Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed.
Glenora Single Malt Whisky

Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.
Scottish Review

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

The Life of Sir William Fairbairn, Bart
Chapter XXIII - Illness and Death


We now approach the close of this long life, so actively and so usefully employed.

William Fairbairn came from a long-lived family. His grandfather, John Fairbairn, died in 1797, at the ripe age of eighty-one, and his grandmother also lived to a great age. His father, Andrew, died in 1844, aged eighty-six, and his mother lived to her sixtieth year. William himself inherited a robust constitution, and enjoyed generally good health for the greater part of his life. It was not till between his fiftieth and sixtieth years that he had any serious illness. Owing to some irregularity or other exciting cause during a journey, he was seized, somewhere about 1845, with an obstruction of the bowels, and was for some time considered in danger, powerful remedies being applied. He recovered from this attack, but it left evil consequences behind, from which he suffered more or less during the remainder of his life. He was obliged frequently, and often continuously, to take medicine for the purpose of ensuring proper digestive action, and he was subject at intervals to attacks of spasms in the stomach and intestines, which were very painful and troublesome.

Still he had nearly reached his eightieth year before he began to feel the approach of the last enemy. At the beginning of 1867 he lost his eldest son, John ; he felt this affliction deeply, and an aggravated recurrence of his spasmodic attacks at the same time brought him very low.

Two of his oldest and most valued friends, both eminent in science, and both, like himself, well advanced in years, wrote to him as follows :—

Brae Lodge, Murravfield, March i, 1867.

My dear Mr. Fairbairn,—My wife and I grieve to bear of your illness, and of the severe domestic affliction which you and Mrs. Fairbairn have suffered. We hope that the genial air of the south will hasten your convalescence, and that the hope of rejoining the son you have lost will alleviate a dispensation which would otherwise be difficult to bear.

Since I had -the pleasure of seeing you, I have suffered a severe loss in the death of the widow of my eldest son; a beautiful woman, worshipped by everybody that knew her.

I have also been an invalid like yourself, but from a different cause. When on a visit to my daughter in autumn, I caught whooping cough, a horrid complaint, from the effects of which I am not yet free.

Time too, has begun to tell upon limbs that have been doing duty for more than 85 years, and the brain work which I have gone through has begun to tamper with the upper part of the machine, so that I am burning the candle of life at both ends.

Having been unable to get a house in Edinburgh this winter, we are living in a charming villa in the immediate neighbourhood, and if business should bring you northwards, we have a spare room at your service.

Not withstanding my ailments, I have written three papers for the Itoyal Society, of which I hope soon to have the pleasure of sending you copies.

My wife joins me in kindest regards to Mrs. Fairbairn and yourself, and to Mr. and Mrs. Bateman, and I am, My dear Mr. Fairbairn,

Ever most truly yours,

D. Brewster.

Observatory, Armagh, Whraary 22 1867.

My dear Friend,—We are greatly grieved at learning through Miss Holland of your severe illness, and the subsequent death of your son. But I trust you are fully recovered in health, and I know that one so good and wise will bear the bereavement, however painful, as coining from God and therefore appointed for the best. I know how precious your time is, but I entreat, you to spare so much of it as to tell us how you are, and how .Mrs. Fairbairn has borne her affliction.

Of myself and mine I have little to tell, except, that my sight is failing fast. If deprived of it, I shall feel the loss very heavily, but I hope I shall bear it in a proper spirit. I have at least this consolation— that during my long life I have used it not unprofitably.

Ever yours affectionately,

T. R. Robisson.

W. Fairbairn, Esq.

Early in 1868 he wrote to an old friend :—

I have had a second attack of my painful and troublesome complaint.

The approach of winter seizes on me in the shape of spasms in the chest, and I have suffered more or less ever since. The doctors say I must give up my juvenile propensities, and consider myself an old man. This I am unwilling to do, and although I entered my 80th year last month, I am still unable to realise the fact that I am old. I hope you will long continue to have the same feeling when you get to my age, and be free from the torments under which I almost daily labour.

In July 1869 he alluded to 'more spasmodic attacks;' and in August of the same year he was, to his great disappointment, prevented by them from attending the British Association meeting at Exeter.

In April 1870 he was better. He wrote :—

I am glad to inform you I have got a reprieve from the spasmodic attacks under which I have laboured for nearly two years; and, as an old man, I must not now romp. I still go to the works, and although a little stiff, I nevertheless endeavour to keep the judgment sound and the mind clear.

On May 23, 1871, he wrote to Dr. Robinson :—

I still continue to do a little in the field of practical science and improvement, but I find it difficult to keep up with the present generation, whose minds are better prepared and better instructed than they were in my time. I, however, endeavour to the best of my ability, even at the advanced age of 82, to keep pace with them; but it is difficult to keep the mind young when the exterior casing becomes brittle and insecure.

In December 187 he complained again of spasms, but not so severe as a year or two before.

In April 1873, writing to Professor Rankine, he said:—

I cannot work now as I used to do, not so much from mental deficiency as from physical ailments and the wear and tear of life. I ought not, however, to forget that I entered my 84th year only six weeks ago, and might yet be useful for some time longer but from severe spasmodic attacks, under which I have been suffering for the last three years.

In October of the same year, the new buildings of Owen's College, Manchester, were opened; and he, somewhat imprudently, resolved to be present at the ceremonial. he, no doubt, felt himself compelled to do so, because not only was the Duke of Devonshire, the president, his guest on the occasion, but in 1870 his Grace had appointed him one of the three governors of the Institution. Here he caught a severe bronchial cold, which prostrated him for some time, and from the effects of which he never recovered.

About the middle of 1874 his strength began rapidly to fail; and being much troubled by the bronchial irritation, he was recommended to try to get relief by a change of air to the South Coast. A friend opportunely offered him the use of his house at Brighton, and it was during this visit he wrote, on June 8, the letter to Mr. Fletcher, mentioned in Chap. XVI., the following passage in which may be repeated here :—

I am sorry to say I do not improve. I will, however, give the clear air, which is warm and excellent, a trial for another fortnight, and if I get no better I will return and prepare for the change which cannot be far distant.

He did not get better, and he left Brighton to pay a short visit to his son William, at Holland Park, London. Here in July, he complained of frequent nausea, and consulted Sir William Gull, who (warning the family of his critical condition) recommended absolute rest, and great caution in avoiding all risk of increasing the bronchial irritation by taking fresh cold.

The middle of this month, one of his grand-daughters, the second daughter of Mr. Bateman, was married to Major Maxwell (since unhappily deceased); he was very desirous to be present at the wedding at Moor Park, but was too ill to go. He sent, however, to the bridegroom the following letter, which was the last he wrote. It will show that although so ill, his exuberant animal spirits had not yet forsaken him :—

My dear Major Maxwell,—I would have written to Maggie, but she is busy. She will never have patience to read anything on such an occasion from such an old scratch as myself. I therefore address you on so momentous an occasion as the present to express Lady Fairbairn's and my own deep regret that the extremely infirm state of my health prevents us being present. Let me, however, recommend you, like all experienced and prudent husbands, to follow a piece of advice which I received from an old friend on a similar occasion, namely—

'Be sure, on every occasion of difference (and where is the family that have not differences), that you and the wife are never in a passion at the same time.'

He added, however, in a half-whisper, ' But when she is done, 'gad, you may then give her a round.'

You will pardon me for adding more, as I am scarcely able either to read or write, and can only add our united blessing, and prayer for your future happiness, and remain, Your affectionate,

W. Fairbairn.

[Date.—July 11, 1874.]

Immediately after the marriage he went down to Mr. Bateman's country seat at Moor Park, near Farnham, Surrey. There had always been a warm and reciprocal attachment between him and his daughter, Mrs. Bateman, and during the later years of his life, when he had given up the cares of business, although he retained to the last his home at the Polygon, Manchester (where his widow-still resides), he had spent much time every year with Mr. and Mrs. Bateman and their family. The large works which Mr. Bateman had frequently been required to carry on in various parts of the kingdom had led him, partly for business convenience, and partly by a preference for country scenery, to occupy from time to time residences in picturesque districts; Morecambe Bay, Ambleside, North Wales, and Perthshire, were some of the situations chosen; and it was a great delight to Mr. Fairbairn to visit at these places. The house at Cardross in Perthshire, was taken by Mr. Bateman when carrying out the great works of the Loch Katrine water supply to Glasgow; it was held several years, and here, or at the house in which he subsequently lived, Fern Tower, near Crieff, Mr. Fairbairn spent, with his wife, much of the summer and autumn of each year. He was fond of the neighbourhood, from his old Scotch associations, and he met here many friends who esteemed him for his talents and worth, and loved him for his estimable social qualities.

The Glasgow Water Works being finished, Mr. Bateman gave up his Scotch residence, and bought, in 1859, the Surrey estate, where Sir William Fairbairn was afterwards a frequent visitor. After his arrival there, about the middle of July, 1874, he was for a short time able to walk about and dine with the family. One day he walked round the grounds with Mrs. Bateman, after having visited, with her, the camp at Frenshain, during the autumn manoeuvres. He took great interest in military matters, and conversed freely on what they had seen; after which he spoke to her of his own state, and of what he felt was the approaching change. The walk was perhaps too much for him, for after it he took to his room, which he never again left alive. The windows of this room looked out on the flower garden, and on a beautiful rural prospect, which he often expressed himself as enjoying.

His last attack was a painful one, but he bore it with exemplary patience, no murmur ever escaping from his lips. He loved life and the exercise of his active mental power, but he looked upon death as an inevitable doom, and he was quite prepared to die. He spoke little of the probability of his own decease, beyond an expression of resignation to it. He gave few directions as to the future, and made no particular communications either to his wife or his children. He gradually sank, retaining to the last a silent consciousness, and he died quite peacefully on August 18, 1874.

His friend Bishop Sunnier lay on his deathbed at Farnham Castle at the same time, and each took great interest in the state of the other. The bishop died two days before Sir William.

It was the wish of the family that the funeral should be strictly private, but it was desired by the authorities of the town of Manchester and many friends of the deceased that a demonstration of respect should be made. The following account is extracted from a Manchester paper:—-

The mortal remains of the late Sir William Fairbairn, Baronet, were interred yesterday at Prestwich parish church. The distinguished position of the deceased, and the fact that, notwithstanding his Scotch birth, he was pre-eminently a Manchester man, combined to make the occasion one of a public character, and the result was a public demonstration of respect for the deceased and of sympathy with the bereaved family. The deceased Baronet died on Tuesday last at Farnham, in Surrey, and his body was brought to Manchester on Friday night. The funeral cortage left the residence of the deceased—the Polygon, Ardwick—about eleven o'clock, and, accompanied by bodies of the city police and fire brigade, proceeded by way of Ardwick Green, Piccadilly, Market Street, Strangeways, and Bury New Road to the place of interment. In Stockport Road and along the line of route large crowds collected to witness the procession, and to pay the last token of respect to an eminent citizen. The shops were partially closed, and the blinds of many private houses were drawn. The body of police consisted of twelve men from each division of the city constabulary; and the fire brigade was represented by twelve men from the central station.

As the procession passed through the town, several other private carriages and a number of gentlemen on foot joined it, and it was not until one o'clock that it reached Prestwich. The corpse was met at the church gates by the Rev. Canon Gibson and the Rev. Canon Birch, the officiating ministers, and the path from the gates to the porch was lined by workmen in the employ of the deceased, who stood uncovered as the coffin was borne by. The church was thronged by a large congregation. The service was brief but impressive. The coffin, which was covered with wreaths of choice flowers, was deposited in the family vault near the south-west corner of the burial-ground, where three sons of the deceased are interred, A brass plate on the coffin bore the simple inscription, WilliamFairbairn, Baronet: Born 19th February, 1789; Died 18th August, 1874,

The number of people present at the funeral was estimated at from 50,000 to 70,000.

The death was promptly announced in almost all the newspapers of the country, as that of a well-known public character, and memoirs of considerable length were given.

The Times, in the course of a biographical notice, said:—

It is almost useless to state here that no name stood higher than that of Fairbairn in the world of civil engineering; and that although late in life he accepted a well-earned title, his reputation hereafter will date from a generation at least earlier than his patent as a baronet.

The Daily News, a journal always prominent in scientific matters, gave a leading article, containing such an admirable and truthful estimate of Sir William's position, character, and merits, that we may be pardoned for giving extracts from it at some length.

The death of Sir William Fairbairn, occurring as it does during the British Association week, breaks in upon the meeting of his scientific brothers almost as harshly as the death of the official in the Faroe Islands did upon the ceremonies at the reception of the King of Denmark. Of course Sir William Fairbairn's was not a premature end. He had lived to a good and even to a great old age. He had multiplied his years by intellectual activity and unceasing enterprise in the fields of industrial science. Nature could hardly have prolonged much farther his busy and fruitful career ; and even in this age of longevity, when men turn to the real work of a public life at a time when their forefathers would have thought of retirement and rest, Sir William Fairbairn would be considered an old man. Still the death of such a colleague, occurring at the opening of the annual meeting of the British Association, must come upon its leading members with a painful shock. Sir William Fairbairn was one of the founders of the British Association, and he was one of its most distinguished presidents. He was a fitting representative of the spirit which made that Association a success, and of the age of industrial science, illustrated by literary intelligence, which allowed it to be successful. It used to be the habit at one time to sneer at the Association of philosophers.' But in the days when philosophy was a profession and a culture we should like to know what its teachers would have thought of an age when, even as a sneer, the title of philosopher could be conferred npon a maker of roads or a worker in iron. Sir William Fairbairn was emphatically a man who might be accredited with having helped to bring about the condition of things in England which proved that philosophy can enter into the building of bridges and the putting together of the hulls of ships. The career of him and of his like expounds the secret of modern England's greatness.

He was an indefatigable worker in what we may call the literary illustration of his enterprises and objects. Treatise after treatise, lecture after lecture, on all subjects in connection with this branch of industrial science, came from his active and unresting hand. He was associated with almost every society formed here or abroad to develop the true principles of engineering. Nothing that concerned in any way the interests of industrial science escaped his attention, or failed to enlist his sympathy. Thus he became known widely beyond the limits of his own profession. In every calling of life, as our social life is now constituted, there are men who acquire high reputation and enjoy entire confidence within the limits of that particular craft, but who are hardly known to the public outside. Every lawyer, every soldier, every engineer, every scholar, can tell of men in his vocation who rank, by common consent of its members, second to none there, and yet whose names, when told to an outsider, are spoken to unfamiliar ears. Sir William Fairbairn was not a man of this type and always seems to have enjoyed a reputation with the general public as well as with those who were qualified to judge more accurately of the value of his career. That literary faculty, if we may so call it, in which the elder Stephenson was so entirely deficient, enabled Sir William Fairbairn to secure the whole public sometimes for his audience, and his death will therefore be felt as a national loss. The distinction which was conferred upon him at the recommendation of Mr. Gladstone, in 1869, was, we need not say, much better deserved than in nine cases out of ten in which a Prime Minister is the means of bestowing such an honour. It was a tribute to a very remarkable career, in which talents and perseverance fought their way from the lowliest rank and amid immense difficulties; and it is only to be regretted that such distinctions are not made of more genuine value by being less frequently conferred as the reward of plodding and brainless political partisanship. But Sir William Fairbairn was of all men the son of his own works. If he bore a title towards the close of his life we are glad of it, rather because it affirmed that the State acknowledges the dignity of industrial science than because we think it m any way ennobled him.

The Engineer said :— A GREAT engineer in a past generation has departed. Sir William Fairbairn died a little after noon on Tuesday, at Moor Park, Farnham, Surrey, full of years, and not without honours, hardly earned and very fully deserved. Fairbairn's forte lay in millwright work. It is not too much to say that he revolutionised the art of making mills, whether for grinding wheat or spinning cotton. He introduced, to begin with, most important improvements in water-wheels. Some of his Scotch wheels have never been excelled in efficiency by any water-power motor, except a very few turbines. He was not content with this. From end to end he remodelled the system on which mills were constructed. He gave the milling world new shafting, new couplings, new gear accurately made and properly proportioned to the work to be accomplished. No man, liv ing or dead, has done so much to make mechanical engineering in two important branches so nearly perfect. Fairbairn found millwrighting a second-rate trade. He abolished the millwright, and introduced the mechanical engineer; and for this achievement alone he would deserve to be honoured. In one word, it is difficult to discover a branch of the art of mechanical engineering to which Fairbairn has not contributed something. His footprints may be found on every path which the engineer can tread, and the sands of time will never efface them.

The Manchester papers especially made the occurrence their most prominent piece of news, and devoted many columns to obituary notices.

The Manchester Examiner said :—

A full account of Sir William Fairbairn's life would be to a large extent identical with a history of half a century of progress in mechanical science, in the development of the productive power of Manchester manufactures, in the application of iron to the building of ships, and in a wide range of invention and discovery connected with the strength of materials of construction and the economy of motive forces. Some of the greatest works of peace and war in our time are associated with Sir William Fairbairn's name.

In whatever way we seek to account for Fairbairn's remarkable success in life, compared with that of the mass of men who start from a similar station, it is a magnificent instance of the rewards that may attend such persistent endeavours directed to aims so honourable.

Another Manchester paper said :

But the story of his life points a moral of the most valuable kind.

It was by the force of his will and the integrity of his character that Sir William Fairbairn won bis position. He learned to labour and to wait, and, having a large faith in time, looked cheerfully forward to the ' perfect end.' No mere dreamer, he utilised every hour, and when disappointment came, as come it often did, if he retreated from what seemed to be an untenable position, it was only to gather strength for renewed effort and fresh enterprise. ' Something attempted, something done,' every day earned him physical and mental repose. Patient study enabled him to acquire that knowledge of first principles which resulted in the exercise of foresight akin to the marvellous, and the steady momentum imparted to his life by continuous application imparted an onward impetus to his fortunes, which resulted in the establishment of his reputation as the foremost mechanical engineer of his day. That branch of industry to which he devoted himself with so much zeal is now one of the most important in the world. Thousands owe their daily bread in a measure to the ardent mechanician who demonstrated with such telling effect the utility of iron, and the resources of the world have been augmented to an almost fabulous extent by his labours. It is natural, therefore, that Manchester should be proud of her foster-son, and fitting that honourable mention should be made of him by all who are capable of appreciating sterling worth and indomitable zeal. In an age replete with able men he held a prominent place, and his career serves to show that honesty of purpose, patient toil, unwavering integrity, while they tend to ensure material prosperity, are justly to be enumerated among those virtues which alone can give to nations a solid greatness, or to individuals an imperishable fame.

But it was not only in England that these manifestations of respect to Ins memory took place. One of the most important mechanical and industrial organs of Germany, the Berlin Allgemeine Deutsche Pulytechninche Zeitung, published, on September 12, 1874, a biographical notice with a portrait, and a statement of his chief services to practical science, concluding with the words: ' Let all aspiring workers take Sir William Fairbairn as a model. He is no more; but his name will ever live in what he has done.'

The Manchester Steam Users' Association took proceedings which are described in the following extracts from their annual report :—

The Committee of Management have now to refer with sincere and deep regret to the loss the Association has sustained by the death of its president and founder, the late Sir Wm. Fairbairn, Bart., which took place on the 18th of August last. At the institution of the Association, in 1854, Sir Wm. Fairbairn was elected a vice-president, and continued one for four years, when he was elected to the presidency, which office he continued to hold till the time of his decease, a period of sixteen years. The services rendered by him to the Association, and to steam users generally, the committee believe to be invaluable. His attendance at the committee and annual meetings of the Association was most regular, while his advice and sendee were at all other times freely placed at the disposal of the committee. The committee think it well to introduce the following copy of an address presented by them to Lady Fairbairn, together with a copy of Sir Thos. Fairbairn's acknowledgment of the same.

Copy of address to Lady Fairbairn, presented, by the Vice-presidents and Executive Committee of the Manchester Steam Users' Association, on the death of Sir William Fairbairn, Bart., F.R.8., LL.D., 

To Lady Fairbairn,

'Dear Madam,—We, the colleagues of the late Sir William Fairbairn, on the board of the Steam Users' Association, desire very respectfully to express to your Ladyship our profound sympathy on the irreparable loss you have sustained by his deeply lamented death.

'We beg to assure you that so far as it may be possible to offer words of comfort and condolence to your afflicted mind and heart, we share in a very high degree those feelings of unfeigned regard and respect for the memory of Sir William Fairbairn, which we know are experienced by every one whose good fortune it has been to have enjoyed his friendship and acquaintance.

'It has been our happiness to have been associated with him for many years in the management of an Association of which he was the originator and founder, the object of which is one of practical regard for human suffering, and the safety of life to a large class of working men, no less than for the promotion of scientific enquiry on questions of vast public utility.

'Under Sir William's sagacious and able chairmanship, our Association has acquired a hold on the public mind which to him, its distinguished founder, must have been unspeakably gratifying.

'With your Ladyship's kind permission, we hope to have the honour and pleasure of placing in our board room a marble bust, by au eminent sculptor, of our late admirable president, and trust we may be allowed the favour of duplicating the bust which you possess.

'We will not multiply words in this brief record of our opinions and views. His important works are his enduring monument, and will ever live in the regard of his thoughtful fellow-countrymen.

'It is not enough for us to say that we respected and honoured him, for we loved him for his many fine qualities of heart, and shall never cease to revere his memory.

'We have the honour to be, dear Madam,

'Your Ladyship's very humble servants, ' (Signed) Vice-Presidents :

Joseph Whitworth, Hugh Mason, Thomas Lazily, John Penn.

Copy of reply from Sir Thomas Fairbairn.

Brambridge House, Bishopstuke, December 26. 1874.

'My dear Mr. Mason,

'I received on Thursday evening the case containing the beautiful volume, "In Memoriam," from the Vice-Presidents and Council of the Manchester Steam Users' Association, and yesterday I fulfilled your wishes by presenting it to the Dowager Lady Fairbairn. My dear mother desires me to assure you that no Christmas Day greeting could have been more consolatory to a widow's sorrowing heart than this must touching address. The distinguished men whose names are appended to it record not only their admiration of Sir William Fairbairn's career and public services, but they state that they "loved him for his many fine qualities of heart."

'The exquisite form in which this valuable testimony is enshrined will be retained and guarded by my family as one of its most precious heirlooms. I have always looked upon the foundation of the Steam Users' Association as one of my father's most useful and most honourable achievements. It was at all times a source of great joy to him that the persistent and unwearied support of yourself and colleagues had made the Association which he founded instrumental in saving hundreds of valuable lives.

'He advocated the system of inspection as against that of insurance with unswerving constancy ; and I cannot help thinking that there are some other branches of the world's enterprise to which such a system could be applied with great profit to human life and happiness. In connection, for instance, with the safe working of ships, how much fraud and wickedness might be avoided, how much property be preserved, and how many lives be saved, if the mercantile marine of this country were subjected to careful searching and periodical inspection.

"Duty to others, and not gain to ourselves," has been the main-spring of your admirable Society, and a strict performance of this solemn obligation during a period of now many years has given your Association the reputation, authority, and power of usefulness which it now deservedly enjoys. I can wish no more honourable association of merit with my father's memory than that the sphere of your labours may be greatly extended, and that you may reap the reward of public gratitude for promoting an object of paramount utility upon the basis of scientific truth.

'  am, my dear Mr. Mason,

' Yours very truly, ' (Signed) Thomas Fairbairn.

The marble bust, to which allusion is made in the address, has been executed by Mr. T. Woolner, R.A., and is now to be seen at the offices of the Association.

Almost all the other institutions with which he had been connected followed the example.

The city of Manchester, in their corporate capacity, were not backward in manifesting their sentiments of the honour their departed townsman had been to them.

At the first meeting of the Council, the following proceedings were reported :—

The Chairman:—Before proceeding with the remaining business of the council this morning, it is my painful duty to call attention to the fact that since we last met Manchester has lost one of her most valued citizens. I allude to Sir William Fairbairn, who was connected with the interests of our city for a very long period. I will ask the town clerk to read a resolution of condolence with the family of the late baronet, and I have no doubt it will be adopted by the council; I trust, also, that the esteem in which Sir William was held in Manchester will find still further expression. It would be a fitting thing in this city to erect a monument on the area in front of the Royal Infirmary, that may hand down to posterity the name of a man who has done so much for the city in the particular branch of business with which he was associated, namely, the engineering trade. (Hear, hear.) Already Dalton and Watt are commemorated by statues before the Infirmary, and for them a statue to Sir William Fairbairn would be fit companion, (Hear, Hear. ) Had his Worship the Mayor been here, he would have been one of the first to express his willingness to assist in any steps that may be thought desirable by his fellow-citizens to carry out so desirable an object. (Hear, hear.)

The town clerk read the following resolution, which was moved by the chairman, namely:—

'That this council has heard with deep sorrow of the removal by death of their distinguished fellow-citizen, Sir William Fairbairn, Bart., who has for so many years been one of the most useful and valuable members of this community, and who has during the last half-century been actively and honourably associated with all movements having for their object the improvement of the intellectual, moral, or social condition of all classes of his fellow-citizens. That the Mayor be respectfully requested to communicate, through Sir Thomas Fairbairn, to Lady Fairbairn and the other members of the family the assurance of the veneration and affectionate regard which is entertained by this Council for the memory and character of the late Sir William Fairbairn, and of sincere sympathy and condolence in the irreparable loss which they have sustained.

Mr. Alderman Nicholls seconded the resolution.

The resolution was supported by Mr. Alderman Heywood, and unanimously passed.

On October 19, a public meeting, convened by the Mayor, Mr. Alderman Watkin, was held in the Town Hall, ' for the purpose of considering what steps should be taken to secure, as generally desired, some suitable permanent memorial of their distinguished fellow-citizen.' The Mayor presided; and there were also present the Bishop and the Dean of Manchester, Sir Joseph Heron, the Town Clerk; Sir Edward Watkin, M.P., and many distinguished inhabitants of the town.

The Mayor said, being fully convinced that a general desire existed in the city and the neighbourhood to commemorate in some fitting way the greatness, goodness, and usefulness of their departed friend, he had not waited for the usual and somewhat tiresome method of organising in order to call this meeting, but had done it forthwith, so that what was to be done might be done without delay. He had called the meeting to receive suggestions as to the form which the memorial should take, and to organise means for carrying it out.

Sir Joseph Heron mentioned that he had received a great number of letters from gentlemen unable to attend, stating how fully they agreed in the object of the meeting, and that they would be prepared in any way to co-operate to carry out the object of the meeting.

The Bishop of Manchester said that he had much pleasure in moving the first resolution, which declared the desirability of obtaining a suitable permanent memorial of Sir William Fairbairn. He had not had the gratification of making the acquaintance of Sir William till he had passed the ordinary-limit of life—he had passed the fourscore years. But since he had known him Sir William had been kind enough to admit him to a certain measure of personal intimacy and almost friendship, and he had certainly learned to feel his great qualities, his generosity, his largeness of heart, and those other qualities which seemed to have so much endeared him to the citizens of .Manchester. His, certainly, was one of those names which Manchester people of this generation would desire should be held in respect and regard by generations yet to come. It was not the sum of money that was required, because he supposed that any sum could be raised that was reasonably required, but that an opportunity should be given to Manchester people to express their sense of the high qualities by which Sir William Fairbairn became the architect, he would not say of a very large fortune (but for his own part he did not care for that), but the architect of a reputation which ought to be dear to Manchester people, and which he believed would lie an example to men of ability, who were conscious of intellectual gifts, of how those gifts might be best used to the advantage of the common wealth. Fairbairn's was a name which Manchester should delight to honour, and he had much pleasure therefore in proposing the resolution.

Mr. W. R. Callender, M.P., seconded the resolution. He said there were three causes why a testimonial should be adopted; first of all, to commemorate the virtues of a departed fellow-citizen; secondly, to serve as an encouragement to those who might come after him; and, thirdly, to be of some practical use to the present and future generations. They ought, therefore, in erecting this memorial to Sir William, with the primary object of perpetuating his memory, to give also to those whom they wished to stimulate some means of following in his footsteps by providing for them some educational advantage, either in connection with the Owens College or some other scientific society.

The Rev. Mr. Craskell completely coincided with the remarks made by Mr. Callender, and read part of a letter which he had received from an old friend of Sir William Fairbairn, Mr. Ainsworth, of Oleator, who said, 'I cannot take the initiative— I am too old. But I shall be a liberal contributor for a statue and scholarship in the Owens College, or, better still, an . endowment in his name as an adjunct to the professorship of practical mechanics.' He (the speaker) thought it would be very desirable indeed to have, as a memorial of Sir WilIiam, something which he himself would have wished; and they all knew the great interest he took in mechanics' institutes and kindred societies. He thought they could not do better than carry out such a suggestion as had been made by Mr. Ainsworth.

Dr. Pankhurst said he had not had the honour to know Sir Wm. Fairbairn in his private capacity, and it was not his province to speak of him with reference to his professional eminence, but he asked to say a few words of him as a public man. He had had the pleasure and honour of meeting him in many parts of the kingdom on great public occasions, and he had always found in him one of those men who were capable not only of exerting public influence themselves, but of inspiring the disposition to exert it in others. Never was an appeal to follow his example in that respect more needed than it now was in our own city of Manchester. The public life of Manchester was very onerous and very exacting, and unless we could have a succession of men willing to devote time and thought to the public service, we should certainly not be able to keep up the great traditions of the city and district. Sir William Fairbairn being engaged in an industry which was' very exacting in its claims upon him, and which could have given him enormous pecuniary returns, yet sacrificed much of his time and thought to the public service. He honoured him for so doing, and there could be no stronger reason given for cherishing his memory and for putting his effigy and figure in some public place.

Mr. Oliver Heywood asked to be allowed also to support the resolution. Sir William Fairbairn had been throughout, his life a most kindly friend of his. He had had the pleasure of attending the same school with five of his sons. He had personally obtained from him the greatest assistance in the management of the Mechanics' Institution, of which Sir William had been the first secretary, and in which he had taken through life a very active interest.

The Rev. W. Graskell also supported the resolution as one who had enjoyed the intimate friendship of Sir William Fairbairn for more than forty years.

The resolution was then unanimously agreed to.

A discussion then took place as to the form which the memorial should assume, it being felt, as pointed out by the Bishop of Manchester, that the amount of subscriptions must be regulated by the nature of the scheme submitted for adoption to the public.

Various opinions were expressed, some in favour of a statue, others in favour of the establishment of a scholar ship; and after much discussion, the following resolution was adopted:—

That the permanent monument of Sir William Fairbairn be in the form of a statue of such character, and to be placed in such position as may be hereafter determined, and also of a scholarship or some other suitable endowment in connection with the Owen's College.

A committee was then appointed to raise subscriptions and carry out the resolution.

The Manchester papers all took interest in the discussion of the measure. One said:—

The prompt action taken by the Mayor of Manchester in organising a scheme to commemorate the name of the late Sir Wm. Fairbairn,-will commend itself to general approval. That this public duty will be well done, the enthusiasm which characterised the meeting held yesterday, and the influential and representative character of the committee then appointed, abundantly assure us. It remains for the thousands who in Lancashire owe direct advantage to the scientific labour of Sir Wm. Fairbairn, to assist the committee in seeing that the work is done with readiness. A public testimonial derives its value and its grace above all things from its spontaneity, and perhaps there never was a Manchester citizen who established a more substantial claim upon the respect of his neighbours far and wide.

The Committee, having collected about 2,700/., decided that the statue should be of marble, and placed in the new Town Hall; and after a good deal of discussion the commission was given for it, in December 1875, to Mr. G. E. Geflowski, of London.

No action has yet been taken with reference to the scholarship at Owen's College.


Return to Book Index Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast