Rev Thomas Wilson Fair


Revd Thomas Wilson Fair

Revd Thomas Wilson Fair (born in 1842 in Penrith, Cumberland son of a farmer and landowner) was the third Rector of Freemantle. As a young man he spent time in Australia, and returning to England he set up in business, with interests both in Newcastle and Manchester. He came late to the priesthood, obtaining his Masters from Jesus College, Cambridge in 1885 , when he was aged 43. His first curacy was at Wroxall, Isle of Wight. He then moved on to Carlton on Trent, Nottinghamshire, but returned to Ryde, Isle of Wight, as curate of Holy Trinity church (where we find him in the 1891 census).

He married Sarah and they had at least two children, both of whom would have been grown up by the time he became Rector of Freemantle in 1892 aged 50.

One of the first projects started by Thomas Fair was the Freemantle Parish Magazine in 1892, a publication which is still printed monthly today, 115 years later. The church appears to have thrived during this time , and several groups were formed for the first time, Mother's Union, Communicants' Guild for Women, Guild of St. Andrew for men, and Temperance Societies. A parish dispensary was also founded to help the poor with the cost of medical treatment, and a soup kitchen helped the homeless.

Thomas Fair wrote 'For the last six weeks our Soup Kitchen has been in full swing, and three times a week 50 gallons of good soup have been distributed each day. With so much sickness prevailing this Winter, and with coals at almost prohibitory prices for poor people, the soup has been more than usually appreciated, and the demand for it is likely to be kept up for some time to come'.

In 1897 new choir stalls were dedicated in the Parish Church as a Diamond Jubilee Memorial; at the same time other work was done including the retiling of the chancel and sanctuary, and the provision of new altar rails.

In the 1901 census , we can see Thomas Fair, his wife Sarah, two servants, and a visitor Rev Bernard Hancock at the Rectory. According to the parish magazine for March 1901, the Rev Hancock, was the Diocesan missioner, and was visiting during Holy Week to preach at special services at the parish church.

Thomas Fair left Freemantle in 1902, having seen the parish grow from a population of 7,000 to 12,000 in a decade. He moved to the Lake District in 1902 and by October 1904 was the vicar of Eskdale. On 10 February 1911, he became seriously ill, and died on 16 February 1911, aged 68.

Among those present at the funeral at St. Catherine's Eskdale were his daughter Mary Fair, the Rev. F.T. Bradshaw (his nephew, who led the funeral service); James & Arthur Fair (cousins); Marcus Rea (cousin) and Geoffrey Ermon (nephew). The chairman of the local Methodists gave a memorial speech in chapel at Santon, referring particularly to his work with the sick: "He spoke kind and comfortable words, and when he offered prayer to God it was the breakings of his heart, which brought blessing to the sick..." [This section based on obituaries in the Whitehaven News, 23 Feb and 2 Mar 1911].