Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Sunday, March 18, 2007

F. W. Boreham and J. J. North

F. W. Boreham was a prolific letter writer and although he had friends in different parts of the world he sought to maintain these relationships through regular correspondence.

One of his friends was J. J. North, who served as the Principal of the New Zealand Baptist Theological College and trained an entire generation of pastors.

This first letter F.W. Boreham wrote to Dr. North on the occasion of North’s seventieth birthday. Although North was the editor of the
NZ Baptist, Boreham managed to get this letter printed in that magazine for all to see:

My Dear Dr North,—On the 26th of July you will be 70! Will you allow an old friend, who has himself attained that venerable age, to offer you affectionate felicitations and to wish you a wonderfully rich and radiant eventide? Lives like yours are capable of the most glorious sunsets. I extend these fond wishes not only on behalf of Mrs Boreham and myself, but in the name of thousands of people beyond the shores of New Zealand, who have been incalculably enriched by your brave and stimulating ministry.

The strands of our two lives are closely interwoven. We were born at about the same time. You were at my ordination at Mosgiel, in company with your honoured father, who delivered the charge to myself—a copy of which I still treasure. You were best man at my wedding. In my early days you were my cruellest, kindest critic, and during all the years we have preserved an inspiring sense of comradeship, which has been robbed of none of its charm by the physical fact that we have seldom seen each other's faces. It is particularly pleasant, too, to reflect that our wives, who were girls when they first formed each other's friendship, have been mercifully spared to us.

The good people of New Zealand, whom I still remember with gratitude and admiration, will deluge you with richly merited congratulations; but, whilst the crowd surges tumultuously around you on the great day, you must allow an old friend to press you hand, look into your eyes, and breathe upon you heaven's choicest benedictions.

The Lord bless thee and keep thee: the Lord make His face shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace!

On the fiftieth anniversary of J. J. North’s ordination, this snippet is found in the publication of North's reminiscences:

These Fifty Years.

In 1895 three men entered the ministry of the Church. F. W. Boreham, R. S. Gray and myself. It was given to all three of us to render long service. Boreham, after a ministry in the then remote township of Mosgiel, transferred his large literary talents to Australia. Gray, a very vital man, after two distinguished ministries became the first permanent secretary of the Union and Missionary Society. You have chosen at this Assembly to honour my poor doings, at which I shall be the first to throw a stone.

It was the good fortune of both Boreham and myself to live among pioneers, for the southern provinces were very young in our day. Boreham has written his romances on the old identities of the Taieri. I have failed the equally interesting folk among whom I settled on the Canterbury Plains.[2]

The final letter is written by F.W. Boreham on the occasion of the death of J. J. North:

It is in my heart to tell my old friends in New Zealand of our own deep sorrow at the passing of my dear old comrade, and of our intense sympathy with them in their irreparable loss. Dr. North, then a theological student, sat beside me on the platform at Mosgiel on the night of my induction, early in 1895. His father delivered the charge. A year later J. J. North officiated as best man at our wedding, assisting the Rev. J. J. Doke at that memorable service.

My wife feels as sad to-day as I do. Although we parted when we were both about five and thirty, he remaining in New Zealand and I crossing the Tasman, we corresponded regularly to the end. His last letter, written on Good Friday, is scarcely legible, but it told me, as clearly as though it were inscribed in copperplate, that my dear old friend was preparing to cross the stream and that the trumpets would soon be sounding for him on the other side.

Near my home in Melbourne is a lovely green bank sloping gently down to the river. Among the trees is a pleasant seat. When Dr. North was here a few years back, he and I sat chatting on that seat during the last hour that we were to spend on earth together. We still call it "Dr. North's seat," and, whenever I occupy it, he seems wonderfully near.

I wave my hand to him in loving and grateful farewell, and I wave my hand to any in New Zealand who remember me, in affectionate greeting and benediction.[3]

Geoff Pound

Image: A picture of FWB at sunset.

[1] F. W. Boreham, New Zealand Baptist, July, 1941, 199.
[2] J. J. North, New Zealand Baptist, December 1945, 303-304.
[3] F. W. Boreham, New Zealand Baptist, September 1950, 265.