Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Boreham Pays Tribute To His Mother

Woman of Strong Opinions
Like many famous people Frank Boreham often paid tribute to his mother for the way she encouraged and inspired his gifts. Frank was the eldest child and felt that he had a special bond with his mother in that his advent signaled the commencement of mothering for Fanny Boreham.[1]

Frank’s mother had an influential shaping role on him and his nine brothers and sisters. He said, “Mother was a woman of strong opinions and prejudices. She knew her own mind and seldom gave a reason for any judgments that she formed. If any of us asked her why we were not allowed to go with other girls and boys to Sunday School she simply told us that she liked us all to go to church with father and herself on Sunday morning; that she liked us to spend Sunday evening with herself; and that she thought that this was quite enough.”[2]

Storyteller Supreme
Boreham wrote many times of the impact of storytelling on his own life and his mother’s ability to hold her children spellbound:

“And we loved to gaze upon the old church at night. It seemed strange to see the stained-glass windows showing their glories to the passer-by instead of to the worshippers within. Yet, pleasant as all this was, it was costly. For it meant forsaking the circle around the fire. There mother gathered her boys about her; read with us the collects and the lessons that were being used in church; and then held us spell-bound with a chapter or two of some delightful book. It is wonderful how many books we got through on those Sunday evenings. Then, before we said good night, we turned out the gas and just sat and talked by the light of the dying embers. Most of us were sprawling on the hearth-rug, sitting on hassocks, or kneeling around the fender. It always ended with a story. And, of all the stories that I have since heard and read, none ever moved me like those stories that in the flickering firelight, Mother told.[3]

Many times his mother gave the account of a gipsy woman who saw baby Frank in his pram and predicted that he would become a writer. He also acquired a special bond with Charles Dickens who had a memorable encounter with Fanny when she was a young girl.[4]

In Touch Through Letters
Frank Boreham left England at the age of twenty-four and spent most of the rest of his life in Australasia. Throughout his ministry he was always grateful for his rich upbringing and the blessing his parents gave to him in responding to a call that separated the Boreham family:

“Never a day comes to me under these clear Australian skies but I am touched to tears at the memory of the goodness‑the self-sacrificing goodness‑that my father and mother lavished upon me in the dear old English home.”[5]

In the days before effective phone calls and email F W Boreham was wonderfully sustained by regular letters from Tunbridge Wells:

“It is getting on for twenty years since I exchanged the Old World in the north for this new World beneath the Southern Cross. And never a single mail has reached Australia through all these years that did not bear a letter from my mother.”[6] Frank kept these letters throughout his life but most were destroyed upon FWB's death. A letter from Mrs Boreham has been found, preserved in one of Frank's books.[7]

Through an Arch of Roses
Frank and Stella Boreham made many trips back to England. Early in the 1930s on one of the visits home it was clear that Frank’s mother would not last long. It was a time for reminiscing, a memorable communion in the home and the final farewells. Boreham in an essay entitled, An Arch of Roses describes the last time he saw his mother as he and Stella left the family home to return to Australia:

“We saw [her] through an arch of roses, her tall and stately form at the bay-window...and a strange medley of smiles and tears playing across her brave and wrinkled face. Good-bye, dear Mother mine! I do not know how you will appear when I see you again; but I am certain that you will not look less sweet than you looked in that early summer morning when, in your pretty blue robe and your dainty lace cap, I saw you for the last time through a riot of red, red roses.”[8]

Upheld By Memories
Upon arriving back in Australia it was not long before the telegram arrived to say that, “Mother passed peacefully.” The news arrived at Christmas time. This news took the shine off the celebrations but unloosed waves of sustaining memories.[9]

Geoff Pound

Image: One of the earliest photos of the Boreham family in Tunbridge Wells. Frank at the back next to his father. Fanny Boreham seated.

[1] F W Boreham, A Witch’s Brewing, 100
[2] F W Boreham, A Late Lark Singing, 23.
[3] F W Boreham, Arrows of Desire, 3.6
[4] Boreham, A Witch’s Brewing, 100.
[5] F W Boreham, The Other Side of the Hill, 107.
[6] F W Boreham, The Golden Milestone, 51.
[7] This is held in the F W Boreham Collection, Whitley College, Melbourne.
[8] Boreham, A Witch’s Brewing, 108-109.
[9] Boreham, A Witch’s Brewing, 100-109.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Boreham On His Conversion

F W Boreham felt it was important to often recall his own faith journey and the time when he sensed Christ put his hand on him. He commended this practice to young ministers as a way of re-warming their spiritual passion.

While Frank had been brought up in the church ‑ the St John’s Anglican Church in Tunbridge Wells and then the Immanuel (revivalist) church ‑ he marked his conversion experience to a phase in London. He later wrote several times about being dreadfully lonely when he moved to the big smoke at the age of sixteen.[1] In one of his earliest books (and now one of the most expensive to buy!), he describes his experience.[2]

In a sermon, The Ultimate Centre of Gravitation, he pictures the judge of all the earth … surrounded by the countless throng...reading the secrets of each heart as though He and the judge were there alone:

"The very magnitude of that drama of the ages shall only make each heart feel more fearfully lonely. I shall never forget the day when, at the age of sixteen, I left home and found my way up to the roar and din of London. I had never seen such crowds anywhere else, jostling and shoving for every inch of pavement. And yet I remember standing that day in the heart of the world's metropolis, under the very shadow of St. Paul's, and shivering in the thick of the crowd at my utter loneliness. Amid the hops and the clover and the orchards of my Kentish home one could often shout to his heart's content, and never a soul would hear him. Yet that was a delicious and tranquil loneliness that one loved and revelled in, but the loneliness of that awful surging crowd seemed an intolerable thing. That will be the loneliness of the Judgement day, the indescribable loneliness of standing in the midst of myriad millions, all in the regal presence of the King of kings, and each most dreadfully alone before him."

Geoff Pound

Image: St Paul’s Cathedral

[1] F W Boreham, Mountains in the Mist, 221; F W Boreham, A Reel of Rainbow, 20
[2] F W Boreham, The Whisper of God, 137.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Boreham On Acorns and Oaks

Aussie Soil
In his early years Boreham expressed his abhorrence at the thought of dying in Australia and being buried away from British soil. However his gradual love affair with this great brown continent led him to rescind his earlier statement. Perhaps in some way his prayers were granted when his body was finally laid to rest nearby, in the Kew cemetery - in Australian soil under an old English oak!

Under The Old Oak Tree
The old oak, though much taller than in the 1950's, still shelters the grave in a graceful manner. Frank and Stella used to picnic at this family grave from the time their daughter Wroxie died, in 1953. Frank loved the way that the possums left their marks all around. Today, if you visit, there's still ample evidence to suggest that possums persist in playing in the oak and dancing on Boreham's grave.

An abundance of acorns adorn this grave - seeds that are pregnant with life and potential. Frank Boreham understood that those who live effective lives are those who like oaks have taken years to develop into fruitfulness.

F.W. Boreham once remarked how he rarely returned home from a Sunday of worship services to report to his wife that someone had become a Christian in response to his preaching that day.

However, he was for ever amazed at the many times people said to him, "That sermon that you preached ten years ago was the means by which God turned my life around!"

Invisible Mystery
This is something of the mystery of the ministry? We say or do something that at the time seems small and ordinary yet through an invisible and often a lengthy process of maturing there emerges something that is profound and transforming. This conviction offers hope to all of us when we realize the significant part, often the hidden part that we play in the purposes of God. It’s like acorns becoming oak trees.

Geoff Pound

Image: The Boreham family grave in the Boroondara Cemetery, Kew, Melbourne.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Boreham on Cricket

F W Boreham practiced his theme of 'making time for himself' through his passion for cricket. His wife is quoted in Who’s Who In Australia as saying that “if the house was on fire [her husband] would leave it to burn if there happened to be a cricket match in progress within twenty miles.”[1] His father was a cricket official who organized first class matches in Tunbridge Wells and the county of Kent and must have been responsible for introducing his son to the delights of the game.[2]

F W Boreham must be one of the few people who have shaken hands with W G Grace and dined with Sir Donald Bradman. I wrote to Sir Donald to ask him about this encounter but he gave a courteous reply saying he did not remember the man! Boreham played cricket on the green at Tunbridge Wells. He later was President of the Cricket Club in Hobart, Tasmania.

Boreham devoted so much time to the game because he loved it, he forgot everything apart from the runs and the cricket and he found it a great way to form friends outside the circles in which he normally moved.

Amid the busyness of his ministry in Tasmania Boreham wrote, “There is something wonderfully restful to the eye and strangely soothing to the mind about the very environs of a first class match.”[3] He also marveled at the game itself saying, “The glorious uncertainty of cricket is universally regarded as the greatest charm of the game.”[4] When, as an older man he found it hard to sleep, instead of counting sheep, he counted runs and with his brilliant memory he could replay entire cricket matches in his mind.[5]

There are many wonderful cricketing stories in his books (including an essay of The Middle Wicket),[6] but the cricketing story I like most is this one:

Watching the footy final at the MCG (he sat under the clock in the old Member’s Stand) Boreham and his cricketing friends were speculating at halftime about who would win the Test match in England that would decide the Ashes. Boreham did not say whether any money was put on it but they all wrote down what they thought Australia would make if the Aussies were batting first.

Boreham noted that one of his friends wrote down 250 runs and all the others wrote different scores up to 350. It was all so absurd because they had no idea about the state of the wicket or the outlook for the weather, but in an impish mood Boreham scribbled 475 and passed the paper on.

"475!" said his friend, who then said, "If Australia gets 475 on the board tonight you will be so excited that tomorrow when you enter the pulpit you will announce 475 instead of the proper hymn." Believe it or not, when stumps were drawn that night at the Kensington Oval Australia had made 475!

When on the next morning Boreham turned up to preach at the Paisley St Church at Footscray he was handed the order of service and on it was the opening hymn – ‘Glorious things of thee are spoken!’ No. 475!

Boreham does not try and explain this coincidence but he gets a sermon out of it and says: "If in the ordinary things of life we confront things that are incredible, we should not be surprised that in matters of the faith we sometimes find ourselves out of our depth."[7]

Geoff Pound

Image: Boreham (top left) with his cricket team in Hobart.

[1] F W Boreham, The Drums of Dawn, 168.
[2] F W Boreham, Faces in the Fire, 26.
[3] F W Boreham, Luggage of Life, 89.
[4] F W Boreham, The Passing of John Broadbanks, 22.
[5] F W Boreham, Wisps of Wildfire, 241.
[6] F W Boreham, Nests of Spears, 160.
[7] F W Boreham, I Forgot to Say, 90.