Booth Meets Kipling
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born on 30 December 1865 in what was then known as Bombay, India, several months after his parents had sailed from England.
This year was also one of great significance for The Salvation Army, as it was when William Booth, born in 1829, moved to London and began to conduct evangelical meetings, in the disadvantaged communities of the East End.
It was from this outreach ministry that The East London Christian Mission began, later to be named The Christian Mission and in 1878, The Salvation Army.
Interestingly, both men had been brought up in a Methodist tradition, with William Booth having been a minister in the Methodist New Connexion. While both Rudyard Kipling’s parent’s fathers were Methodist ministers.
Booth and Kipling were world travellers and both men were observers of people, evident in their writings and it is known that they met once, possibly twice on voyages by ship.
General William Booth visited New Zealand in 1891, 1895 and 1905.
It was in 1891 that Booth and Kipling found themselves on the same ship, possibly the S.S Talune sailing from Bluff to Australia.
Harold Hill of writes of Kipling’s recollection of this meeting on the Bluff wharf, in Saved to Save and Saved to Serve Perspectives on Salvation Army History (2017) pages 15 -16. Hill quoted from Kipling’s memoir, Something of Myself (posthumously published in 1937), p 61 -62
“I saw him walking backward in the dusk over the uneven wharf, his cloak blown upwards tulip- fashion, over his grey head, while he beat a tambourine in the face of the singing, weeping, praying crowd who had come to see him off…I talked much with General Booth during that voyage. Like the young ass I was, I expressed my distaste at his appearance on Invercargill wharf. “Young feller”, he replied, bending great bows at me, “if I thought I could win one more soul to the Lord by walking on my head [sic] and playing the tambourine with my toes - I’d learn how.”
Image reference: John Collier, 1891 - Rudyard Kipling
Record Title: Beach and wharf with ships berthed, Bluff, Southland
Tiaki IRN: 628123
Tiaki Reference number: 1/2-117251-F
Collection: PA-Group-00192: Beere, Daniel Manders, 1833-1909: Negatives of New Zealand and Australia
Description preferred citation: "Daniel Manders Beere Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library"