The Mystery of Boyd’s Tower

The Mystery of Boyd’s Tower

It's a huge nineteenth century mystery: why did this useless thing get erected?


Oh, we know who did it: Ben Boyd paid to have large sandstone blocks hewn from the Sydney hillside, shipped all the way down to Eden and carted by bullock dray through the bush.


He had a good-looking tower erected where it stands today, 20 metres tall, solid as a rock – and useless.


Ben Boyd was one of Australia's early financial entrepreneurs, a man with gigantic dreams of an empire. He built a financial pyramid scheme that eventually collapsed, as financial empires like those of Scase and Bond have collapsed before.


In his prime Benjamin Boyd was king of about two million acres of prime Aussie real estate and dozens of stations, a member of the country's early ruling class, controlling a bank with a million pounds sterling of capital.


So why did such a finance-aware man get himself into such a mess with Boyd's Tower? Why did he build such a large and ultimately useless tower, now solid but lonely and forlorn? What was the point and why was it never used?


Boyd was a very smart man with noble connections, born to a laird's manor in Scotland. He made his fortune in the English stock market in the early 1800s before becoming interested in the commercial possibilities of this new colony on the other side of the world.


He took control of the local shore-based whaling business, which was very profitable at the time, and got elected to parliament; he was one of the country's most powerful men.


He decided that one day Australia would need a national capital, which should be at Boydtown, so he started his new city with houses, pub and church.


Now we normal folk get building permission and conform with all legislation before embarking on a building; seems sensible, doesn't it? But Boyd spent a fortune building his tower – and only when it was finished did he ask the authorities if it was OK to use it as a lighthouse.


They said no, so the tower was used for a while as a whale spotting tower, and then abandoned to rot away in the bush.


Some say that it was refused because he only wanted it lit for his own ships, but other records indicate that he actually offered it to the government.


Why did Boyd not ask FIRST if it was OK to build a lighthouse? With the large number of wrecks along this coast, why didn't the government want his lighthouse when he offered it to them?


After all, a few years later they built one not far away (Green Cape), at taxpayer expense, when they could have had Boyd's Tower for nothing.


The law said that a lighthouse on the coast had to be licenced by the government – I guess to stop wreckers showing lights to lure ships onto the rocks to be plundered.


But Boyd had had a lighthouse in operation for over two years not far from where the tower is now, without legal complaint, and every ship up and down the south coast must have known about it.


So why did Boyd not get permission before building this tower? Why did the government refuse to allow it to be used? You can see it's in a prime spot, and there are lots of shipwrecks along this very coast.
Nobody seems to know; but Detective-Inspector Snodgrass has a theory.


Boyd was very powerful, financially and politically, and lots of people didn't like him for it. He was in almost constant conflict with the government; and he wanted Boydtown to be Australia's political and commercial capital.


So maybe someone in power informally told him a lighthouse would be a good idea, and he'd be alright when he applied for the licence. Then when it was built, they gleefully broke the promise and denied him permission to use it, so putting down this Pom who was too big for his boots.


This seems to be what had already happened when he asked for government offices to be sited at Boydtown – East Boyd was acknowledged by all to be a safer harbor than Eden. While the government agreed on the safety of the harbour, they nevertheless put the offices in Eden rather than in an area owned and controlled by Big Boots Boyd; that'll teach HIM a lesson.


One other explanation could be that he built Boyd's Tower before getting permission because he thought no one ever would or could stand up against his wishes.


Either way, the tower was only lit twice in the nineteenth century – and once in the twentieth century by some passing yachtsmen who wanted to see if it would have guided anyone as a lighthouse.


But even they didn't say and couldn't tell – because they were still on the shore.


Should've gone to Cheaper Specs...