FAIRBRIDGE, Kingsley Ogilvie (1885-1924)

FAIRBRIDGE, Kingsley Ogilvie (1885-1924)
founder of the Fairbridge schools
was born at Grahamstown, South Africa, on 5 May 1885. His father, Rhys Seymour Fairbridge, was a government land-surveyor. He was educated at St Andrew's College, Grahamstown, until he was 11 years old, when the family moved to Rhodesia. He had no further schooling until he prepared to enter Oxford. At 13 he became a clerk in the Standard Bank of Africa at Umtali, and two years later tried to enlist for the Boer war, then took up market gardening and early in 1903 visited England. He was away for about 12 months and could not help being impressed by the contrast between the crowded cities of England and the open spaces of Rhodesia. On his return he worked for two and a half years for a Mr Freeman who was recruiting natives for the mines at Johannesburg. He began writing verses and was pleased to have two poems accepted by the South African Magazine. Slowly a scheme was being formulated in his mind to bring poor children from London to South Africa where they could be trained as farmers. He applied to the Rhodes trustees for a scholarship, feeling that once in England he would find ways of developing his scheme. He was informed by the Rhodes trustees that if he passed the Oxford entrance examination his application would be favourably considered, and in 1906 he went to England to be privately coached. Greek was essential and he had never done any. He worked hard at it and succeeded in passing the required examination at the fourth attempt. In October 1908 he entered Exeter College, Oxford, with a Rhodes scholarship. There he obtained his blue for boxing, beating Julian Grenfell twice in the trials, and made many friends. He began to write on child emigration until he was advised by a friend that speaking might be more effective. His first rebuff was from the British South Africa Company, which informed him that they considered Rhodesia too young a country in which to start child emigration. He was, however, cheered by a favourable answer from the premier of Newfoundland.
In October 1909 Fairbridge made a speech to the Colonial Club at Oxford, and at the end of the meeting a motion was carried that those present should form themselves into a society for the furtherance of child emigration to the colonies. The movement had begun. The next two years were spent in trying to interest people in the project and collecting money which came in slowly. He obtained his diploma in forestry, in 1911, and in December of that year was married to Ruby Ethel Whitmore who had been encouraging and helping him for some time. In March 1912 they sailed for Western Australia with a total capital of £2000. A property of 160 acres was purchased near Pinjarra about 60 miles south of Perth, and the Western Australian government agreed to help by paying £6 for each child towards the cost of the passage money. The first party, 13 children aged between 7 and 13, soon arrived, and was followed by another party of 22 boys some months later. Some kind of shelter had to be prepared for them, the utterly neglected orchard had to be pruned, and the English committee had to be satisfied that every item of expenditure was necessary. Fairbridge and his wife worked unceasingly and gradually each difficulty was overcome. But when the war came financial difficulties became very pressing, until a grant was obtained from the Western Australian government which tided the school over the war period. After the war Fairbridge went to England and so impressed everybody that a sum of £27,000 was procured for the development of the school. A more suitable site of 3200 acres was found and new buildings were put up. In 1922 the help of the Commonwealth government was secured, and in 1923, after years of discomfort, Fairbridge and his wife and family were able to move into a suitable house of their own. He had, however, suffered much from intermittent bouts of malaria and he now found himself often in pain. On 19 July 1924 he died after an operation. He was survived by his wife and four children. Three years after his death there were over 200 children at the school, and in 1935 the number had reached 370. In that year over 1000 employers applied for the 100 boys ready to go out to work. Other schools have since been established at Vancouver Island, Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, and Molong, New South Wales.
Kingsley Fairbridge was tall, athletic and good-looking with an attractive personality. He had vision and determination and a capacity to make his dreams become realities. His volume of poems Veld Verse, published in 1909, contains verse of more than average quality, his Autobiography written with simplicity and charm ends before he was 25. With the never-failing help of his wife he showed how an emigration farm school for children could be successfully carried on at a low cost in money, and that ill-nourished children from the slums could be made healthy, vigorous and worthy citizens of a new land.
The Autobiography of Kingsley Fairbridge; Ruby Fairbridge, Pinjarra; The Times, 23 July 1924; W. Murdoch, The Argus, 20 March 1937; Rev. A. G. West, The Quarterly Review, April 1941.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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  • Kingsley Fairbridge — This article includes biographical information relating to Kingsley Ogilivie Fairbridge, as well the institution that he established which was known as the Fairbridge Society .Kinglsey Ogilvie Fairbridge (5 May 1885 – 19 July 1924) was the… …   Wikipedia

  • Fairbridge — /ˈfɛəbrɪdʒ/ (say fairbrij) noun 1. Kingsley Ogilvie, 1885–1924, Australian humanitarian, born in South Africa; founder of a farm school for underprivileged and orphaned children. 2. Wolfe Seymour, 1918–50, Australian poet, author of Denial and… …  

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