Humphrey Gordon Roberts-Hay-Boyd (1866 – 1931)

The Town Clerk reported that the late Rev. Humphrey Gordon Roberts Hay Boyd, Townend-of-Symington, Ayrshire, had by his Trust Disposition and Settlement*, directed his Trustees to convey and deliver free of legacy duty certain pictures from his art collection to the Kelvingrove Art Galleries. The Director reported that the said bequest consisted of the following pictures viz:

1. Oil painting of roses in a gilt frame by S.J. Peploe. (This painting was not subsequently given to Glasgow).

2. Small oil painting The Fisherman by J. Weissenbruch. (This painting was ascribed to Jan Hendrick Weissenbruch (1824-1903) Dutch but is probably by his son Willem Johannes (1864 – 1941). Its title is now An Artist Sketching from a Boat – early 1900s (Accession number 2231).

Weissenbruch, Jan Hendrik, 1824-1903; An Artist Sketching from a Boat

3. Oil painting on panel A River Scene by Charles-Francois Daubigny (1817 – 1898). Now titled River Scene Sunset – 2230.

Daubigny, Charles-Francois, 1817-1878; River Scene, Sunset

4. Watercolour Drawing Sunset Brise (Briare) by the French master Henri Harpignes (1819 – 1916) – 2235.

5.Water Colour Drawing, Barge in Dry Dock by Robert Purves Flint, R.S.W. (1883 – 1947) – 2234. This is an oil painting not a watercolour.

 6. Oil painting Ploughing by the French master Leon L’Hermitte (1844 – 1925). Now called Ploughing with Oxen, Evening, 1871 – 2229

Lhermitte, Leon-Augustin, 1844-1925; Ploughing with Oxen

This painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1872 with title Oxen Ploughing. 1 It was purchased by H.G.R. Hay-Boyd after 1918, probably from Eugene Cremetti, London. 

7. Small oil painting River Scene by Frank Brissot – (Active 1879 – 1881) – 2233

Brissot, Frank, active 1879-1881; River Scene

The committee agreed the bequest be accepted’.2

*His will stated that the pictures should remain in his wife`s possession till her death. Hence, although he died in 1931 the date of the donation was 1941.

All the above paintings © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

Humphrey Gordon Roberts was born in September 1866 in Waterloo, Liverpool. He was the son of Humphrey Roberts Esq., a merchant in Liverpool, and Margaret Thomson. 3 Between 1871 and 1881, the family moved to London, firstly to 10 Ashburn Place (by which time Humphrey`s father was a retired merchant ‘living on his own means’) and then to 8 Queen`s Gate Place, Kensington.4 Having attended Uppingham School, Humphrey entered Jesus College, Cambridge in October 1884, aged 17, graduated BA in 1887 and MA in 1891.5,6 He also attended Ridley Hall Theological College in Cambridge. According to the 1891 census he was a theology student, living in Kensington, London with his widowed father and four sisters. 7 He was ordained Deacon (Canterbury) in 1891 by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Maidstone Parish Church 8 and was Deacon of Sandgate in Kent from 1891 to 1894 after which he moved to a similar post at Spratton, Northants. 9 He was Vicar and Patron of Spratton between 1897 and 1905. 10 On moving there, he opted not to occupy the early eighteenth century vicarage, which was probably in need of updating, but moved to a much grander residence which he renamed The Manor House.11

Figure 1. The Manor House, Spratton, Northants. From Enid Jarvis, Chair, Spratton Local History Society

1655 -Rev Humphrey Hay-Boyd
Figure 2. Humphrey Gordon Roberts late 1890s. From Enid Jarvis, Chair, Spratton Local History Society

On 23 March 1901, Humphrey married Mary Elizabeth Hay-Boyd at St. George’s Chapel, Albemarle Street, London. 12 She was born in 1865 at Symington, Ayrshire the only child of Lieut-Col. James George Hay-Boyd, JP DL of Townend of Symington and Mary Adeline McAlester. (Mary Adeline was the daughter of Lieut-Col. Charles Somerville McAlester of Loup and Kennox, Ayrshire). Their son, George Edward Humphrey Roberts, was born in Spratton on 3 July 1902. (He died in 1983, at East Dereham, Norfolk). 13 The family moved in 1905 to Townend of Symington and at this point changed their name to Roberts-Hay-Boyd. Before leaving Spratton, the couple arranged for the donation of a stained-glass window to Spratton Parish Church.

Figure 3. Stained Glass Window. From Enid Jarvis, Chair, Spratton Local History Society

Figure 4. Spratton Church from an old engraving. From Enid Jarvis, Chair, Spratton Local History Society

The window carries the inscription ‘To the Glory of God this window was donated by the Rev. and Mrs. H.G. Roberts Hay-Boyd, A.D.1906, in thanks for eleven years ministry, A.D. 1894-1905, which he served as curate and vicar of this parish.’14

Soon after arriving in Ayrshire, Humphrey acquired at least two racehorses one of which ran in the Adamhill Cup at Ayr Racecourse as part of the Scottish Grand National Festival in 1907.15 The other ran in the Motherwell Plate at Hamilton Park in the same year. It was not a successful outing as his horse was defeated by fifty lengths! 16

In retirement in Ayrshire the Hay-Boyds seem to have enthusiastically embraced the local music and amateur dramatics scene. (Before her marriage, Miss Hay-Boyd had appeared as ‘a most dignified Lady Somerford’ in a performance of The Jacobite in the Oddfellows Hall, Kilmarnock.17) A ‘Historical Masque – Men of the Westland’ was given in Ayr Town Hall in March 1910. This portrayed the ‘progress of civilisation in Carrick, Cunninghame and Kyle from pagan to modern times.’ It appears to have been a lavish affair, help with costumes being given by Fra Newberry and the governors of the Glasgow School of Art. The Rev. Hay-Boyd played John Knox and Mrs Hay-Boyd was the personification of the Town of Ayr.18

In the 1911 census Humphrey was at the Rutland Hotel, Edinburgh with his son. He was described as a ‘retired clergyman’, aged 44.19 Later that year he travelled back to Spratton to help raise funds for the lighting of Spratton’s streets. This took the form of two variety entertainments in the school at which Humphrey performed two songs, Love’s Coronation and Three for Jack ‘sung in rousing style’.20 In the same year (possibly at the same time?), Mrs Hay-Boyd also returned to Spratton;

The Sunday School treat was held in the field and garden of Mr and Mrs R. GILBY of Olde House Farm, Yew Tree Lane. The prizes were distributed by Mrs ROBERTS HAY-BOYD and the tea was organised by Miss Letitia GILBY. 21

In December 1913, Humphrey boarded the S.S. Otway in London bound for Naples.22 In May 1925, the Roberts-Hay-Boyds hosted a coming-of-age ball for their son George in Ayr Town Hall which was, according to reports, attended by the cream of local society including the Marchioness of Ailsa and Major Hastings Montgomerie. 23

Both the Rev. and Mrs. Hay-Boyd had a great interest in music and were heavily involved in the musical affairs of Ayrshire. He was president of the Ayr Choral Union from 1916 till his death, and both subscribed to the staging of The Messiah in the Town Hall, Ayr on 26 December 1930. He was a Vice-President and a member of the council of the Ayrshire Musical Festival ‘and took his fair share of the work associated with that annual event’.24,25In describing one of the Ayr Art exhibitions a local newspaper states that Mrs Roberts-Hay-Boyd had ‘provided a splendid concert’ in connection with the event and that one of the ‘principal artistes’ was the Rev. Mr. Hay-Boyd. Unfortunately, there is no mention of what his special talent was. 26

The Hay-Boyds were also in possession of several works of art of outstanding quality and from 1909 to 1919 they regularly lent paintings to various exhibitions in the Carnegie Library in Ayr.27

1909    Exhibition of Old Engravings
Milking Time                                          C. Troyon, engraved by V. Girarchet
(Line Engraving – Steel)                            (Lent by Rev H. Roberts Hay-Boyd)

1910    Ayr Fine Art Exhibition
Conway Castle                                                 J.M.W. Turner R.A.,
(Was this the picture which was sold in 2010 by Christie`s for £325,250?)

The Ferry Boat                                                 C. F. Daubigny
On the Oise                                                      C. F. Daubigny
Resting                                                             Alexander Nasmyth
(Lent by Rev. H. Roberts-Hay-Boyd, Esq.,)

George Douglas of Rodinghead,                       Sir Henry Raeburn
(Lent by Mrs Roberts Hay-Boyd).
This was probably a family heirloom as Mrs Hay-Boyd`s grandmother was Elizabeth Douglas of Rodinghead.
(Was this the painting which was sold at Sotheby`s in 1993?)

1919    Ayr Sketch Club
Carting Timber                                                 Anton Mauve
(Lent by Rev. H. Roberts-Hay-Boyd, Symington).

Humphrey Gordon Roberts-Hay-Boyd died on 25 October 1931, aged 64, in Greystones Nursing Home, Prestwick, Ayrshire. His occupation was ‘minister of religion’ but with no charge.28 He was buried in Symington Churchyard with other members of the Hay-Boyd family.

1249 - Hay Boyd Grave
Figure 5 Hay-Boyd family grave in Symington Churchyard (photo by author)

In Memory Of
Died 13th Novr. 1894
wife of
of Townend of Symington
and daughter of the late
of Kennox

Also of
of Townend of Symington
Late XXth Regt.
Died 21st November 1904
Son of Capt. FRANCIS HAY XXXIVth Regt.
Of Rodinghead

To the Beloved Memory of the
and husband of
Obit 25th October 1931
Also the above
who died at Townend 25th February 1941.

He was survived by his wife and son. An obituary in the Ayrshire Post contained the following information: ‘Mr and Mrs Roberts-Hay-Boyd resided part of the time in the former home in Wellington Square of Colonel Hay-Boyd, one of the few remaining residences in the square, and at the picturesque home in Townend, embowered among trees near Symington Village. Mr Roberts-Hay-Boyd was of a quiet and unobtrusive nature and was held in high esteem in the district’.29 An obituary was also published in the London Times 30and his death was reported in the Northampton Mercury.31

As well as the pictures given to Glasgow, He also bequeathed paintings to the Town Council of Ayr and to the National Gallery of Scotland (NGS).

‘In terms of deceased`s trust disposition and settlement, the legacy was not to take effect until the death of his widow, but Mrs. Hay-Boyd desires now to deliver the following four pictures:

  1. Roses in a white frame           S. J. Peploe                                          Oil
  2. Sunset, Kilbrannan Sound      Sir J. Lawton Wingate, P.R.S.A.             Oil
  3. The Four Master                     R. Burns (!) Flint                    Watercolour
  4. View of Haarlem                    J. H. Weissenbruch               Watercolour’ 32

Bequests were also made to the NGS and were presented in 1941.

          Roses                                         S. J. Peploe                                         Oil
          Peaches on a Dish                     Henri Fantin-Latour                            Oil


  1. Graves, Algernon, F.S.A., The Royal Academy of Arts A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and their work from its foundation in 1769 to 1904, Vol III, Henry Graves and Co. Ltd., London and George Bell and Sons, 1905
  2. Glasgow Corporation Minutes – Committee on Art Galleries and Museums, Mitchell Library, Glasgow 25.4.1941.
  3. Births, Deaths and Marriages Index, England and
  4., Census England, 1871, 1881.
  5., Cambridge University Alumni (1261 – 1900)
  6. London Evening Standard 15 May 1891 p3
  7., Census England 1891.
  8. Folkstone Herald, 30 May 1891
  9. Northampton Mercury 24 November 1905
  10. Ayrshire Post, 30 October 1931
  11. From Enid Jarvis, Chair, Spratton Local History Society
  12. The Globe, March 25, 1901 p7; The Queen 30 March 1901 p43
  13. Burke`s Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 107th Edition, 2003,
  14. From Enid Jarvis, Chair, Spratton Local History Society.
  15. Scotsman 12 April 1907 p4
  16. Sporting Life, 15 July 1907, p5
  17. Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, 12 March 1897, p4
  18. Queen, 26 March 1910, p563
  19. Scotland’s People, 1911 Census, Scotland
  20. Northampton Mercury, 14 July 1911, p5
  21. Spratton Parish Magazine 1911.
  22. Homeward Mail from India, China and the East, December 22, 1913 p27
  23. Gentlewoman, 9 May 1925, p16
  24. Ayrshire Post, Oct. 30 1931, p8.
  25. Catalogues of Exhibitions of Ayr Sketch Club, Ayr Fine Arts Society, Ayr Art Union
  26. ibid
  27. ibid
  28. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate
  29. Ayrshire Post, Oct. 30, 1931, p8.
  30. The Times, Oct. 27, 1931, p15.
  31. Northampton Mercury, Oct 30, 1931 p5
  32. Ayrshire Post, 21 May 1937, p12.