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R. A. Fairly R. A. Fairly i(A10809 works by) (birth name: Robert Alexander Fairly)
Also writes as: R. A. F.
Born: Established: 11 May 1853 Glasgow,
United Kingdom (UK),
Western Europe, Europe,
; Died: Ceased: 28 Oct 1899 Gladstone, Gladstone area, Maryborough - Rockhampton area, Queensland,
Gender: Male
Arrived in Australia: 1871
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Fairly was, like more famous late-nineteenth-century Australian poets, an upholder of the democratic tradition and often wrote about the worker. He was born the eldest of three children, his father a brilliant surgeon and the Superintendent of the Glasgow Royal Infectious Diseases Hospital who later fought in the American Civil War. Fairly's great-great-grand-daughter Jan Koivunen suggests that the egalitarian spirit expressed in R.A.F.'s poems so forcefully may have been inherited from his father. While his brother Alexander Harvey was educated to be a Presbyterian minister, Fairly completed two years studying arts at Glasgow University (1869-71), but did not finish his degree. Instead he emigrated to Australia.

In 1871 he arrived in Melbourne on the Ben Nevis at the age of eighteen, and (according to Jan Koivunen) worked in many parts of Victoria, NSW and Queensland for fifteen years, eventually making his way to Boulia in Queensland where he was a boundary rider, and then to the Gladstone district to work in a range of occupations associated with the mining industry. He 'had a brickworks up at Norton in the 1880s... Apparently all the bricks up there were made by him' (Koivunen quoted in Gladstone Observer June 21, 2003, p 19).

He married Elizabeth Jessie Cairncross on the family property 'Lily Vale' near Calliope in January 1887, and the couple had a stillborn son before producing five daughters. Jan Koivunen says that the poem 'Finis' was his first published work in The Queenslander 1888. The family also lived on 'Katandra Station', Winton for some time before returning to work on Cairncross family interests which included manganese mining, a Eucalyptus Distillery and a sawmill. At the time of his death from throat cancer, he was working at the manganese mine, and he was buried on his selection at Burua, although the exact location of his grave has since been lost. His love for his wife Jessie is touchingly recorded in the poem 'To My Dear Wife' written just a month before his death.

Although his verse and short stories were published widely in the Bulletin, the Boomerang and the Queenslander, he did not publish a collection during his lifetime. In the 1970s his grand-daughter Dorothy Tutton had a small booklet published.

Fairly's verse is varied and often humorous, but his obvious forte was in the mode of the bush ballad in which he conveys an optimistic spirit.

( Information supplied by Jan Koivunen and Robyn Sheahan-Bright)

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Last amended 9 Jan 2009 09:12:36
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