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Fairfax, John A. (Jack) (1857–1882)

John Fairfax, 1882

John Fairfax, 1882

from Illustrated Sydney News, 8 July 1882, p 17

New South Wales has lost a man of promise in John A. Fairfax, who was justly regarded by those who knew him as one who was truly a representative of the best and brightest type of our native born Australian. With all the free grace and manly vigour of frame fostered by a glorious climate, he yet possessed the nobler virtues and higher intellectual attributes which we are proud to associate with the old land of freedom from whence we spring. He was indeed one of whom it might have been predicted, from his early promise, that a great, useful public career lay before him-a finished oarsman and practised athlete, excelling in every, manly exercise, his nature was yet so evenly balanced that he never suffered, his mental faculties to remain fallow at the expense of his physical, but cultivated both to their mutual growth in every lovable and admirable attribute. Many may have known poor "Jack Fairfax" only as a genial, open-hearted, expert puller, a merry, bright-hearted, kindly comrade, ever eager to promote manly honest sport; but there are many who knew him as the ardent high-souled patriot, the man of large perceptions and keen, shrewd intuitions-as one who had an honourable ambition of writing his name in his country's history, and had he lived there can be little doubt but that he would have made his already honoured name even still more honourable and noteworthy. He was the eldest grandson of the Hon. John Fairfax, and son of Charles Fairfax, who built up the Sydney Morning Mendel, and his brightest ambition was to prove himself a worthy possessor of the name he bore, and his proudest title was that he was a native born Australian. After his early schooldays he read for some time with the Rev. J. Fraser, of Woollahra. At one time he was on the regular staff of the Sydney Echo, and having learned shorthand he subsequently attained a remarkable proficiency in this art, being highly complimented on his success by Pitman, of London, under whom he practised for a period of twelve months. Some idea may be gained of his industry and the bent of his mind, when it is mentioned that during his recent tour in Europe and America he made it his special business to inspect and thoroughly describe every new invention, institution, or application of man's government or ingenuity that he thought could, by its introduction, in any degree improve the beloved city of his birth. His notes and compilations comprise no less than 8,000 pages of close shorthand, equal to 30,000 columns of ordinary printed matter, and all having reference to improvements, plans for the public good, and schemes of progress in which he contemplated taking an active share had he lived. Some idea of these may be gathered from the following extract, from one of his latest letters from Europe, comparing our metropolis with some of the large European cities. He says, "I am willing to admit that several of our public buildings have few superiors in any town I. have seen, but where is there a town in Europe or America of the size of Sydney that has not a grand hotel of possibly 300 rooms, three or four morning papers, a railway to the water's edge, a library of thousands of volumes, a water supply that can be relied on, a sewage scheme that does not poison the people, or fine open spaces where the people can breathe fresh, pure, and wholesome air. I am far from despondent of Sydney being yet the worthy capital of a great country, but we live too much for to-day, forgetful of the greater requirements of the future." All his desire was to see his native land and fellow Australians become worthy of its mighty future and alive to their great destiny, and in losing him we have lost one whose life would have proved a ceaseless career of usefulness and good to all.

Original publication

Citation details

'Fairfax, John A. (Jack) (1857–1882)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/fairfax-john-a-jack-13777/text24608, accessed 21 November 2017.

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John Fairfax, 1882

John Fairfax, 1882

from Illustrated Sydney News, 8 July 1882, p 17