Roamer: Ulster’s evangelical tornado inspired Australian teenager on a mission to Africa

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Following the mention here last month of Australian author and medical missionary Dr Paul White, alias Jungle Doctor, an interesting message has arrived, along with an old press cutting and a slim little pamphlet, about a famous Ulster preacher called W.P Nicholson.

Following the mention here last month of Australian author and medical missionary Dr Paul White, alias Jungle Doctor, an interesting message has arrived, along with an old press cutting and a slim little pamphlet, about a famous Ulster preacher called W.P Nicholson.

“Paul White (1910 to 1992) was born in Sydney, Australia,” the message began “and he was converted to Christ at the age of 16 through the preaching of Irish evangelist W.P. Nicholson.”

There’ll be more from the pamphlet here soon, meanwhile a short website biography states “William Patteson Nicholson (3 April 1876 to 29 October 1959) was a preacher born in Bangor, County Down. Nicknamed ‘the Tornado of the Pulpit’ Nicholson spent his early years on his father’s cargo ship. He began to preach Christianity in 1899 at the age of 23 and was known for his men-only meetings.”

One of those men, on the other side of the world, was the young Paul White!

But first, according to the website biography “the ‘Tornado’ preached in Harland and Wolff where a building christened ‘the Nicholson shed’ was reserved by management “to house stolen tools that newly-converted workers returned as a result of Nicholson’s preaching.”

The reader’s pamphlet states on its opening pages that “rugged evangelist William Patteson Nicholson was born in Cottown near Bangor. His father was Captain John G Nicholson who had been born in Bangor and served in the Merchant Navy.”

The colourful snippets of information about Nicholson come after last month’s reference to Dr Paul White whose numerous Jungle Doctor books were enjoyed by little children all over the world back in the 1950s.

Roamer loved them too and still has over a dozen of them on his bookshelves!

Paul White published his first autobiographical account of life as a doctor in the jungles of Africa in 1942 followed by dozens of other books whose brightly-coloured and often ominous covers offered thrills and excitement from “the greatest and unfenced zoo that is Central Tanganyika.”

With titles like ‘Jungle Doctor Meets A Lion’ and ‘Jungle Doctor’s Enemies’, children were mesmerised by White’s vivid accounts of destitution, cruelty and tribalism in a distant and totally unfamiliar country abounding with dangerous animals, fatal diseases and hostile witch doctors.

According to the News Letter reader’s claim that W P Nicholson greatly influenced a young Paul White, these exciting stories might never have been written!

Proof comes in the old press cutting that accompanied the pamphlet about Nicholson.

Dated June 14, 1926, the cutting is from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Headlined ‘Presbyterian Evangelist. Arrival in Sydney’, the cutting reported “the Rev. W. P. Nicholson, a well-known Presbyterian Evangelist, arrived by the (ship) Tahiti, from San Francisco. In an interview he stated that his immediate mission was to conduct an evangelistic campaign for the next 12 months in New South Wales.”

The newspaper described Nicholson as “a fervent preacher, of remarkable power and personality, who has recently been engaged on an evangelistic campaign in Los Angeles, California, previous to which he conducted mission work for some time in Dublin, and in the North of Ireland.

The report recounted that Nicholson had been to Australia 17 years previously after serving for a number of years as a seaman “travelling all over the world, and doubtless to the knowledge of men gained in his seafaring day he owes much of his evangelistic success and his powers of appeal.”

The Sydney Morning Herald article continued “he gave an address in the Town Hall, where he was greeted by an enormous audience.”

His sermon was based on Bible text ‘The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.’

Born on the outskirts of Sydney in 1910, Paul White would have been 16 when the Ulster preacher called on his Australian congregation to be reverent and obedient.

Thus inspired by Nicholson he studied medicine and in 1938 sailed for Central Tanganyika (Tanzania today) as a medical missionary.

White came back to Australia in 1941 and started writing the first of his 50 Jungle Doctor books which were translated into more than 100 languages, as well as presenting a radio programme called Jungle Doctor that continued on the Australian airwaves for over a quarter of a century.