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Heather Boyd: Ex-PM’s granddaughter campaigned for peace in darkest days of Troubles

Environmentalist, painter and tutor Heather Boyd dies aged 90


Heather Boyd

Heather Boyd

Heather Boyd

Heather Boyd, the granddaughter of wartime Northern Ireland prime minister John Miller Andrews, has died at 90.

She was known as a conservationist, environmentalist, naturalist, pacifist, musician and watercolour artist.

Heather was born at home in Comber on May 17, 1932, into the Andrews family, which has a long tradition of flax-spinning and politics.

Her grandfather was John Miller Andrews, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, who took up the post of prime minister of Northern Ireland during the Second World War (1940-1943).

He had three brothers: lord chief justice Sir James; Thomas (Uncle Tommie, the managing director and chief Architect at Harland & Wolff, who designed the Titanic and went down with the ship on its maiden voyage; and William (Uncle Willie), a director at the Andrews Flax Mill in Comber and President of the Irish Cricket Union.

Heather’s father Sir John (Jack) Andrews continued the family tradition as owner and managing director of the Comber Flax Mill. As a Mid-Down Stormont MP known for liberal and inclusive unionism, he became Northern Ireland’s finance minister and deputy prime minister and was a keen cricketer.

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As a child, with her three siblings John, Tom and James, Heather would work on the Andrews family farm in Comber, driving a tractor from the age of 12, and developed a deep love of sailing and racing on Strangford Lough in her father’s boat.

Heather’s mother Elaine Andrews was an accomplished pianist from Newport. Having been trained at the Royal College of Music (RCM), she used her skill to raise funds for charities through performing at “drawing room circle” events at the Comber family home of Maxwell Court.

Heather ultimately followed in her mother’s footsteps at the RCM and, after training at Stranmillis College, took up a career as a private piano tutor.

After marrying Trevor Boyd in Comber in 1955, Heather and her husband moved briefly to London, before returning to Co Down, settling down and starting a family initially in Holywood and then Helen’s Bay, Bangor.  

Following in her father’s footsteps as a believer in cross-community reconciliation, liberal unionism and the need for peace, she and Trevor played an active role in the now-defunct pro-powersharing Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. This was up until the party’s demise in 1981, and led the pair to campaign for Britain’s successful entry to the EU in the 1975 referendum.

Although her Comber roots remained very important to her throughout her life, Heather embraced life in north Down, forging connections through her active involvement in many community organisations.

As passionate naturalists, conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts, she and Trevor were central to the activities of the Northern Ireland Butterfly Conservation Society and the Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club.

As a pacifist driven by her strong desire for peace and reconciliation, Heather helped raise funds for the Corrymeela Community, amongst other charities. She also supported nature conservation projects and charities whether local, national, or global.

Heather died peacefully in Bangor on July 5. She leaves one brother (Tom), five children (Peter, Virginia, Robin, Kim and Antony), 14 grandchildren, seven great grandchildren and many other loved ones — too many to mention. 

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