Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Friday, February 10, 2006

Travel Journals Written By F W Boreham

A Tunbridge Wells Man's Voyage
One of the earliest attempts by F.W.Boreham at journalling was his travelogue entitled From England to Mosgiel, N.Z. by Frank William Boreham.[1] This was published in five instalments in the British Courier newspaper in the form of letters to the editor and headed 'A TUNBRIDGE WELLS MAN'S VOYAGE TO NEW ZEALAND.' As with many of his later articles these letters were cut from the newspaper, pasted onto pages and bound together with a handwritten front cover.[2] Indicative of Boreham's initiative, these letters were sent to the editor, "in the hope that a few notes by the way, made during my voyage to New Zealand, may be of interest to readers of the Courier."[3]

Already in evidence in these early writings from Boreham's pen is eye for detail and his fine use of language to capture the things that caught his fancy. Describing the last glimpses of England as the Tainui edged away from the fading coastline Boreham wrote:

"The hilly cliffs towered up in sullen majesty, the thin layer of snow which had fallen the day before still lay in the valleys beneath them, whilst the sun glinting and glistening on them both threw into view at the same time distances of landscape which had otherwise been entirely hidden from us."[4]

Also in evidence are the many long sentences and the stockpiling of adjectives typical of his early writings and for which Boreham received some criticism from his reviewers.[5] In describing the balmy atmosphere of Teneriffe, the Spanish markets and the matadors and the half-clothed urchins who volunteered their services as guides, the romance of life is already becoming an all pervasive theme of Boreham's writings. His inquisitive spirit got this 'uninitiated Protestant' into trouble when he scaled the Cathedral pulpit only to get hauled down and told this was forbidden unless accompanied by a guide and paying "two pennies!"[6] Possibly this was the only time in his life that F.W. Boreham paid to mount a pulpit!

Already apparent in this journal is Boreham's love affair with nature as he describes the spouting whales, the changing weather patterns, the picturesque sunsets and the emergence in the night sky of the Southern Cross. He relished identifying the table-mountain in Capetown, Hobart's Mount Wellington and many other 'monuments of nature' that he had read about in books and atlases. The gardens, statues and museums also were beginning to feature in this early writing as well as the figures of history they often represented.

Readers of the Courier who knew him must have been delighted to learn that their lad from Tunbridge Wells was impressed with the friendliness of the 'Britain of the South.' The advertisements for Pears Soap and Singer Sewing Machines were among the familiar reminders of home. The beauty of the Otago harbour, the surrounding hills and the architecture of the inner-city all contributed to the newcomer's claim that Dunedin "is beyond all doubt or dispute by far the finest in New Zealand" and that "the last hour of my voyage was, I think, the most enjoyable of all."[7] Furthermore, Boreham's first impressions of his new town of Mosgiel are favourable- "a more delightful spot it would be difficult to find."[8] With audacity, the young writer expresses opinions on the investment in great harbours, the railways, the pride of the colonists, the standard of education, the wonderful invention of the telephone (yet it is interesting that Boreham never wanted a telephone and only got connected because of his family's ill health six months before his death!), the high standard of photography and of course the climate. Realising that he may have overstepped the mark with his opinions he admits his lack of qualifications to give accurate opininions he humouressly concludes- "let me don the simple garb of a novice, and quietly and gracefully retire to hide my head in the silent regions of unassuming ignorance."[9]

Loose Leaves
Buoyed undoubtedly by the interest in his earlier published travelogue and tempted by an enterprising editor to submit further scribblings, F.W.Boreham wrote a second journal. Entitled Loose Leaves: from the Journal of My Voyage Round the World, these jottings total 110 pages, were published by the Taieri Advocate (the local paper) and the large Dunedin publishers, H.H.Driver and were sold for sixpence.

Commencing in Wellington, Loose Leaves records the return of Frank, Stella and new daughter, Ivy Boreham to England and back- "the long-dreamed-of voyage, every thought of which had seemed to live and move and have its being in a perfect halo of romance."[10] One senses the jubilant mood of the young family when Frank Boreham stockpiles the adjectives:

"As the setting sun gilded and glorified the vast waste of waters, the hilltops that an hour before had vanished in the dismal grey of an autumn afternoon, again burst into view. But not dull and leaden as before, but bathed in a perfect glory of crimson and violet and gold. The sun sank lower. The twin tops of the Kaikouras gleamed in the warm western glow like the golden mountains of romance. And then, as suddenly as though the Queen of the Fairies had spoken the magic word, the sun was gone, the golden hills had disappeared, and we were gazing once more at the black and landless sea-line."[11]

As with his earlier letters to the Courier, Loose Leaves is filled with pictures from nature such as the ocean's "constant changes of temper and tint,"[12]and the first visit of a land-bird after eighteen days without sight of land. However, some noticeable inclusions in Loose Leaves are the character studies of passengers, various quaint happenings on board ship (such as the phenomenon of living through an eight day week) and the humorous touches of dining in South American restaurants.

Because Frank Boreham is writing his journal for an audience, the personal and family references are sparce. However, in a semi-disguised fashion he writes about "a little girl (who shall be nameless)" who to her parents disgust screams out,"I can see England!"[13] and the sleepless final night before arrival in the Motherland. Boreham moves beyond mere narrative when writing ecstatically of the joy of this reunion- "it was in driving and rambling around this home and throne of English beauty, in the delightful company of the best of parents and the kindest of kindred, that the happiest hours of my long holiday were spent."[14]

F.W.Boreham is thrilled to be back home and writes glowingly of the beauty of Tunbridge Wells and the figures from royalty and the pages of history who have lived in his town. Visiting the ruins of Hastings one day he lets his imagination run riot as he hears the clash of steel and watches the fierce encounters of armed men fighting beneath the castle.

Having left London and then returned, Boreham discovers that his vision is enhanced so much more than those who have never left- "I confess that I saw more of London, and formed a more just appreciation of it, during my brief visit after a lapse of several years, than during all the years of my residence in the metropolis."[15]In this quote Boreham reveals one of the secrets to his insight, the fresh perception one obtains through travel and seeing things through fresh eyes. Moreover, Boreham's description of London demonstrates his ability to see in the prosaic, "the glow of romance."[16]

Journeying to Scotland by train has a new dimension, for the Boreham's are fascinated with the striking similarities with their New Zealand home- "It almost seemed as though I was in- Mosgiel!"[17]This part of the voyage takes the form of a pilgrimage for Boreham is keen to fossick around in the homeland of so many of the people for who he is their pastor. How his people would have relished reading these loose leaves on which is penned Boreham's love affair with Scotland.

The Boreham's cap off their visit to the United Kingdom with a visit to Buckingham Palace. The royal family is out in full force to welcome the President of the French republic and never one to miss an anniversary FWB recalls that this is the day ten years earlier when he was part of the crowd who witnessed the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York. So this section of the journal concludes with the anthem, God Save The King! The love for the monarchy stayed with Boreham throughout his life, is often referred to in his writings and fittingly he kept a photograph of Queen Elizabeth II inside his diary.

Frank Boreham was much loved for the confessional style of his writing. Yet he always knew when to exercise discretion and in Loose Leaves he allows his readers to recognise the more that isn't told in the sentence- "Over 'the sadness of farewell' I draw the veil."[18] With 'Old England Astern' the account of the return journey begins rather cryptically and seems set in the minor key. Boreham is a passionate writer who reveals through his words the emotions that he is experiencing. However, a visit to Cape Town and the appearance in the southern seas of an iceberg- "the most magnificent and awe-inspiring natural phenomenon upon which these eyes have ever rested"[19]- fires up within the writer his sense of wonder and the words to express it. Soon after, Boreham rather tersely describes the stop at Hobart and reaching the final destination in New Zealand. He is again in sombre mood "with very mingled feelings that we realised that our long-dreamed-of trip was a thing of the past" and that, "the best of things come to an end."[20]

Geoff Pound

[1] F.W. Boreham, From England to Mosgiel, N.Z., Five letters to the editor of the Courier, 6 & 21 March,1895
[2] This journal which F.W.Boreham kept in his personal possession is now part of the collection housed in the F.W.Boreham Mission Training Centre, at the Australian Baptist Missionary Society headquarters, 597 Burwood Rd., (P.O.Box 273), HAWTHORN 3122, Australia.
[3] F.W. Boreham, From England to Mosgiel, N.Z., March,1895, p.1
[4] Ibid., p.1.
[5] One reviewer of Boreham's book The Whisper of God and Other Sermons [1902] wrote, "if illustrations and incidents did not jostle so thickly on the pages and the poetical quotations were remorselessly reduced the sermons would gain much in value." The source of this review is unknown, however it is pasted in the inside cover of Boreham's personal copy in the library of Whitley College, 271 Royal Pde. PARKVILLE 3052, Australia.
[6] F.W. Boreham, From England to Mosgiel, N.Z., March,1895, p.3
[7] Ibid., p.14
[8] Ibid., p.14
[9] Ibid., p.15
[10] F.W. Boreham, Loose Leaves, Mosgiel: Taieri Advocate & Dunedin: H.H.Driver, 1902, p.7
[11] Ibid., p.7-8
[12] Ibid., p.9
[13] Ibid., p.39
[14] Ibid., p.49
[15] Ibid., p.63
[16] Ibid., p.63
[17] Ibid., p.75
[18] Ibid., p.98
[19] Ibid., p.105
[20] Ibid., p.110