Daily Express, Saturday, October 31, 1903

Poem 28

(By P. G. Wodehouse)



Dowie, 1 now that he’s descended
On New York, 2 is much offended
By the many interruptions
He’s occasion to deplore. 3
But the one that’s aggravated
Him especially, it’s stated,
Is a Parrot, which informs him
That his “Food will cost him more.

“Oh, that bird!” moans Dr. Dowie,
As he mops his heated brow; “he
Is a dreadful inconvenience
To a fervid orator.
Every day, when I am preaching,
Comes his irritating screeching;
Yet the only thing he screeches
Is ‘Your food will cost you more.

“It is neither true not witty.
I shall fly to Zion City 4
(And I never would have left it
If I’d known what was in store).
I can stand the usual jeering,
And the customary sneering,
But I can’t endure that parrot
With his ‘Food will cost you more.’ ”



John Alexander Dowie (1847–1907) was a Scottish-born evangelist and faith healer. After spending some years in Australia, he moved to the United States in 1888. He settled in Chicago, where he established a church and healing homes and, in 1896, founded his own sect, the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church. Both in Australia and later in Chicago, Dowie encountered much opposition to his teachings and methods, and in 1900 he purchased land 40 miles north of Chicago, on the shore of Lake Michigan, where he founded the town of Zion.

In October 1900, Dowie began a ‘crusade’ in London on behalf of his church, but rowdy medical students, who objected to his emphasis on faith healing and his rejection of all forms of medicine, created such disorder at his public meetings that Dowie cut short his planned programme and left the country.


In October 1903, Dowie announced his intention of undertaking a crusade to New York to “reform” that city. He hired Madison Square Garden for a fortnight and on 14 October he and 3,000 followers left Zion in eight special trains, arriving in New York a few days later.


As on other occasions elsewhere, Dowie encountered strong opposition from those who disagreed with his views or objected to the uncompromising way in which he delivered them. The Daily Express reported that the meeting at Madison Square Garden on 21 October was disrupted by a crowd of some 400–500 college students: “The students had divided themselves into three squads, occupying different places in the immense building, and at a given signal the squads rose and delivered the college ‘yell’, ending with the words ‘Peace be to thee, brother’, which is the Zionist salutation.”


“Fly”, of course, in the sense of ‘flee’: balloons were being experimented with, but air travel as the term is now understood was still a long way in the future.