Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Boreham and His Ordination

The distinguished New Zealand Baptist leader, J. J. North, wrote this article about the ordination of F W Boreham on the fiftieth anniversary of the occasion. His article that appeared in the NZ Baptist is entitled, ‘Dunedin Fifty Years Ago and a Certain Event’:

Fifty to sixty years ago, Dunedin was the largest and most impressive city in what was then a colony. Most of the mercantile houses had their headquarters there. Earthquakes prevented their flitting to Wellington. Auckland was isolated and still stunned by Maori wars. Yet Dunedin was a small town of rough streets and horse trams and very dull street lamps, lit by men carrying poles, as R.L.S.'s Edinburgh also was.

On an afternoon in March 50 years ago there was a trek of Dunedin Baptists to their shabby railway station, en route for Mosgiel. In the group, and leading it, was the Hanover Street minister, Alfred North, that sage and evergreen H. H. Driver, a rising lawyer. A. S. Adams, and, we think, J. G. Fraser, George Calder, H. Fawcett, and William Ings were there.

The occasion was the induction of a "Spurgeon man" to the Mosgiel pastorate. He was the first Spurgeon man (we think) to invade the religious placidity of Otago. The ministers of the city were of other colleges. H.H., of course, had been a Spurgeon man. and he was very elated (we remember) by the occasion. It was a lovely autumn day, and the Taieri Plains were carpeted in the gold of harvest. The humble little church had never had a minister before. All sorts of folk drove out on Sunday mornings, behind a lamentable horse, to preach. But now a minister had come. C.H.S., the unmitred Bishop of the Baptist world, had sent F. W. Boreham, raw and untried, yet full of an adventurous faith.[1]

On the evening of March 15, 1895 the newcomer was ordained. The writer of these lines was a student in his last year, and a very curious spectator of the proceedings. We did not know, we could not know, that we were making history and that the neophyte, by reason of an adroit pencil and an observant curiosity was to write and preach his way into widespread fame. But such has been the case.

He saw what no one else saw, all sorts of poetry in Mosgiel and its folk and of course, in the Bible, and wrote it all into 20 volumes of very much appreciated essays.[2] Indeed, so popular did some of them become that wholesale thefts have occurred. We heard of an F.W.B. sermon given by an Auckland minister over IYA [radio station] without any acknowledgment at all. That, of course, might be argued as a compliment to our friend, but it was also shameless theft.

But to go back to March 15, 1895. We remember the vestry door opening and in the midst of a long array of the black-coated fraternity there strode the new man. He seemed to us to be very tall, for he was arrayed in a full dress coat, and he had a very unusual and very placid face, a face that became and becomes very animated in speech. We re-read in an old file the searching ordination address by the Rev. Alfred North, and a very competent word to the people by the Rev. M. J. B. Bennett. We still remember, though it is not in print, the eager and modest reply. People passed toward the station at the meeting's end feeling that the beginnings were most promising. So they were, and so they continued, till on an evil day for us the minister transported himself to the Continent, where the bulk of his ministry has been spent.

Our readers will be interested to know that the lady of his choice followed him from England and is still blooming. He has a son and four daughters, most of whom, naturally enough, are married. He has, therefore, grandchildren.

He sends affectionate greetings to New Zealand friends, but wrote us that John Dicker and John Outram were the only remaining officers of his first church. Alas, before the letter came, John Dicker had gone into the land o' the leal.

Dr Boreham was honoured by MacMaster University with his title. For six years now he has given dinner hour addresses to the business men of his city. We thank God at every remembrance of him. His heart has always lain in a pool of honey. Was he ever involved in a controversy? Once in Mosgiel with the Presbyterians, but never again so far as we know. He has a matchless courtesy and "wears without reproach the good old name of gentleman." We are not writing his obituary, and hope we never shall.

Source: J. J. North, New Zealand Baptist, March 1945, 51

Image: A more recent aerial view of Mosgiel with the township in the foreground and Saddle Hill (often mentioned by FWB) in the background.

[1] In the next edition (April 1945, 75) of the NZ Baptist, the editor, J J North, makes this amendment: “In our last issue we credited C. H. S. with directing F. W. B. to New Zealand. But C. H. S. died in 1892, and F. W. B. sailed for New Zealand in 1895. It was under the impulse of Pastor Thomas Spurgeon that Boreham came. . .”
[2] The editor also notes (April 1945, 75) this change: “F. W. B. pleads guilty to writing 40, not a mere 20, books, as we said. A man who does that sort of thing has something to answer for. . .