Family heirloom Dysart painting finally reaches Kirkcaldy Farm – in Australia

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A painting presented to the headmaster of Dysart Public School on his retirement in 1911 has been returned to its rightful owner in Australia after years of being feared lost or destroyed.

David Boyd Young who lives on Kirkcaldy Farm, Tabulam, New South Wales Australia, was recently reunited with the family heirloom - a portrait of his great-grandfather John Boyd, after decades of not knowing its fate, and fearing the worst over what had happened to it.

It was specifically meant to be handed down to him, but disappeared after his grandmother died in 1974 following a heartbreaking family feud.

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However, after a lucky twist of fate, the painting has now been returned to David and hangs in its rightful home in Kirkcaldy Farm on the other side of the world.

David Boyd Young with the portrait of his great-grandfather John Boyd.David Boyd Young with the portrait of his great-grandfather John Boyd.
David Boyd Young with the portrait of his great-grandfather John Boyd.

Its history, and how it travelled the world from Dysart to Australia, is intertwined with one family’s amazing history and its link to the Michael Nairn and Co Linoleum Manufacturers in Kirkcaldy.

John Boyd, was born in Errol Perthshire on July 21, 1846 and went on to become headmaster at Dysart Public School in 1868, remaining in this post for 43 years before retiring in 1911. After leaving the school, John continued to live in Dysart with his wife Jessie (née Watt) until his passing in 1921.

The couple had four daughters, with the youngest, Jessie Agnes Boyd, being David’s grandmother.

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Jessie married David’s grandfather, Gabriel Small-Young from Perth, who served as a Captain in a Highland regiment in the trenches of Arras France during the First World War.

John Boyd.John Boyd.
John Boyd.

After the war, in the early 1920s, Gabriel went to work for Michael Nairn and Co before moving to Canada to head up distribution of Nairn’s Linoleum Canada - taking the portrait of John Boyd with them.

Shortly after emigrating, David’s father, John Simpson Young, was born in Montreal in 1922 before the family moved once again in 1930 to New Zealand to head up distribution for the linoleum giants.

On the outbreak of the Second World War, 17-year-old John enlisted into the Royal New Zealand Air Force and was sent to Saskatoon, Canada, to train as he was a Canadian citizen.

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Upon getting his wings, he started his service in the Royal NZ AF, flying Wellington Bombers as a pilot officer before graduating on to flying Lancaster Bombers. He held the rank of squadron leader and led dangerous bombing runs over Germany.

Plaque on the painting of John Boyd that was presented to him upon his retirement.Plaque on the painting of John Boyd that was presented to him upon his retirement.
Plaque on the painting of John Boyd that was presented to him upon his retirement.
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It was during his time in the UK when John met David’s mother, Marie Edith Kanka, with the couple marrying in Lincoln Cathedral at the end of the war in 1945.

David opening the box that the painting was shipped in after being lost for decades.David opening the box that the painting was shipped in after being lost for decades.
David opening the box that the painting was shipped in after being lost for decades.

Upon John’s discharge, he travelled to Scotland where he would follow in his father’s footsteps and start an apprenticeship with Nairn and Co in Kirkcaldy to eventually take over the family business in New Zealand.

The couple moved into a house at 111 Winifred Street, Kirkcaldy, with David being born shortly after on April 24, 1946.

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In 1948, when David was only two-years-old, the family embarked on a ship named the ‘Rangitata’ and set sail to return to New Zealand.

Once settled, they went on to take over the family flooring business in 1958.

David said: “The painting of my great-grandfather hung in my grandparents home.

"It was always greatly admired by all who visited and was always a lively talking piece.

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The gate at Kirkcaldy Farm, New South Wales, Australia.The gate at Kirkcaldy Farm, New South Wales, Australia.
The gate at Kirkcaldy Farm, New South Wales, Australia.

"I remember watching my grandfather sitting drinking whisky with past Prime Minister of New Zealand, Sir Walter Nash, while they admired and discussed the painting of John Boyd.

“When I was a teenager my grandmother made widely known to my father and his sister that it was to be passed down to me as I was the oldest grandchild – and this was also in her will.

“After the death of my grandmother in 1974 there has been a long journey for the painting to arrive in my safe keeping in 2021 due to difficult and heart breaking family disputes.

“Up until a few months ago I did not believe that the painting still actually existed, and thought it had been destroyed many years ago.”

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David’s parents divorced in 1975 after 30 years of marriage with his father remarrying shortly after.

Unbeknown to David, the painting was in his father's possession, and upon his death in 2000 his wife had cleared out his estate.

"When my father passed away, his wife had cleaned out the family home and farming estate.

"This resulted in generations of incredible antiques, photos, family heirlooms and memories disappearing from our lives never to be seen again.”But there was to be another twist.

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"A few months ago, my family was contacted by my father’s second wife’s son, who explained that she was unwell, and that there were a few family possessions of mine that he would like to pass on.

"My past, my family legacy, my memories were all sent to me in a small box, and to our complete surprise and joy, the painting of my great-grandfather!”

It now has rightful place in his Australian home.

“He is now warm, dry, loved and treasured by my wife Victoria and I, and will be an incredible part of our home for the rest of our days here at Kirkcaldy Farm.

“Words cannot describe how much it means for me to have this painting back, and maybe in time the painting may be handed down to my son Boyd Young or my nephew in New Zealand.”

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