Sir John Alexander Boyd

Section O, Lot 23
Toronto Necropolis

Sir John Alexander Boyd was born April 23, 1836 in Toronto. He studied law at the University of Toronto. A master of the English language, one of his poems was read during the official opening day ceremonies at Convocation Hall in 1859. In 1860 he published A summary of Canadian history ..., which also appeared with revisions by Boyd as part of a series of textbooks produced at least until 1878. Boyd’s lengthy legal career began in 1860, when he was articled to David Breakenridge Read. He attended Osgoode Hall and was called to the bar in 1863. Until 1870 he practised with Read; he then moved to the firm of Blake, Kerr, and Bethune. Between October 1870 and November 1872 he sat as master in ordinary in Ontario’s Court of Chancery. He subsequently practised with his old firm, largely as an equity lawyer. He was appointed a Queen’s Counsellor (QC) by Ontario in 1876 and by Canada four years later. In 1881, Sir John A. MacDonald appointed Boyd Chancellor of Ontario — a position he held for the last 35 years of his life; the position died with him. That same year, the Supreme Court of Judicature was formed and organised into the Court of Appeal and the High Court of Justice. One of the divisions of the latter court was chancery, with the chancellor as its head or president. In 1887 Boyd also became president of the High Court and, thus, the second-highest ranking justice in Ontario. In his lifetime, he was knighted by Queen Victoria, and made a Knight of St. Michael and St. George by her son, Edward VII. A music lover, Boyd served as vice-president and later, President of the Toronto Conservatory of Music. He was a member of the Yorkville Baptist Church and taught in the Sunday school established by his sister-in-law. Later he served on the first board of trustees of the Toronto Baptist College, which combined in 1887 with Woodstock College to become McMaster University. He sat on the university’s board from 1887 to 1898. His family started the Home for Incurable Children on Bloor Street, across from where the Boyds lived. He served on the boards of that institution, later Bloorview Children’s Hospital, and the Working Boys’ Home, later Clifton House for Boys. Though he declined the position of chancellor of the University of Toronto in 1900, he held numerous business directorships, consistent with his public prominence, from which he retired in 1906, probably as a result of a provincial statute of 1905 that prohibited judges from acting as directors. He remained active as a judge until his death. The last Chancellor of Ontario, John Boyd died on November 23, 1916.

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