St James's Church, Hampton Hill

The Hero who Lived at Wayside - 1971 December

The Hero who Lived at Wayside

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The only grave in our churchyard to which anything approaching pilgrimages appear to be made is that of Colonel ‘Joe’ or ‘Klondyke’ Boyle. There are many people throughout the world who hold his memory in the greatest respect - and there are some who reverence him as almost a ‘saint. A visitor this summer was Professor William Rodney, of the Department of History in the Royal Roads Military College, Victoria, BC, not by any means the first to come over to do research into Colonel Boyle’s life and background with the intention of producing a book about him. But the professor has now got beyond the intending stage, unlike perhaps some of the others, and he tells us that his book should be finished by Christmas, though the date of publication is still uncertain.

We sent him for use in this book some excellent photographs by Mr Webb of the grave and also of Wayside - our Wayside (‘the cottage’, as the professor always refers to it, in which the Colonel spent the last years of his life, and where presumably he died in 1923).

The fact that Colonel Boyle had been a resident in Wayside was new to us: we knew he must have been a parishioner at some time or other for his grave to be in our churchyard, but had thought that he had lodged for a time somewhere in Park Road. Mrs. Barbara Stover (née Rockliffe), who now lives in Victoria, has been in touch with Professor Rodney since his return, and as he is anxious to learn as much about Hampton Hill as possible, she has lent him her copy of ‘The Birth and Growth of Hampton Hill’.

Who then was this remarkable man, to whose grave there come, year after year, people from distant parts of the earth, and especially transatlantic pilgrims, like the man from Washington, DC, ten years ago, whose main purpose in flying to England was that he might pay silent homage at the graveside? All that we know about him at present is what we have gleaned from these pilgrims, and from the yellow and tattered remains of an old newspaper cutting of an article written by his daughter in 1940. Apparently he had done remarkable things in the Klondyke in 1898, but the climax of his adventurous career came in 1917, when he appeared dramatically on a motor-cycle at Jassy, and took decisive action to save the lives of the Rumanian Royal Family, and then proceeded so to take charge of things that he was able to save the whole country from famine and disaster, becoming in fact its ‘uncrowned king’.

Queen Marie trusted him immediateliy, and the friendship between them became almost an idyll. After his death she wrote of him: ‘He was all strength and honour, and he had given me his faith and I had given him my trust . . . I was in distress; he recognised at the same time some of his own spirit in me - I was something of a miracle in his life - and when he had his stroke I was the haven in which he anchored for a while. My companionship helped him over that first break in his colossal strength, and the companionship became sweeter than anything he had ever known.’

Queen Marie had the ancient stone cross which stands at the head of the grave brought specially from Rumania, and she herself dug up at a lonely spot in that country - ’as lonely as Joe was in the days of his life’ - a small shoot of Rumanian ivy which she planted at the foot of the cross, where is still flourishes today. On the simple flat stone are inscribed the cross of the Order of Regina Marie, and beneath it (almost indiscernible now after nearly fifty years) the name Marie. But it is still possible to read the striking lines which the Queen chose from one of Robert Service’s poems: ‘A man with the heart of a Viking, and the simple faith of a child’. That perhaps sums up as well as any few words can the character of this great but humble man.

The lady who gave me the cutting years ago told me that she had often seen Queen Marie when she came to bring flowers to the grave, but I have never met anyone who knew Colonel Boyle himself when he lived in our parish. If there are any older parishioners who do remember him, we should be glad to hear from them, so that their reminiscences may be included in any further edition of our book.

Source: The Spire Magazine - 1970 December

St James's Church
The Parish Church of St James, Hampton Hill, TW12 1DQ
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