John Fairbairn (1794 - 1864) MP

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Legerwood, Berwickshire, Scotland
Death: Died in Cape Town, South Africa
Managed by: Charles Philip
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About John Fairbairn

John Fairbairn (9 April 1794 – 5 October 1864) was a newspaper proprietor, educator, financier and politician of the Cape Colony.

According to the Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, “The embryo of the State education system we know today, trial by jury, the principle of the mutual life assurance company – all these were fruits of his endeavours at the Cape”

John Fairbairn was born in Carolside Mill in the Parish of Legerwood, Berwickshire, Scotland on 9 April 1794, the son of James Fairbairn and Agnes Brack, who married at Lauder, Berwickshire 20 March 1783, James living in the Parish of Westruther, Berwickshire at the time.

He attended the University of Edinburgh where he studied Medicine “acquiring at the same time a more than passing knowledge of classical languages and mathematics”. In 1818, however, he turned to education, and for more than 5 years taught at Bruce’s Academy in Newcastle upon Tyne. Here he also joined the Literary and Philosophical Society.

In 1822, Thomas Pringle persuaded him to emigrate to Cape Town, promising a literary and teaching career in the recently annexed Cape Colony.

Fairbairn arrived in Table Bay on 11 October 1823 aboard the brig Mary.

Fairbairn married Elizabeth (Eliza) Philip, daughter of John Philip on 24 May 1831.

Five children were born to Fairbairn and Eliza.

  • Jane Agnes b. 1832. m. F.S. Watermeyer
  • John Philip b. 1834. Drowned in the Gamtoos River near Hankey in the Eastern Cape on 1 July 1845
  • James Alexander b. 1836. m. Kate Lamb
  • John b. 1863. m. Winifred Difford d. 12 November 1925. Buried in St. Saviour's Church Cemetery, Claremont, Cape Town
  • John b.1912. m. Rozanne Robinson. Annexed Marion Island for South Africa in 1947 during Operation Snoektown
  • Elizabeth Ann Wills (Eliza) b. 1838.
  • May Emma b. and d. 1840.

Fairbairn’s wife, Eliza, died on 30 May 1840, four days after the birth of May Emma, aged of twenty-eight. As a widower, Fairbairn was responsible for the education of his children. Jane and Eliza were sent to a private school in Claremont, Mrs Rose’s School for Ladies.

The convict ship

The British Government made an attempt in 1849 to form a penal settlement at the Cape, but when the ship Neptune arrived at Simon's Bay, with 282 convicts aboard, the citizens declined to supply anything to persons having dealings with her. So strictly was this pledge observed that no food whatever was obtainable, either for the convicts or for the troops. During the riots which ensued, Newspaper Editor, John Fairbairn's house at Sea Point was wrecked by a crowd who had lost their employment through the boycott. In the end the colonists were victorious, and on 21 February 1850, the Neptune set sail for Tasmania.

Recognition

“Few men could have lived lives as full of worthwhile activity as John Fairbairn did. Few men could have got so little recognition from history”.

The first Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, John Molteno, later hailed John Fairbairn as father of representative government and freedom of the press in the Cape.

When an English-medium co-educational high school was established in Goodwood, Cape Town in 1977, the School Governing Body decided to name it Fairbairn College.

Fairbairn Capital is an investment company within the Old Mutual group of companies. It was named after the founder of Old Mutual, John Fairbairn. According to the Fairbairn Capital website, in naming it Fairbairn Capital, “we recognise his contributions, draw on his heritage and laud his values”.

Old Mutual International is based in Fairbairn House in St Peter Port on the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

On 24 August 1994, the John Fairbairn boardroom was opened at the South African Chamber of Business parliamentary information centre in Cape Town by SA Chamber of Business director-general Mr Raymond Parsons. The boardroom together with the Rainbow Room was sponsored by Shell SA and Old Mutual and is used for meetings of businessmen and politicians.

Fairbairn died suddenly in Cape Town on 5 October 1864 at the Wynberg home of his son-in-law, advocate F.S. Watermeyer, and was buried in the Somerset Road cemetery in Cape Town.

Before the levelling of the Somerset Road Cemetery and building started on the site in about 1922, a number of inscribed stones were lifted from their graves and deposited at the Woltemade cemetery at Maitland which had been opened as Cape Town’s principal graveyard in 1886. Here can be found the stones of John Fairbairn, his wife Elizabeth and other members of the Fairbairn and Philip families.

In 1947 the British Government decided to give Marion Island and Prince Edward Island to South Africa, in order to prevent them falling into hostile hands. HMSAS Transvaal was dispatched in great secrecy, and on 4 January 1948, Lieutenant Commander John Fairbairn, great grandson of John Fairbairn, landed on Prince Edward Island and claimed the islands for South Africa. The meteorological station is known as Fairbairn Settlement and is on Transvaal Cove.

In 2007, Fairbairn's great great great granddaughter, Tessa Fairbairn, was awarded the Order of Simon of Cyrene. She was the head of St. Cyprian's School, a progressive girls’ boarding and day school in Cape Town, South Africa for 17 years.

“Few men could have lived lives as full of worthwhile activity as John Fairbairn did. Few men could have got so little recognition from history”. “ The Argus” Friday July 31, 1959

According to the Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, “The embryo of the State education system we know today, trial by jury, the principle of the mutual life assurance company – all these were fruits of his endeavours at the Cape”

When an English-medium co-educational high school was established in Goodwood, Cape Town in 1977, the School Governing Body decided to name it Fairbairn College.

Fairbairn Capital is an investment company within the Old Mutual group of companies. It was named after the founder of Old Mutual, John Fairbairn. According to the Fairbairn Capital website, in naming it Fairbairn Capital, “we recognise his contributions, draw on his heritage and laud his values”.

Old Mutual International is based in Fairbairn House in St Peter Port on the island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands.

On 24 August 1994, the John Fairbairn boardroom was opened at the South African Chamber of Business parliamentary information centre in Cape Town by SA Chamber of Business director-general Mr Raymond Parsons. The boardroom together with the Rainbow Room was sponsored by Shell SA and Old Mutual and is used for meetings of businessmen and politicians. - from Ancestry.co.uk tree

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John Fairbairn's Timeline

1794
April 9, 1794
Legerwood, Berwickshire, Scotland
1831
May 10, 1831
Age 37
Cape Town, South Africa
1832
1832
Age 37
1835
March 5, 1835
Age 40
1836
1836
Age 41
1838
1838
Age 43
1840
1840
Age 45
1864
October 5, 1864
Age 70
Cape Town, South Africa