Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Mary Syme Boyd

551 157

Description Mary Syme Boyd

Date 1997

Collection Mary Syme Boyd

Catalogue Number 551 157

Category All Other

Scope and Content The collection comprises a number of sketchbooks, notebooks, albums, drawings and photographs as well as a large collection of correspondence, including a substantial collection of postcards, and other miscellaneous personal and professional items relating to the life of Mary Syme Boyd.

Archive History After the death of Mary Syme Boyd in 1997 her collection was divided between the National Galleries of Scotland and RCAHMS.

System of Arrangement Upon accession the collection was in no apparent order but it was easily categorised into personal and professional items. Within that system items were batched in terms of type of material. Certain drawings, manuscripts and albums were catalogued to item level.

Related Material Part of the Mary Syme Boyd collection is held by the National Galleries of Scotland.

Administrative History Mary Syme Boyd was a Scottish sculptor and artist born in Edinburgh, 15 August 1910. Her mother was Clara Lepper, from County Antrim, and her father was Francis Darby Boyd, Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. She studied at the Edinburgh College of Art from 1929-33. Here she developed a fascination with animals, making life studies of the animals kept in the college’s small menagerie. This fascination would continue throughout her professional career and remained her primary subject matter for her work. She was awarded a travel scholarship to Paris from 1931-32 and worked under the tutelage of the acclaimed animalier sculptor Edouard Navellier, also developing her bronze casting techniques during this time. In 1934 she received another scholarship to travel to Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Belgium and France and at the end of that year she settled in 14 Belford Mews, which became her home and studio until her death on 30 October 1997. She inherited the Mews house and stable from her uncle Edward Boyd. Her time in Edinburgh was only interrupted by her wartime service as part of the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service during the London Blitz, 1940-1. Her personal archive indicates that she was a member of The Grail Club, 1 Erskine Place, Edinburgh (seen on Wood’s Map of Edinburgh 1823 – now the junction where Lothian Rd. Queensferry Rd. and Shandwick Place meet). The Grail Club was part of a women’s religious movement founded in the Netherlands in 1921. She exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Glasgow Institute. Boyd’s most acclaimed sculptures, Cat (bronze) 1933-34 and Kestrel (wood-sabique) c 1936, were bequeathed by the artist to the National Galleries of Scotland in 1984 and 1997. She designed a carved dog for the gravestone of her friend Tom Ranken in 1950, which can be seen in Dean Cemetery. In 1961 Boyd designed and sculpted a wooden memorial font for Dr. Dorothea Walpole, the first female doctor to be appointed to the Edinburgh student health service and daughter of Bishop Walpole of Edinburgh. The font was originally located at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Belgrave Road, Corstorphine alongside two wooden sculptures of angels also by the artist, but the church was closed c 1968-69. After much debate about their relocation the font and angels were moved to St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Palmerston Place, Edinburgh where they remain today. Boyd had strong links with the Church of Scotland, creating many ecclesiastical sculptures throughout her career, but personal letters provide evidence of her resignation from St. Giles Cathedral in 1962. Her personal letters also highlight a panel by Boyd titled Suffering that she gifted to the Royal Infirmary Chapel in 1984 in memory of her father and aunt who both served at the hospital. In 1965 she designed a panel for the Trefoil School for Physically Handicapped Children and there is a photograph of a carving of a pelican by Boyd for St. Leonard’s Church, Donaldson Garden, St. Andrews. She is buried in Dean Cemetery alongside her sister Lesbia Laurence Meron Boyd, who died in 1993. Neither sister married or had children.

Accruals No further accruals are expected.

Accession Number 1998/46


Collection Hierarchy - Collection Level

Collection Level (551 157) Mary Syme Boyd

Preview Category Catalogue Number Title Date Level
All Other All Other 551 157/1 Personal items relating to the sculptor Mary Syme Boyd. c. 1928 Group Level
All Other All Other 551 157/2 Professional items relating to the sculptor Mary Syme Boyd. c. 1928 Group Level

People and Organisations