Sir George Herbert Farrar

1st Baronet, DSO (17 June 1859 – 20 May 1915)

Born on 17 June 1859, SIr George Herbert Farrar was the son of Charles Farrar, a Chatteris medical doctor, and Helen Howard, the daughter of John Howard of Cauldwell House Bedford and sister of Sir Frederick Howard of Bedford and James Howard MP of Bedford.

Sir George Herbert Farrar

George Herbert Farrar was educated at Bedford Modern School after which he joined Howard, Farrar & Co., the engineering business of his uncle, Sir Frederick Howard. He travelled to South Africa in 1879 to work at the firm’s branches in Port Elizabeth and East London. He was the brother of John Percy Farrar, soldier and famed mountaineer.

In 1887, shortly after the discovery of gold on the Rand, he and his brothers established themselves in Johannesburg. Here he became one of the leading figures in the mining sector on the East Rand. He formed the East Rand Proprietary Mines (ERPM) company, remaining chairman of the company throughout his life.

In 1893 Farrar sold 1,300 claims to ERPM and received ERPM shares to the value of £705,000 for his claims in the south of Boksburg, excluding Boksburg Lake. He later received further ERPM shares for his claims over Boksburg Lake, and became the effective controlling shareholder of ERPM.

He was a member of the Legislative Assembly of Transvaal and Leader of the Opposition.

For his part in the Jameson Raid he was sentenced to hang, but the sentence was commuted to imprisonment and then again to a fine of £25,000. During the Anglo Boer War, he raised two regiments of South African Horse, and on 1 December 1900 was appointed Major in the Kaffrarian Rifles. He did further duty in the Orange River Colony, took part in the Defence of Wepener and saw further action at Wittebergen, south of the Orange River.

He was mentioned in despatches and was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with 4 clasps, a DSO for his military service during the Anglo Boer War and was knighted in November 1902.

Following the end of the war, he became chairman of the Chamber of Mines. Farrar was an ardent supporter of the scheme to solve the labour problems of the mines by importing poorly paid Chinese workers on 3-year contracts.

Despite strong opposition from both the Boers and the Uitlanders, the plan was implemented in 1904 and more than 60,000 Chinese were brought into the country over the next three years. This resulted in further ethnic tensions on the Rand.

With Transvaal attaining autonomy in 1906, Farrar represented Boksburg East in the Legislative Assembly and was leader of the Opposition. He represented Georgetown in the first parliament of the Union of South Africa in 1910–11 and was created a baronet on 2 February 1911.

In December 1911, Farrar withdrew from politics and devoted all his time to his enterprises on the East Rand. With the outbreak of World War I, he was visiting England and about to join the staff of General Sir Hubert Hamilton in Belgium, but instead was ordered to German South West Africa as Assistant Q.M-General to Brigadier-General Duncan McKenzie’s force with the rank of Colonel.

From Lüderitz Bay he was in charge of the restoration of the railway and of supplying the forces with water, critically important in the semi-desert region.

On 19 May 1915 while returning from a tour of inspection, his motor trolley collided with a construction train at Kuibis, and he died from his injuries the following day.

Farrarmere, a suburb of Benoni in the East Rand of Johannesburg is named after him as his hunting lodge was located there.

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