Stephen Holmes used to love stories about Ben Boyd as a kid.
That is, until he found out how his Thaua ancestors were treated by the Scottish entrepreneur during his brief years on the NSW South Coast in the 1840s.
“I admired Boyd when I was a kid, until I got my face in the books and started reading histories,” the Thaua man told NITV’s The Point program.
“When I read (painter and diarist) Oswald Walters Brierly from England. I read his journals and that’s when I saw it all, it just popped out.
“A lot of my ancestors were chained. They were chained in pig pens, (in) cold weather, nothing.
“And that hurts.”
Boyd, who had his hands in a number of ultimately failed ventures, made a big mark on the country around Eden.
His name is everywhere – with beaches, a town, a tower and even a national park named in his honour.
Mr Holmes, founder of the Thaua Country Aboriginal Corporation, is one of a number of Aboriginal leaders now pushing to banish the Scottish entrepreneur to history, because of his involvement in blackbirding of people from the South Pacific islands, and his treatment of local Aboriginal people.
Mr Holmes is a descendant of Budginbro, or the Chief of Two Fold Bay, who formed a strong relationship with Sir Oswald Brierly (Ben Boyd’s marine artist and manager) which later deteriorated.
“My ancestors didn’t just get up and walk away, they’re buried here,” he said.
“I feel very strongly about changing the name.
“A lot of the people in town, they don’t know about the history. When you sit down and have a chat, even the elders in the white community, you are blowing their minds out.”
The push appears to be gaining momentum.
The Lyons Group, which owns the Seahorse Inn and caravan park at Boyd Town, is actively investigating whether to lobby the NSW Government for a name change and will make a decision soon.
The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, meanwhile, is working with a historian who will report back by mid-year on whether the name should stay or go.
BJ Cruse, a Monaroo Elder who runs the Eden Land Council, says in the era of Black Lives Matter, the time is right for change.
“Ben Boyd in historical documents categorised Aboriginal people as vermin,” Mr Cruse said.
“To have such a thing as a national park named after him is completely wrong. Because National Parks is a body that, amongst other things, is responsible for the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage.
“To have the national parks renamed with an Aboriginal name pays respect to our people and it gives our people a stronger sense of belonging.”
It is not clear yet what the new names may be, but suggestions have included a dual name, or Thaua National Park, or having local Aboriginal school students consider a name.
In 1847, Ben Boyd brought 65 South Pacific Islanders to Boydtown, the town he created south of Eden.
Historian John Blay has worked with the Eden Land Council for years as it works to reestablish the ancient Bundian Way pathway, from Mount Kosciuszko to Twofold Bay.
“He was here for a few years, he made a big note of himself and he failed terribly,” Mr Blay said.
“I believe they named Boyd National Park because he was the best-known name. He was like a (failed businessman and fugitive) Christopher Skase kind of character. It was ridiculous to name the park after him.”
But Peter Ayling, who set up the Ben Boyd History Centre in Boydtown a year ago, says claims that Ben Boyd was a slave trader are not supported by evidence.
“Whatever happens you can’t write him out of history,” he said.
“If they change the name, we will still be portraying Ben Boyd with every piece of historical evidence we can get.
“If people come to us and say look, here’s this evidence that he did this, that and the other, and it’s credible evidence, we will put it in the history centre.
“That’s what it is, it’s not an opinion, we’re not pushing the point of view, we’re portraying history.”
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