Dolphin Books

A torrid tale of triumph and tragedy

Who would believe that a man could found a bank and use its funds to finance his own huge pastoral, shipping and whaling empire — the biggest in Australia — and ride its slide to bankruptcy unknown to shareholders in England and Scotland? The shareholders did not know because the bank’s articles prevented any annual meetings for five years and shareholders had no rights to inspect the company’s books.

Yet this did happen in the 1840s when Benjamin Boyd manipulated the Royal Bank of Australia to stride like a financial colossus through the young colony of New South Wales buying up pastoral properties with hundreds of thousands of sheep and cattle, starting to build a city at Twofold Bay to rival Sydney, introducing steamers to take over the coastal trade and acquiring nine sailing ships for deep sea whaling.

All this was possible using money from the Royal Bank like money from a bottomless well, but the well did have a bottom and when Boyd scraped it the well collapsed on his empire. In the 1840s depression and unemployment forced people into the bankruptcy court and eventually Boyd had to flee the country to avoid the same fate. Later, searching for another possible empire in the Pacific islands, he disappeared, presumably killed by natives. Inquiries which went on for years in England to find out what had happened to the funds of the Royal Bank credited Benjamin with a shortfall of 740,000 pounds, a mighty sum in those days.

Boyd certainly left his mark. Probably he arrived in New South Wales too early. In 1851, the year of his presumed death, gold was discovered. Had it been in 1841 the story of Benjamin Boyd might have had a different ending.

This is a true story, presented in a wide format portraying the historical events, the people and atmosphere of that time in Australia, taken from contemporary newspapers, parliamentary and other official reports, documents and correspondence. It all happened and all the characters are real people.