The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA) is celebrating the gift of a significant collection of records and artefacts belonging to a former Commandant at the penal settlement, James Boyd.
The collection includes letters, photographs, postcards, papers, diaries, letters of appointment, official papers and even the Commandant’s own pocket watch.
Port Arthur Historic Site Manager of Heritage Programs, Dr Jody Steele, said the collection was very significant, not least because Boyd was the longest-serving Commandant of Port Arthur, occupying the post from 1853-71.
“The official records we have tell us a lot about his official role in an official manner. This collection tells us about Boyd the man, as well as connecting him with other key historical figures and places of the times. For example, during his career, Boyd worked at some of the major penal institutions of the age, including Pentonville and Clerkenwell in England, as well as at Maria Island and the Hobart Penitentiary. This collection includes original source material relating to each of those appointments.”
The items were among the possessions of Lynus Walter and Beryl Thomas, late of Melbourne. Executors of their estate, David & Lyndal Thomas recognised the material’s connection with Port Arthur and contacted PAHSMA to enquire whether the Authority would be interested in having the papers.
In thanking the Thomases for their gift, PAHSMA Chairman Dr Barry Jones praised them for considering the value and relevance of the papers.
“At Port Arthur we are deeply grateful for the action taken by David and Lyndal Thomas in alerting us to the potential significance of the material,” he said.
“David and Lyndal took the time and effort to think about the wider significance of what they had and, although they were not at all sure of its importance, they took the step of contacting us, for which we will be eternally grateful.”
“This collection adds substantially to the historical records we have available for research and study, and to the significance of Port Arthur as a cultural heritage site.”
David and Lyndal Thomas visited Port Arthur as guests of PAHSMA to see the place where Commandant Boyd was such a significant figure.