Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Boreham on Wedge Bay

Boreham always thought of himself as a generalist yet in the following quotes from one of his early books he boasts of being an expert:

“There is just one spot on God's fair earth that I fancy I know better than
anyone else...It is a landlocked bay a couple of square miles across. I have
spent about six months of my life poking about this solitary place trying to woo
its favour and win its golden secrets and I really think that if one of the
trees about the waters edge were to fall in my absence I should miss it and
mourn it next time I go…”

“I rowed one day recently into a shady little inlet and was surprised to find it exactly as I had left it a couple of years before..... It was here, as it was in the beginning it is now and ever shall be world without end and it is restful to saturate oneself in the brooding silence of the primeval forest. I like to sit in this quiet cove where I picknicked two years ago and to reflect that it is today exactly as it was in the days of Caesar. It is like closing your tired eyes when at the cinematograph you can bear the flicker no longer....”

“The local inhabitants have never awakened to the charms of the beauty-spots around them.”[1]

These excerpts are further illustrations of the way F W Boreham took time out for leisure and silence. It reveals his love of nature which he possessed from childhood. These lines contain some of his signature themes‑the importance of beauty to the world, the way nature links us to the ages, his disdain for the artificial (viz. the cinema) and the importance of cultivating an appreciation for the commonplace and the familiar.

Geoff Pound

Image: One of Boreham’s photos of Wedge Bay, Tasmania, Australia.

[1] F W Boreham, The Golden Milestone, 109.

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.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Mistress of the Manse

F W Boreham lovingly referrred to his wife as 'The Mistress of the Manse'.

Reference has been made in an earlier posting to the fact that Stella Boreham got severe post natal depression after having each of her five babies and almost died after the birth of one of their children.

The church at Mosgiel released the Borehams so that they were able to spend months away from ministry recuperating in Piripiki Gorge (Taieri Mouth). It was here that they realized how nature is such a tonic.[1] After that the Borehams spent a month each year holidaying and “exploring this panoramic paradise.”[2] When they went to Hobart they made the same practice, but this time at Wedge Bay. In Melbourne they often holidayed in the Dandenong Mountains.

Stella Boreham was a quiet retiring person and from accounts did not appear to take an upfront, leading role in church or community life. Perhaps Boreham’s chapter on ‘The Minister’s Wife’ reveals how they both understood this role.[3]

Many people who knew her have said to me that she was a lovely person with a beautiful nature. The photo indicates that Stella and Frank had lots of fun and laughter.

Geoff Pound

Image: Photo taken by F W Boreham of Stella dressed in a kimono.

[1] F W Boreham, The Blue Flame, 160.
[2] F W Boreham, Home of the Echoes, 36.
[3] F W Boreham, The Silver Shadow, 50.

Mrs Stella Boreham

Frank and Stella met when he was the student pastor at Theydon Bois. Stella Cottee was only sixteen and her parents invited him home for lunch. She came from good evangelical stock. In his Bunch of Everlastings F W Boreham wrote of visiting William Cottee (Stella’s grandfather) who was over ninety years of age at the time. Boreham must have found him rather daunting for the student pastor said: “He had no respect for any theological opinions of mine. He was a sturdy old hyper Calvinist, my doctrines were milk and water.”[1] What did Frank and Stella do in their courtship in their Theydon Bois days? Who knows but one of the things they did was read to each other. In some of Boreham’s books that he had acquired he wrote (with the date), ‘Read to Stella & Mrs Cottee’ or ‘Read to Stella and Mr Cottee.”[2]

Stella was young when she arrived in Christchurch, NZ to get married to Frank and set up their new life together. Reading between the lines it seems that they both experienced extreme homesickness. Writing more than fifty years later Boreham lets down his guard and speaks honestly of how they felt and the most painful times:

“Although I have spent nearly three score Christmases under the Southern Cross,
I have never completely resigned myself to celebrating Christmas at midsummer
and have never quite recovered from the shock that I sustained when that strange
experience first befell me.”

“As we approached the first Christmas after our wedding, my second Christmas in
New Zealand, my wife's first thought of spending the festive season by our two
homesick selves grew increasingly intolerable. But whom could we invite?”[3] They sought to alleviate their homesickness by inviting
friends such as J J Doke.[4]

In this posting there is a photo taken by Frank of Stella posing as a nun!

Geoff Pound

[1] F W Boreham Bunch of Everlastings, 173.
[2] These books are in the F W Boreham Collection, Whitley College, Melbourne and include a book of sermons by F B Meyer.
[3] F W Boreham, My Christmas Book, 12.
[4] F W Boreham, The Man Who Saved Gandhi, 3

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Boreham the Photographer

Boreham Family Photos
Helen, a regular reader of this site, asked a question about the availability of photographs of the Boreham family. Her question has prompted this posting and some others to follow. I mentioned to her that there are portraits of Frank Boreham in many of his books and My Pilgrimage contains one of his wife Stella. Boreham tried to keep his wife (The Mistress of the Manse) and his children out of his books. Apart from his autobiography he is very restrained in writing about what he gets up to.

Life Through a Lens
“The photographs hanging here and there around the room transport my mind
other days and other places .... the pictures transform it [the
apartment] into
an observatory and I am able to survey the entire
F.W. Boreham, Rubble and Roseleaves

For F.W. Boreham there were no uninteresting subjects, only uninterested persons. He had an observant eye which took in every detail and stored them in an unusually retentive memory. It was as if he saw life through a camera lens which concentrates on its subject and ignores the rest.

In recent years, some boxes of glass negatives that were taken and developed by F.W. Boreham have come to light and are now part of the Tasmanian Baptist historical records. Among the plates are shots of the Hobart Tabernacle and its officers, many family pictures, scenes of his much loved Wedge Bay on the Tasman Peninsula and some trick photography which includes a portrayal of a ghost on the steps of the Hobart manse! I will continue to post these on this site.

His children, Joan Lincoln of Hobart and Frank Boreham of Templestowe, remember their father's hooded camera requiring a black sheet so that the image could be clearly seen in the glass plate on top of the camera and the shutter was operated by a length of string. In this way and by using a tripod, Dr. Boreham took several self-portraits and group photographs with him in the frame. Joan and Frank remember their father developing the glass plate negatives in the cellar under the Armadale Baptist church manse. The cellar had a small window which he covered with red paper when making prints. Once he started work the children were not allowed in. [Joan and Frank junior are now dead but these insights were passed on to me when I interviewed them in the mid 1990s]

Photographer and editor of the Tasmanian Baptist Advance, Laurie Rowston says:
"Boreham's photographic work is all the more compelling when we consider that the business of photography in the early years of the twentieth century was a very different affair to that of the present day. There were no point-and-shoot automatic cameras then. A photographer needed a high degree of skill which included knowing how to measure the light and develop and print the film. All this before even considering what he wanted to photograph. Boreham must have been a perfectionist because he chose to use a photographic method (the dry glass plate) which was far more complex than what was being offered when he commenced and which became popular. In taking photographs Boreham also became a wordless writer. But more importantly his photographs, like his books, make you see."

(These notes are adapted from an article written by Laurie Rowston for the Tasmanian Baptist Advance. Appreciation is expressed to Laurie for his willingness for this to be reprinted).

Geoff Pound

Image: Boreham’s photo of his wife and two ghosts!? He found these human skulls on the Otago (NZ) beach of Taieri Mouth and kept them through his Tasmanian days.