Boyle, Courtenay Edmund (DNB12)

BOYLE, Sir COURTENAY EDMUND (1845–1901), permanent secretary of the board of trade, born on 21 Oct. 1845 in Jamaica, where his father was then stationed, was elder son of Captain Cavendish Spencer Boyle, 72nd regiment. His mother was Rose Susan, daughter of Col. C. C. Alexander, R.E. Vice-admiral Sir Courtenay Boyle (1770-1844) was his grandfather, and Edward Boyle, seventh earl of Cork, his great-grandfather. His younger brother is Sir Cavendish Boyle, K.C.M.G., at one time governor of Newfoundland and Mauritius. He was educated at Charterhouse, where he was at once a good classical scholar and captain of the cricket XI. A Latin speech which he made at school before leaving for Oxford attracted the notice of Thackeray, who was present on the occasion as an old Carthusian. Boyle gained in 1863 an open junior studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, which was supplemented by an exhibition from his school. Although well read in classics, with an extraordinary memory for quotation, he only took a second class in moderations in 1865 and a third class in lit. hum. in 1868 (B.A. and M.A., 1887). He cherished interests outside the schools. He played in the University cricket XI against Cambridge in 1865-7, proving himself 'a splendid field at point,' 'a pretty useful bat,' and 'an excellent wicket keeper' (Haygarth). He was also a fine racquet player, representing Oxford against Cambridge in tennis in 1866-7, and he held the silver racquet for tennis for some years. Soon after leaving Oxford, Lord Spencer, to whom he was related and who was viceroy of Ireland in Gladstone's first administration, 1868-1874, took him on his staff in Dublin, first as assistant private secretary and then as private secretary. After acting as assistant inspector of the English local government board from 1873, he was appointed in 1876 inspector for the eastern counties. In 1882, when Lord Spencer went back to Ireland as viceroy, Boyle, still holding his inspectorship, again became his private secretary, and was on the scene of the Phoenix Park murders almost immediately after they had taken place. In 1885 he received the C.B. and was made assistant secretary to the local government board. In the following year he was appointed by Mr. Mundella, then president of the board of trade, to be assistant secretary in charge of the railway department, which, under his superintendence, engaged in much important work. As the result of prolonged inquiry there was a complete revision of railway rates and tolls, and the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1888 and the Regulation of Railways Act of 1889 were passed. The regulation of electric lighting and traction also dates from this period and, advised by Lord Kelvin, Boyle was responsible officially for settling the standards of measurement in electricity and for preparing the requisite legislation. Another important matter with which he was concerned and in which he took great interest was the establishment of the National Physical Laboratory. In 1892 he was made a K.C.B. and in 1893 he was promoted to be permanent secretary of the board of trade. That post he held till his sudden death at his London residence, 11 Granville Place, on 19 May 1901. While he was head of the board of trade the present commercial intelligence branch first came into existence; he was chairman of the inter-departmental committee which was appointed to consider the subject.

As an official Boyle was a very hard worker, coming to his office at abnormally early hours. He was clear and practical and a great believer in method, as is shown by his little books, 'Hints on the Conduct of Business, Public and Private' (1900) and 'Method and Organisation in Business' (1901). He made a very good chairman of a committee. His Irish descent may account for his versatility. He was not only a strong and capable official but a scholar with much aptitude for writing in prose and verse, a man of society with a great gift for after-dinner speaking, and a sportsman. He kept up his interest in cricket in later life, advocating cricket reform in 'The Times' under the pseudonym of 'An Old Blue.' Fishing was his favourite sport in later life, and when at the board of trade he worked hard for the improvement of the salmon fishing laws and was largely responsible for a royal commission on the subject. He edited in 1901 'Mary Boyle, her Book,' autobiographical sketches by an aunt. He married in 1876 Lady Muriel Campbell, daughter of the second earl of Cawdor, but left no children. He was buried at Hampton, Middlesex.

[The Times, 21 May 1901; Wisden's Cricketer's Almanack, 1902, p. lviii; Haygarth's Scores and Biographies, ix. 99; Ann. Reg. 1901, obituary; private information.]

C. P. L.