Gotcha: Jack Boyd, a Queensland byword for homosexuality

jack boyd Rockhampton townsville
Bank of NSW, The Strand, Townsville. Image State Library of Queensland

In the late 19th century, the name Jack Boyd was a Queensland byword for homosexuality. Despite evading a conviction for sodomy in Rockhampton, Jack later went to jail after a detective in Townsville caught him, not by the short and curlies, but by his ‘rigid and greasy’ penis, mid-coitus!

In 1868, the Northern Argus reported the Rockhampton arrest of the horse trainer — ‘well-known for his filthy proclivities’ — on a charge of sodomy.

Messrs Curley, Jacobs and Cunningham alleged they saw Boyd perform an ‘unnatural offence’ on 14-year-old Thomas Collins. But it was a set-up. Those same three upstanding Rockhampton citizens attempted to entrap Boyd by convincing young Tom to seduce him. They then lay in wait to watch.

It’s difficult to know precisely what happened because only bowdlerised newspaper reports of the proceedings survive. But Judge Innes ruled that the law did not recognise what occurred as an offence, particularly because of the boy’s consent.

“Had the unnatural offence been completed, the law would regard it as one of the highest crimes.”

It seems Jack Boyd initially allowed a physical overture but desisted before doing anything serious. Indeed, if oral or anal sex had occurred, it would be a crime, even if consensual and unfinished (no ejaculation).

“The men who instigated the prosecution and the boy himself,” thundered His Honor, “were covered with shame.”

Strangely, the conspirators were not prosecuted. Like Boyd, they were all associated with the Rockhampton racing industry. Curley shoed horses, Jacobs ran a stable, and Cunningham owned a racehorse. Perhaps some form of business dispute prompted the conspiracy.


In 1870, Jack Boyd stayed at the Northern Australian Hotel on The Strand in Townsville for two months. He became friendly with fellow guest Richard Dyer, and they sometimes played cards together.

But Richard Dyer was a former New Zealand cop, a recent recruit to the ranks of Queensland detectives, and on his first major assignment. Inspector John Marlow had tasked him with surveilling Jack Boyd.

Marlow spent most of his police career as an officer of the Native Police. He conducted punitive missions that saw hundreds of First Nations people murdered.

How he knew Jack Boyd is unknown. However, newspaper reports indicate his presence in Rockhampton during Boyd’s 1868 trial.

In late 1870, complaints about sexual misconduct by native troopers under Marlow’s command appeared in newspapers. Did that prompt Marlow’s interest in Boyd? He would not be the first or last cop to kill a bad story by engineering something more sensational.

At half past one on the morning of November 6, Detective Dyer saw Jack and a young bullocky named William Reily talking in the front of the hotel before heading towards the Townsville branch of the Bank of NSW.

Despite the time, the cop persuaded hairdresser Henry Jenkins and a man called Moran to join him in pursuit. Both already knew of Dyer’s mission to arrest Boyd. Indeed, Jenkins’ frequent witness testimonies suggest he and Moran already worked as police informants.

The trio followed Boyd and Reily along the Townsville beach to a secluded rocky patch popular with bathers. But after losing sight of their quarry, Dyer went on ahead. He noticed a glimmer among the rocks — an energetic, shiny white arse.

Rigid and greasy

“Boyd raised his fundament (arse) up and down on another man.”

William Reily was lying facedown on the ground beneath Jack — and grunting.

Dyer snuck up unnoticed.

“I shoved down between the privates of Boyd and the fundament of Reily. I found Boyd’s penis quite rigid and inserted into Reily’s fundament. The penis was greasy and wet.”

Boyd and Dyer struggled. Dick Dyer clinging for dear life to the greasy penis. Jenkins raced in and punched Boyd, enabling Dyer to effect an arrest.

“You bloody old dog,” Dyer snarled at Boyd, “I’ve got you.”

Meanwhile, Reily made his escape. Still struggling to pull up his pants, he stumbled by Moran, a seemingly reluctant participant who made no attempt to stop him.

Dyer found him later in the day and took him to Dr Callaghan for an anal examination.

The doctor later testified that penetration might have taken place.

“The anus was more moist than usual, and there was an abrasion. The moisture did not show a natural appearance.”

William Reily asked the doctor if barebacking might have caused the abrasion.

“The abrasion might be caused by riding a horse bareback.”

Jack Boyd and William Reily were found guilty in a Supreme Court trial before Chief Justice Cockle.

“The prisoner Boyd, an old man of sixty-two years, ought to have known better. He was the older man — perhaps the instigator of the crime. Three years penal servitude.

“The other prisoner, Riley, is a younger man and should take warning. Twelve months’ imprisonment, with hard labour.”

Reckless Revels

Although Jack Boyd’s exploits never again made the newspapers, his name became oral legend — a byword for homosexuality in colonial Queensland. In 1907, Truth newspaper headlined that year’s homosexual scandal: ‘An Alleged Unnatural Offence… Reviving Memories of Jack Boyd and his Reckless Revels’.

The article contained no further mention or explanation of Jack Boyd. No need. The man was a legend.

More Queensland history: Bill Smith, Australia’s first transgender jockey.

Sodomy and forced anal examinations, Barcaldine Qld.

More Australian prosecutions for consenting adult male sex.

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at

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