Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Boreham Writes About Disability

Inherent in Boreham’s theme of “making the best of ourselves” was the recognition that each person has a different ability so that each must “bring to perfection the best of which he or she is capable”.[1]

In one of many editorials that valued the individual, Boreham said, “The thing that makes humanity so perennially fascinating is its infinite capacity for exceptions.”[2] While not clarifying what type of exceptions he had in mind, he wrote elsewhere of “the value of the freak” and “the black sheep”, the need to study and treasure people who are exceptions and the conviction that “different children need to be cherished”.

In an article about the life of Beethoven, Boreham said, “The glory of Beethoven was that he was essentially a rebel [and] ... to such rebels ... the world owes a debt it will never be able to compute”.[3]

Most certainly Boreham’s experience of having a physically and mentally disabled child named Stella, “the only fragile flower in our garden”,[4] gave to his writing a deep appreciation of the value that such individuals bring to the world. Writing about, ‘The care of the feeble-minded’,[5] when Stella was seven, Boreham emphasized the “long series of gradations of mental deficiency” (as distinct from being either ‘sane or insane’).

In this important statement in 1914, a few years after the Australian government had introduced the Old Age Pension (1909) and the Invalid Pension (1910), Boreham encouraged society to implement preventative and remedial measures for the disabled. He applauded the rise of specially qualified teachers and supported the move for all large centres to have Day Schools as well as Residential Schools.

Rather than keeping the disabled remote from society, Boreham hoped that they would be “saved to the community” and that “by a little sympathetic treatment [they] might be made into useful and intelligent citizens.”

In 1924 Boreham wrote about the deaf and dumb and their experience of “the paralysis of silence”. Identifying the additional pain of public prejudice, Boreham claimed, “No country has done more to abolish it than has Australia.”[6]

Geoff Pound

Image: Experiencing “the paralysis of silence.”

[1] Boreham, Mercury, 10 September 1955.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 20 January 1934.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 6 March 1943.
[4] Boreham, My pilgrimage, 190-191.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 27 February 1914.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 19 February 1924.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Boreham on Babies and Education

One of the reasons why Boreham grew silent on war issues and loud on biographical sermons and editorials was, according to T Howard Crago, his biographer, because his reading of Gibbon’s Decline and fall had given him the insight:

"…that the fate of peoples had been decided not so much by the outcome of wars as by the influence of strategic personalities. Creasy might write of the world’s decisive battles. But FWB saw that, in the working out of humanity’s destiny, battles were not nearly so decisive as babies. Compared with the power of a single personality, the greatest battle in history was of comparatively trifling importance."[1]

Addressing the Baptist Assembly in New Zealand in his presidential capacity, Boreham told stories about significant babies in history, building on the gospel words, “[Jesus] called a child, whom he put among them”.[2] Calling for a study of the significance of the child, Boreham said:

"You will find that in the Imperial Parliament the themes that are debated with the greatest warmth and vigour are such questions as the Education Bill and the Sale of Liquor to Young Children Bill. The little child is in the midst. Here in New Zealand we are dealing with such burning questions as Juvenile Depravity, Bible in Schools, and Technical Education—the little child still occupies his old place."[3]

In Australia, in the last decade of the nineteenth century and in the early years of the twentieth century, the growing acknowledgement of the rights of children was evident in public discussion, new laws and the emergence of societies advocating the protection of children.[4]

Increasing attention was being given to the physical welfare of children and Tasmania figured prominently in 1906 when the state pioneered the regular medical inspection of students, a practice that eventually was adopted in all states.[5] Into this climate Boreham wrote various editorials about enabling children to reach their “maximum capacity”.[6] He called for an education that stimulated curiosity and questioning,[7] engendered wonder,[8] fired the imagination[9] and encouraged “the philosophy of play”.[10]

Boreham had a high regard for the teaching profession and, judging by the number of editorials on the man, his supreme model for teaching was Thomas Arnold of Rugby, “whose personality pervaded everything”.[11]

In 1914 Boreham diplomatically criticised Australian education as being “too stereotyped and stilted” with “no room for individuality”.[12] Relaying some murmurs from the commercial and industrialised quarters, he challenged schools for “doing little to equip young people for the stress of actual life”, the result being that “the labour market is glutted with incompetence”. While being pragmatic about the need for education to be related to employment and declaring that “a man’s first duty ... is to make himself marketable”,[13] Boreham envisaged schools equipping people “for loftier citizenship and finer social influence”[14] in “a world that is being swept by a hurricane of change”[15] and training them in discernment skills “to detect the difference between the beautiful and the gaudy, between courage and bravado, between liberty and licence”.[16]

Geoff Pound

Image: “…battles were not nearly so decisive as babies.”
[1] Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 171.
[2] Matthew 18:2.
[3] F W Boreham, The whisper of God (London: A H Stockwell, 1902), 26.
[4] Dorothy Scott and Shurlee Swain detail the establishment of organisations to advance the care and protection of children. In Dorothy Scott and Shurlee Swain, Confronting cruelty: Historical perspectives on child abuse (Carlton Sth., Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 2002), 1-33.
[5] Alexander Mackie, ‘Education in Australia’, Australia economic and political studies, ed. Meredith Atkinson (Melbourne: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1920), 243-244.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 21 January 1950.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 16 July 1921.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 29 March 1952.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 6 January 1934.
[10] Boreham, Mercury, 7 July 1920.
[11] Boreham, Mercury, 12 January 1924.
[12] Boreham, Mercury, 26 February 1914.
[13] Boreham, Mercury, 18 February 1922.
[14] Boreham, Mercury, 23 July 1921.
[15] Boreham, Mercury, 21 January 1950.
[16] Boreham, Mercury, 5 May 1951.

Boreham on Inclusivity

Dr F W Boreham identified growth in inclusivity as a sign of a person realizing their full potential and he made his point through the use of colourful Australian imagery:

“God has room in his heart, and room in His service, for all kinds of folk .… The beauty of our Australian bush is that it is such a medley, such a riot, such a tangle. If it were all gums, or all wattles, or all ferns, or all orchids, the glory would have departed. It is the combination of so many contrasts that makes up the perfect whole”.[1]

Having been exposed to Baptists like J J North who were trenchant critics of Roman Catholicism[2] and mindful of denominational discussions proposing formal church union in Australia,[3] Boreham’s essays and autobiography reveal him as one who practised religious inclusivity through cultivating friends with Protestants of other denominations,[4] Roman Catholics[5] and Jews.[6]

In his retirement he confessed, “The secret pilgrimage of my soul has been towards Quakerism”.[7] He paid tribute to the role of books in jolting people out of their bigotry and in remarking on the diverse nature of his library he expressed his incalculable debt to people so different from himself.[8] In recommending a book by a Catholic writer he said, “We cannot allow our Protestant prejudices to blind us to the [book’s] beauty”.[9]

Geoff Pound

Image: The ‘Australian bush is … such a medley’.

[1] F W Boreham, A witch’s brewing (London: The Epworth Press, 1932), 212.
[2] J A Clifford, A handful of grain: The centenary history of the Baptist Union of New Zealand, vol. 2 (Wellington: The NZ Baptist Historical Society, 1982), 97.
[3] Ian Breward, A history of the Australian churches (St Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 1993), 99-101.
[4] Crago, The story of F W Boreham, 233-234.
[5] F W Boreham, The silver shadow (London: The Epworth Press, 1918), 234.
[6] Boreham, Rubble and roseleaves, 156.
[7] F W Boreham, The passing of John Broadbanks (London: The Epworth Press, 1936), 20.
[8] F W Boreham, Bunch of everlastings (London: The Epworth Press, 1920), 33.
[9] F W Boreham, I forgot to say (London: The Epworth Press, 1939), 23.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Boreham on Cultivating Adventure

Inspiring Books
Repeatedly F W Boreham wrote that an adventurous mind was best cultivated by the reading of books.[1] Many of his editorials were intended to inspire readers to be adventurous through stories of people who sailed uncharted waters,[2] explored new regions,[3] invented new means,[4] pushed back scientific frontiers[5] or struck out along a new literary line.[6]

Stimulate Freshness in Relationships
Beyond the value of books to foster an adventurous spirit Boreham advocated stimulating freshness in relationships. He urged young people to “preserve some point of contact with the mellowing wisdom and ripe experience of old age” and he encouraged senior adults “to resolve to spend a certain amount of their time in the society of young men and maidens, and even of little children”.[7]

Enrichment of Travel
Many times Boreham wrote about the potential for travel to open people up to new vistas.[8] One of the principal gains in travel was “the sense of contact with history and antiquity” and a “certain mental expansion and intellectual exhilaration in looking upon new horizons and drinking in visions of unfamiliar beauty”.[9] Quoting the explorers Mungo Park and Charles Darwin, Boreham said the tourist will return “enriched by moral gains” which he understood as the acquisition of wholesome character traits. During war time when international travel was restricted, Boreham spoke positively of the value of “narrowing horizons” and appreciating the territory nearby, even the parts with which people thought they were already most familiar.[10] While the practices of fostering the sense of adventure through reading, people contact and travel were mentioned by Boreham as examples of what an individual could do, there are inferences that these measures might be also encouraged by parents, educators and politicians.

Geoff Pound

Image: Yours truly, taking Boreham's advice and travelling through Italy.

[1] Boreham, Mercury, 25 January 1930.
[2] Sea explorers include James Cook, Mercury, 13 July 1935; George Bass, Mercury, 4 January 1941; John Franklin, Mercury, 4 April 1936.
[3] Land explorers included Thomas Mitchell, Mercury, 13 June 1936; Hamilton Hume, Mercury, 11 October 1924.
[4] Inventors include Thomas Edison, Mercury, 1 February 1947; James Watt, Mercury, 27 September 1940.
[5] Scientists include Lord Kelvin, Mercury, 18 December 1937; Antoine Lavoisier, Mercury, 15 May 1954.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 15 March 1924.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 16 August 1941.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 27 March 1954.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 29 November 1930.
[10] Boreham, Mercury, 28 June 1919.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Boreham On Living Adventurously

Everlasting Explorers
From an experience at an auction in Hobart in which Boreham bought six books that he wanted and got saddled with thirty-six books that he did not want but of which he later found many to be “charmers of the soul”, he warned against settling into ruts, sticking with pet themes and spurning new interests.[1] He urged communicators “to be always forcing your minds along unfamiliar tracks, to be constantly breaking fresh ground, to be everlastingly exploring new worlds”.[2]

Like a Dog on a Country Road
Boreham believed that one’s sense of adventure was closely related to the development of curiosity. Describing life as “the endless quiz”, it is interesting to note that his editorial that appeared in the Mercury on the Saturday immediately following his death bore this title and commenced with his words, “From the cradle to the grave man is an animated note of interrogation, the growth of his questions corresponding in impressiveness with the growth of his stature”.[3] Boreham throughout his life called for people to take “adventures of the mind” in order to “keep the mind fresh and vigorous and healthy” and said, “Like a dog on a country road, the mind must poke into as many holes as it can”.[4]

Geoff Pound

Image: “Life… the ‘endless quiz.’”

[1] F W Boreham, Mushrooms on the moor (London: The Epworth Press, 1915), 17-18.
[2] F W Boreham, The blue flame (London: The Epworth Press, 1930), 248.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 23 May 1959.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 16 August 1941.