Fairlie was born in Ayr, 20th May, 1859, but came to Maybole with his father
when he was a child of eight years old. John and his younger brother Hugh were
sent to the West Church School in Whitehall Street, then under the charge of Mr
William Smith, who afterwards died a missionary in India. They also attended our
Sabbath School; but beyond being bright, kindly lads, there was nothing
particular about them that I remember.
1870, the family emigrated to Scranton, Penn., America. The boys there were put
to work, and earned a good wage by packing biscuits. In 1874, they found their
way back to Maybole again, where the father purchased a house in Welltrees
Street, and commenced business as a baker on his own account, Hugh serving his
apprenticeship with his father, and John with Mr Campbell, High Street.
now became a Sabbath School teacher, a leading member of the Temperance and
Debating Society, a diligent reader in the Sabbath School Library, an assistant
at the Savings Bank, and even a member of the Church Choir, although his
effective aid there was but small. One day, when he was about twenty-two years
of age, he came to me with a letter in his hand, saying, that he had offered
himself to Mr Guinness of London, who prepared young men for Foreign Mission
work, and had been accepted. I said I thought it might be better if he were to
qualify himself more perfectly by going to College, in which case I would lend
him a hand. He at once accepted the offer, and went to Glasgow University.
the College vacations, he came home and wrought with his brother at the baking.
One summer he spent in America; other summers he acted as missionary at
Craigellachie, Banffshire; while, during the last year of his course, he was
appointed missionary under the charge of the University Missionary Society. The
manner in which he received the appointment to the New Hebrides was as follows.
He had been pleading the cause of the University Missionary Society as a student
before St. Paul’s congregation, Glasgow. In the vestry, at the close of the
service, a young man introduced himself as a son of Dr Paton now in the New
Hebrides. Mr Fairlie said that he would be glad to go there too. And this remark
was remembered by the young man when, a few months later, the licentiate who had
been appointed to the New Hebrides, withdrew. In this way, Mr Fairlie’s name
was brought before the Rev. Mr Watt of Tanna, and his appointment made Mr Watt
incidentally mentioned to me that he was delighted when he heard that Mr Fairlie
belonged to the Established Church, as that now made the "Evangelical
Alliance" complete, so far as the New Hebrides were concerned.
Fairlie has many missionary qualifications. He has a good strong physique to
begin with. Then he has an average share of handiness at mechanical work. He is
also blessed with good sense, kindliness, and patience to a degree above most. I
don’t think he will be easily daunted either, but exhibit the native dournes
of the Scotch character in its good aspect. He will be honest too, and tell
us an unvarnished tale regarding his experiences. Above all, I believe his heart
is in the work, and that the Spirit of God is with him. With these
qualifications of grace, grit, and common sense, I trust, with God’s
blessing, he will be used for good where he goes, and reflect no discredit on
the town of his upbringing.
Mr Fairlie left Maybole, the townspeople, at a public farewell meeting,
presented him with a purse of forty-two sovereigns, wherewith to purchase a boat
on Ambrym (the island on which he is to be stationed), arid which he promised to
call the "Maybole." On that occasion too, the following verses were
read, as the God-speed of an old Miniboler to this young brother going out to
in God’s name we come to greet thee here;
Christ’s warrior art thou!
Go forth to battle without sword or spear,
Or helmet on thy brow.
Thy heart is saddened at earth’s sin and shame;
Go forth to battle in the Lord’s great name!
bless lone Ambrym—fight the good fight there,
But fight it on thy knees;
Faith, Hope and Love—and Love’s unwearied Prayer,
These were the weapons that the Saviour drew,
Be these the weapons of thy warfare too.
forth and sow, although thou sow in tears;
Think of the Harvest-home!
Bring sheaves for Jesus; through the toilsome years
His heathen sons shall come
And bow in homage to their new-found King;
Dark Ambrym’s first-fruits unto Jesus bring.
not, O brother, though the boughs be bare,
God coineth with His Spring!
Rich blossoms shall perfume the sunny air,
And happy birds shall sing:
Fear not Goliath with his haughty look,
God gives His Davids stones from out the brook.
Note.—I regret very much to add here that
through an attack of congestion of the lungs, Mrs Fairlie has been laid aside,
and the day of their sailing indefinitely postponed. Everything was ready for
the voyage. Their passage money had been paid, their outfit bought and packed,
and they had gone round to take leave of their friends—when lo this arrestment
has been laid on their movements. It is hard to wait in darkness; but we have
often to do so in life, for the trial of our faith. May God give light to our
young friends, and bless to them this saddening dispensation!