Fairley, Robert (1854-1937)

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1928

Early years

Robert was born in 1854 at Dalkeith, Midlothian.

Robert was brought up amid Calvanism, and fought his way into Arminianism. At the age of fourteen, his parents moved to Haltwhistle, Northumberland. Robert was converted in 1869 and seven years later recommended for ministry.


Robert once described his life as, ‘A Scot by birth, an Englishman by accident, and an African by choice.’

In 1883, Robert received the missionary call and over a twenty year period he remained on the mission staff, serving five terms on the island of Fernando Po, with brief periods of home work between.

The outstanding features of his work at Santa Isabel include the erection of new church and hall in 1894, and two serious battles with the Spanish authorities and priests in 1889 and 1894 over the issue of schooling. In 1883, Robert was associated with Rev H Buckenham in founding the mission at Banni.

His obituary records that Robert had a distinctive personality, possessed a carefully cultured mind and soul, and was at home amid the deep things of God. By his faithful preaching, his wise and tender pastoral care, and his strong and tactful leadership, he won the love and confidence of the native people.

Robert’s wife played a full supporting role in his missionary work, in particular with the native women, with whom she earned the title ‘Mamma Fairley.’


Robert married Margaret Smith Dickson (1857-1928) in 1880 at Galashiels. Census returns identify three children.

  • Maggie Dickson (1881-1956) – married William Howard, a foreman stereotype and printer’s machinist (1911)
  • Nella Jane (1887-1978) – a school mistress (1911); married Thomas John McKenzie, a PM Minister and missionary, in 1922
  • Robina Fernando (1888-1972)

Robert died on 5 Jan 1937 at Brentford, Middlesex.


  • 1876 Redhill
  • 1877 Cheltenham
  • 1878 Liskeard
  • 1880 Wishaw
  • 1883 George’s Bay
  • 1885 Sudbury
  • 1886 Belfast II
  • 1888 St Isabel
  • 1891 Walworth
  • 1892 on way to Africa
  • 1893 St Isabel
  • 1894 Driffield
  • 1895 Cheltenham
  • 1896 Derby I
  • 1897 St Isabel
  • 1899 Castleford
  • 1900 Talke
  • 1903 W Africa
  • 1904 Chelmsford
  • 1907 Stroud
  • 1911 Woodfalls
  • 1914 Stewkley
  • 1918 Old Leake
  • 1919 Braintree (S)


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1912/170; 1917/757; 1928/717 (Margaret)

Methodist Minutes 1937/194

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers


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