THE CANON - JOHNNY FAIRCHILD
This is the story of how a humble fisherman's son from Leigh rose to be a prince of the church.
When A H Thatcher came to Leigh in 1889 to be Headmaster of the Church Schools on Church Hill he was chosen for the job by Canon King because he was an old pupil of Culham School in Oxfordshire and the Canon had fond memories of the first Latin lessons he had given to a local lad who had become Chaplain of the College.
John (Johnny) Fairchild was born in Leigh in 1854, the son of John and Sophia Fairchild (nee Ham). John’s father was a fisherman who owned his own boat and the family had connections to the licensed trade. John senior had been landlord of the Peterboat in 1828 and another Fairchild was landlord of the Ship between 1798 and 1813. Johnny was the only surviving son of a family of eight.
Coming from that background John must have had a sponsor - perhaps Canon King who thought him able enough to learn Latin and who no doubt saw future promise in the lad.
John attended Queen's College, Oxford gaining a BA and an MA in Theology. He was ordained deacon in 1880 and became a priest in 1881. This is when he was Chaplain at the Training College at Culham.
In 1883 John moved on to be Vice-Principal of York Theological College and then Principal of St Mary’s College in Carnarvon. This new job coincided with his marriage to Florence Louisa Chaffey, whose mother had been Elizabeth Sarah Murrell, a Leigh girl.
John became Diocesan Inspector of Pupil Teachers and Honorary Secretary of Bangor Association of Church Schools and Canon Treasurer of Bangor Cathedral. When he passed away in 1942 he was the oldest Principal in the country.
In his obituary it was said that the College of Bangor owed its existence to John Fairchild for he collected practically all the money to erect it on a magnificent site overlooking Bangor. A memorial plaque was erected in St Mary’s College and later moved to Bangor Cathedral 58 years after John's death. His obituary in the local newspaper said ‘He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again’.
In another newspaper report of wise sayings, the Canon is credited with having said ‘The uncertainty of life is life’s chiefest charm’.