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John Fairfax (1804–1877)

from Sydney Morning Herald

John Fairfax, n.d.

John Fairfax, n.d.

photo provided by family

The Hon. John Fairfax, Esq., M.L.C.—This gentleman, the senior proprietor of the Sydney Morning Herald, died at his residence, Ginahgullah, near Sydney, on the morning of Saturday the 16th June. Mr. Fairfax, had been ailing for some time, but serious indications of dissolution did not appear until a few weeks before his death, when he rapidly gave way to the decay of nature, and expired on the date above mentioned in the 73rd year of his age, after a residence in New South Wales of thirty-nine years. Mr. Fairfax arrived in Sydney on the 26th September, 1838, and shortly afterwards was appointed librarian to the Australian Library. While in this position he became connected with the Herald, as an occasional worker upon it, and his aid was so valuable that it was more and more tasked, and after a good many negotiations, which commenced with the request that he would take the practical management, the proprietor proposed to sell him the paper. The offer was accepted, and the late Mr. Charles Kemp, who was then a reporter on the journal, was associated with him in the purchase, and the partnership was a thoroughly hearty and amicable one on both sides. For the next five years the two proprietors worked indomitably, though often in the greatest straits for want of means, and during that period a severe commercial crisis, caused by a protracted drought, passed over the entire colony. But by dint of good management the partners managed to weather the critical difficulty of starting without capital, and discharged all the obligations they had contracted. All the burden of the mechanical department of the establishment rested with Mr. Fairfax, and for years together, except on Saturday nights, his bed never knew him till 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. In the year 1851 Mr. Fairfax, with part of his family visited England. He returned as a prosperous man to the town which he had left as a ruined man. He discharged all the debts he had been obliged to leave behind him, and his example and his advice led at that time to the emigration to the colony of many persons who see no reason to regret the persuasion to which they yielded. On his return to Sydney in 1853, the partnership between Mr. Kemp and himself was dissolved, and Mr. Fairfax became the sole proprietor. Stimulated by what he had seen of journalism in England, and encouraged by the rapid progress Australia was then making under the influence of gold discoveries, he resolved to spare no pains to increase the efficiency of his journal. Looking round for help in the editorial department, which had previously been under the care of his partner, he saw no-one more fit to aid him than his old friend, the Rev. John West, who was then at Launceston, and who was practising his pen and his political judgment on the public affairs of Tasmania; which, in those anti-transportation days, were much more lively than they are now. After some hesitation Mr. West came, and by the vigour of his writing justified the discernment of the proprietor. The Herald was established, and competition, though vigorous and able, still left it in the front. Mr. Fairfax took a leading part in the establishment and in the management of various public companies, and his energy, his sound sense, and his conscientious attention to whatever he took in hand, contributed more than a little to the success of some of the leading enterprises of this city. In the Australian Mutual Provident Society he felt a special interest. For nearly twenty years he took an important part in the councils of this flourishing institution, and it was not till he retired a few weeks ago from active life altogether that he quitted this cause he served so faithfully and loved so well. In 1871 he was made a member of the Council of Education, and though circumstances necessitated his early retirement from this position, the appointment served to intensify his interest in the cause of education generally, and to furnish him with opportunities for promoting the work of the Council when he was no longer one of its members. Although Mr. Fairfax was at no time of his life what is called a party politician, he took a keen interest in all our political affairs. Once he sought a seat in the Legislative Assembly, but was unsuccessful. In 1874 he accepted the offer of a seat in the Legislative Council as well for the sake of the work it imposed as for the distinction it conferred. The respect in which the deceased gentleman was held was fully testified by the very large attendance of all classes and creeds at his funeral, which took place on the 10th instant. The body was placed in the Congregational Church, Pitt-street, the interior of the building being draped in black cloth. An impressive service was performed by the Rev James Jefferis. LL.B., the Rev. W. Slatyer, the Rev. T. Johnson, and the Rev. J. G. Fraser, M.A. The procession from the church was a very long one, the chief mourners being the two sons of the deceased (Mr. J. R. Fairfax and Mr. E. R. Fairfax), Mr. J. G. Ross, and Mr. J. A. Fairfax, with a number of other gentlemen and younger relatives of the deceased. Then followed the staff of the Herald offices, numbering between 300 and 400, on foot. Then came carriages, containing Sir Alfred Stephen, C.B., K.C.M.G., Lieutenant-Governor; the Hon. John Hay, President of the Legislative Council; the Hon. G. W. Allen, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, members of the Ministry, ministers of religion, deacons of the Pitt-street Congregational Church, members of each House of Legislature, and many other leading citizens. Among these carriages was that of his Great Dr. Vaughan, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney. Among the gentlemen present in the church and at the cemetery were the following :—The Revs. J. Jefferis, LL.B., W. Slatyer (chairman of the Congregational Union), R. Mansfield, J. G. Fraser, M.A., T. A. Dowie, T. Johnson, W. Mathieson, W. Bradley, T. S. Forsaith, G. G. Howden, R. T. Hills, T. Pepper, T. Gamford, M. Williams, J. Kirby, J. P. Sunderland, A. W. Murray, J. Cullen, the very Rev. the Dean of Sydney, the Revs. G. H. Moreton, F. C. Garnsey, G. Macarthur, G. Galloway, Dr. McGibbon, Dr. White, Dr. Steel, Dr. Beg, J. Milne, S. McKenzie, J. Watkin, W. J. K. Piddington, G. Lane, C. Creed, W. Boyce, J. H. Cornford, D. Allan, F. Hibberd, A Burdett, Dr. Forrest, Dean McCarthy, Dean Sheridan, P. Carrol, A. B. Davis (Rabbi); the Hon. Sir Henry Parkes, K.C.M.G. (Colonial Secretary), Hon. W. R. Piddington (Colonial Treasurer), Hon. F. B. Suttor (Minister for Justice), Hon. Saul Samuel, C.M.G. (Postmaster-General), Hon. R. Driver, Minister for Lands), Hon. J. Hoskins (Minister for Works), Hon. G. A. Lloyd (Minister for Mines), Hon. W. C. Windeyer (Attorney-General), Hon. J. Hay (President of the Legislative Council); Hon. S. D. Gordon, M.L.C.; Hon. Professor Smith, C.M.G., M.L.C.; Hon. T. W. Smart, M.L.C.; Hon. T. Holt, M.L.C.; Hon. W. Grahame, M.L C.; Sir E. Deas-Thomson, C.B., K.C.M.G., M.L.C; Hon. J. Docker, M.L.C.; Hon. Sir G. Innes, M.L.C; Hon. C. Campbell, M.L.C; Hon. J. Campbell, M.L.C; Hon. W. Busby, M.L.C.; Hon. W. Byrnes M.L.C.; Hon. A. Campbell, M.L.C; Hon. B. Russell, M.L.C; Hon. G. W. Allen (Speaker of the Legislative Assembly); Sir John Robertson, M.L.A., K.C.M.G.; Messrs. W. Long, M.L.A.; D. Buchanan, M.L.A.; A. Jacob, M.L A.; J. F. Burns, M.L.A.; J. Watson, M.L.A.; A. Stuart, M.L A.; J. Davies, M.L.A.; J. Lankey, M.L.A.; R. B. Smith, M.L.A.; his Honor Sir William Manning; Judge Josephson; Mr. J. Merriman (Mayor of Sydney), Aldermen Palmer, Kippax, and Oatley; Captain C. Smith (President of the Chamber of Commerce), Mr. B. Fotbery (Inspecter-General of Police), Mr. Superintendent Reed, Mr. J. Williams (United States Consul), Mr. G. King Italian Consul), Mr. E. M. Paid (Russian Consul), Colonel Richardson, Major Christie, Captain Hixson, Captain Fausborough, Captain Fox, Mr. T. S. Mort. the Hon. P. A. Jennings K.S.G.. Messrs. H. C. Russell, B.A..; J. Alger, W. M. Alderton, A. J. Ralston, A. H. Macafee, T. Byrnes, J. Mullens, W. G. Mulray, P. B. Walker, D. Nicholl. J. V. Barnard, G. Kiss, Dr. Hogg, John Rae, H. Halloran, Dr R. L. Jenkins, J. Barnet, C. Moore, T. M. Slattery, J. Mullins, G. A. Mansfield, S. A. Joseph, E. Vickery, James Byrnes, H. Prince, B. C. Rodd, R. Nott, B. Bradley, Dr. P. S. Jones, Dr. Neild, Dr. Renwick, Mr. Samuel Bennett, of the Evening News and Town and Country Journal, and Messrs. Alfred Bennett, T. A. Dibbs, G. P. Slade, S. Thompson. S. Dickinson, the Very Rev. Dean Forde, Rev. P. Slattery, Monsignor J. T. Lynch, Mr. F. M. Stokes and Mr. Charles Cowper (Under Sheriff). The pall at the cemetery was borne by six gentlemen in various departments of the Sydney Morning Herald office, who have been connected with this journal for many years.

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Citation details

'Fairfax, John (1804–1877)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 24 July 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

John Fairfax, n.d.

John Fairfax, n.d.

photo provided by family

Life Summary [details]


25 October, 1804
Warwick, Warwickshire, England


16 June, 1877 (aged 72)
New South Wales, Australia

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