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John Thomas Faragher

Epithet: Alderman and first Manx-born freeman of Douglas, JP (1847-1931)

Record type: Biographies

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

John Thomas Faragher was born in Foxdale, attending the Foxdale National School under school master William Pinder. His early working days were spent in the Foxdale mines but at the age of fifteen or sixteen he had a severe attack of rheumatic fever which left him incapacitated for a couple of years. On recovering he was employed on the washing floors at the mine, and after that he went underground just like his father although later, after working there for many years, he had another illness and was ordered by his doctor to give it up. He then turned to farming with his parents at Ballaquinneybeg, Marown.

While at the farm he still retained his connection with the Peel Methodist circuit, in which he was a local preacher; every Sunday morning he walked to Foxdale to lead a class which included several old miners and their wives who could only 'give their experiences' in Manx. 'JT' perfectly understood his members when they used their mother tongue, but he always elected to give his replies in English. He conducted cottage meetings where four workers went in a batch to visit each cottage. This 'brought out' the young people and proved a very acceptable means of grace to the invalids.

His first trial sermon was preached in the Peel circuit before the Revd Simpson Johnson, who said to him, 'Just you go on and preach, and persuade yourself that I am not here'. His trial sermon for the full plan was preached before the Revd George Denton, nine local preachers, and a chapel full of people - the experience being a novelty for the little home chapel which he had been allowed to choose. He must have won his preaching spurs, because as a result he was sent to Sunday School Anniversaries all over the Island and was to serve as a local preacher for over 60 years.

After another illness, the young man was recommended by his doctor to emigrate to Australia. As he was not keen to leave his parents, he moved to Douglas with them instead. Here he found employment as a seedsman with Robert Curphey in the old marketplace.

After about twelve months, the superintendent of the Douglas Circuit advised him to join the circuit in which he was residing, and he became a class leader in the Victoria Street Church (now the site of Barclays Bank). On Curphey's retirement, JT started his own agricultural business in 1882, on the corner of Athol Street and Big Well Street. Later he moved to Quine's Corner on the North Quay where the business was carried on until 2005, when it moved to Cooil Road, still managed by Martyn Riley, his great-grandson

John Thomas Faragher became a member of the Douglas Town Commissioners in 1890. From that date he served continuously as a commissioner and, after the incorporation of the borough, as a member of the Douglas Town Council. He was raised to the aldermanic bench in 1898, became deputy mayor in 1901 and mayor in 1905. At one time or another he had been chairman of every committee and was appointed mayor for a second term of office during World War I for two successive years, from 1916 to 1918.

With an uninterrupted record of 37 years' service, first as a councillor, then as an alderman, he proved to be exceedingly fair in his desire to do all he could for the benefit of Douglas and the Island. In 1926 he was honoured by being the first Manxman to receive the Freedom of the Borough. He was only the second freeman, the other being Lord Derby [1924]. In the same year he was created a Justice of the Peace.

Alderman Faragher married Mona Quirk, the sister of the mayor-elect, and they later adopted a daughter, Mona Elizabeth. They were married in Victoria Street Church one morning after there had been a fire the previous evening in the Bon Marche store opposite the church. Bales of cloth and clothing had been carried into the chapel, so the nuptial knot was tied amongst the smell of burning cloth.

In addition to auctioning, J.T. Faragher conducted a thriving business as a seed merchant and a dealer in agricultural implements of every description, as did his son-in-law Jack Riley and his grandson, Raymond Riley. His premises consisted of a substantial five-storeyed warehouse, each floor always stacked with goods for farmers, gardeners and others. JT also acted as an agent for a number of firms such as the Cunard Steamship Company, the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Drogheda Manure Company.

In his latter years he was well-known around the town as a benign, cheery old gentleman, complete with patriarchal whiskers, who conducted open-air auctions at the cattle market in Heywood Place on Saturday mornings. He always had a cheerful word and a ready smile for everyone.

From the incorporation of the Town Council in 1896 he witnessed the appointment of every mayor of Douglas and he also accompanied every mayor to church on Civic Sunday. He became one of the local celebrities of the town and was affectionately known by the nickname 'Johnnie Philjermy'.

After being in feeble health for some time the 'Father' of the Douglas Town Council died aged 84 on 5th October 1931, at his home at 9 Adelaide Terrace, Douglas. There was a large and representative gathering at his funeral which bore testimony to the respect in which the Grand Old Man of Manx municipal life was held by all sections of the community. He is buried in the Douglas Borough Cemetery along with his wife, daughter and son-in-law.

Biography written by John Riley (great-grandson).

(With thanks to Culture Vannin as publishers of the book: Kelly, Dollin (general editor), ‘New Manx Worthies’, Manx Heritage Foundation/Culture Vannin, 2006, pp.171-3.)

Culture Vannin


Nationality: Manx

Gender: Male

Date of birth: 20 January 1847

Date of death: 5 October 1931


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