Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Boreham on Nature: Nature on Boreham

This is the second of three postings by David Enticott from his Masters Qualifying essay on the early influences on the preaching of F W Boreham.

The impact of nature on F W Boreham’s preaching, from 1891 to 1895, was borne out in two ways. Firstly there were some illustrations in his sermons that referred specifically to the creation, such as “snow on cottages.”[1] This was a pervasive image of newness in Christ that covered everything- all sins and mistakes. Another strong picture from the environment contained in these early sermon manuscripts, was called “arctic rivers.”[2] Here Boreham included a quotation to elaborate on what he meant. The quote stated: “Some Christians like the rivers which flow into the Arctic Ocean are frozen over at the mouths.”[3] Again this scene from nature may have been an effective illustration, as it could have been easy for a listener to picture what a frozen river might look like. To visualise an Arctic landscape filled with snow and icebergs.

Despite these references, it was only in his sermons after 1895 that Boreham allowed nature to have free reign.[4] As an example of this, on the 4th of February 1894 he delivered a message at Theydon Bois which was entitled “A word fitly spoken.”[5] The text for the day was Proverbs 25:11 and the headings chosen related both to the passage and the audience. It was a literal reading of the verse. By the time he reached Hobart and gave the same sermon in 1910, the title and headings had changed dramatically. The new theme was freed from a literal interpretation and modified to “Lips like Lilies.” [6] The headings read: “Some like thistles, some like poppies, some like violets, some like daisies.”[7] He thought that a person’s use of language could be thorny, misused, loving or divine. Nature was his means of explaining the point and as such it had been given its full voice. Here were the flowers and colours of the common at Tunbridge Wells coming to life. This use of the real world also allowed for the possibility of different interpretations, as a metaphor can be understood and pictured in different ways.

These relatively sparse references to the creation in his early sermons were nearly always used to illumine a theological or practical issue. When he spoke at Theydon Bois on the theme of Christians being released from condemnation,[8] Boreham used a scene from the natural world to make his point. Here there was a graphic backdrop of waves, wind and thunder, that only Christ could abate.[9] Such references to nature were still rare by the time Boreham left England in 1895. In his final four sermons at Theydon Bois in late 1894 he only used one illustration from creation.[10]

David Enticott

Image: From a Postcard of Theydon Bois in the F W Boreham Collection, Whitley College.

[1] F.W.Boreham. 1892. “Walk in the newness of life.” Sermon, Clapham, United Kingdom, 12 June, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript. As with all of Boreham’s manuscripts, this illustration was denoted by a squiggly line underneath the key phrase of the story.
[2] F.W.Boreham. 1894. “A word fitly spoken.” Sermon, Theydon Bois, United Kingdom, 4 February, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[3] ibid.
[4] A notable exception, where Boreham did use nature as a guiding force, was a sermon entitled “Roots, Shoots and Fruits” from Theydon Bois in March 1894. Here he preached on a text taken from Matthew 7:20: “wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” and said that Christians should be known not by their roots, or shoots but instead by their fruits. In this message he teased out some of these links with the natural world by holding that “it is well to be reminded that we are not saved by profession, sap brings shoots: not shoots sap.” In: F.W. Boreham. 1894. “Roots, Shoots, Fruits.” Sermon, Theydon Bois, United Kingdom, 25 March, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[5] ibid.
[6] F.W. Boreham. 1910. “Lips like Lilies.” Sermon, Hobart Baptist Church, Australia, 25 May, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[7] ibid.
[8] F.W. Boreham. 1894. “No condemnation.” Sermon, Theydon Bois, United Kingdom, 20 May, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.
[9] In this sermon Boreham said that Christians were accused but not condemned. To show what it was like to be accused he drew a mental picture for his hearers. This started with a lifeboat that was tossed about by the waves and the wind. There were clouds overhead and the sound of thunder all about. Christ was the one to bring relief in the midst of this dramatic scene. The clouds, waves and thunder may have provided his message with a convincing natural backdrop to the point he was trying to make- that Christ was able to rescue a disciple from danger, from condemnation. In: ibid.
[10] This was contained in a sermon on the second coming of Christ entitled: “Behold! I come quickly” taken from Revelation 22:12. The reference was to the impact Christ’s second coming would have on the “heavens- earth- sea.” F.W.Boreham.1894. “Behold! I come quickly.” Sermon, Theydon Bois, United Kingdom, 17 June, Preacher’s handwritten sermon manuscript.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Boreham on Tunbridge Wells

Over the past twelve months the Rev David Enticott, from the Mordialloc Baptist Church in Victoria, has been spending some time researching F.W. Boreham’s sermons. His specific task was to examine the influences prevalent in Boreham’s earliest sermons from 1891 to 1895. These messages were delivered at a variety of churches through the United Kingdom, in areas such as: Clapham (in London), Theydon Bois (on the outskirts of London and Boreham’s first placement as a pastor) and Tunbridge Wells (his childhood home.)

A number of these original sermon manuscripts are contained in the archives of the Baptist Union of Victoria. David is now undertaking a master’s thesis, with a view to examining both the influences and changes evident in Boreham’s preaching throughout his ministry career.

The following articles are excerpts from David’s Masters Qualifying essay, which I have had the privilege of supervising.

I have (with David’s permission) carved his offering into three postings. Thank you David for this contribution:

Frank William Boreham was born to Francis and Fanny Boreham on the 3rd of March 1871. He was raised in the village of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, which is located an hour’s train ride south of London. Today Tunbridge Wells remains a picturesque village, surrounded by lush English countryside. A large common, or public garden, still dominates the western side of the town, as it did in F.W. Boreham’s time.

The captivating beauty of F.W. Boreham’s surroundings in the Kent of his childhood was to have an influence upon his preaching. He encountered nature in a variety of ways. The experience of walking to church had just as profound an effect on him as did each service itself. It was a place to encounter God. His father Francis was a keen walker, and on many occasions he would find a new way to walk to the Sunday worship service. Each moment in nature was an experience to be savoured for the young F.W. Boreham.[1] It was sacramental, a place resonant with God and grandeur. The family also went out for walks on Saturdays. Francis[2] would season these hikes by means of using his “racy conversation about nature.”[3] The key was to observe one’s surroundings. F.W. Boreham was taught to cherish the natural world.

Later, when Boreham returned to Tunbridge Wells on a trip from New Zealand, he described its surrounds as follows:

“Its sylvan valleys, bespangled with primroses and bluebells and violets,
its fragrant hedgerows aglow with the hawthorn and the honeysuckle; its
exquisite parks carpeted with an infinite variety of ferns and flowers; its
verdant and undulating common…its magnificent forests; its romantic walks; its
arching avenues; its giant rocks and dainty mosses…”[4]

These are the notes of someone who as a child was an observer, who paid attention to his environment. However, although nature was an influence on his preaching, it did take time to develop.

(To be continued)

[1] He wrote that: “We always set out.. in a perfect fever of curiosity and every step of the way was made brimful of interest.” In: F.W.Boreham, The Other Side of the Hill (London: The Epworth Press, 1917), 113.
[2] His Father worked in a local legal firm and the family grew up in relative comfort. Their home at 134 Upper Grosvener Road had eight rooms and two stories. Crago, The Story of F.W.Boreham, op.cit., 19.
[3] ibid., 21.
[4] FW Boreham, Loose Leaves: From The Journal of my Voyage Round the World (Mosgiel: “Taieri Advocate” Office, 1902), 44.

David Enticott

Image: Tunbridge Wells Common. Photo taken by David Enticott.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Boreham on A First Mate

In my last article I posted the tribute I gave at the funeral of F W Boreham’s son, Frank Boreham.

In this article I present excerpts from the tribute I gave at the funeral of Betty, Frank junior’s wife (who died in 2003).

Betty was a woman given to hospitality, an interested listener, a person of prayer, intelligent and self-effacing. She was an avid reader and, with Frank in their latter years, a great traveler. Betty would write up their travels in her journal while Frank recorded scenes on his video camera.

These are portions of what I said at the Kew Baptist Church (the church FWB went to on his retirement and the church where Frank and Betty worshipped and served for most of their lives):

“They (Betty and Frank) were generous with what they had been given. Together they donated cabinets and memorabilia to the Armadale Church and Whitley College to further the work of Frank’s father.

They contributed to the establishment of the F W Boreham Training Centre at the ABMS in Auburn [Melbourne]. They had a world wide interest and God only knows the missionaries and Christian workers that they supported.

Betty’s generosity, her care, her hospitality, her positive attitude and her commitment to learning are all qualities that sprang from her deep faith in God.

While there are many that remember the literary contribution of her father in law, whom she admired greatly, there are very few who realize the work of Betty Boreham behind his manuscripts.

The proofs of one of the fifty-five Boreham books would arrive from the Epworth Publishing Company and in the few days that the ship was at Port Melbourne before returning to England, F W Boreham had to complete the proof reading. Who did he call? This author relied so many times on the services of Betty who with her eagle eye was sharp and thorough.

He so much appreciated this work she did. For me this typified the contribution that Betty made in life. Not centre of stage, her work was largely unsung yet her contribution behind the scenes was absolutely essential.

Dr Boreham entitled one of his essays to The First Mate as distinct from the skippers and the captains who usually win the accolades. In this essay in which he writes about the people who helped writers and politicians he concludes with these words:

“One of these days the worth of the world's workers will be justly and accurately assessed. It will be a day of the most startling and sensational surprises; and not least among its astonishments will be the disclosure of the immensity of the debt that the world owes to its first mates.”

On that day the full disclosure of Betty’s service will be revealed and we shall understand more fully the immensity of the gift that Betty has been to us and we shall be truly thankful!”

Geoff Pound

Image: The Kew Baptist Church in Highbury Grove, Melbourne. I am disappointed that I do not have a photo of Betty.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Boreham and Son

In his auto-biography, F W Boreham quotes Mark Twain when saying, that people should be careful in the choice of their parents! With this in mind I write a commendation of Frank Boreham junior, in the choice of his parents, F W and Stella Boreham.

The following is the eulogy that I gave at the funeral of Frank Boreham junior in 2001.

I wonder what things surface in your mind as you ponder today, the life of Frank Boreham? Hasn’t it warmed our hearts to recall the pleasure Frank gained through sport, film and collecting, his record in commerce, his contribution to business, his faithful commitment to the church and his devotion to his family?

I find it hard to think of Frank without thinking of Betty [his wife], because didn’t they do so much together? They enjoyed their own space and they cultivated their own interests but they extended hospitality together, they initiated social gatherings together, they coordinated holidays with friends together, they traveled with this wide eyed interest in the world together and they delighted in telling their stories together on their return.

They often invited me to their home at the Templestowe Orchards and over these times I came to know Frank as a fascinating storyteller, a person with a keen wit and a thoughtful friend.

Frank and Betty inspired me because even in their seventies they were galavanting around the world and they had this unquenchable thirst to drink in beauty, to appreciate wonder and to keep on being people who were forever learning and always growing. I found this most impressive!

For Frank and Betty their friendship with God was something that flowed naturally out of who they were. I loved the way that at lunch Frank would invariably give the same grace. A prayer that his father had often always prayed. I wonder if you know it?

Back of the loaf is the snowy flour,
And back of the flour is the mill,
And back of the mill is the wheat and the shower,
And the sun, and the Father’s will.
For mill and flour,
And sun and shower,
We give You thanks, O Lord. Amen.

This personal faith that Frank and Betty possessed was fleshed out in so many ways, not the least in their gift of time and friendship and resources. They demonstrated a breadth of concern. They gave generously to Whitley, the Baptist College, the Australian Baptist Missionary Society and other groups that trained people for Christian ministry in this land and overseas.

Having the Boreham name was to Frank a privilege and a responsibility although it wasn’t until later in life that he came to realize how famous his father had become through authoring more than 50 books, writing weekly editorials for the Otago Daily Times, the Hobart Mercury and The Melbourne Age for more than 50 years and as a much loved pastor and international speaker.

Because his father had this insatiable itch to write, there’s a lot that we know about Frank’s childhood. In fact on the day of his birth F W Boreham started a journal for young Frank that he kept going for his son for 16 years!

On the first day he tells with a great flourish of Frank’s birth in Hobart. Later he writes about the name they gave him. After several months he writes about changing his name to Francis Randolph after FW’s close friend in Christchurch.

There’s the record of holidays in the Dandenongs and playing cricket in Munro Street, Armadale, outside the family home.

While generally reserved about inserting personal and family details in his books there are several instances when Dr Boreham breaks his own rules and writes about looking up at the sky with Frank to view the shape and movement of the clouds.

On another occasion he writes about being with his young son sitting out under the inky sky and watching the stars with wonder. What a great friendship they enjoyed.

In Dr Boreham’s journal that records the last and difficult decade of his life, amid the entries that report the visit to the Boreham home of such famous people as Rita Snowden, Leslie Weatherhead and Billy Graham there are so many notes that read:

“Frank and Betty visited” or “Frank drove me to the doctor” or “Frank helped me with my tax return” and “Frank and Betty had us around for a meal” or “Frank came to get the possum out of our roof!” This last episode goes on for several weeks!

There are so many glimpses of Frank’s practical and unstinting devotion to his frail parents, a commitment that we’ve seen mirrored in Frank’s decision to take Betty to a warmer climate [Cairns, Queensland] to enjoy a better quality of life.

Earlier this morning we laid Frank to rest in the Boroondara soil and we have no need to fear. Many times, I have walked through that cemetery with Frank in search of the family grave and very calmly Frank would point to his own plot and he had a quiet peace about the inevitable. Frank Boreham was not afraid to die!

In fact he often expressed with amusement that in the 1950’s after his sister was buried there his parents would regularly take a picnic and enjoy it in the cemetery! Picnicking in the cemetery! It may sound rather macabre but the people who know that death is not a dead end can even turn a cemetery into a place of celebration!

There are very few people who have a newspaper editorial written about their birth and still fewer whose advent is written up in a book.

Listen to F W Boreham as in his autobiography he sets the scene:

“We had to wait nearly twenty years for a boy. I myself had long abandoned all thought of such a possibility; my wife, on the contrary, never for a moment wavered in her confidence that he would arrive in due course. All through the years she was constantly telling me of the things she would do ‘when our boy comes.’ He arrived just before the outbreak of war in 1914.”
F W Boreham, My Pilgrimage, p191.

Sense the exuberance with which Frank’s father records the actual event:
It’s a boy!’ The thing seemed incredible. Nobody knew what to make of it. We had
spent nearly twenty years on the cultivation of a choice little garden of girls.
But a boy! Who could have dreamed of such an astounding and sensational

I was away at a committee meeting when this bolt fell from the blue. The
doctor’s car gave me the first hint of the excitement awaiting me. A feminine
form was waiting at the gate.

It’s a boy!’ she exclaimed, in breathless amazement.

It’s a boy!’ I was informed by a second emissary when half way up the path.
And, at the top of the steps, stood the nurse in consultation with the doctor,
who was just taking his departure.

It’s a boy!’ they exclaimed simultaneously, on catching sight of me. It is
with unusual confidence, therefore, that I approach my first theme in this new
The Fiery Crags, p1.

Friends, if we can understand this earthly father’s longing for a son and if we can appreciate the sheer exuberance that was there at his birth then is it not too hard to believe the Bible when it speaks of heaven as a home and these words of Jesus?

“In my Father’s house are many rooms…And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”

The longing, the expectation and the love that welcomed Frank Boreham into the world is wonderful but it’s a pale shadow of the longing, the expectation and the sheer delight that has welcomed him at his death.

This is the good news that we celebrate for Frank today. This is the Gospel truth for all who believe—Heaven awaits us! There’s a right royal welcome prepared for us! Thanks be to God!

Geoff Pound

Image: Three generations. F W Boreham with son, Frank and his son Howard (outside FW's home in Kew, Melbourne).

Monday, May 01, 2006

Boreham's Grace

I found it useful listening to members of F W Boreham’s family in picking up scores of snippets about the old man’s life. At my first of many meals with Frank and Betty Boreham (FWB’s son and daughter-in-law) I discovered the prayer that F W Boreham used before meals.

Frank, his son, knew it by heart and invariably prayed this when we dined together at their home. It is sometimes called ‘The Miller’s Prayer’. I wonder if you know it?

Back of the loaf is the snowy flour,
And back of the flour is the mill,
And back of the mill is the wheat and the shower,
And the sun, and the
Father’s will.
For mill and flour,
And sun and shower,
We give You
thanks, O Lord. Amen.

This prayer was written by Maltie Davenport Babcock, who was an author ('Thoughts for Everyday Living', 1901) and a song writer (he wrote ‘This is my father’s world’).

F W Boreham refers to Babcock's grace in an essay and says that he first heard it at a New Zealand farmhouse in his Mosgiel days (F W Boreham, 'I Forgot To Say', 175).

You can find it (or at least the first verse) on many web sites that list Graces. If you want to learn to sing it the music can be found at the following Internet address:

It is a grace of thanksgiving. It is a prayer that opens our eyes to all that is behind the supermarket shelves… the flour, the mill, the wheat, the rain, the sun. This verse gets us right back to the basics, even to recognizing the hand of our Creator and Provider.

Geoff Pound

Image: F W Boreham (front left), with his wife (holding down her hat in the wind), their first daughter and a couple of friends around a well. Location? Somewhere near Mosgiel, New Zealand. Date? About 1896.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Boreham the Editorialist

Editorial Record
On 3 September 1949 readers of the leading daily paper in Hobart, Tasmania, were informed of a remarkable achievement that, “for about 37 years the scholarly editorials of Dr F W Boreham—the one published on this page today is the 2000th—have been a widely read feature of the Mercury each Saturday”.[1] The article highlighted the fact that the long series of editorials by Boreham had commenced “as a stop-gap arrangement” when the then editor died and had continued following the appointment of a new editor. When F W Boreham left Hobart in 1916 for Melbourne, he undertook to send editorials until his successor was appointed. However, the anniversary article reported, that “in the absence of such an appointment the matter has rested on that basis for 33 years”.

From 1934 until 1943, Boreham added to his responsibilities when he wrote two editorials (usually Easter and Christmas) each year for the Melbourne Argus.[2] In 1936, he commenced submitting fortnightly essays to the Literary Supplement of the Age. His writing responsibilities were extended further when in 1945, at the age of seventy-four, Boreham accepted the invitation to write weekly lead editorials for the Age. These essays and editorials to Melbourne’s major daily did not represent entirely new work for Boreham was an unashamed recycler of words and stories.[3] Boreham furnished the Mercury and the Age with weekly editorials until two weeks before his death on 18 May 1959. On the way to the Royal Melbourne Hospital Boreham handed his son a bundle of editorials which supplied the papers with weekly editorials for several months following his hospitalization and death.[4]

I was inspired by F W Boreham’s role and record as a writer for newspapers. That is why I wrote a dissertation focusing on this important part of his ministry. In my thesis I examined the almost 3,000 editorials that Boreham wrote for the Mercury and the Age between 1912 and 1959. The thesis explored the content of the editorials, identified the major themes and tried to elucidate his motivation for writing. These were some of the questions that tantalized me:

Why did Boreham write? What constrained his writing vocation that commenced earlier than his preaching career and continued for several years after his retirement from the pulpit? Several times in jest, Boreham spoke of his “incontinent pen”.[5] Could he not help himself? Was he motivated by a sense of self-aggrandizement and a lust to see himself in print? Did he see himself as educator or entertainer? Did he regard writing as an essential part of his vocation and the outworking of his ordination to the Christian ministry? Was Boreham following a brief established and regulated by the editors of the newspapers or did he enjoy an unshackled literary freedom?

Relationship to Other Genre?
In writing about Boreham’s published essays, Dr Ian McLaren has concluded that “most originated as sermons to responsive congregations”.[6] Similarly, what evidence is there to reveal the starting point and stimulus for Boreham’s editorial writing? Did the regular discipline of sermon writing fuel the weekly editorials or vice-versa?

When in 1954 Boreham received the Order of the British Empire, the citation that accompanied the award read, “In recognition of his distinguished services to religion and literature as preacher and essayist”.[7] This honour suggests a tantalising connection between Boreham’s primary contributions. I have tried to illumine the relationship between the sermons and essays published in Boreham’s books and his newspaper editorials. I looked for clues concerning the methods Boreham adopted in composing material that was used in these different formats.

As Boreham wrote in the various capacities of journalist, preacher, politician, lecturer, editor, biographer, autobiographer, diarist, poet[8], hymnist[9] and letter writer in addition to essayist, it is good to attempt to distil the essential Boreham literary style and, in particular, the style he adopted in the writing of newspaper editorials.

Recognising Alexander Pope’s expectation, “How the wit brightens. How the style refines”, it is important to mark the development of Boreham’s written style.[10] Boreham often wrote as a literary critic, so what clues can we find as to what he perceived to be an excellent writing style? Who are the writers that Boreham judged to be worthy of emulation and how did they shape his literary style?

Connection with Faith?
The heart of the dissertation focuses on the interplay of faith and life in Boreham’s newspaper editorials. Recognizing that he was a Baptist preacher at the same time as an editorialist, it is intriguing to explore the extent to which Boreham’s articles offer a faith or religious perspective to the readers of the newspaper in a similar way that he did in his sermons and books. Did Boreham consider it appropriate to use his columns to preach and persuade his readers to turn to God and accept spiritual truths?

Who Was His Audience?
A distinctive aspect of Boreham’s editorial writing was the audience that he was seeking to address. His published books and his submissions to Christian magazines and papers could be seen as preaching to the converted. In contrast, however, Boreham’s contributions to the Mercury and the Age were geared to a general readership. In these editorials he had in mind the thousands of people in Tasmania and Victoria who would pick up or have delivered the paper on a Saturday morning.[11] Boreham was greatly aware of the privilege and importance of his role as leader writer and in 1949, concerning his association with the Mercury, he said he was, “Unconscionably proud of the fact that, in 37 years, no article has ever been returned to him and, as far as he knows, no article has ever been altered”.[12]

In the current climate, when there are repeated calls for theology to be worked out and heard afresh in the public sphere, Boreham’s weekly editorials for the readers of two leading Australian newspapers over forty-seven years, make them worthy of attention.

Geoff Pound

Image: A page from the Hobart Mercury.

[1] F W Boreham, Mercury, 3 September 1949. The newspaper editorials are not attributed but for the purposes of this study Boreham is cited as the author of the text.
[2] The Argus was launched in 1846 (eight years before the Age commenced) and it folded in 1957. At the time when Boreham wrote occasional articles for the Argus, it was one of three morning dailies in Melbourne. Boreham wrote a total of fifteen editorials for the Argus.
[3] For further information see L L Newnham, 'Recycling by Dr F W Boreham', Our yesterdays 5 (1997): 70-79.
[4] Frank R Boreham, interview by author, Templestowe, Vic., 26 July 1996. Also C Irving Benson, ‘Dr Frank W Boreham- The man and the writer’, in F W Boreham, The last milestone (London: The Epworth Press, 1961), 10.
[5] F W Boreham, The passing of John Broadbanks (London: The Epworth Press, 1936), 7.
[6] ADB, s.v. “F W Boreham.”
[7] This medal and citation is on display at the F W Boreham Mission Training Centre, Australian Baptist Missionary Society Headquarters, Auburn, Vic.
[8] Poems written for friends and family members appear in Boreham’s personal papers, F W Boreham Collection, Whitley College Library. A patriotic poem written at the British victory in Mafeking appears in T Howard Crago, The story of F W Boreham (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1961), 86-87.
[9] Crago recalls that Boreham often wrote hymns for services at Mosgiel and Hobart in Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 190. The only published hymn that Boreham wrote is the baptismal hymn, Eternal Father, whose great love, No. 288 in The Baptist hymn book, H Martin, et al, ed., (London: Psalms and Hymns Trust, 1962), 359.
[10] Alexander Pope, An essay on criticism, l. 51.
[11] Most of Boreham’s editorials were written to be printed on a Saturday morning, apart from contributions he was asked to write for special editions geared to ‘red letter’ days such as Anzac Day, Easter or Christmas.
[12] Boreham, Mercury, 3 September 1949.