Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Fair, Richard Edward (1907–1982)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Richard Edward Fair (1907-1982), actor and radio compère, was born on 17 November 1907 at Mosman, Sydney, son of Richard Edward Fair, a Canadian-born general contractor, and his second wife Emily Gertrude, née Kennedy, from Victoria. Brought up in his father’s North British Hotel, Circular Quay, he was educated at St Aloysius’ College (in 1916-23), and at St Ignatius’ College, Riverview. Dick recalled that his parents `were great theatregoers’; he studied voice production with Laurence Campbell and Scott Alexander, and attended Andrew McCann’s acting school.

At 19 Fair made his first stage appearance in the walk on (and off) role of a police photographer in The Terror. He played for about three years with the Maurice Moscovitch Company until it returned to New York. Finding work hard to get, he went on the road with Bert Bailey in The Patsy then joined a touring stock company. Back in Sydney he appeared with J. C. Williamson Ltd’s companies. He played in two films for Ken Hall, On Our Selection (1932) and The Squatter’s Daughter (1933), using the screen name `Grant Lyndsay’ in the latter. At St Mary’s Basilica, he married with Catholic rites Agnes Margaret McLeod on 23 September 1933.

In 1935 Fair joined radio-station 2SM. He soon took over the breakfast session and infused it with friendly humour, his `impromptu conversations with that plaintive cow, Strawberry, … being an especial delight’. Moving to 2GB in 1937, Fair sang in the Jack Davey show. He and Harry Dearth were released in 1939 at the request of the advertising agency J. Walter Thompson (Australia) Pty Ltd to handle the Sunday night Lux Radio Theatre and `Australia’s Amateur Hour’ on 2UE (later on 2UW). When Dearth joined the air force in 1942, Fair took over as producer.

Originally made in Sydney, `Australia’s Amateur Hour’ was later broadcast from all major cities; Fair with a staff of six travelled for eight months a year to audition some five thousand people and to rehearse the ten needed for each Thursday performance. His `deep, friendly, confident and confidential voice’ calmed `the fears of thousands of amateur performers’, according to People magazine. Six feet (183 cm) tall, `strongly built and maturely handsome’, he could cajole audiences into doing what he wanted. The show was immensely popular. He journeyed to Sydney to present the Lux Radio Theatre every Sunday night until Dearth returned in January 1946. Finding the travelling increasingly arduous, Fair resigned in 1950 and moved to 2UW.

From 1952 to 1955 Fair produced `Australia’s Hour of Song’ for 2UE; it was relayed over forty-nine stations. Famous guests, including Gladys Moncrieff and Peter Dawson, were paid £300 or £400 to sing; after some rehearsing, the audience sang the choruses. Fair continued at 2UE as an announcer with a mid-morning program of serials, commercials and `nattering’. From 1960 he produced freelance for 2CH for ten years before returning to 2GB in mid-1971 for a night music session.

Fair’s landlady had taken legal action in 1958 to evict him from the flat in her Vaucluse home on the grounds that he was `frequently drunk and disorderly’, that he lived at one time with a woman `not his wife’ (Mrs Peggy Pollock), that he had twice set fire to his bedding, and that he played the radio late at night `at full belt’. Emerging from court `battle-scarred but triumphant’, he remained in the flat until 1963. He shared his father’s interest in harness-racing and recalled often having driven for him, `in professional company’. Although he had lived mostly in the Eastern Suburbs, he supported the South Sydney (`Rabbitohs’) Rugby League team. In about 1974 he moved to the Methodist retirement village, Normanhurst. He died there on 20 July 1982 and was cremated. His daughter survived him, as did his mistress Dorothy White.

Select Bibliography

  • N. Bridges, Wonderful Wireless (1983)
  • Wireless Weekly, 11 Dec 1936, p 39
  • ABC Weekly, 5 Aug 1950, p 43
  • People (Sydney), 13 Jan 1954, p 29
  • Truth (Sydney), 16 Feb 1958, p 44, 9 Mar 1958, p 41, 6 Apr 1958, p 7
  • Daily Mirror (Sydney), 6 Mar 1958, p 6
  • Sun (Sydney), 19 July 1972, p 45
  • Sydney Morning Herald , 26 July 1982, p 11
  • series SP1762/1, items 83/1, 83/2 and 84/1 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Fair, Richard Edward (1907–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/fair-richard-edward-12474/text22437, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 21 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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