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Reginald Douglas Farrant

Epithet: First deemster and clerk of the rolls, chairman of the Manx Museum trustees, CP, JP (1877-1952)

Record type: Biographies

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

Deemster Farrant was the third son of William Farrant, CP, JP, MHK, owner of Ballamoar and East Nappin in the parish of Jurby, which properties he had inherited from his father William Farrant, CP, JP, MHK. Both the Christians of Ballamoar and the Curpheys of Ballakillingan (with whom William, first son of Robert, had intermarried) were descended from families who had always included Keys members, Deemsters and other high officers in church and state, such as Attorney General, Receiver General and Vicar General, amongst their number.

Reginald Farrant was articled to G.A. Ring, the Attorney General. Admitted to the Manx Bar in 1898, he started a practice on his own in 1903 and in 1905 was appointed clerk to the Douglas Magistrates. In 1908 he took over the practice of the late Fred Brown, advocate. Amongst his numerous clients was Colonel Freeth, a Chief Constable who was charged with forgery. He undertook many appearances before Tynwald, and played an important role in connection with the Church Assembly Bill.

As a lifelong member of the Church of England he was a licensed reader in St Thomas's Church until his death. He was also deeply concerned with the church at Jurby, where his ancestors were buried. A memorial window commemorating his life's work was installed by his widow and son, alongside the window which he had installed in 1934 to commemorate his own father. He was largely responsible for arranging the sale of the Jurby Chalice (now in the Manx National Heritage collection), thus procuring finance necessary for improvements to the church.

Before his elevation to the Bench Reginald Farrant showed a great interest in politics, in particular Manx constitutional reform, which had become a burning issue in the years before the appointment of the McDonnell Constitutional Committee in 1911. The Constitutional Association, of which he was a founding member, took a leading part in opposing reforms promoted by Samuel Norris and others. In the years preceding World War I he was approached by various constituencies to represent them in the House of Keys but due to his extensive legal practice felt unable to accept.

When war broke out in 1914 Reginald Farrant was beyond the age for active service, but he was appointed commander of the Athol Street section of the Loyal Manx Association. As joint honorary secretary of the Sailors' and Soldiers' Families Association he administered the £5000 fund raised by voluntary subscription at the instance of Lord Raglan. In January 1916 he volunteered for service with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (Auxiliary Patrol) and was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant. Promoted to lieutenant, he experienced command in a number of small vessels, including minesweepers on anti-submarineduties. During World War II he was the first recruit sworn in for the Local Defence Volunteers (later the Home Guard).

Demobilised in March 1919, Reginald Farrant resumed his legal practice and in November was appointed High Bailiff of Douglas and Castletown. On the retirement of G.A. Ring from theAttorney-Generalship, and the appointment of R.B. Moore as the first full-time Attorney General, Farrant's practice was amalgamated with the firm of La Mothe & Cowley and the firm of Ring & Moore to form a new practice under the name of Ring, LaMothe, Farrant & Cowley. On being appointed Second Deemster in 1925, he retired from private practice.

Deemster Farrant's decisions were characterised by a thorough mastery of the law. He showed fearless independence when trying the world-famous motor racer Kaye Don, charged with manslaughter after the death of his mechanic in a pre-race accident. The trial was given world-wide coverage, and Don was sentenced to six months' imprisonment. In 1934 Deemster Farrant succeeded to the position of First Deemster in the place of Deemster La Mothe. He was to preside over many far-reaching and interesting civil cases including the Ecclesiastical Chancery case inre Robinson, which once and for all settled the manner in which measures of the Church of England were applied in Sodor and Man.

As an ex officio member of Legislative Council, Reginald Farrant was chairman of the Ecclesiastical Committee of Tynwald and closely involved in setting up the Church Assembly of which he became a member. He was chairman of the War Pensions Committee and a founder member of the Douglas branch of the British Legion. He served as a trustee of the National Health Insurance Society, the House of Industry (now the Ellan Varmin Home), the Douglas Grammar School and the Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association.

Before World War II he was chairman of the Brine Spa Commission, which sat to consider a proposal to create a brine spa in Ramsey. This was to be centred on what is now the Grand Island Hotel site but due to the difficulties of the post-war period, although approved, it was never built. One of Reginald Farrant's most attractive qualities was that of being receptive to new ideas.

His personal interests included archaeology, history, and the Manx Museum, of which he was chairman (1934-1951). He secured the services of Professor Gerhard Bersu, a German archaeologist of high repute, when Bersu was a wartime internee on the Island. The professor was to be an invaluable authority on important digs carried out in the Island. The Deemster was a contributor to 'The Law Quarterly' and the author of numerous articles on Manx archaeological and historical matters. In 1937 he produced 'Mann - Its Land Tenure, Constitution, Lords Rent and Deemsters'.

He took great interest in the ceremonial side of his duties; he was responsible for introducing red robes and full bottom wigs for the Deemsters to wear on Tynwald Day, and also a distinctive badge for the Captains of the Parishes (he was CP of Jurby).

In 1921 Reginald Farrant married Marion Rose Barthelemy, elder daughter of J.A. Barthelemy BSc., headmaster of Douglas Grammar School. Rose Farrant was a tireless charitable and welfare worker; a woman of striking looks, she accompanied her husband to the 1937 coronation of King George VI. In their younger days she and the Deemster were well known in amateur dramatic circles.

Reginald Farrant was much admired as an after-dinner speaker. He loved and honoured his profession, and always carried himself with the dignity expected of one occupying the highest legal office in the Island, which also involved the holder's acting as deputy Governor when required.

He and his wife rest together in the Farrant-Christian vault in the churchyard at Jurby.

Biography written by Peter Farrant (son).

(With thanks to Culture Vannin as publishers of the book: Kelly, Dollin (general editor), ‘New Manx Worthies’, Manx Heritage Foundation/Culture Vannin, 2006, pp.177-9.)

Culture Vannin


Gender: Male

Date of birth: 19 July 1877

Date of death: 19 September 1952

Name Variant: Farrant, R.D., His Hon The Deemster


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