BOYCE, Francis Bertie (1844-1931)

BOYCE, Francis Bertie (1844-1931)
clergyman and social reformer
son of Francis Boyce, an accountant, was born at Tiverton, Devonshire, England, on 6 April 1844. He was brought by his parents to Australia and, after being shipwrecked off Barwon. Heads, Victoria, arrived at Sydney in August 1853. Boyce was educated at St James Grammar School and at a private school kept by James Keane, and, his father having died in January 1858, entered the service of the Union Bank of Australia in the following December. He was eight years with this bank, but deciding to enter the Church of England, went to Moore College at the beginning of 1867, was ordained deacon in December 1868 and priest in 1869. His first parish was George's Plains near Bathurst, followed by Molong in 1873 and Orange in 1875. Boyce was a hard-working and enthusiastic country clergyman, travelling many miles on horseback to reach his people, and raising money to build churches where no church had been before. The church built at Orange cost £7000, had accommodation for 600 people, and few seats were vacant when Boyce was holding the service. In April 1882 he went to Pyrmont, an industrial area, and in 1884 to St Paul's, Redfern. He remained there for 46 years, was elected a canon of St Andrew's cathedral in December 1899, and in 1910 was appointed archdeacon of West Sydney.
St Paul's, Redfern, when Boyce went to it was socially a mixed parish. In George- and Pitt-streets there were many wealthy people, while on the western side of the railway line there was a dense population and part of it was a slum area. Boyce had for some time shown much interest in the temperance question and was active in fights for local option and the earlier closing of hotels. When the New South Wales Alliance was founded in 1882 he was the first secretary and afterwards was its president for over 20 years. He published in 1893 a volume on The Drink Problem in Australia, and later brought out other publications on religious and temperance questions. He was much distressed by the poverty of some parts of his parish and especially the position of men and women too old to work. He believed in old-age pensions, and on 9 September 1895 wrote to the Sydney Daily Telegraph advocating the appointment of a committee to inquire into and report on this question. Early in 1896 he called a meeting to form a pensions league. J. C. Neild had also been advocating the granting of pensions in parliament, and eventually a committee was appointed which recommended that pensions should be paid out of the public revenue. Boyce worked hard to keep the question before the public, but it was not until the end of the century that pensions became law. The first pensions were paid on 1 July 1901.
Boyce was a fervent patriot, and when the question of having an Empire Day was raised in 1902 he supported the suggestion with enthusiasm. He was spokesman of a deputation which waited on Sir Edmund Barton (q.v.), the prime minister, and he continued his efforts for it until it was founded on 24 May 1905. At meetings of the synod of the diocese of Sydney Boyce took an important part, and he continued active work in his parish until extreme old age. He resigned his arch-deaconry in 1930 and died at Blackheath on 27 May 1931. He was married twice (1) to Caroline, daughter of William Stewart, who died in 1918, and (2) to Mrs Ethel Burton, who survived him, with two sons by the first marriage. The elder son, Francis Stewart Boyce (1872-1940), became a K.C. in 1924 and a judge of the supreme court of New South Wales in 1932.
F. B. Boyce, Four Score Years and Seven; The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 May 1931; Year Book of the Diocese of Sydney, 1932, p. 163; Crockford's Clerical Directory, 1931; Who's Who In Australia, 1938, 1941.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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