A Family of Artists

This is the story of a Glasgow family of three artists, father, mother and of their only son who died in the Great War. This talented trio would leave their mark on the world with their paintings, writing and illustrations – so much talent, yet one would be cut short in his prime – Stuart.

Whole generations would be wiped out because of the Great War, yet thankfully, Mary his mother and Alexander his father would continue to be prolific in their work despite their crushing loss.

Stuart, son of Alexander Stuart Boyd and Mary Stuart Boyd, was born in Glasgow in June 1887. His father, Alexander, was a painter and illustrator, working for years for Punch magazine. He also illustrated many of his wife’s books. Alexander was 33 years old when Stuart was born and Mary was 26 years old.

The Diamond Jubilee: the Queen saluted by Empress Frederick at the Thanksgiving Service in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, 20 June 1897 drawn 1897 – Alexander Stuart Boyd

The world awaits and a horizon always beckoning

Like many affluent Victorians and Edwardians, the Boyds loved to travel and they documented their jaunts by Mary’s writing, supplemented with Alexander’s illustrations and paintings. At a time when there was no Instagram, no Twitter, many revelled in the exploits of these travellers. Mary’s books are wonderfully illustrated sometimes in colour, sometimes in pen or ink drawings.

It is very easy to see how influenced Stuart was by his parent’s travels with their talent of expression in print and in imagery. He travelled with his mother in October 1909 to Majorca and it is wonderfully documented in ‘The Fortunate Isles’.

Stuart had such a keen eye, he spotted that the twin masted steamship they travelled from Barcelona to Palma on, although named Balear, had the name ‘Princess Maud’ showing beneath the paint. This steamship was built by William Denny & Bros, Dumbarton in 1904. They both delighted in the fact that a ship built on the famous River Clyde was now taking them into the delightful harbour of Porti Pi in Majorca.

The ‘Princess Maud’ on the Stranraer to Larne route

Mary Stuart Boyd – The Mother

Mary Rennie Wilson Kirkwood was born on 15th October 1860 in Glasgow, and her father was an accountant. She married Alexander on 6th August 1880 and they moved to 100 Buccleuch Street, to set up married life. They then moved to London in 1891 when Alexander joined The Graphic just four years after the birth of Stuart.

Mary Rennie Wilson Kirkwood was born on 15th October 1860 in Glasgow, and her father was an accountant. She married Alexander on 6th August 1880 and they moved to 100 Buccleuch Street, to set up married life. They then moved to London in 1891 when Alexander joined The Graphic just four years after the birth of Stuart.

She wrote eight books – some of those were travel books – ‘The Fortunate Isles – Life and Travel in Majorca, Minorca and Ibiza’; ‘Our Stolen Summer’, her account of her family’s round-the-world voyage on board the Orient (170 pen and ink sketches by her husband), and ‘A Versailles Christmas-Tide’, where they wintered while their son Stuart was stricken with scarlet fever.

“I hear you think of spending the winter in the Balearic Islands?” said the only Briton we met who had been there. “Well, I warn you, you won’t enjoy them. They are quite out of the world. There are no tourists. Not a soul understands a word of English, and there’s nothing whatever to do.
If you take my advice you won’t go”

So we went. And what follows is a faithful account of what befell us in these fortunate isles.

The Fortunate Isles (1901)
Read for free here https://www.gutenberg.org/files/39199/39199-h/39199-h.htm


A Versailles Christmas-Tide (1900)

Read for free here https://www.gutenberg.org/files/10813/10813-h/10813-h.htm

Listen for free https://archive.org/details/versaillechristmas_1411_librivox/versailleschristmas_01_boyd_128kb.mp3

Stuart stricken with scarlet fever – illustrated by his father Alexander Stuart Boyd

A Versailles Christmas-Tide was written when the doting parents rushed across the channel to their son, who was stricken with scarlet fever. He was being schooled at Versailles and they decided to spend the winter over there while their son recuperated.

She used to call Stuart, ‘The Boy’…

The Boy is an ordinary snub-nosed, shock-headed urchin of thirteen, with no special claim to distinction save the negative one of being an only child.

Alexanders Stuart Boyd did 53 illustrations in A Versailles Christmas-Tide

Mary’s complete list of novels :

 The Glen

 The First Stone

 With Clipped Wings

 The Man in the Wood


 Her Besetting Virtue – Read for free:

Alexander Stuart Boyd – The Father

Alexander Stuart Boyd was born on 7th February 1854 in Glasgow. His birth was only sixteen years after Queen Victoria was crowned and right in the middle of the ‘golden age’ of Victorians. Alexander’s father was a muslin manufacturer and the family lived in the Gorbals. Old Gorbals was full of wonderful tenements and townhouses and many affluent people lived there before the area became run down in the late part of the 19th century.

The Victorian age began as an age of realism, in literature, art, nationalism, romanticism in music and culture but was renowned also as the age of travel. The Victorians travelled widely in the UK, Europe and further afield, for those who could afford it. Journey by train meant the continent was opening up.

The Smoking Saloon of the White Star Steamship ‘Teutonic’ – Alexander Stuart Boyd

When Alexander married Mary Kirkwood in 1880, they would not have foreseen what lay ahead on the horizon – the Great War and the loss of their only son. All they could see was a bright future for them and Stuart, now a promising painter in his own right.

Alexander was a leading illustrator for Punch and the Graphic, and a regular contributor at the Royal Academy, although latterly he concentrated more on illustrations than painting. He and Mary were cultured Glaswegians who could mingle very easily with the cream of the artistic society of London in their St John’s Wood residence at 17 Boundary Road.

Paris in 1901 – the infancy of the automobile –
Pen drawing by Alexander Stuart Boyd

Rudyard Kipling himself was a guest. He would lose a son too, John, and in his grief, he became involved with the Imperial War Graves Commission. Kipling was the main architect for many of its memorial inscriptions – ‘Known Unto God’, ‘The Glorious Dead’, and ‘Their Name Liveth for Evermore’.

Majorca – An afternoon in August, 1912 Alexander Stuart Boyd

Alexander and Mary collaborated well, he contributed eight colour plates and 52 pen drawings for ‘The Fortunate Isles’, which compliment wonderfully with Mary’s prose. Alexander also contributed 53 pen drawings for ‘A Versailles Christmas-Tide’. To read her stories with the text punctuated by these delightful drawings is a lovely experience. They take you back to a wondrous time gone by, where sights and sounds are described in words and lovingly by drawings.

Palma 1916 Alexander Stuart Boyd

Alexander found illustration work was in less demand after the war, photography was becoming the preferred medium for reporting. So in 1920, they emigrated to New Zealand. He died on 21st August 1930, predating Mary’s death by six years. They have both left a wealth of literature and art. Sadly their son’s legacy was tragically cut short.

Lt Stuart Boyd – The Son

Stuart Boyd was born on 7th June 1887 at 257 West George Street, Glasgow. Early census records show him named Alexander Stuart Boyd but he dropped Alexander in later life. Perhaps not wanting to be confused with his father as he made strides to become an accomplished painter himself. Although his father was more renowned as an illustrator and cartoonist, and not a painter.

Study of a female figure made with coloured chalks 1910 – Stuart Boyd

Stuart was educated at Versailles and University College School, Hampstead. He was a promising artist and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1909, 1914 and 1915.

Landscape with Grapes and Apples Stuart Boyd 1912

Paintings in the Royal Academy Exhibitions

1909 – In Hyde Park

1914 – The British Resident and Lluch-el-Carre, Majorca

1916 – From under the vine

Sadly his painting at the 1916 Royal Academy would be his last ever exhibited as he died in October 1916, a casualty of the Great War.

His parents’ love of the Balearics, especially Ibiza influenced his paintings, they all have a rich, colourful, vibrant appeal – nature at its best. You can almost feel the sunlight on your face, the warmth of the Mediterranean environment appealing to all your senses.

Sunshine and Shadows – Stuart Boyd 1912

I wonder if Stuart’s parent’s visited his grave before they embarked for New Zealand, I think they would have done, albeit, heartbreaking for them as they knew they would not return. At least, they had a grave to pay last respects to.

Lt Stuart Boyd Killed in Action 7th October 1916, Somme

Their friend Rudyard Kipling and his wife Carrie, would spend many years trying to find out if their son, John was still alive. It was only decades later, a grave in St Mary’s Advanced Dressing Station Cemetery, near Loos in Northern France, had ‘Known unto God’ removed and replaced with John’s name.

Lt Stuart Boyd’s grave Dernancourt Cemetery near Albert, France
(courtesy of NZwargraves.org)

When Stuart succumbed to his wounds on Saturday 7th October 1916, it was like a light going out, and not just for his beloved parents. The world was robbed of a wonderful painter.

Their simple epitaph said it all,



Stuart Boyd Monument in Glasgow Necropolis (courtesy of Friends of Glasgow Necropolis)
Location of Boyd Monument in Glasgow Necropolis – (courtesy of Friends of Glasgow Necropolis)

For the Boyd’s they said goodbye to their son and embarked on the second chapter of their life, sadly for Stuart, he had hardly even turned the page on his life. We can only speculate what might have been, but that could be said for the lost generation of all combatants of the Great War.

Lest We Forget


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Published by spotonlocations

Scottish based company designing travel apps for historical locations. Travel apps that will take you on amazing journeys to destinations in history where famous events took place. Scotland, Castles, Clans, WW1 & WW2

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