Warwick Fairfax was the most fascinating, complex figure this formidable family has produced. Fairfax editor John Douglas Pringle saw Warwick as “rather like a sensitive, intelligent, slightly neurotic don”. The Fairfax historian Gavin Souter described “a slightly gauche, dreamy patrician”.
He was not only the prevailing dynastic presence at John Fairfax for half a century but an alternately distant, commanding, admired, menacing, baffling, brooding presence in his eldest son’s life.
A philosopher, with a fascination for the doctrine of The Fall; an author, playwright, balletomane and cattle breeder, he also broke the Fairfax mould by taking three wives. James and his older sister, Caroline, were the children of Warwick’s first marriage, to Marcie Elizabeth Wilson (always Betty), daughter of David Wilson KC and Marcia Rudge.
When asked to describe her, an old friend simply said, “Cocktails and laughter.” Betty Fair, as she was known, was also a fond but distant figure to her son in his childhood (perhaps like many in their circle) but once James left school, she was a constant, charismatic presence in his life, loved by his friends and a perfect companion during his decades of travel.