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Robert Fargher (1803-1863)

Democratic Reformer

Journalist and founder of the Mona's Herald. Relentless campaigner for democratic elections.
 
Robert Fargher was born in Maughold in 1803. After working for a few years as a secretary in London, he returned to the Isle of Man in his late teens to become an apprentice at the rightwing newspaper the Manks Advertiser.  Soon afterwards, Fargher became involved in the Methodist Revivalist movement.  As his views became more radical, his work for the Advertiser grew distasteful to him, so in 1833, he persuaded William Walls, a fellow printer, to start up a new newspaper with him, which they named the Mona’s Herald.3.1. Fargher.png
 
The Mona’s Herald was designed to be ‘the organ of political reform, nonconformity, and temperance.’ Fargher used it to criticise relentlessly the ‘Castletown clique’, the Manx establishment, and particularly the self-elected House of Keys with its private meetings. Fargher launched a campaign for electoral reform in the autumn of 1837, collecting 1032 signatures.  Having threatened that the petition could result in the incorporation of the Island into the UK, Governor Ready reluctantly forwarded it to Westminster, but it did not receive any attention there.
 
Over the next few decades, Fargher was called before the House of Keys a number of times, most often for his clashes with G.W. Dumbell, who was a lawyer, Member and Secretary of the House of Keys, as well as one of the partners of the failed bank Isle of Man Joint Stock Bank.  The publication of three anonymous ‘letters to the editor’ in the 1840s and 50s resulted in a series of acrimonious libel actions taken against Fargher by Dumbell, in two cases leading to Fargher’s imprisonment in Castle Rushen.  Both times, aware of the unlawful nature of his imprisonment, Fargher created trouble for the authorities by refusing to leave, despite the fact that the money for his fine had been quickly raised by well-wishers. He continued to write articles for the Herald from his cell.
 
Fargher died on 12th August 1863, and as such did not live to see his dream of a freely elected House of Keys fulfilled.  It is, however, a testament to his revolutionary thinking that one of the arguments used by Fargher in 1844—namely that the Keys should not be allowed financial authority due to its status as an unelected body—was later used by Governor Loch in 1866 to ensure electoral reform.

Political pioneer and patriot