David Boyce Piano Services

 Piano Tuner in Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, Glasgow, the west of Scotland and beyond.

Tel: 07714959806

Chopin Scherzo No 3.mp3

Bill Boyce Taxi Hire Greenock 

A retired couple in Greenock whose piano I was tuning some years ago asked: Are you related to the Boyce who had a taxi business in Roxburgh Street ?

Indeed yes, I explained. Bill Boyce was my grandfather's brother.  Therefore, my great-uncle.  I never knew him as he died before I was born.

Here is a photograph of the business at 80 Roxburgh Street. Perhaps this is the only such photo that exists.

The office assistant looks amused at having her picture taken!

There is an old Greenock & District Directory online here  

Here are the Boyces in it:

BOYCE Alexander, marine engineer, 54 Union St.
Boyce Hugh, joiner, 51 Bannockburn St.
Boyce Michael, labourer, 16 Port-Glasgow Rd.
Boyce Thomas, plater, 52 Bannockburn St.
Boyce William, taxi-hirer, 80 Roxburgh St.
Boyce Mrs Sarah, 66 Holmscroft St.
Boyce Mrs Hannah, 5 Bruce St.

This page is not about pianos, folks! 

It has been prompted by the fact that a number of people expressed an interest in the historical aspects of the Granny's Piano page 

So I thought there might be some interest in some other local old photos and ephemera, in the family's possession for a century.


The huge event in the lives of my grandfather's generation was of course this: 

The First World War or The Great War.  The "war for civilisation" as the medals put it. With 2014 marking the centenary of the outbreak of that global conflict, historical attention was focussed anew on how it shaped the world. Many documentaries examined the Great War and its impact.

William Boyce had some small exposure to gas during the war and his health was damaged in consequence. Here he is in uniform:


Bill Boyce's younger brother Hugh was my grandfather. He served a joinery apprenticeship with Greenock firm Cairds. He is second from the left in the back row of this 1911 photograph of the apprentices.

And in uniform here:

And on horseback 

Training camp at Selkirk 

Mounted troops

The role of enormous numbers of horses used in the Great War has lately received renewed attention and there is currently a very successful and acclaimed theatre production called War Horse based on the 1982 novel of Michael Morpurgo, the source also of the 2011 film by Stephen Spielberg.


The reverse of the above photo has this explanation. I am not sure who wrote and sent this, as it doesn't look very like Hugh's writing elsewhere. He served in Salonica (Thessalonica) as a farrier - working with war horses.

Bill and Hugh Boyce survived the Great War.  Bill's health was damaged and he died relatively young, never having married. 

Their younger brother Francis Noble Boyce didn't survive the war. He died of Spanish Flu towards the end of the war while still enlisted.   

In recent years the magnitude of  the influenza pandemic at the end of World War 1 has been re-examined. The causal agent is now established to have been an H1N1 virus like those that have more lately been of concern with Swine Flu.  

The number of military and civilian deaths in World War One has been estimated at around 17 million over the four years of the War.  The Influenza epidemic starting in 1918 killed somewhere between 50 and 100 million, in a substantially shorter period.  As one scientist commented on BBC Radio 4, mankind's efforts at destruction were relatively inefficient compared with nature. 

The name Spanish 'Flu came about because Spain was neutral during the war and therefore gave more accurate reports of the numbers dying of this disease. Other countries, heavily involved in the war, were more guarded about revealing the number of 'flu casualties. Because of this difference in reporting,  it looked as if greater numbers were dying in Spain than elsewhere and the name Spanish 'Flu stuck. 

A fascinating and horrible aspect of the illness was that of those contracting it, the death toll was greatest among strong young adults, rather than among the elderly and frail or the very young, who might have been expected to be more susceptible.  The reason for this has been established in recent years. The H1N1 virus triggered a very strong immune response, resulting in what is called a "cytokine storm".  Young healthy adults with immune systems at their peak experienced the worst of this and the very strong inflammatory responses took a much greater toll on the body than was the case with the weaker immune responses of the elderly or feeble.


Here is the Wellpark West Church Order of Service for the memorial service held for members lost in the war, including Francis Noble Boyce, fifth name down in the list:

See bottom of this page for a 2017 discovery regarding Francis Noble Boyce.

Finally in 1918 the Great War came to an end, leaving a traumatised world and a changed world order. 


Bill, Hugh and Francis had a sister, my great-aunt Lizzie, and another brother, Tom;  maybe Tom's grandchildren, my cousins, can tell you about him some time.  Lizzie was the only one to survive into my lifetime. 

Before the war, Francis studied at the famous Glasgow School of Art. I have somewhere a card displaying the colour palette they used in 1911.  Perhaps Francis' art genes came down to my cousin Iain Boyce, who also studied art.

Here is Hugh's demobilization account, and a note provided by the army to assist in finding work:

For soldiers who made it home, there were medals: 

On the typed label and on the edge of the medal, there appears to be an error. My grandfather's surname name is given as Royce.  I never noticed this until taking the photographs for this page.


This cartoon, from the centre pages of the Glasgow Evening TImes of 11th November 1918 (whose front page is shown further up this page) depicts with masterly understatement the power changes wrought by the war:


Back in civilian life, here's a photo of Hugh in his 'Sunday Best.  The walking stick was his father's - my namesake, David Boyce, with his initials on the silver ferrule - and I have it. Far too short for me though, even if I needed a walking stick!

And out for a walk with a friend. I want hats like these!  I think the dudes are on Lyle Hill, or maybe in Auchmountain Glen, but I'm not certain.

 A 1938 reference written by Hugh's former Foreman:


Hugh died in 1954.  His mother, my great-granny, outlived all but one of her children; her daughter Lizzie. Lizzie married Victor Parsons, a Naval Officer, and they moved to Devon. In the early 1950s great-granny went to live with Lizzie and Victor, I think at the home of Victor's mother. 

Hugh's parents, David and Mary Boyce (née Finlay) came from Northern Ireland.  Born in the mid 1850s, Mary lived into her hundreth year.  When she was 9 years old, the Laird visited her parents' home and asked how old Mary was now.  When he was told, he said "Well, I think Mary's been at the school long enough. She can leave and go into service now". And since the Laird provided the schooling, that was it!  Mary duly went into domestic service aged nine.

As a result, great-granny did not have a high degree of literacy.  Here is a letter she wrote to Hugh's two daughters after his death.  She had poor eyesight and failing health too, by this time.

The reference to getting her money from a Greenock bank account (which my mother sent to her) makes one reflect that banking wasn't as easy back then - no electronic transfers in 1954! 

Here is a photo of great-granny towards the end of her life:

I hope these old photos and documents are of interest. Black and white silver bromide photographs were a robust and durable technology.  Today, an astonishing number of images are generated each day on digital devices. I heard an amazing statistic; that every day, more photos are uploaded to Facebook than existed for the first hundred and fifty years of photography (and every nine days more video footage is uploaded to Youtube than the BBC has broadcast in its entire history).  It's easier then ever before to make photographic images.

But perhaps too, they are more transient than ever before. Hundred-year-old photos in family albums, with captions written in pencil, are still readily accessible.  But what if you find a Jazz drive or other outdated computer storage medium from the early 1990s. How will you get the images off it? 

And here is an image of an old packet of photographic paper in which some of the photos I've shown here are stored.  The package design is attractive, and I am reproducing this for my graphics, photo and media buddies, Jane, Mazda, Martin, Dave, Campbell, Gary, Stoo, Neil, Dorothy.  Missin' y'all!

Lastly, a bit of a mystery. Here is a Wellpark Parish Church Sunday School register from 1906. I don't know why my grandparents would have had this. In 1906 they were both children and could have been Sunday School pupils, but neither Hugh nor Alexandrina is on this register.  Maybe it was among old records given to Alexandrina when she taught Sunday School as a young woman.  By then the church was called Wellpark West.  At any rate, in case it is of interest to anyone, here it is.

November 2017:  Teaching in Inverclyde Academy I observed some "Roll Of Honour" boards from World War 1, showing the fallen from at least two Greenock schools. They are awaiting refurbishment before being displayed.  It occurred to be to look for Francis Noble Boyce, and I found him on the first board I looked at, eighth name down:
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