Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Boreham and the Chair that Billy Graham Wanted

This is the chair that Dr Billy Graham wanted to buy.

Mention has already been made of the influence that F W Boreham had on Billy Graham. The American evangelist and his wife Ruth collect Boreham books and they have found them to be a great source of truth and illustrations.

When Billy visited Melbourne in 1959 he said that the one man he wanted to meet in Australia was Dr F W Boreham. He wanted to thank him for the impact he had had on his life and ministry.

Billy wanted to recognize Dr Boreham publicly and he asked him to sit with him on the platform at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Unfortunately F W Boreham had to decline the invitation because he was not a well man (he died two months later). Billy did kneel down in Boreham’s lounge in Kew and the old man put his hands on him and blessed him.

When Dr Billy Graham visited New Zealand ten years later in 1969 he conducted evangelistic crusades in Auckland and Dunedin. Knowing that Mosgiel, the location of Boreham’s first church, was only 10 kilometres from Dunedin, he asked his hosts if he could visit Boreham’s church.

He was given a tour around the little church and shown some of the Boreham relics, including this chair belonging to the old doctor (there were two chairs‑a Preacher’s Chair behind the pulpit and Boreham’s Study Chair which was in the porch. I think this is the latter one).

When Billy asked to buy this chair and offered $US500 (a big sum in those days), the local church representative (quite possibly the pastor) was tempted! Before he shook hands on the deal and packed up the chair the local man (in good Baptist fashion) said he would need to consult with other members of the church.

A special meeting was convened that night to discuss the request. The meeting concluded that if it was worth that much to Dr Graham it must be worth at least that amount to them! They, therefore, did not accede to the evangelist’s request.

Over the years Boreham aficionados have visited Mosgiel and have called in to the church to view the old photos and memorabilia.

A year or two ago, when the Mosgiel Baptist Church closed its doors, I offered to provide a good home for the chair and other memorabilia in the F W Boreham Collection at Whitley College, in Melbourne. My offer was not accepted. I am unsure what has become of the chair and other Boreham items and would be grateful if any readers of this site from Mosgiel might inform us.

Why did Billy want Boreham’s chair? It doesn’t look highly comfortable or stylish. But like a grave, a pulpit, these items bring us closer to the one we love and appreciate.

F W Boreham wrote several times about chairs.

He wrote about Alec Fraser at Mosgiel who kept an ‘empty’ chair at the end of his bed for Jesus. The chair symbolized the presence of Christ and helped Alec to focus his prayers.[1]

An additional aspect of Boreham’s relationship with John Broadbanks is revealed in one of Boreham’s final recollections:

“We never celebrated communion with John Broadbanks but the last time we were together we set up an armchair that was open and free for the Lord [to aid us] in the consciousness of the Real Presence.[2]

In 1921 (when he was in Armadale, Melbourne) Boreham wrote lovingly about the way his chair was more than a chair:

“In this chair... I have spent hundreds of delightful hours.”...A stick is more than a stick ...If I say, this old arm-chair has not a soul, who has?... My contention is that an arm-chair is more than an armchair...if we listen with sufficient care, the old arm-chair is talking to us… It is reminding us.”[3]

To F W Boreham, his armchair was full of soul.

Listen to this final thought from Boreham on his chair:

“Every man has a genius for something or other. I have a genius for a comfortable armchair and a blazing fire...I can talk to my heart's content without seeming garrulous, and, when, in the mood, can remain as silent as the Sphinx without appearing sullen.”[4]

With all that F W Boreham could see in his chairs, no wonder Billy Graham wanted to get his hands on one of them!

Geoff Pound

Image: The chair with a former pastor of the Mosgiel Baptist Church, the Rev Laurie Rankin.

Link: The earlier posting on F W Boreham’s influence on Dr Billy Graham can be viewed at:

[1] F W Boreham, Rubble and Roseleaves, 1923, 60.
[2] F W Boreham, The Fiery Crags, 1928, 147.
[3] F W Boreham, Home of the Echoes, 1921, 134, 138, 143.
[4] Boreham, Rubble of Roseleaves, 7.