Leslie Atherton Boyce


"Your boy has exceptional ability - certainly the ablest, naturally, of our 150 boys … It is seldom that we schoolmasters strike so interesting a pupil", wrote his T.G.S. Headmaster G.P. Barbour in 1911.

"He is, in the very best sense of the word, a citizen. He is also in the very best sense of the word, a gentleman. He approaches life gravely, but with zest and wide open eyes. There are very few men I have met who are quite like him, and those of us who know him are enriched by his friendship", said Sir Zelman Cowen in 1973.

This account of the life of Leslie Atherton Boyce was written by Susie Penfold, of Cabarlah, Qld. May 18, 1989.

The Earliest Years

Born at Burketown on the Gulf of Carpentaria on June 20, 1897, Leslie was the elder son of John Gerard Rodney Boyce (known as Gerard) and Margaret Annie Boyce (nee Griffiths) both of Toowoomba who went to Burketown shortly after their wedding in St. Luke's Church, Toowoomba in 1896, for Gerard to become manager of the Queensland National Bank there. With no local hospital and a remittance doctor enjoying a bout with the bottle at the time, his home birth was somewhat traumatic. Summing it all up as a small boy enrolling at his first school: "I was born," said Leslie economically and unemotionally, "in a double bed in Burketown!"

In 1898 Gerard left the bank, and with several partners founded Burketown's Endeavour Meatworks (producing tinned beef) to solve the problem of getting Gulf Country cattle to market. The venture was a roaring success for several years, and with considerable forethought during the prosperous years, Margaret bought "Fernside", the Boyce's Toowoomba home, from her father-in-law. She and her two young sons (Colin George Alexander was born in 1899) moved to Toowoomba in 1900.

Drought, economic recession and some lack of expertise in the art of tinning ruined the meatworks venture, and Gerard returned to Toowoomba to a series of temporary jobs, including a stint as secretary of the Toowoomba General Hospital. In that capacity he organised entertainments to raise funds, including himself on the bill as an increasingly expert conjurer. Finally he took to conjuring professionally and went on stage as "Jean Hugard", under which name he became world-famous, inventing several ingenious new illusions and editing a much sought conjurors' magazine.


The School Years

At State School

Enrolled at East State School he again gave a foretaste of traits which were to last a lifetime. Asked if he knew: What is seven times eight?" he replied with a gravity and a determination to look well before he leapt: "Is it the same here as in New Zealand?". This grave, cautious, practical, sensible and highly intellectual nature was allied with a certain shyness and reserve which also lasted more or less for life making deep friendships slow to form and few in number. Leslie inherited much of his practical nature from his Griffiths ancestors. In marked contrast his brother, Colin, and sister, Nancy, were full of gregarious Boyce charm, both of them having a social ease and light humour which led to wide circles of friends. This contrast was felt quite keenly by Leslie. While never underestimating his own strengths, and deploring the weaknesses that went with his brother and sister's charm, he was almost puzzled by their great social success. It was only in his latter years that he developed a tolerance and ease that gave him a charm all of his own and won him a wide circle of loving friends. As a child he had a hair-trigger temper, which he learned to control almost completely, so that on the rare occasions when it overcame him in later life it came as a considerable shock to witnesses.

In 1908 Leslie left East School for Rangeville, a new small school about three miles from Fernside. He later recorded in his curriculum vitae (which incidentally he kept up-to-date with typical thoroughness right up to 1986): "The Rangeville Headmaster, Mr Thomas Henderson, had a reputation of getting scholarships. There were 50 in Queensland each year. I had to get one or miss secondary school. Mother was very chart of money living on erratic remittances from my father and some help from her brothers and her father. There was an overdraft still remaining on the purchase of Fernside. She was battling to pay this off. Meantime it was let. She sold some of the land and built a cottage. She raised ducks and there was a cow which I milked, selling some milk to a nearby family. Mother took two small sons of a widowed brother as boarders."

Toowoomba Grammar School

Mr Henderson, with considerable input from his student, lived up to his reputation and Leslie duly won a scholarship in late 1910, taking 10th place in the state. In 1911 he started at the Toowoomba Grammar School under classical scholar and cricketer, George Pitty Barbour, who took a keen interest in his career. In July 1911 he wrote: "My dear Mrs Boyce, I wish I could have seen you personally with reference to your boy and the subject of Greek. It is, I suppose, with your approval that he today chose chemistry in lieu of Greek. There is not more than one boy in fifty whom I would urge to take Greek in preference to chemistry, but that one boy is your son, and my reasons will perhaps lead you to reconsider your decision. Your boy has exceptional ability - certainly the ablest, naturally of our 150 boys. This means that his education until he gets a degree at the University will cost you nothing. (Mr Barbour then forecast a scholastic career of succeeding scholarships through to a Queensland University law degree, and the usefulness and discipline the study of Greek would add to that plan). "I thought I should put these matters before you. If you should still prefer that he do chemistry, so be it. It will make no difference to the keen interest I am taking in the boy. I take no credit for this interest for it is seldom that we schoolmasters strike so interesting a pupil." Leslie took Greek, as well as Latin and French (for which he obtained credits in the Junior exam) and English, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry and Inorganic Chemistry (Passes).

Of this period Leslie wrote later: "I served in the School Cadet Corps, but showed no proficiency at all at games. During this time the family finances were a little easier. Mother inherited a legacy from her mother and was able to build and sell one or two cottages on Fernside land. Remittances from father were better but there were still cows for me to milk morning and evening. After increasingly infrequent visits home Gerard Boyce finally deserted his wife and young family in 1912.

In 1914 Leslie returned initially to the Grammar School on an extension scholarship, but financial pressure was mounting and the choice of a career became paramount. His own preferences were either the Law (as outlined by Mr Barbour) or going on the land to raise stock. An old friend, and the family doctor, Dr E.A. Falkner, however urged that he go to work at the Toowoomba Foundry, founded by his grandfather, George Washington Griffiths, and then controlled by his uncles A.A. and G.H. Griffiths. The latter advice won out, and in March, 1914 Leslie joined the Foundry as an engineering cadet, gaining experience in the drawing offices and attending night school at the Toowoomba Technical College.


World War I


In August, 1914, World War 1 began and in 1915 Leslie was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Cadet Corps of the Commonwealth. In July that year, on turning 18, he enlisted in the A.I.F. to report for duty in January 1916, to the Recruit Camp at Frazer's Paddock, Enoggera. In due course he was promoted corporal and transferred to the 41st Battalion A.I.F. at Bell's Paddock.

The War

The Battalion sailed from Sydney for Plymouth on May 18, 1916, via Albury and Cape town. From the Cape Leslie sent unusual greeting cards to his sister and numerous female cousins written on dried silver protea leaves (which are still extant). Coincidentally, he was to pre-empt the Australian craze for growing South African proteas by many years, bringing plants of several species, including the silver-leaved from a trip to South Africa in 1952 to grow in his Toowoomba garden.

From his first stilted efforts as a six-year-old pupil at Miss Meek's infant school writing dutifully to his touring mother, right through the War, Leslie developed as a conscientious and informative correspondent. His letters home from 1916 to 1918 cover much more than the reports on "tucker" and home-sick thoughts of the average digger. They range over the lifestyles of the different peoples he saw on his travels, the politics of the day and the policies and strategies of the various military campaigns he and the Australian forces were involved in. He never had military ambitions in the ordinary way, but as he was by necessity to be a soldier for a time, he entered wholeheartedly into the endeavour and made no secret of his ambition to become an officer. His letters home, which he subsequently broadened to cover areas omitted because of contemporary censorship and to which he added bridging notes are now a valued item at the National War Memorial Museum in Canberra.

He spent five months at Lark Hill training camp on Salisbury Plain, taking in a physical training course for non-commissioned officers at Aldershot, and was promoted sergeant. From Lark Hill he wrote to Colin: "Stonehenge is just opposite the door of my tent, only about 500 yards away. When we first got here I was very interested and went over one night to have a look at it. I've done so many route marches past it since, and spent so much time staring at it over an uninteresting landscape that I'd like to see the blessed thing blown up!"

On November 25, 1916 he sailed to France and spent the rest of that year in the trenches near Armentieres. He fought in the battle of Messines and was promoted in the field to Second Lieutenant on June 26, 1917 six days after his 20th birthday. October saw him fighting in the Battle of Broodseinde Ridge near Paschendaele and he was wounded soon after at Freizenberg Ridge and evacuated to hospital in London.

The Military Cross

For his part in that action, he was awarded the Military Cross. His citation, published in the Anzac Bulletin of June 14, 1918, reads:

Second Lieutenant Leslie Atherton Gerard BOYCE, Infantry. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when in command of his Platoon during an attack, and of the Company after reaching the objective, all of the other officers being killed or wounded. He remained in command for two days consolidating the position and repelling counter attacks.

Wounded in Action

Lieutenant Boyce returned to France, only to be most seriously wounded on the Somme suffering machine gun wounds to the hip, groin and thighs. He was evacuated to London's Prince of Wales Hospital for officers at Marylebone, where he underwent long and painful treatment, the sciatic nerve in his right thigh being the greatest problem. He was declared Totally and Permanently Invalided (he was still officially a T.P.I. when he died 70 years later!). He arrived home still in a wheel chair and with medical predictions of permanent debility.

The Foundry

Back at the Foundry

He was fit enough by 1919 to rejoin the Toowoomba Foundry Pty Ltd as Assistant to the Managing Director, Mr Atherton Griffiths. In April he invested in his first allotment of shares in the Company. He was also put up as a member of the Downs Club. He joined in the hectic post-war social life of the 1920's with his own brand of restraint, but was not above enjoying the Picnic Race meetings, the private balls and cocktail parties which punctuated the period. His mother was an enthusiastic hostess, and his sister Nancy recalled one occasion when she was a schoolgirl when her two (much admired and adored) older brothers (in the temporary absence of their mother) roped her and some older girl cousins in to organise an evening dance for about forty at Fernside.

In 1920 Mr L.A. (as he became known at the Foundry. He dropped Gerard from his initials as a schoolboy when he found his contemporaries prone to use his initials to conjure up the nickname "L.A.G." ) essayed his first sales journey into Western Queensland travelling with senior salesman Meagher through Roma to Charleville and Longreach. "Total sales on whole journey - Nil" he reported philosophically, but added that heavy rain and the post-war slump compounded the difficulty of selling pumping equipment in 1920. Apparently his employers did not hold the figures against him. He was appointed a Director in 1922 and sent to mange the Branch Office in Rockhampton.


For the next three years he built the Rockhampton office into a thriving branch, initiating new procedures and travelling extensively though Central, Western and Northern Queensland on company business. He recalled those days vividly on a camper holiday tour of North and West Queensland in 1986. "I remember how I deplored the advent of radio. My overnight visits to stations were a very important part of my sales routine. After dinner, "the boss" and I would repair to the veranda and in the course of general gossip I'd pick up on who was planning what in the district. At stations with radio, the whole family would be glued to the set, not only after, but even during dinner!" Later he had the same reservations about television, and though a set was installed at 6 Range Street it took an earth-shattering event to get Leslie to watch. His dislike of radio and TV in the home was purely on the grounds that both hindered rather than aided communication. He was never, not even as a very old man, against new technology on principle. He continued to weigh each on its merits, even being willing to take the worth of computers on trust, since he felt they arrived too late in his life for him to understand their workings as thoroughly as he would have liked.

In Rockhampton he joined the local rowing club, and at last found a sport at which he could excel. He rowed on the Fitzroy River every weekend and eventually represented Rockhampton as a member of the crew which came second in the champion eights of Queensland. This never-forgotten skill was also revived on the 1986 N.Q. trip when he stepped into a canoe and rowed happily for miles in the water-filled gorges of the Lawn Hill National Park in the Gulf country. Curiously the only other sport which captured Leslie's enthusiasm involved the water. In 1964, aged 67, Mr L.A. took to water skiing every morning with some of his younger protégées from the Management team at the Foundry, travelling to and from Helidon every day for the pleasure. He kept up this sport well into hi seventies.

Toowoomba Again

Returning to Toowoomba in 1925 he was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Toowoomba Foundry Company, a position he held with the company and its group holding company, Industrial Enterprises Ltd. And its subsidiaries (now the Southern Cross Corporation) until he retired on December 31, 1957. During that time the company established branches and subsidiary companies in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia and South Africa and also developed a considerable export business to other parts of the world. He was, as Chief Executive, to the forefront in all this development, and set up many office practices and business routines which lasted well beyond his tenure. His position also called for considerable diplomacy, working for two uncles who were majority shareholders, had developed the business enormously since they bought it from their father, and liked to keep a hand on the reins, even after they had put Leslie in the saddle. In all, L.A. Boyce served Southern Cross for some seventy-four years, a record of which he was justifiably proud. After handing over the Chief Executive role to H.A. Griffiths in 1957, he continued as a Director of the Company until 1976 when he retired to facilitate the appointment of younger men to the Board. He sat in at Board Meetings as an Associate Director, however, until his final retirement in 1987, aged 90. "Southern Cross had never ceased to be a vital part of my life," he said on that occasion. From 1957 to 1986 he structured, launched and helped as a Trustee to maintain the Southern Cross Superannuation Fund.

The 1920s

During the 1920's he was an enthusiastic member of the scouting movement, became a Scoutmaster with the name of Powerful Owl. In 1925 he assisted Dr T.A. Price to organise an All Australia Boy Scout Jamboree on Canungra Creek.


During this period also he had been wooing Miss Harriot Rose Margaret Hall (known as Margie) younger daughter of Edgar Hall, of Silverspur and his wife Rose Helen (nee Cullen) Margie was a contemporary and close school friend of Leslie's sister Nancy, two girls having been boarders and having shared a cubicle at the Glennie Memorial School. Leslie decided Margie was the girl for him shortly after they met. Not surprisingly, in view of her youth, it took her longer to come to the same decision, but eventually she said "yes"and the couple were married at Silverspur on April 29, 1930. Soon after they became engaged Leslie bought the 71/2 acres of dairy farm and scrub remnant on the (then) north east boundary of Toowoomba, and together they planned the house they moved into immediately after the wedding.

The Gardens

Over the years, together they turned to sloping hillside into one of Australia's best known great gardens. The landscaping plans and choice of plants were almost entirely in Margie's hands, but in the early days they both shared the considerable physical chores of terracing, planting, maintenance… even building the swimming pool terrace out into the rainforest canopy. The full history of the garden's growth and development has been recorded in archives, albums and reports held at 6 Range Street. But no biography of Leslie Boyce would be complete without stress on the importance of gardening as a recreational activity in his younger life (his mother was a great gardener and gardening tends to be a family passion) as a major hobby during his working career, and a great interest in his years of retirement. Fortunately his business energy and acumen earned him comparative wealth, so that he and his wife were able to employ gardeners to continue the labour of the garden and ensure further development even as their own days of digging and weeding declined. Ensuring that the garden should be shared by as many people as possible and should live on after them became a big concern until a solution was found in 1969.


A Firm Belief

A long-term interest in politics firmed into active participation in the 1930's. Leslie joined the Country and National Party of Queensland then in opposition under Mr A.E. Moore in 1933. Two years later he stood for the (solidly labour) seat of Toowoomba in a state election, not without success since he reduced the Labour majority. By the end of 1935 the state C. & P.N. party and the Federal United Australia Party were both beginning to break up, and L.A. Boyce stood again for the Toowoomba state seat in a by-election as a Conservative, again without ultimate success, but without disgrace. He learned, as many a man of unbending principle before and after has learned, that party politics was not for him. He believed passionately that a candidate (and his party) should decide the most beneficial course for the country and its people, base all their politics on that course, then carry them through if elected. He could not come to terms at all with the professional politician's emphasis on vote-winning as a basis for policies. He paid electors (somewhat idealistically?) the compliment of supposing their intelligence was stronger than the nerve in their hip-pockets. The results of his two campaigns in which he insisted in telling it how he honestly saw it, and not as the party or the voters might like to hear it, lent some justification to his belief.

The Orator

With typical thoroughness, Leslie decided to fine hone his public speaking skills in preparation for his political life, studied the art an became a first class public and after-dinner speaker. The following excerpt from the "Talk of the Day" column in a Blomfontein, S.A. newspaper sums it up: "The after-dinner speaker has become the butt of every wit, half-wit and nitwit. And not without reason; usually he's a bore who doesn't know where to begin, how to proceed or when to stop… A perfect exception to this tedious rule is a visiting Australian businessman, Mr L.A. Boyce. His address at the Rotary Club luncheon yesterday (11/7/53) was proof that post-prandial speaking can be an art. It was amusing, instructive, succinct and graphic." Those adjectives are not exaggerated, for indeed he did have that wonderful ability to take the most abstruse subject and explain it in terms that made it understandable and interesting and understandable to his audience. His speeches sounded easy, simple and spontaneous - as do many projects into which have gone much meticulous research, effort and rehearsal!

His Own Man!

Leslie' drift from affinity with any particular political party became more pronounced as the years went on. An article in the Toowoomba Chronicle of April 15, 1980 read: "Dr Boyce is no stereotype. His fair-minded and clear analyses of politics, industrial matters, education and the world in general are remarkable for their lack of bias. He is not above criticising the policies of the Right or praising the ideas of the Left. Though he disapproves of the use of muscle in industrial disputes, he never indulges in facile union bashing. He takes an optimistic view of the world's progress, maintaining that society is gradually breaking down historical inequalities."

His concern about "Union bashing" and the way Australia's arbitration system was failing, his continued resolve to do as much as he could as an individual to improve matters (in this case by sowing seeds in fertile ground)… and his public speaking skills are obvious in the following report of his talk at a Toowoomba Grammar School Speech Day in 1979, a speech subsequently described by Headmaster W.M. Dent as: "Eloquent, witty, full of good sense and good advice, carefully constructed, logically argued, elegantly phrased and delivered entirely without notes."

"A call for a major shift in emphasis from 'dispute' to 'justice' in industrial relations in Australia was made yesterday by retired industrialist Dr L.A. Boyce, guest speaker at the grammar school speech day. "In the first 30 pages of my 140-page copy of the Commonwealth Conciliation Act 1904 - 1973, I counted the word 'dispute' 82 times. The word 'justice' occurred not once, he said. It seems to me that our way of dividing the cake by confrontations, disputes and quarrelling not only makes life unhappy and uncomfortable for people who have so much in common that they should be able to work in harmony, but also has the unfortunate effect of reducing the size of the cake and so making everyone's share smaller." Taking a carefully neutral stance, Dr Boyce called on the boys of the school to be leaders in promoting a new era of industrial harmony. After explaining his philosophy of society and therefore industry boiling down to three equal and interdependent partners, providers (capitalists) producers (employees) and purchasers (customers) he added: "Every one of us belongs in one way or another to all three groups. We are all customers, for some part of our life we are all producers and we all have a share in providing the means of production, if not directly through invested capital then through savings or as 'shareholders' in Government owned enterprises paid for by our taxes. … "Today we are just about back to the bad old days of 'trial by combat' in the field of industrial disagreement. How can we get back on the right track? He asked. "I do not think the solution will be found in making more and more laws. What is needed is a concerned and enlightened public opinion demanding decent economic justice for all parties concerned. If in your time you can change the keyword from 'disputes' to 'justice' you will have achieved more than your predecessors", he said.

In 1936 L.A. Boyce organised the Queensland branch of the Metal Trades Employers Association in Brisbane and became a member of the committee. In 1949-51 he served as president of the assn. In 1942 he was a founding member of the Australian Metal Industries Association. He was president of the Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce 1938.

In December of 1936 he contested the Darling Downs Federal seat at a by-election, again as a conservative, losing to Mr A.W. (later Sir Arthur) Fadden. He joined the Country Party and contested the State seat of Toowoomba for that party in 1938. He remained a member of the Country Party till 1970, but took no further active part in politics. His interest in local, State, Federal and world politics stayed with him for life, however, and sometimes he took a leadership role locally - as when he organised a successful lobby to save the grand old camphor laurel trees lining Margaret Street from demise under a road widening scheme in the 1960's. His constructive comments on many controversial issues commanded prominent media space until the end of his life.

The Family and WW2


In 1937 the Boyces set off on an extensive voyage to England, Europe and South Africa, the first of nine trips abroad (not including his World War 1 trip) that Leslie fitted into a full life. This was a combined business and pleasure trip, planned to take in the coronation of George VI (the Boyces also attended the crowning of Elizabeth II in 1952.) In South Africa his investigations led to the extension of Southern Cross business to that country. In 1952/53 Leslie revisited Africa to inspect the business there and explore for further business possibilities. A full list of the Boyces overseas trips and their itineraries are given in the article "IN MEMORY OF H.R.M. BOYCE". 1984. Full diaries of each trip with maps and memorabilia are also extant.

The Family

It was a considerable sadness for Leslie and Margaret that they did not have any children. They consulted top doctors in the field and a visit to Switzerland during their 1937 trip abroad only confirmed what they had already learned. Though Leslie's horrific war wounds were a factor, they should not preclude a conception. So they went on hoping all through the thirties. Then came World War II when starting a family did not seem wise, and by the end of the War and final realisation that they would not have a baby of their own they felt it was too late to consider adoption. Neither were the type to repine unduly about what could not be helped, however, and they filled a semi-parental role with their nephews and nieces, and were grand-parental figures to many of their great-nephews and nieces. There can be no doubt the exceptionally close and loving marital relationship they built was partly possible because of the lack of extra family distractions most couples must accommodate. They could, and did, go to extraordinary lengths to share each other's interests. Just for instance, the totally tone-deaf Leslie constantly accompanied his musical wife to operas and concerts - and swore that he had learned to enjoy them! Margie, in turn, refrained almost entirely from watching television, which she enjoyed, because Leslie preferred to read after dinner, and part of his enjoyment in that was reading excerpts to his wife! It was a measure of Leslie's courage and moral strength that after the shock and desolation of Margie's sudden death in 1984 he set out to build a new and positive solo life for himself.

From the time they married the Boyces "adopted" each others family as their own. His nieces were hers, hers were his. They naturally had a special care for Peter Boyce, his only nephew who's father, Colin Boyce, was killed in a car accident in 1937 when Peter was only eight. During World War II the two daughters of Margie's elder brother (Robert Hall, later Lord Robert Hall of Silverspur) came to them as refugees from England, and stayed until their mother came for them in 1945. Uncle Leslie and Aunt Margaret became surrogate father and mother to Felicity (aged four) and Anthea (aged 18 months). A special nursery was built onto the house at 6 Range Street to accommodate them, and for a few years the Boyces were a complete family with children. For Anthea (now the Hon. Mrs Max Wilkinson of London) only a baby when she arrived in Toowoomba, 6 Range Street became her first and dearest home, and the Boyces the first parents she remembered. The relationship was further strengthened when she spent her nineteenth year in Australia. She also came back for several holidays at Range Street with her husband and two children and the Boyces spent much time with the Wilkinsons in London and at their country cottage. For Felicity, clearly remembering the parents and home left behind in Oxford, the relationship must have been much more difficult and complex. But the Boyces always loved her as almost-a-daughter, and visited her as often as they could in Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.A. where she lived with her husband, historian Tom Skidmore, an their sons. Felicity returned to 6 Range Street for a brief visit the year following Auntie Margie's death and took Uncle Leslie back to the U.S. with her afterwards - a wonderful boost to his recovery.

Back in the 1940's L.A. Boyce made his contribution to the War effort by gearing the Foundry to become fully engaged for three shifts per day on the production of munitions, and priority orders for machinery for primary production of foodstuffs.

Toowoomba Grammar School Again

In 1942 he became a member of the Board of Trustees of the Toowoomba Grammar School. He was elected Chairman of the Board in 1945 and filled that post until 1957. He retired from the Board in 1958. In his eulogy at Dr Boyce's funeral the present School Headmaster, Mr W.M. Dent, said of his long association with T.G.S.: "He was indeed a loyal Old Boy, and a devoted servant of the School. He was responsible for the adoption of a Master Plan for the school's development which, despite the modifications that time and circumstances have caused, still guides and influences the school's planning. It sometimes seemed to him during his term as chairman, that the chief asset of the school (apart, of course, from the boys) were debt and optimism and so he bought every week for several years, a Casket ticket in the name of the School. We never won anything: but that was not his fault. In 1969, the Board very properly decided to name the new boarding house, completed that year 'L.A. Boyce House' in his honour. In the foyer of Boyce House, mounted in a glass case, is a battered and splintered board, with his name worked into it with nails, part of the lid of the box which contained his belongings when he first came to the school in 1911."

More Community Involvement

Returning from an extended tour of Africa just as "the winds of change were rising", L.A.B. threw his support behind a drive to complete St Luke's Church of England in 1953 becoming a member of the Parochial Council and Chairman of the Building Committee for extensions and renovations (which had started in 1947). The works were dedicated on completion in 1959 and consecrated when finally free of debt in 1972.

The Gardens

Concern For The Future

Concerned for the future of the magnificent garden they had created, and having no direct heirs, the Boyces had for some years been looking into ways and means of assuring a future for the estate. In 1957 they had their first discussions with the University of Queensland regarding the possibility of an arrangement along the lines of the British National Trust, where properties, donated and properly endowed, are held in perpetuity for the nation. In 1958 Leslie and Margaret both revised their wills after agreement with the University Senate, leaving the Range Street property to the Senate. In 1969, after the then Vice-Chancellor Sir Zelman Cowan had taken a keen interest in the project (and started firm friendship with the Boyces). Mr and Mrs Boyce gave the 71/2 ha property to the University, in trust in perpetuity to be maintained and developed as a "garden for the enjoyment, edification and education of the people of Australia". The Boyces were appointed Curators for life, and started a trust fund for maintenance to which they contributed annually and into which, on their deaths, went the remainder of their estates, so that the property is now more than adequately endowed. Full details of the gift and the trust are recorded in the First Annual Report of the Curators, copies of which are held at the University and at Range Street.

Initially it was envisaged that the Range Street house, after the Boyces died, would be used as an External Studies Centre for Toowoomba, but Sir Zelman was keen for a centre to be established as soon as possible. So a site was chosen in the Parkland on the southern (Jellicoe Street) side of the estate, in 1971 a Working Party was set up to examine ways and means, and in 1973 Dr Boyce became chairman of the Toowoomba University Centre External Studies Building and Lionel Lindsay Gallery Appeal Committee (The valuable Bolton Collection of Australiana was homeless at the time so a gallery for its permanent care and display was included). The Boyces donated largely to the building fund; he worked indefatigably organising team to obtain five-year pledges of support; and finally the Boyces underwrote the loan which enabled building to start so the project could be completed by 1974. The Building, comprising library, lecture hall, study rooms, office and the gallery surrounding a courtyard was officially opened on March 17 of that year.


On December 11, 1973, L.A. Boyce was admitted Honoris Causa to the Degree of Doctor of Laws by the Chancellor of the University of Queensland. The award was made 'in recognition of his contributions to education and in special recognition of his great generosity and services to the University of Queensland.' Presenting him to Sir Alan Mansfield, Sir Zelman Cowan said of his work in master-minding the External Studies Building Fund: "This Building is an enduring monument to Leslie Boyce whom we honour tonight. The story I have recounted tells something of his civic and community pride, of his generosity, and it also tells of his great determination, his meticulous attention to detail, which assures, as far as anything can assure, the successful outcome of imaginative projects…. Mr Boyce informed me that when he was contemplating a career in those far off days before the first World War, the law was one of the possibilities canvassed…. He would have been a very good lawyer. If tonight we cannot give him a formal qualification to practise, we can at least confer on him the honorary, ancient, and if I may say so, highly respectable degree of Doctor of Laws." As the honour was one of the high points in his life, and as he was urged by the University to use the title that went with it, from then on he styled himself, and asked, but of course, did not insist that others styled him, Dr L.A. Boyce.

Developing the Gardens

Apart from ensuring the survival of his beloved garden, the gift of Range Street to the University gave Dr Boyce an absorbing project for the last 20 years of his life. He set himself the task of annotating the history, gardening methods, landscaping techniques and watering systems employed, made up a series of detailed botanical lists of all the rainforest plants, plus the native trees throughout the garden, and many of the introduced trees, lists of the estate's native and introduced ferns and introduced orchids, started observing and listing the birds of the garden, caused many of the estate's trees an shrubs to be clearly named. Most of the details of this work can be found in the well researched an illustrated Annual Reports of the Curators dating from 1969.

It was also his concern that the estate should be very adequately endowed, and to that end he kept a constant eye on the stocks and shares in the Boyce Trust Fund, his advice on buying and selling resulting in considerable additions to the capital from time to time. He did not lose the touch which had made his and his wife's own fortunes in the first place. He was equally concerned that by the time of his own death the management of the garden and Toowoomba estate should be in capable hands. One of his maxims was: You can always judge a manager by the calibre of the man he hands over to". If we take that as read then Dr Boyce can take a bow for picking Daryl Mears, a lad of 15 when he started full-time as a gardener at Range Street early in 1979. Daryl had left school early, but showed a great capacity and willingness to learn. By 1988 he had not only become and erudite and skilled gardener, but had taken over all the business affairs of the Toowoomba estate, wrote the annual reports and any necessary official letters with clarity and style, and was a firm but just "boss" to two full-time and numbers of casual employees. He had proved his ability to run the estate during the absence of the Boyces on several trips abroad and wore the title of Estate Manager well. Steeped with the Boyces' philosophy of gardening he also expressed his confidence that the garden would continue and grow just as he would wish in Daryl's hands.


In the New Year's Honours of 1975 Dr Boyce was appointed a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George by Queen Elizabeth 11.


Dr Boyce has been a munificent benefactor of the University of Queensland for a considerable time and his outstanding generosity resulted in his not only giving a very fine property to the University, but in his chairing and financially assisting a public appeal to have an External Studies Centre built on it.

In numerous other community affairs, in educational matters and in a long occupancy of the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Toowoomba Foundry Company, Dr Boyce distinguished himself as an outstanding an public-spirited citizen of Toowoomba.

During the 1914-18 War he served with the 41st Battalion A.I.F. in France and was awarded the Military Cross.

His C.M.G. was conferred on Dr Boyce at a ceremony at Government House, Brisbane, but later he was able to make a flying visit to London for the Annual Service of the Order at St Paul's Cathedral.

The last word on Dr Boyce the citizen of Toowoomba goes to W.M. Dent who in his eulogy summed up: "Few men, since this district was settled by Europeans and since this city was founded, can have been more affectionately devoted to its welfare an more determined to assist in its progress than Leslie Boyce."