Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Adrian Fargher (1901–1977)

by Deane Kemp and John Pickles

This article was published:

John Adrian Fargher (1901-1977), engineer, was born on 13 January 1901 at North Carlton, Melbourne, fourth child of Philip Fargher, an engineer from the Isle of Man, and his Victorian-born wife Matilda Maude, née Blacker. Educated at Fairfield State School, John won scholarships to Melbourne High School and the University of Melbourne (B.C.E., 1924; M.C.E., 1926). In May 1923 he joined the construction branch of the Victorian Railways and six months later transferred to the South Australian Railways as a structural draftsman. He assisted R. H. Chapman in the design and construction of a new railway bridge at Murray Bridge and in 1924 was promoted to civil design engineer. On 27 February 1926 at the Methodist Church, Northcote, Melbourne, he married Elsie Pearl French.

Back in South Australia, Fargher designed a new jetty at Wallaroo, planned and supervised the duplication of parts of the Adelaide-Murray Bridge railway line, and was responsible for the construction of a marshalling yard at Dry Creek in 1927-29. His papers, 'Stresses in the walls of elevated cylindrical tanks of reinforced concrete' (1930) and 'Temperature stresses in welded railway track' (1933) were published in the journal of the Institution of Engineers, Australia, of which he was a member. He also belonged to the Australian Institution of Transport. Having planned works for Port Pirie's railway, he was involved with R. J. Bridgland in designing the University Foot Bridge (1937) over the River Torrens in Adelaide and the Birkenhead Bridge (1940) over the Port River at Port Adelaide.

During World War II Fargher's office was commandeered by the Department of Munitions and he was given the task of developing standardized building designs for works at Hendon, Finsbury and Penfield. Appointed State controller of air-raid shelters, he published a paper on the subject in the Journal of the Institution of Engineers, Australia (1940). In 1946 he was promoted assistant to Chapman, who was then S.A.R. commissioner, and succeeded him in 1953. Railways were changing from steam to diesel-electric locomotives, and Fargher was the driving force in converting the S.A.R.'s technology and system. He wrote another paper, 'Diesel railway traction in South Australia', for the J.I.E.A. (1955). At the same time, he made considerable efforts to forge harmonious relations with the many unions involved in railway operations. In 1957 he was appointed C.M.G. and travelled in North America studying railway developments. He retired in 1966.

An august and imposing man, Fargher was 6 ft 2 ins (188 cm) tall, with a large head, piercing blue-grey eyes and, from the age of 30, silver hair. He maintained an intellectually disciplined approach to everything he did. His incisiveness and his intolerance of weak-minded or sloppy methods caused him to be held in awe by many, and in deep respect by the few who knew him well. He had played cricket before taking up golf; he enjoyed music, played the piano and was widely read; his love of learning never deserted him and his interest in the world was broad and inquiring. Survived by his wife, son and one of his two daughters, Fargher died on 16 November 1977 in St Andrew's Hospital, South Terrace, Adelaide, and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • D. A. Cumming and G. C. Moxham, They Built South Australia (Adel, 1986)
  • Parliamentary Papers (South Australia), 1966-67 (47)
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 25 Mar 1939, 1 Jan 1957, 18 Mar, 8 July 1957, 12 Dec 1961, 10 Jan 1966
  • Mail (Adelaide), 31 Mar 1956
  • News (Adelaide), 12 Dec 1961
  • private information.

Citation details

Deane Kemp and John Pickles, 'Fargher, John Adrian (1901–1977)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 27 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


13 January, 1901
Carlton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


16 November, 1977 (aged 76)
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.