Brenda Niall (ABR, March 2008) feels ‘confronted’ by an ‘extraordinary claim’ in my book, Arthur Boyd: A Life. The two sentences that caused her consternation are: ‘Yet it seems that ultimately Martin’s spirit was crushed. His broken body would be discovered in the Blue Nuns’ gardens, lying where it had fallen, below his hospital window.’ Niall complains that I did not ask her opinion about Martin Boyd’s likely suicide. Since this was not included in her biography, Martin Boyd: A Life ( 1988), I believed she knew nothing about it. I understand how annoying it must be to write a full biography of a person and learn later of information that may have been available, but Niall’s defensive and plaintive attack demands a response.
The account of the suicide is not mine. It comes, as my footnote confirms, from Yvonne Boyd. In 2007, I sat on the veranda at Bundanon·with her. More than six years had passed since we first met, and she had just finished reading my book in draft. Our relationship had reached the point where Yvonne was happy for me to sift through, without censorship, personal letters and papers that she had only the day before discovered in a bureau drawer in her old bedroom. During that morning, the conversation turned to her husband’s uncle, Martin Boyd. She informed me that he had committed suicide. We discussed details for some time, with Yvonne stating that Mary Nolan had received the news that Martin’s body had been found in the gardens below the window of his hospital in Rome.