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Thursday, 15 January 2009
Philip Fargher
Topic: MilitiaRC - Rifle Clubs

Philip Fargher


Philip Fargher, 1912.

[From: Victorian Rifle Association Archives.]


Philip Fargher was born on 3 December 1859 at St. Marks on the Isle of Man.  He was one of a large family parented by a farmer, Philip Fargher and his wife Catherine (nee Brideson) of Greeba, who eked a living from the land and the sea.  After leaving home at 12 to become a cook on a “coaster” trading about the shores of the British Isles, in 1875 Fargher, aged 16, joined the crew of the tall sail “bluenose” [i.e., from Nova Scotia or having Nova Scotians as crew] ship Saxon King of 1,600 tons.  She sailed from Liverpool to Bombay and Calcutta.  A dispute with the ship’s captain in Calcutta led to the crew being fined, then docked a month of pay and given a month in a Calcutta jail. Discharged finally from the Saxon King, Fargher joined the crew of the Liffey, a big iron vessel with double topgallant yards and three skysails, bound for London via St Helena and Ascension Island.  He reached London after a voyage of 138 days from Calcutta.   

Fargher remained a deepwater sailor for a further 13 years after returning to England, visiting South America and Australia during that time.  His voyages included several ‘roundings’ of Cape Horn.  He left the sea in 1885 (a  newspaper report later gave the year as 1883), settling in Victoria after completing the first leg of a voyage. His first job was in charge of a mine winding engine on the Bendigo goldfields, at nights studying mechanical engineering at the Bendigo School of Mines.  Eventually he qualified as a steam engine driver, working at various mines in that capacity.   While in Bendigo, Fargher also volunteered for the Victorian Rifles militia.  After recruit probation he passed into "B" Company of its 4th Battalion, headquartered at Castlemaine, on 15 July 1885 (the 4th Battalion was retitled the 4th Victorian Regiment in 1890).    

In the Militia, Fargher quickly became known for his rifle-shooting skills – in fact he may have joined because of his ability with the rifle as the militia units were always on the lookout for marksmen to compete in their inter-company and inter-unit rifle matches.  Fargher was so good that by late 1886, as a Corporal, he was shooting in the VRA [Victorian Rifle Association] annual matches at Williamstown in Melbourne, where he was recorded as 68th out of 160 prize-winners that year and equal 23rd overall.  In late 1887 the now Sergeant Fargher (No. 531 Corporal Fargher was promoted after mid-year, 1887) was again noted as a prize-winner in the VRA annual matches, that year coming 53rd  out of 115 prize-takers and 16th overall.  On 22 May 1888, Sergeant Fargher transferred to the Reserve, effectively ending his uniformed service.  Many years later, in 1910, he would find himself in uniform once again – but never lost his military demeanour in the intervening years.


Shipboard Concert Card - Philip Fargher sings "Loris Low Sweet Song", 21 September 1897

[Click on page for larger version.]


In both 1889 and 1890, Fargher appears in the VRA annual report as a prize-taker – however as plain P. Fargher and with no mention of which Rifle Club he represented.  He may even have still been at Bendigo at this time.  As a reservist he could have still been shooting for the 4th Victorian Regiment, which was an active participant in the VRA team and inter-unit matches among militia and permanent forces (for example, it won the Representative Challenge Cup in 1889). In the 1889 VRA matches, Fargher was 8th out of 160 prize takers and in 1890, 26th out of 150.  In the early 1890s, he took a job as an engineer with the MTT (Melbourne Tramways Trust), which built engine houses and cables for Melbourne’s growing tram network. The purpose of the engine houses was to winch the underground cables that drew the trams along the streets.  Fargher worked in the tramway engine house at the corner of Gertrude and Nicholson Streets in Fitzroy for more than 10 years.  He also joined the MRC (Melbourne Rifle Club).

1892 saw Fargher reach personal success at rifle-shooting of the highest order when, shooting for the MRC at the annual VRA matches, he was the Victorian Queen’s Prize (with a score of 274 points) and Grand Aggregate Prize winner -essentially the best of all comers from Victoria, NSW, SA and Tasmania across the six nominated matches of the meet.  The Queen’s Prize, modelled on the British NRA prize of the same name, was an aggregated three stage match.  In 1893 he repeated his first prize in the Grand Aggregate, with 424 points, winning a second VRA Gold Medal. He also came second overall in the NRA Medal awarded to the highest aggregate scorer in the Representative Challenge Cup and first and second stages of the Queen’s Prize (he was 14th out of the Queen’s Thirty - the 30 riflemen to qualify for the third and final round). Adding to his laurels that year, he was a member of the winning Victorian team in the Inter-colonial match against NSW, SA, Tasmania and WA.  He top-scored for the team with 157, was the second prize-winner overall, 2nd outright out of 180 prize-takers and took home winnings of £44.   

Fargher married in 1894, the year he was the MRC Club Champion and just after his return from representing Victoria again in the Inter-colonial match.  His wife was Matilda Maude Blacker, a domestic also living in Fitzroy of Irish mother and English father from Morang, Victoria.  They married at St. Marks Church, Fitzroy on 12 December which was also Matilda’s 26th birthday.  “Tilly” and Philip set up house in Fitzroy where their children Eunice (1895) and Philip (1896) were born.  The family moved then to Northcote, north of Melbourne, where Douglas Brookwood Fargher (1899) was born.  From Northcote the family moved to North Carlton, an inner northern suburb of Melbourne where John Adrian (1901) was born.  With his birth the family moved yet again to Westgarth in Northcote where their last child, Lee William (1910) was born.   



Philip Fargher Diary entries for 7-9 June 1897

[Click on page for larger version.]


Rifle-shooting remained a real passion.  In the VRA matches of late 1895 he only won £8 in all but more important, he was elected a member of the VRA Council, beginning a long association with its governing body. In 1897 Fargher came 2nd in the VRA’s Queen’s Prize match.  That year and again in 1898 and 1902 he was chosen as a team member of the highly successful rifle shooting teams representing first Victoria, then Australia at the NRA matches at Bisley.  The Victorian team won the Imperial Challenge Cup (known as the Kolapore Cup after its donation by the Rajah of Kolapore as a prize in 1871) in 1897 and were runners-up in 1898.  The Australian team won in 1902, when matches resumed after the Boer War.  In 1902, following a highly credible 17th (out of nearly 2,000 competitors) in the Queen’s Prize match in 1897 and 16th in the Queen’s Prize shoot of 1898, Fargher also won a St. George Badge, which placed him among the very best rifle shots of the British Empire.  Between Bisley shoots, in 1899 he also won the NSW Grand Championship.  

Fargher supplemented his income as a part-time journalist and writer. A series of articles commissioned for the Advance Australia magazine describing the trip to Bisley in 1897 later became the basis for his 1898 book To Bisley and Back with the Kolapore Cup.  He also published seminal books on rifle shooting, his most well known being Hints on Rifle Shooting, published by Sands and Mcdougal in Melbourne and wrote a number of short story manuscripts including an account of his years at sea titled Deep Sea Sailor, which were never published.  With the Boer War, Fargher joined his fellow champion shot William Sloane in conducting a spirited newspaper correspondence on the issue of which rifle to re-equip the Victorian Forces and then the Contingents to South Africa. Meanwhile he kept up his skills with the rifle, becoming MRC Club Champion again in 1904 and winning a King’s Badge in 1901, 1902, 1903 and 1905.

An appointment in mid-1906 to the position of Secretary of the VRA at a salary of £250 a year (at a time when a workman’s wage was little more than £100 p.a.), in addition to his rifle shooting prizes, gave him a reasonable income.  It was also noted with pride back in the Isle of Man, where the Isle of Man Ramsey Courier and Northern Advertiser of 8 June 1906, quoting the Melbourne Argus, said:

Mr. Fargher, one of the most prominent rifle shots in Victoria, was appointed secretary to the Victorian Rifle Association, out of 182 applicants, at last night’s meeting of council …Mr. Fargher was born in the neighbourhood of Douglas and has several relatives resident there.  We have pleasure in congratulating our fellow countryman on his success, and will no doubt hear more about him.

The Fisher Labor Government introduced compulsory military training for all young Australian men in 1910 and Fargher was appointed Area Officer for the Northcote District with the rank of Lieutenant.  With the appointment, he was required to attend a School of Instruction for a period of six weeks (1 November to 15 December, 1910) at Albury, NSW. This new role also added a £150 p.a. allowance to his VRA Secretary’s income.  He held both posts until his death. With two posts to serve Fargher worked extremely hard in his usual way and, according to his son John, at home ‘drank very hard from a wicker-cased demijohn of whisky’.  


Draft by Philip Fargher for an article on subsidising rifle shooting.

[Click on page for larger version.]


Fargher’s sons all saw active service.  The eldest, Philip Fargher, who had joined the Victorian Railways’ Transportation Branch in 1913 as a junior clerk, enlisted in July 1915 after five years of service in Victoria with the 8th Militia Battalion.  He saw active service in France with the 6th Battalion.  He was wounded in action in 1916 and promoted to Company Sergeant Major, but then was gassed in June 1918 and died of his wounds soon after.  He was buried in France.  Another son, Douglas Brookwood Fargher (the name Brookwood after the train station near Bisley) enlisted in 1916 but was not allowed to leave Australia until he had turned 19.  He arrived in England in 1918 with reinforcements for the 39th Battalion and was deployed to France just after the death of his brother Philip.  He was wounded in action in 1918 but returned to Australia safely in 1919.  Douglas Brookwood Fargher served again in WWII including in New Guinea where he was awarded the DSO (Distinguished Service Order) and rose to Colonel.  His brother Lee William Fargher saw WWII service in the Middle East and the Pacific with Signals in the 7th, 4th and 3rd AIF Divisions. He was awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire) and rose to Lieutenant-Colonel.  Another son, John Adrian Fargher, a railway engineer, became the SA State Controller of Air-raid Shelters during WWII – and later earned an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography for his engineering career and contributions to public life.  

It was while Philip Fargher (junior) was at the front in France during WWI that his father died after suffering poor health for several months.  Fargher died at Northcote at the young age of 56 on 1 October 1916 with occupations given as ‘Secretary and Military Officer’. Before his own death on active service, Fargher’s  son Philip in his 1916 diary reveals that he only learnt of his father’s death on 4th November.  Douglas Fargher wrote of his father in 1949:

(He) was a fine man of strong character (who) would never flinch from doing what he considered to be his duty.  He was strictly truthful and I was witness of many examples of his physical courage.  It was his habit to tell of his adventures (as a young boy and at sea) every Sunday night.  

There is no doubt that the worldly and strong-minded Fargher was highly regarded – not just as an expert rifleman but also for his leadership skills.  For example, he was one of the very few civilians appointed to Area Officer roles with military rank in 1910.  Fargher’s obituary in The Age  noted that his death: ‘removes one of the most prominent and popular exponents of the art of rifle shooting in Australia’ while The Argus recorded: ‘Always a hard, but fair, fighter in matters pertaining to the welfare of riflemen he was greatly esteemed by all with whom he came in contact.’  Fargher was provided a military funeral and buried at Northcote.  His wife Matilda (“Tilly”) lived on to 1943.

Acknowledgement:  Reprinted with permission of the author, Andrew J. Kilsby, from his book, The Bisley Boys - The Colonial Contingents to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee 1897 - The Victorian Rifle Team, (Melbourne 2008). Copies of this book may be obtained directly from Andrew who may be currently contacted at:

kilsbya at optusnet dot com dot au

On this same theme, Andrew is currently researching for a PhD at UNSW@ADFA under the title Australian Defence and The Rifle Club Movement 1850-1926.  He would be interested to hear from anyone with information or interest around this topic. Please feel free to contact him.


Further Reading:

William De Passey

Militia - Rifle Clubs 


Citation: Philip Fargher

Posted by Project Leader at 12:38 PM EAST
Updated: Thursday, 15 January 2009 5:36 PM EAST
Sunday, 22 June 2008
Fargher - Hints on Rifle Shooting, Part 4
Topic: MilitiaRC - Rifle Clubs

At the beginning of the new century, the well known and top Australian rifle shooter,  P. Fargher of the Melbourne Rifle Club wrote the book called Hints on Rifle Shooting, published by Sands and Mcdougal in Melbourne. The text deals with all the problems people found with the commonly available service rifles employed in the first decade and beyond within the Australian military forces. As part of the Rifle Club Movement, shooting at rifle clubs was strictly carried out with the designated service weapon. This little book is a gem in detailing all aspects of the rifles from the shooter's point of view. To assist readers to fully understand the weapons used by the Mounted Rifles and Light Horse, the book will be serialised on this blog.

Fargher - Hints on Rifle Shooting, Part 1
Fargher - Hints on Rifle Shooting, Part 2
Fargher - Hints on Rifle Shooting, Part 3
This is Part 4.

If even the 6 lb. could be easily got, it would not be so bad, but it is a. notorious fact that almost every rifle issued from the armoury has a pull of from about 9 to 12 or 14 lbs., and generally a rough dragging pull at that. Accurate shooting appears to be the last thing armourers, and those who pass their work, think of, or they would not habitually supply volunteers with a rifle whose trigger requires a team of bullocks to pull it. It is marvellous how some of the militia shooting men ever hit the target when you come to examine the pull of their triggers.
When you get your new rifle, rub some bees-wax into the join between the barrel and the woodwork to keep out the water, and give the woodwork a liberal application of boiled linseed oil, well rubbed in with the hand, for the same purpose. Get good protectors for both fore and back sights; also a suitable cover, and take the utmost care of your rifle when travelling by rail, etc., to prevent its being knocked about. Never lay the rifle down in damp grass or even on the ground when it is hot, as a warped fore end will ruin the shooting qualities, of the best rifle ever made. Use the jointed rifle rest, which is sold for the purpose.
As the marking on the sights is very rarely correct, being sometimes as much as 100 yards out, the beginner should if possible get some experienced shot to try his rifle over the ranges on a fine day and mark the correct elevation for each range on the ladder with a deep scratch, and this must be looked on as the mean elevation for that rifle and ammunition. The old stager with the aid of his vernier, will, of course, soon find the "mean" of his rifle and carefully record it.


Before taking your place at the firing point, it is necessary to give some careful attention to the sights.
The foresight should be attended to at home, and carefully guarded from dust with a protector which covers it all round. There is much diversity of opinion among riflemen as to the best kind of foresight to use, and many devices are used to make it easy to define. Among many others are the "Bisley spot" and the "Miller's line." To put on the "spot" you blacken the whole sight, and then put a very small dot of white paint about half way up, and in the centre, of the barleycorn; the idea is to see the portion of the tip down to and including the "spot," over the bar when aiming. The "Miller's line" consists of a black sight with a white block and a thin white line running up the centre of the barleycorn nearly to the top. Another idea is to put a little blob of white on the tip, which is seen just over the bar in aiming, and a variation of this sight is to have a white spot at the base of the barleycorn and see the whole lot over the bar. This is known among shooting men as the "white tip," and is used by some very prominent shots in this colony.

Citation: Fargher - Hints on Rifle Shooting, Part 4

Posted by Project Leader at 1:31 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 22 June 2008 1:37 PM EADT
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Fargher - Hints on Rifle Shooting, Part 3
Topic: MilitiaRC - Rifle Clubs

At the beginning of the new century, the well known and top Australian rifle shooter,  P. Fargher of the Melbourne Rifle Club wrote the book called Hints on Rifle Shooting, published by Sands and Mcdougal in Melbourne. The text deals with all the problems people found with the commonly available service rifles employed in the first decade and beyond within the Australian military forces. As part of the Rifle Club Movement, shooting at rifle clubs was strictly carried out with the designated service weapon. This little book is a gem in detailing all aspects of the rifles from the shooter's point of view. To assist readers to fully understand the weapons used by the Mounted Rifles and Light Horse, the book will be serialised on this blog.
Fargher - Hints on Rifle Shooting, Part 1
Fargher - Hints on Rifle Shooting, Part 2
This is Part 3.

I would recommend beginners to get the Government rifle, and, when they have learnt to use it, if they have the money to spare, they might do worse than lay out eight or nine pounds in a target rifle of some well-known make. They will get a nice selected heart stock and carefully finished sights for that price.
One advantage of paying a good price for a private rifle is that it tends to make one more careful of his rifle, and its shooting qualities are likely to last longer on that account. If you buy a rifle of private make, see that it is of British manufacture and bears the Government Viewer's mark.
The fore end should be a bit of straight grained wood, and nicely fitted to the barrel. The bands should not be screwed up tight, but should be just tight enough to prevent them being moved easily with the hand. The foresight should be clean cut, evenly sloped on the sides, of medium thickness, and should have no burr or file marks on it. The sides of the ladder of the backsight should be perfectly parallel, so that the bar will fit it evenly all the way up and the bar should be just tight enough to ensure its not slipping with the shock of the discharge.
I spoilt a couple of long range scores at Sydney two or three years ago, and ruined my position in the Champion aggregate, through the ladder of my rifle being loose at the place the bar comes to at 800 and 900 yards, and for a time I failed to notice it had slipped down because it was all right at the middle ranges. This unevenness of the ladder may be caused by screwing up the ventometer too tight when putting on wind lines. The forecap should he square on top, not too thick, and the metal should be well gouged out in front of the V, which should be small, with bevelled edges. The top edge of the backsight should also be bevelled to a knife edge, and the bar should be straight and not capable of being tilted out of the horizontal line. The trigger pull should be short and clean, and there should be no suspicion of a move in it until it goes off. The pull should be as light as is permitted by the rules of rifle shooting, viz., 6 lbs. It should never be more than 6 lbs.
In my opinion 6 lbs. is much too heavy, and far better shooting could be done with a 5 lb. pull, which seems quite enough for safety.

Citation: Fargher - Hints on Rifle Shooting, Part 3

Posted by Project Leader at 3:26 PM EADT
Updated: Wednesday, 18 June 2008 3:56 PM EADT
Tuesday, 17 June 2008
Fargher - Hints on Rifle Shooting, Part 2
Topic: MilitiaRC - Rifle Clubs

At the beginning of the new century, the well known and top Australian rifle shooter,  P. Fargher of the Melbourne Rifle Club wrote the book called Hints on Rifle Shooting, published by Sands and Mcdougal in Melbourne. The text deals with all the problems people found with the commonly available service rifles employed in the first decade and beyond within the Australian military forces. As part of the Rifle Club Movement, shooting at rifle clubs was strictly carried out with the designated service weapon. This little book is a gem in detailing all aspects of the rifles from the shooter's point of view. To assist readers to fully understand the weapons used by the Mounted Rifles and Light Horse, the book will be serialised on this blog.
Fargher - Hints on Rifle Shooting, Part 1
This is Part 2.

The result is that, when aiming, the backlight of the M.-E. comes 3.25 inches nearer the eye than with the other rifles. To middle-aged and elderly men, who are getting a bit long-sighted, this is a drawback, as the lines on the backsight are more inclined to blur, but for men with normal sight it should not affect them much, and it is a very handy, compact little weapon, whose shooting qualities are first-class.
As soon as the bullet leaves the rifle it is acted upon by the force of gravity, which, of course, causes it to fall towards the earth; and the resistance of the air, which retards it in its flight towards the target. The bullet is also diverted a little to one side by what is known as "drift," which is caused by the spin of the bullet. In the M.-H. it is to the right on account of the twist of the rifling being from left to right: in the .303 the rifling is from right to left and the drift is therefore towards the left.
But as all these influences are constant, and accurately known to the maker of the rifle, they are allowed for in the sighting, and the ordinary rifleman need not worry about them. For those who would like to study the cause of drift, and the laws which govern the flight of projectiles, and many other scientific matters of interest to riflemen. I would recommend them to get "Target Shooting," by Capt. Foulkes, 'T A.; price 10s. 6d. In the discussion of windage, later on, the effect of drift is not considered, as it has really nothing to do with windage.


Having decided to take up rifle shooting as a pastime, and having joined a military corps or a rifle club, your next step is to secure a good rifle, and a very important step it is.
Military men who have a rifle served to them as part of their equipment should, if they can afford it, get one of their own to do their private and match shooting with.
It is a good thing to have a rifle for important shooting that does not get knocked about by the more or less rough handling a regimental weapon is subject to in the course of the dear.
There are two ways of getting a rifle, and there is a great variation in prices. You may buy a rifle from the Government for two or three pounds, or you may buy one of private manufacture for anything between seven and twelve pounds.

Citation: Fargher - Hints on Rifle Shooting, Part 2

Posted by Project Leader at 9:04 AM EADT
Updated: Tuesday, 17 June 2008 9:08 AM EADT
Sunday, 15 June 2008
Rifle Club Construction Works - 1910 Military Order No. 9, p. 18
Topic: MilitiaRC - Rifle Clubs

1910 Military Order No. 9, p. 18 amending Regulation 540.

While it may seem obscure, this is quite a significant Military Order in many ways. The key importance is the methodology of funding a Rifle Club and any additional works that might be attributed to maintaining the specific club.

In essence, Military Order states that if a Rifle Club wanted to undertake any type of capital work, apart from its own internal fund raising, it has access to a sum of up to 25% of the District grant allocation for a particular year.

Immediately the tensions within the system become obvious. The grant available for the District is a key consideration. Then the allocation of that grant needs to be offset against not only the application for funds but any ongoing activity that requires recurrent funding. In addition, it is up to the District Commandant to actually allocate those funds. Judging from the phraseology of the Regulation, this is at the discretion of the District Commandant.

One thing is obvious that the Military Order was designed to provoke these very tensions which would then act as a self regulating device with different layers of Rifle Clubs checking up on each other to ensure funds are distributed wisely and fairly. The Order envisages vigorous debate between the various tiers in order to secure these funds for capital works.

Citation: Rifle Club Construction Works - 1910 Military Order No. 9, p. 18 

Posted by Project Leader at 1:54 PM EADT
Updated: Sunday, 15 June 2008 2:10 PM EADT

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