Life of an ex­pa­tri­ate Aus­tralian au­thor

Seymour Telegraph - - NEWS -

Martin Boyd, A Life

By Brenda Niall Brenda Niall has to be one of Aus­tralia’s top bi­og­ra­phers, and this book, the story of one of the lesser­known Boyd fam­ily, demon­strates that.

Born in 1893, fourth son to the A Beck­ett Boyds, Martin’s child­hood was one of rel­a­tive wealth and ease, cul­mi­nat­ing in some suc­cess­ful years at Trin­ity Gram­mar in Kew.

He stud­ied for var­i­ous ca­reers — such as ser­vice in the church and ar­chi­tec­ture — but fin­ished none, and even­tu­ally vol­un­teered for the army (British) and wound up in 1916 in the hideous trenches of France, where he was lucky to sur­vive un­scathed.

Af­ter­wards he re­alised he was more com­fort­able in Eng­land than Aus­tralia, and made his home there.

He never mar­ried but saw fam­ily mem­bers fre­quently, since most of them per­sis­tently re­ferred to Eng­land as ‘‘home’’ and vis­ited of­ten.

He started writ­ing, de­pict­ing the peo­ple he knew (and him­self) thinly dis­guised, and was even­tu­ally suc­cess­ful enough to make a com­fort­able liv­ing at it.

He was a stick­ler for good man­ners and pro­to­col, and with his very un-Aus­tralian ac­cent he was of­ten mis­taken for an English­man.

In mid­dle-age he re­turned to Aus­tralia and bought the his­tor­i­cal fam­ily home at Hark­away, ren­o­vated it, and com­mis­sioned Arthur Boyd to paint a huge mu­ral in it; but the life­style didn’t work for him and so he re­turned to Cam­bridge, the friends he knew and his writ­ing.

His health de­te­ri­o­rated and in his mid-six­ties he went to live in sunny Rome.

He loved the at­mos­phere and the peo­ple, but his fi­nances had de­clined, although gen­er­ous gifts from fam­ily and friends kept him go­ing un­til ma­jor surgery meant that death was im­mi­nent.

In his last days he con­verted to Ro­man Catholi­cism, but is buried in a Protes­tant ceme­tery.

He would have liked that anom­aly and might have used it in a book.

— Lee Stephen­son

Steph Ryan

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.