Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

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

Monday, April 07, 2008

Boreham on Fate, Destiny and Providence

I was reading the other day Commander J W Gambier’s Links in my Life, and was amused at the curious inconsistency which led the author first to sneer at Providence and then to bear striking witness to its fidelity.

As a young fellow the Commander came to Australia and worked on a way-back station, but he had soon had enough. ‘I was to try what fortune could do for a poor man; but I believed in personal endeavour and the recognition of it by Providence. I did not know Providence.'
‘I did not know Providence!’ sneers our young bushman….

But on the very same page that contains the sneer Commander Gambler tells this story. When he was leaving England the old cabman who drove him to the station said to him, ‘If you see my son Tom in Australia, ask him to write home and tell us how he's getting on.’ ‘I explained,’ the Commander tells us, ‘that Australia was a big country, and asked him if he had any idea of the name of the place his son had gone to. He had not.’

As soon as Commander Gambier arrived at Newcastle, in New South Wales, he met an exceptionally ragged ostler. As the ostler handed him his horse, Mr. Gambler felt an irresistible though inexplicable conviction that this was the old cabman's son. He felt absolutely sure of it; so he said:
‘Your name is Fowles, isn't it?’
He looked amazed, and seemed to think that his questioner had some special reason for asking him, and was at first disinclined to answer. But Mr. Gambier pressed him and said, ‘Your father, the Cheltenham cab-driver, asked me to look you up.’

He then admitted that he was the man, and Mr. Gambier urged him to write to his father. All this on the selfsame page as the ugly sneer about Providence!

And a dozen pages farther on I came upon a still more striking story. Commander Gambier was very unfortunate, very homesick, and very miserable in Australia. He could not make up his mind whether to stay here or return to England. ‘At last,’ he says, ‘I resolved to leave it to fate.’ The only difference that I can discover between the 'Providence' whom Commander Gambier could not trust, and the `fate' to which he was prepared to submit all his fortunes, is that the former is spelt with a capital letter and the latter with a small one. But to the story.

‘On the road where I stood was a small bush grog shop, and the coaches pulled up here to refresh the ever-thirsty bush traveller. At this spot the up-country and down-country coaches met, and I resolved that I would get into whichever came in first, leaving it to destiny to settle.

Looking down the long, straight track over which the up-country coach must come, I saw a cloud of dust, and well can I remember the curious sensation I had that I was about to turn my back upon England for ever! But in the other direction a belt of scrub hid the view, the road making a sharp turn. And then, almost simultaneously, I heard a loud crack of a whip, and round this corner, at full gallop, came the down coach, pulling up at the shanty not three minutes before the other! I felt like a man reprieved, for my heart was really set on going home; and I jumped up into the down coach with a great sense of relief!’ And thus Mr. Gambier returned to England, became a Commander in the British Navy, and one of the most distinguished ornaments of the service. He sneers at 'Providence,' yet trusts to `fate,' and leaves everything to `destiny’!”

Boreham concludes that regardless of his sneering and confusion, Gambier is being guided by the Hand that longs to lead us home.

F W Boreham, ‘When the Cows Come Home’, Mushrooms on the Moor (London: Charles H Kelly, 1915), 205-208.

Image: “I jumped up into the down coach with a great sense of relief!”