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Robert Fargher Douglas

Epithet: Builder (1857-1941)

Record type: Biographies

Biography: From ‘New Manx Worthies’ (2006):

Born in Douglas on 2nd November 1857, Robert Douglas was the first child of John Douglas, a joiner, and Catherine Anne daughter of Robert Fargher, founder of the Mona's Herald newspaper. He was educated at Thomas Street Wesleyan Day School and Douglas Grammar School. Following his formal education he joined his maternal grandfather to learn the printing trade, but after a short while became apprenticed to his father as a joiner. He then travelled to Liverpool where his father's elder brother had a bakery business. He worked with a leading firm of builders for a year or two, and then was joined by his father and brother, Joseph Edward Douglas. The three of them built a large number of houses in what has been described as the south end of Liverpool.

Returning to the Island, Robert Douglas started building on his own account in 1884 on the Woodbourne Estate and Farrant's Estate. He erected houses in Woodbourne Square, Woodbourne Road, Brunswick Road and then several in the Arts and Crafts style in Albany Road, Cronkbourne Road, Eleanora Drive, Selborne Drive, Quarterbridge Road and Somerset Road. Initially he had plans prepared by architects, but then he produced his own without any formal training. His office was a small lean-to on the side of his house, The Elms in Brunswick Road. In addition to house building on his own account he produced work for the famous architect, Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, whose designs undoubtedly influenced his own. He also acted as contractor on a number of major contracts: St Mary's School on Stanley Mount, Thomas Street Sunday School, the Isle of Man Bank head office in Athol Street and its Regent Street branch, the former Children's Home on Glencrutchery Road, and the Tynwald Chambers.

Robert Douglas was brought up a Methodist but became Diocesan Surveyor and a churchwarden at Kirk Braddan. He acted as a government valuer, was a trustee of the Manx Museum as well as a trustee of the Nicholson paintings purchased by the Baume Trust. He was honorary treasurer of the Isle of Man Children's Home, on the committee of the House of Industry (now the Ellan Vannin Home) and a director of the Isle of Man Bank from May 1924 to November 1938. He was a keen gardener and an acknowledged expert on plant life and flowers. He was a man of retiring disposition whose advice was often sought, yet he eschewed the limelight and declined public office on many occasions.

Following his wife's death, he presented the choir stalls at Kirk Braddan and a bed at Noble's Hospital in her memory. He died on 21st April 1941 aged 83 without issue, and left the vast bulk of his estate to charity. He also left the town of Douglas a marvellous legacy of well-designed and constructed buildings which continue to serve as his memorial to this day.

Biography written by Peter Kelly.

(With thanks to Culture Vannin as publishers of the book: Kelly, Dollin (general editor), ‘New Manx Worthies’, Manx Heritage Foundation/Culture Vannin, 2006, pp.161-2.)

Culture Vannin


Gender: Male

Date of birth: 2 November 1857

Date of death: 21 April 1941


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