Tuesday 18 July 2017

Blacksmith to Archaeologist

It is a very rewarding experience when travelling abroad to come across references to fellow Greenockians who have left their mark, in a positive way, in a far off country.  On a recent visit to Canada, I visited the lovely little town of Elora in Wellington County, Ontario.  There I discovered the following  historical plaque erected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, Ministry of Culture and Recreation. 

It reads:-
David Boyle 1842 - 1911
Born in Scotland, Boyle came to Canada in 1856 and settled in this area.  As a local school teacher, he began an extensive collection of native artifacts and became an archaeological authority.  Boyle moved to Toronto in 1883 and three years later was appointed the first Curator of the Provincial Archaeological Museum, then housed in the Canadian Institute Building.  Dedicated to the study and retention of artifacts within Ontario, he initiated an active programme of excavation and acquisition.  Between 1887 and 1907 Boyle edited a noted series, the Annual Archaeological Reports, published under the auspices of the Ontario Department of Education.  Through his work on Ontario prehistory, Boyle gained international recognition as a leading Canadian archaeologist and anthropologist.

David Boyle was born in 1842 in Greenock, the son of John Borland Boyle and Anne Anderson.  The 1851 Census shows David (9) living with his parents John (32) listed as an Engine Smith, his mother Ann (33) and siblings John (5) and Mary Ann (3 months) at 9 East Quay lane in Greenock.

David's grandfather, also David Boyle was blacksmith at Greenfoot, Sorn, Ayrshire and was married to Jean Borland.  They had several children, at least one of whom, Andrew also emigrated to Canada and was blacksmith at Eden Mills, Ontario.  David worked with him for a while.  David began his career as a blacksmith working for Hugh Hamilton in Elora, but also attended school and had a thirst for knowledge.  He began teaching in 1865 and moved to Elora Public School in 1871. In 1867 he married Martha S Frankland and they had two daughters.  Geology and natural history were just two of his many interests and he began collecting specimens which he donated to the Canadian Institute in Toronto.  In 1909 he received his Doctor of Laws from the University of Toronto.  You can read more about Boyle in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography here.

It would appear that Boyle also sent natural history samples back to his home town of Greenock as there are a couple of reports from the1870s and 1880s in the Greenock Telegraph detailing these.  Hopefully the McLean Museum may still have some - I'll try and find out when it reopens in a year's time.

From a plaque in Elora showing the town in days gone by.
It really makes me proud to realise the esteem which is afforded to people like David Boyle and his family who left their native land and achieved so much in their adopted country.


  1. That is so cool finding someone from your home town in a place when you go on holiday

  2. Great to have your blog back, I visit every day so I was beginning to wonder why no postings. Really enjoyable, many thanks.

  3. That's really interesting. It never ceases to amaze me, what people achieve. And it's great to join up some dots between people and places, as you have here.


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