Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Boreham Blog Update from Geoff Pound

I am having to return to Melbourne for a family funeral (my son-in-law's sister died tragically in London a few days ago) and then to NZ where my mother is facing heart surgery this week.

Consequently, my blogs will be off air or rather not added to until I return on the end of the month.

Sorry about this. I hope to commence again early in April.

Geoff Pound

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Man Who Saved Gandhi: Part 9

The amazing thing is that, in defiance of the physical frailty that had dogged his days, Mr. Doke laid his bones in a missionary grave after all! His brother's resting-place on the banks of the Congo always held a conspicuous place in the landscape of his life. I cannot stifle a suspicion that it was one of the factors that lured him to the adventure that glorified the close of his career.

He conceived the idea that it would enormously enrich the spirituality and increase the effectiveness of his own church at Johannesburg, and of all the South African churches, if they had a specific missionary objective, and especially an African objective. He talked it over with Fred Arnot, the renowned explorer and evangelist. Arnot told him of a lonely mission-station away up in the interior‑not far from the upper reaches of the Congo‑that might be taken over by the South African churches and made the centre from which a vast unevangelized territory might be worked. The idea captivated Mr. Doke's imagination, and he felt sure that it would appeal to all the heroic instincts in the young men and women of the churches. With boyish excitement he resolved to set out on a great trek into the heart of the continent. Clement, his son, agreed to, accompany him. “We are off for the Congo Border,” he wrote enthusiastically. “Is it a holiday trip? It seems a long way to go for a holiday. I would claim that we are prospectors, but it would be misunderstood. Yet that is really what we are‑prospecting for missions.” They set out on July 2, 1913. Infected by his ardour, his people crowded down to wave their affectionate farewells, and eagerly anticipated the stirring story that he would have to tell on his return.

His journal, carefully kept to the last, reads like a section of Livingstone's Missionary Travels or Stanley's In Darkest Africa. Here, as in those classics, we have the swamp and the jungle, the long grass and the winding trails, the lions and the hyenas, the zebras and the impalas, the mosquitoes and the tse-tse flies. His attempts to make the natives of the various villages understand his message are strangely reminiscent of Livingstone. The travellers reached their objective and were given a boisterous welcome: “Clement was almost overpowered and our ears tingled with the noise.” They spent some days in conference with the missionaries; explored the entire area; and Mr. Doke formulated his plans for the establishment of his new scheme.

The return journey was more trying. But they bravely survived the ordeal of the long march, and, on August 5, reached the railway. Here father and son separated. Mr. Doke had promised, before terminating his travels, to visit a mission-station at Umtali, in Eastern Rhodesia. At Bulawayo, therefore, the two reluctantly parted, Clement taking the train home to Johannesburg and Mr. Doke turning his face towards Umtali.

And at Umtali he suddenly collapsed and died. “This is the time,” he murmured, “when a man wants his wife.” “Yes,” replied Mr. Wodehouse, his missionary-host, “but One is near you who is better than wife or mother.” “Yes,” he replied. “I know that the Everlasting Arms are around me.” He asked Mr. Wodehouse to pray with him; then to stroke his hair; and, later still, to hold his hand. And on Friday evening, August 15, 1913, he quietly and peacefully passed away.

His life-work was, however, splendidly complete. His dream was more than realized. The work of that mission-station in the far north‑to which his own children were among the first to dedicate their lives has prospered and developed in most unexpected ways. And, to this day, his memory, like a fragrance, pervades hundreds of homes on all five of the world's great continents.

F W Boreham

The Man Who Saved Gandhi: Part 8

It was after he left New Zealand‑to the great sorrow of us all‑that he made history. And, characteristically, he did it in such a way that, to this day, very few people realize the effect of his behaviour on world affairs. He settled as minister at Johannesburg; and it so happened that, shortly afterwards, Mr. Gandhi went to South Africa as the legal representative of the Indian population, who, just then, were involved in a serious clash with the authorities. Mr. Doke's sympathies were with the Indians, and he immediately got into touch with Mr. Gandhi. Each were astonished at the other's diminutive stature. They did not look like a pair of champions. Mr. Doke says that he expected to see ‘a tall and stately figure and a bold masterful face’. Instead of this, a small, little, spare figure stood, before me, and a refined, earnest face looked into mine. “The skin was dark, the eyes dark, but the smile which lighted up the face, and that direct, fearless glance, simply took one's heart by storm. I judged him to be about thirty-eight years of age, which proved correct. But the strain of his work showed its traces in the sprinkling of silver hairs on his head. He spoke English perfectly, and was evidently a man of great culture”.

On the wall of Mr. Gandhi's office hung a beautiful picture of Jesus; and the moment that Mr. Doke's eyes rested upon it, he felt that he and his new friend were bound by a most sacred tie. “I want you,” he said to Mr. Gandhi, “to consider me your friend in this struggle. If,” he added, with a glance at the picture on the wall, “if I have learned any lesson from the life of Jesus it is that one should share and lighten the load of those who are heavenly laden.”

The days that followed were full of anxiety and even of peril. Indeed, they almost culminated in a tragedy that would have shocked the world. “I distinctly remember,” Mr. Doke says, “that, as I went through the streets that morning, I was led to pray that I might be guided completely to do God's will; but I little thought what the answer would be.” A few minutes later, a young Indian dashed up, gesticulating excitedly: “Come quick!” he cried. “Coolie, he hit Mr. Gandhi!” Following the Indian's footsteps, Mr. Doke found Mr. Gandhi lying in a pool of blood, looking half dead. It turned out that a party of Pathans, taking it into their heads that Mr. Gandhi was seeking to betray the Indian cause, had plotted to destroy him. After bathing and bandaging his wounds, Mr. Doke asked the wounded man whether he would prefer to be taken to a hospital or to the manse. Mr. Gandhi gratefully accepted the latter alternative.

“Mr. Doke and his good wife,” writes Mr. Gandhi, in telling the story, “were anxious that I should be perfectly at rest. They therefore removed all persons from near my bed. I made a request that their daughter, Olive, who was then only a little girl, should sing for me my favourite English hymn, Lead kindly Light. Mr. Doke liked this very much. He called Olive and asked her to sing in low tone. The whole scene passes before my eyes as I recall it. How shall I describe the service rendered me by the Doke family?

“Every day marked an advance in our mutual affection and intimacy. Naturally, after I was injured, all classes of Indians flocked to the house, from the humblest street-hawker, with dirty clothes and dusty boots, to the highest Indian officials.”

“Mr. Doke would receive them all in his drawing-room with uniform courtesy and consideration. The whole family gave their time, either to nursing me or else receiving the hundreds of Indian visitors who came to see me. Even at night Mr. Doke would twice or thrice tiptoe into my room to see if I wanted anything.”

Some years later, J.J.D. having died in the interval, Mr. Gandhi revisited South Africa in the company of the Rev. C. F. Andrews. “As we approached Johannesburg,” says Mr. Andrews, Mr. Gandhi turned to me and said: “Charlie, I want to take you on a pilgrimage.” “What do you mean?” I asked him, not following his line of thought.” I want you,” he said, “to go with me to the house of Mrs. Doke, where I was nursed back to life.”

“When we came to the house it was difficult for him to restrain his emotion, as he for the first time saw Mrs. Doke in her widow's dress and tried to comfort her. She, on her part, treated him with all the tenderness of a mother, forgetting her own sorrow in her anxiety about his health and that of Mrs. Gandhi, who was very ill.”

“Mrs. Doke then related to us the story of the death of her husband in the interior of Africa.” And the story that Mrs. Doke unfolded to her visitors is the story that I must myself set down before I lay aside my pen.

F W Boreham

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Man Who Saved Gandhi: Part 7

Mr. Doke was a natural humorist. I shall never forget the triumphs that he achieved by his faculty for fun. I never knew a man in whom holiness and humour blended as they did in him. I have known many good men who loved to laugh; but the goodness and the laughter seemed somehow to dwell in separate compartments of their being. When they were laughing you temporarily forgot their devoutness; and when they were praying you forgot their peals of merriment. But with Mr. Doke it was quite otherwise. The ingredients, both of his humour and of his piety, were such that they blended most perfectly, and you could never tell where the one ended and the other began. And this remarkable trait was used by him for all it was worth. It happened that Mr. Doke's sojourn in New Zealand synchronized with a trying period of storm and stress in the history of our Missionary Society. It was a most grave and anxious time for all of us, and I shall never forget how, time after time, his tactful wit would save a most delicate and threatening situation. Mr. Chesterton says that the discovery of nonsense was the greatest revelation of the nineteenth century. That being so, Mr. Doke deserves to be ranked as one of our greatest discoverers, for he saw, as few men saw, the inestimable value of that magic and potent force.

I can recall occasions when we had been sitting for hours anxiously discussing a depressing and apparently impossible situation, until our patience was. exhausted, and our nerves unstrung. Out of sheer weariness and vexation we might easily have committed any sort of indiscretion. But over there in the corner sits Mr. Doke. He is taking out his pencil. In a moment or two, he has finished his work. With a few deft strokes he has, struck off an irresistibly comical cartoon, caricaturing some ridiculous phase in the trying affair, and focusing, in the drollest possible way, the humorous side of the knotty question. The cartoon was handed round, and we laughed immoderately over the product of Mr. Doke's captivating genius. A new atmosphere straightway enveloped the debate. The interruption was as refreshing as an hour's sleep or a delicious cup of tea. It was as though, a window having been opened in a stuffy room, the place had suddenly been filled with fresh and perfume-laden air. We settled down to work again with clearer brains, cheerier hearts and sweeter tempers.

This was in Committee; but he waved the same magic wand over the assembly. I remember a very painful debate that took place in those trying days. The question was as to whether or not certain letters should have been written. Some telling speeches had been made, and feeling was running very high. At length the time for voting arrived, and it looked as though the assembly would not only censure its officers, but perhaps precipitate a cleavage that many years would scarcely heal. The chairman rose to put the motion. The atmosphere was distinctly electrical and charged with tensest feeling. In the nick of time, Mr. Doke cried, “Mr. President,” and came striding down the aisle. I can see him now as he turned to address us. “Mr. President,” he said, “is it not possible that both sides are right? Is it not possible that we are each reading into these troublesome letters our own strong feeling? Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time a man had two children, a boy and a girl. In course of time, the boy became refractory and ran away from home. He was not heard of again for many years. The girl remained at her father's side and was his constant stay and comforter. Just as the old man had given up all hope of again hearing from his son, a letter arrived. But neither father nor daughter had been to school and they could not read it.”

“Let us take it down to the butcher, father!” the daughter suggested. “He can read, and he will tell us what Tom say.” To the butcher they accordingly hastened. Now, the butcher was a gruff, sour, surly old man, and they were unfortunate enough to find him in one of his nastiest moods. He tore open the letter with a grunt, withdrew it from its envelope and read: “Dear father, I'm very ill; send me some money, Yours, Tom.” “The rascal!” the old man exclaimed indignantly, “he only wants my money. He shan't have a single penny!” They turned away sorrowfully, and set off towards home. But, on the way, another thought visited the daughter. “Father,” she said, “What do you say to going to the baker? The butcher may have made a mistake. The baker can read, too; and he is a kind, Christian man. Let us go to him!” And to the baker's they went. Now the baker was a genial, gracious soul, with a voice tremulous with feeling and resonant with sympathy. He gently took the letter from its envelope and read: “Dear father, I'm very ill; send me some money, Yours, Tom” “The poor boy,” the old man cried, brushing away a tear, “how much can we send him?”

The whole assembly was in the best of good humour at once. The application was obvious. It was as though the lowering thundercloud had broken in refreshing summer rain. The air was cleared, and the flowers were exhaling their choicest fragrance in the sunshine that followed the storm. Mr. Doke's beautiful personality had cast its spell over us all. We felt that we wanted an interval in which to shake hands with each other. He made a suggestion in closing that would obviate all risk of further complications. Both sides snatched at it eagerly; and the painful episode closed with expressions of the most cordial goodwill.

He was a past master at this sort of thing. His sword, as the prophet would say, was bathed in heaven. He could rebuke in such a way that the person corrected felt as if a compliment had been paid him. I remember how, at Wellington, when he was President of the Conference, a deputation from the other churches of the city attended to convey fraternal greetings. It was at the end of a long session. I suppose we were weary and off our guard. Anyhow, we kept our seats as our visitors walked up the aisle to the rostrum. Mr. Doke was, of course, standing to receive them, shaking hands with each as they mounted the dais. “Brethren,” he then exclaimed, “every man in this standing assembly welcomes you!” We sprang to our feet feeling very much ashamed of ourselves, and profited by the reproof on every similar occasion in the days that followed.

I once accompanied him to a social function to which a young minister had brought the girl to whom he was engaged. The minister was walking about the hall chatting to his numerous friend,: his prospective bride was sitting with a group of ladies in a corner. The minister, being well-known, was quickly supplied with a cup of coffee. He was just about to lift it to his lips when Mr. Doke intervened. Taking his hand, Mr. Doke gently led him to the corner in which his lady-love was seated. “Oh, Miss Pemberton,” he exclaimed, “I'm afraid they're a little slow in serving the coffee, but Mr. Swain has managed to secure you a cup. And how are you enjoying yourself?” And so on. He did this kind of thing with such perfect ease and such natural grace that a rap on the knuckles from him felt for all the world like a caress.

F W Boreham