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Geoffrey Evan Fairfax (1861–1930)

from Sydney Morning Herald

Geoffrey Fairfax, by Walter A. Bowring, 1929

Geoffrey Fairfax, by Walter A. Bowring, 1929

National Portrait Fallery, 2002.78

With the death yesterday of Mr. Geoffrey Evan Fairfax, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sydney Mail mourn the passing of the senior director of a firm renowned in Australian journalism, who made himself one with all the staff of the newspaper enterprise over which he presided, whole-heartedly a devoted servant of its public purposes. Mr. Fairfax had for some time been in failing health, and his friends were aware that his strength was severely shaken by injury suffered in an accident some months previously. For over 40 years his life was devoted, with that of his brother the late Sir James Fairfax, to the maintenance of the Herald in the high standards it attained under the inspiration of his father, the late Sir James Reading Fairfax. The great changes that came to pass during the thirty years' regime of the family proprietorship under the father and two sons laid heavy responsibilities upon them all. They met them with the simple principles of truth, justice, honesty, and faithful dealing, the guiding principles laid down by the Hon. John Fairfax and followed consistently from the time, when the former Sydney Herald first became a daily newspaper. Mr. Geoffrey Fairfax and his brother (then Mr. J. O. Fairfax) joined the firm of John Fairfax and Sons in 1889, and for nearly two generations their work and influence were material in fashioning the strength and prestige of this newspaper. Both were strongly imbued with and followed the highest traditions of British journalism. They gave their fullest support to the foundation and conduct of the Empire Press Union, over the Australian section of which each presided as chairman at different times.

Inevitably Mr. Fairfax's interests were enlisted in the affairs of various institutions concerned with the public welfare outside the Herald Office. The Sailors' Home, the Navy League, the Boys' Brigade, the Bush Nursing Association, and the Australian Trained Nurses' Association, learned affection and admiration for him from his untiring help and counsel in their causes. But his disposition was to avoid the limelight of publicity, and those who know best his lovable character, and will most miss his friendly comradeship and good nature, are perhaps those who worked under him and with him in the Herald Office, who came to regard him as an unfailing source of help and sympathy in difficulty. In the disciplined daily work demanded in the production of a great newspaper he was ever a keen critic, and not the less effective because gentle and tolerant in his criticism. A graceful, simple kindliness towards every man always distinguished him; he never did a hurt to any man in his life; and his share, and a very leading share, in the direction of the Herald and the Mail stimulated those under him in their understanding of the sincere motives that guided him. His staunch optimism and religious faith taught him an abiding charity towards his fellowmen and women. Such resentments as he expressed were against oppression, bigotry, and intolerance, and it was ever against these things that he inspired the Herald's influence.

Mr. Fairfax's old school, the Sydney Grammar School, was always very close to his heart, and among the interests he first acquired there which were to last throughout his life was the sport of rowing. A long connection with the New South Wales Rowing Association was crowned last year with his election as president in succession to the late Mr. Q. L. Deloitte. But of his various sporting interests probably yachting claimed most of Mr. Fairfax's heart. He was an ardent yachtsman in his younger days, and till the end was an enthusiastic member of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron. The sports men among whom he mixed will not be slow to acknowledge their debt to him for assistance given in ways not always obvious; largely through his stimulus the Herald strove to become not only the faithful current record of the development of sporting skill in this community, but also the means of assisting and encouraging it. Mr. Fairfax saw in these activities more than the sport itself; he saw the value from a broader viewpoint of the development of the Australian national character along the traditional lines of the British race in the old country, the assistance it promised in maintaining community of other Empire interests, based on mutual understanding, between the people of a growing young Dominion on the opposite side of the world and those of the homeland from which they originally came. Faith in tradition as a guiding influence in life ruled all Mr. Fairfax's conduct and service, and of that faith he contributed to his utmost in the building up and expansion of the service which he desired the Herald should perform in Australia.

Original publication

Other Obituaries for Geoffrey Evan Fairfax

Additional Resources

  • tributes, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 April 1930, p 10
  • funeral, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 April 1930, p 11
  • service at the graveside, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 April 1930, p 11
  • tributes, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 April 1930, p 12
  • tributes, Sydney Morning Herald, 30 April 1930, p 12
  • tributes, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 May 1930, p 10
  • probate, Brisbane Courier, 27 August 1930, p 18
  • tributes, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 May 1930, p 10

Citation details

'Fairfax, Geoffrey Evan (1861–1930)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 May 2024.

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