Scots Irish immigrant who founded Panama’s first newspaper, the English language Star and Herald, in 1852. 

Federico Boyd
, his son, was a member of the Revolutionary junta in 1903.  He was briefly President of the country in 1910 and also served as its ambassador to the United States. 

Augusto Boyd
, Federico’s son, was Vice-President from 1936 to 1939 and briefly President in 1940.

Aquilino Boyd
was active as a diplomat for Panama.  He was the principal negotiator in the Panama Canal treaties of 1977.

Sam Boyd and Las Vegas

Sam Boyd came from Oklahoma.  His father was a Sooner, originally probably from Mississippi, who settled in Enid, Oklahoma in the 1890’s.  He ran a local taxicab fleet, appearing in the newspapers in 1908 for bootlegging.  He died of typhoid in 1919 when Sam was just nine.

Sam’s mother took the family to Long Beach, California where Sam grew up.  He was a hustler.  Having learnt the gambling business on the cruise ships to Hawaii, he set out for Las Vegas in 1941, reportedly with just $30 in his pocket. 
After being hired as a dealer, Sam Boyd worked his way up through the ranks of the Las Vegas casino industry, first to pit boss, then to shift boss.  He eventually saved enough to buy a small interest in the Sahara.

Sam’s casino ownership, in partnership with his son Bill, began in 1962.  During their first two decades in operation, Sam and Bill developed a reputation for running a squeaky-clean operation, in contrast to many of the other casino operators where skimming was the normal practice of the day. 

Bill took over Boyd Gaming Corporation after Sam’s death in 1993.  The Sam Boyd football stadium in Las Vegas was named in honor of Sam Boyd.

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