Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Boreham, Frank William (1871–1959)

by Ian F. McLaren

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Frank William Boreham (1871-1959), preacher and writer, was born on 3 March 1871 at Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, eldest child of Francis Boreham, solicitor's clerk, and his wife Fanny, née Usher. He was educated and was later a pupil-teacher at Grosvenor United School, Tunbridge Wells. In December 1884 he became junior clerk with a local brickworks where, in a locomotive accident, he lost his right foot, necessitating the life-long use of a stick. Late in 1887 he went to work as a clerk in London, becoming increasingly involved in church, debating and writing activities. Although his family was Anglican, he was baptized at Stockwell Old Baptist Church in 1890; he preached from pavement and pulpit and published Won to Glory in 1891. He was admitted to Spurgeon's College, London, in August 1892, serving as a student-minister at Theydon Bois, Essex, where he met Estella Maud Mary Cottee.

In 1894 Boreham was called to the Scottish community at Mosgiel near Dunedin in New Zealand, and was inducted on 17 March 1895. Stella, then 18, followed to marry him at Kaiapoi on 13 April 1896. Boreham became president of the Baptist Union of New Zealand in 1902, and published The Whisper of God and Other Sermons (London). He wrote editorials for the Otago Daily Times, contributed to theological journals and, as a keen temperance advocate, participated in liquor polls in 1905 and 1907.

In June 1906 Boreham was called to the Baptist Tabernacle, Hobart. He edited the Southern Baptist and later the weekly Australian Baptist and in 1910 became president of the Tasmanian Baptist Union. His George Augustus Selwyn was published in 1911. He wrote a biographical series for the Hobart Mercury, which in 40 years covered 2000 persons; in 1912-59 he contributed 2500 editorials to the Mercury and the Melbourne Age. Boreham's 80 publications, including religious works, homiletic essays and novels, sold over one million copies. Some were written around Mosgiel people, and one character, John Broadbanks, closely resembled the author. The Broadbanks Dispensary in Bengal, India, was established from proceeds of this series. Other writings were woven around everyday problems, with literary references to English writers and Australians such as Marcus Clarke, Henry Lawson and C. J. Dennis; most originated as sermons to responsive congregations. In 1940 he published his autobiography, My Pilgrimage.

In May 1916 Boreham had accepted a call to Armadale Baptist Church in Melbourne. He retired from that charge in 1928 to tour North America and Britain, where his writings were well known. On his return he preached at the Methodist Central Mission, Melbourne, and then at Sydney's Pitt Street Congregational Church. For many years he conducted Wednesday lunch-hour services at Scots Church, Melbourne. In 1936 he made another preaching tour abroad. McMaster University, Canada, had conferred on him a doctorate of divinity in 1928, and, for his 'services to religion and literature as a preacher and essayist', he was appointed O.B.E. in 1954.

Boreham never wore clerical garb. His physical activity was restricted by lameness and he broke his leg and hip several times in falls. He was a devotee of cricket. Friendly and unassuming, he had a gentle, sensitive face, a large drooping moustache, and a 'lingering Kentish flavour' to his voice. He died in Melbourne on 18 May 1959 and was buried in Kew cemetery, survived by his wife, son and three of their four daughters. His estate was sworn for probate at £22,379. He is commemorated by the F. W. Boreham Baptist Hospital in Canterbury.

Select Bibliography

  • T. H. Crago, The Story of F. W. Boreham (Lond, 1961)
  • Age, 19 May 1959.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Ian F. McLaren, 'Boreham, Frank William (1871–1959)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/boreham-frank-william-5295/text8935, published in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 22 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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