Peregrine Fairfax

Peregrine Fairfax, was a soldier, countryman and farmer who embraced concern for the environment long before it became the fashion.

Born in London on March 8 1925, Peregrine John Wishart Fairfax (Pery) was the second son of the American-born 12th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, who became a naturalised British citizen at the turn of the last century .

Peregrine Fairfax
Peregrine Fairfax with Flukey, Weasel and Meg
Pery was brought up in London and at Comarques, the family’s farm on the Essex-Suffolk border. From an early age he was an animal lover, having been introduced to a menagerie of pets by an uncle.  As a boy, Pery had a range of animals including kinkajous, night monkeys (dourouculis), wood ants and black and white rats. All the animals ran free in the boy’s bedroom (with the exception, one suspects, of the wood ants!)
On leaving Eton in 1943 he joined the Army, and a year later, after being commissioned in front of General Eisenhower, he was leading a troop of the 12th Royal Lancers as part of the reconnaissance screen at the head of Allied Forces on their advance north through Italy.

As the commander of a reconnaissance team of Italian partisans, Pery was said to have been the first Allied soldier to cross the rivers Panaro and Po. In April 1945, by now a captain, he was with the 12th Lancers when they entered Venice, and his troop was part of the squadron that liberated Trieste, bringing hostilities in northern Italy to an end. After the war he served in Palestine, where his commanding officer decided to bring back the correct uniforms for parades. Pery accordingly mounted the Guard in blues, pouch belt, sword, overalls and spurs. Completing the parade, he did a smart about-turn, crossed his spurs and fell headfirst into a coil of barbed wire.

Even during his military service, Pery was rarely without some form of animal companion, and kept a black and white rat in his armoured car – the creature met its end in Palestine, allegedly eaten by a hungry local after his bedding roll fell off the back of Fairfax’s daimler armoured car.

After being demobbed in 1949, Fairfax read Agriculture at Trinity College, Cambridge, before a spell working at Sandringham, the Royal estate in Norfolk. There he became a lifelong friend of Angus Ogilvy, and was best man at Ogilvy’s wedding to Princess Alexandra in Westminster Abbey in April 1963.

Pery inherited the family farm at Comarques, but his fear of creeping urbanisation led him, in the 1950s, to search for a more agreeable base. He sold Comarques in 1955 and bought Mindrum in north Northumberland, a 1,200-acre farm . He also bought East Benula, a deer forest in Ross, where he pursued his love of stalking .PJF sheep

Perry continued his association with the Army as commander of “A” Squadron of the Northumberland Hussars, based at Ashington. There he was able to indulge his passion for lurchers and longdogs as the long-serving president of the Ashington Lurcher Society .

He also travelled widely, accompanying his friend the adventurer and travel writer Peter Fleming on a tour of Russia in the late 1950s in a battered old car, the boot crammed with oranges and copies of Playboy magazine as currency.

G-R fraser and pjf sheep
George Fraser (assistant shepherd) +”Kep”, Peregrine Fairfax (Farmer), Robert Fraser (Head Shepherd). Press photograph in Twinley Moss following winning the National Lambing Competition.

But Mindrum was the centre of Pery’s life. He was one of the first to import Charolais cattle into Britain, and combined farming with a passion for planting mixed woodland .  In 1960, along with famous Shepherd Bob Fraser, the Mindrum Flock won the coveted national lambing competition.

Long before such a view became commonplace, Pery was adamant that farmers should do all they could to protect wildlife, and during the 1970s he resisted government pressure to increase production at the expense of the environment.

Pery enjoyed life, and was always ready to have fun at the expense of those he felt were taking themselves too seriously. One of his bachelor party tricks at Mindrum was to dress for dinner, accessorised with a pair of white ferrets down his trousers. When he stood up, their red eyes would shine out from his nether regions in the candlelight. He abhorred the trend towards political correctness, but was unfailingly polite.

He served as High Sheriff of Northumberland in 1971

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