Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Friday, April 07, 2006

Boreham the Biographer

F W Boreham was an essayist, an editorialist, a sermon writer, a poet, a hymn writer and also a biographer. It is interesting that Boreham, a Baptist, wrote his full length biography on an Anglican, the famous Bishop to New Zealand, George Augustus Selwyn. The book illustrates Boreham’s love of biography and his ecumenical spirit.

Boreham finished the book while he was in Tasmania but he said that in moving around New Zealand, “I had ample opportunities of observing the supreme veneration in which the people of these romantic islands have enshrined the illustrious memory of Bishop Selwyn.”[1] [The old black, wooden churches in Auckland’s Howick and Mission Bay and Selwyn College in Glendowie, are all reminders of Selwyn’s amazing influence]

Boreham attributed Selwyn’s influence to his ability to identify with his people whether they were European settlers or Maori. He took the time to learn the Maori language and “this was a master stroke in identifying with his people.”[2]

A major stuff up had been caused in England before Selwyn was sent out to New Zealand. His superiors got their latitude and longitudes mucked up and instead of making Selwyn responsible for New Zealand he found out that he was the Bishop for the whole of the Pacific! Undaunted, he set about visiting the islands and he established an important strategy of inviting one representative from every island country to come and train at the Theological College in Auckland.

Selwyn was a person who worked for justice and reconciliation. The Maori were literally in a battle with the government over land rights. The indigenous people incorrectly thought the Bishop was siding with the British troops so Selwyn called a conference with the Maori leaders, saying he would come and visit them on their land. The Maori leaders agreed among themselves that if the bishop came they would not let him onto their marae (meeting place). When he arrived near evening they barred him from their meeting house but said he could spend the night in the pigsty. That is exactly what he did and where he slept! This act of humility had such an impact on the Maori that the next day they agreed to talk but for years afterwards they said, “You cannot ‘whakatatua’ this man or in English, “You cannot degrade the dignity of this man.”

F W Boreham wrote many times about Selwyn[3] and in one essay he told this story and then went on to recall the way Jesus of Nazareth was draped in mock purple and given a mock crown and a mock scepter. Boreham concluded that Jesus did not have his dignity degraded as he led the procession.[4]

Geoff Pound

Image: George Augustus Selwyn

Because of its theme this posting appears today on these two web sites:
The Official F W Boreham web site:
Stories for Speakers web site:

[1] F W Boreham, George Augustus Selwyn, 5.
[2] Boreham, George Augustus Selwyn, 52.
[3] F W Boreham, Mountains in the Mist, 125; F W Boreham, The Crystal Pointers, 118.
[4] F W Boreham, Cliffs of Opal, 135.