Basic Biographical Details

Name: James Graham Fairley
Designation: Architect
Born: 1846
Died: 6 April 1934
Bio Notes: James Graham Fairley was born in 1846 at West Calder, the eldest son of William Fairley, millwright and engineer, and his wife Elizabeth Graham. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy and his training commenced with four years of practical building experience in his father's business. This was followed by an apprenticeship with Robert Thornton Shiells and four years in the office of Charles MacPherson, Edinburgh's City Engineer, during which period he attended classes in engineering at the University of Edinburgh. Fellow students in his classes at University included Charles Doyle, father of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Thereafter Fairley spent six months in London, working in the War Office as senior draughtsman to Sir Edmund Frederick du Cane in 1873 before setting up practice as an architect on his own account at 21 Rintoul Place, Edinburgh. At some point in his earlier years he travelled in France and Italy and was admitted ARIBA on 19 February 1877, his proposers being William Mackison (Dundee's Burgh Engineer), Robert Rowand Anderson and Edward Robert Robson.

In mid-1876 Fairley entered into a partnership with Alexander McCulloch whom he had known in the City Engineer's office. McCulloch was senior partner and based in Dundee and provided civil and structural engineering services, and Fairley was in Edinburgh at 1 (later 6) India Buildings, dealing mainly with the architectural work of the partnership. The formal partnership was brief, ending around 1880, but fairly continued to provide McCulloch with architectural services for at least another decade.

Fairley was advanced to Fellow of the RIBA on 13 June 1892, his proposers being John Bryce, William Mackison and Leslie Ower. His practice was primarily West Lothian and Dundee-based, but he also had connections in the United States where he designed two very large houses that have not been identified. Fairley's practice declined in volume after 1904 and from at least 1910 he practised from his house in Portobello. He retired completely in 1915, his sole work after that date being St Philip's Free Church Hall near his home. However, he continued to exhibit his designs at the Paris Salon, gaining an honourable mention in 1922 and a bronze medal in 1923.

Fairley travelled widely, particularly in Northern France, the architecture of which strongly influenced his Gothic work, and in Italy. He also travelled in South America. He was a prominent antiquary as a member of the Old Edinburgh and Rymour Clubs, and was also a member of the Scottish Geographical Society.

Fairley died at his home, the Bield, 47 Abercorn Terrace, Portobello on 6 April 1934. He left moveable estate of 3,992 1s 3d. Copies of portrait photographs and his sketches held by his daughter Miss J G Fairley, are in the NMRS.


'Plea for the Principle of Restoration', British Architect, 3 May 1878

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 721, Rintoul Place, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/business18731874House and office
Item 2 of 71, India Buildings, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 18751880(?) 
Item 3 of 76, India Buildings, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusiness18811904This is from RSA catalogues
Item 4 of 73, Bernard Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1908c. 1910Temporary address
Item 5 of 7The Bield/47, Abercorn Terrace, Portobello, Edinburgh, ScotlandPrivate/businessc. 1910c. 1933House and private office
Item 6 of 71, India Buildings, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1911  
Item 7 of 7122, George Street, Edinburgh, ScotlandBusinessc. 1912c. 1914 

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 6Robert Thornton Shiells18651869Apprentice 
Item 2 of 6Edinburgh Burgh Engineers Office/Edinburgh City Engineer's Department18691873Assistantunder Charles Macpherson
Item 3 of 6Charles Macpherson (or McPherson)18691873Assistant 
Item 4 of 6(Sir) Edmund Frederick du Cane18731873Senior Draughtsman 
Item 5 of 6War Office Architects Department18731873Senior DraughtsmanSenior Draughtsman - under du Cane
Item 6 of 6McCulloch & Fairley1876c. 1880Partner 

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 16George Alexander Pyottc. 1889Before 1897Assistant 
Item 2 of 16Charles Ernest HayLate 1880sEarly 1890sApprentice 
Item 3 of 16John Alexander Black18921896Apprentice 
Item 4 of 16David SharpeMarch 18921896Apprentice 
Item 5 of 16John Daniel Swanstonc. 1893c. 1894Assistant 
Item 6 of 16John SideyLate 1893Late 1896Apprentice 
Item 7 of 16Alexander Ross Lindsay18941898Apprentice 
Item 8 of 16Robert Matthew Mitchell18961898Junior Draughtsman 
Item 9 of 16John SideyLate 1896Late 1897Improver 
Item 10 of 16Robert Matthew Mitchell1897 or 18981898Chief Assistant 
Item 11 of 16Robert Dewar Nicol18981901Apprentice 
Item 12 of 16Robert Dewar Nicol19011903Assistant 
Item 13 of 16Alexander Anderson WatsonJune 1904Mid 1909Apprentice 
Item 14 of 16John Ramsay Armstrong19051910Apprentice 
Item 15 of 16John Stormont Porterc. 19071912Apprentice 
Item 16 of 16Alexander Anderson WatsonMid 1909May 1910Draughtsman 


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 6(Sir) Robert Rowand Anderson19 February 1877for Associateship
Item 2 of 6John Bryce II (or John Bryce (junior))13 June 1892for Fellowship
Item 3 of 6William Mackison19 February 1877for Associateship
Item 4 of 6William Mackison13 June 1892for Fellowship
Item 5 of 6Leslie Ower13 June 1892for Fellowship
Item 6 of 6Edward Robert Robson19 February 1877for Associateship

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 72 The BieldJoppa EdinburghScotlandFor himself - date unknown
Item 2 of 721871West Calder UP Church and ManseWest Calder MidlothianScotland 
Item 3 of 721874Broxburn Village Hall and InstituteBroxburn West LothianScotland 
Item 4 of 721875Victoria Hall  DundeeScotland 
Item 5 of 721876Rattray Street Baptist Church  DundeeScotland 
Item 6 of 721876SchoolArmadale West LothianScotland 
Item 7 of 721876Trinity EU Church  DundeeScotland 
Item 8 of 721877Improvement Act Tenements, Victoria Road  DundeeScotlandExecuted Aitken's design
Item 9 of 721877Tenement, Victoria Road  DundeeScotland 
Item 10 of 721877Tenement, Victoria Road and Infirmary Lane  DundeeScotland 
Item 11 of 721878School for Benhar Coal CorporationBenhar West LothianScotland 
Item 12 of 721878School for West Calder Ore CorporationWest Calder MidlothianScotland 
Item 13 of 721879Juniper Green Free ChurchJuniper Green EdinburghScotland 
Item 14 of 721879UP Church, PortobelloPortobello EdinburghScotlandUnsuccessful competition design
Item 15 of 721880Colinton and Currie Free Church  EdinburghScotland 
Item 16 of 721880St Mary's RC ChurchRatho EdinburghScotland 
Item 17 of 721881New Church near Edinburgh, Unidentified  EdinburghScotland 
Item 18 of 721881Pavilion at Corstorphine for Edinburgh University Athletic ClubCorstorphine EdinburghScotland 
Item 19 of 72c. 1882Bathgate Public SchoolBathgate West LothianScotland 
Item 20 of 721883Balerno UP ChurchBalerno MidlothianScotland 
Item 21 of 721883RC ChapelRatho EdinburghScotland 
Item 22 of 721884Co-operative StoresWest Calder MidlothianScotland 
Item 23 of 721884St Paul's ChurchLeith EdinburghScotlandNew design for church - executed
Item 24 of 721885RC SchoolBathgate West LothianScotland 
Item 25 of 721886'Selected Design for New Church'     
Item 26 of 721886Buccleuch Memorial and Science and Art SchoolHawick RoxburghshireScotland 
Item 27 of 721886High School for Girls  DundeeScotlandClaims to have worked with McCulloch although no longer in partnership officially
Item 28 of 721886SchoolLinlithgow West LothianScotland 
Item 29 of 721889Village ChurchBroxburn West LothianScotlandMcWilliam gives this date for the church in Station Road but that is clearly not correct. It must refer to the work in 1889-90 by James Graham Fairley on this church.
Item 30 of 721890Uphall Chapel of EaseBroxburn West LothianScotlandThis is incorrect. Date and architect from McWilliam. Must actually refer to a different church.
Item 31 of 721890Ward Road public gymnasium  DundeeScotlandDesigned by Fairley; executed by McCulloch
Item 32 of 721891CarshongalWest Calder MidlothianScotland 
Item 33 of 721891Glen Lodge  MidlothianScotland 
Item 34 of 721891St John's RC SchoolFauldhouse West LothianScotland 
Item 35 of 721892Edinburgh Free Library  EdinburghScotlandUnsuccessful competition design
Item 36 of 721892Kirkbrae House  EdinburghScotlandReconstruction as house for cab hirer James Stewart (stables at 6 Bell's Brae).
Item 37 of 72After 1892(?)West Calder Infants SchoolWest Calder MidlothianScotlandProbably responsible - with David Sharpe as apprentice
Item 38 of 721893Village ChurchBroxburn West LothianScotlandReconstruction and enlargement of church
Item 39 of 721894Addiewell Board SchoolAddiewell MidlothianScotland 
Item 40 of 721894EU Congregational Church, Marjoribanks StreetBathgate West LothianScotland 
Item 41 of 721894Free Church Mission Hall, UphallUphall West LothianScotland 
Item 42 of 721894UP Church  DundeeScotlandRemodelling
Item 43 of 721896Mayfield UP ChurchMayfield EdinburghScotland 
Item 44 of 721896St David's EU ChurchBathgate West LothianScotland 
Item 45 of 721897Sacred Heart RC ChurchCramond EdinburghScotland 
Item 46 of 721897Senior SchoolWest Calder MidlothianScotlandDesign exhibited
Item 47 of 721897Suburban Residence, Massachusetts  MassachusettsUnited States of America 
Item 48 of 721898St Patrick's RC Church  EdinburghScotlandInterior realignment and new chancel
Item 49 of 721898Suburban Residence, Washington  Washington, DCUnited States of America 
Item 50 of 721899Bathgate Town HallBathgate West LothianScotlandDesign exhibited
Item 51 of 721899Business Premises, West CalderWest Calder MidlothianScotland 
Item 52 of 721900Broxburn UP ChurchBroxburn West LothianScotlandProposed new church
Item 53 of 721900Highland Country House   ScotlandProposed addition
Item 54 of 721900Linlithgow AcademyLinlithgow West LothianScotland 
Item 55 of 721901Bathgate Co-operative Society buildingBathgate West LothianScotland 
Item 56 of 721901Blackridge ChurchBlackridge West LothianScotland 
Item 57 of 721901Public SchoolLivingston West LothianScotlandAdditions
Item 58 of 721903St Paul's ChurchLeith EdinburghScotlandAlterations - sanctuary deepened
Item 59 of 721904St David's EU ChurchBathgate West LothianScotlandFurther work?
Item 60 of 721904Torphichen Street Board SchoolBathgate West LothianScotland 
Item 61 of 72c. 1904Dreadnought HotelBathgate West LothianScotland 
Item 62 of 72c. 1904Hartwood UF Church  West LothianScotland 
Item 63 of 72c. 1905Inch HouseBathgate West LothianScotland 
Item 64 of 721909Bellsquarry SchoolLivingston West LothianScotland 
Item 65 of 721909Cross TavernWhitburn West LothianScotland 
Item 66 of 721910Mayfield UP ChurchMayfield EdinburghScotlandCompletion
Item 67 of 721910Solsgirth House  ClackmannanshireScotlandRestoration and additions
Item 68 of 721910St David's EU ChurchBathgate West LothianScotlandDesign exhibited
Item 69 of 721911SchoolArmadale West LothianScotlandLarge extension - much larger than original building of 1870s.
Item 70 of 721913Design for Public Memorial    Design exhibited
Item 71 of 721913St David's EU ChurchBathgate West LothianScotlandDesign exhibited
Item 72 of 721924St Philip's Free Church Hall  EdinburghScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 3Gorman, James2010St David's Church, Bathgate and its architect J Graham Fairley   
Item 2 of 3Post Office Directories     
Item 3 of 3Who's Who in Architecture1923    

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 4British Architect3 May 1878  'Plea for the Principle of Restoration', written by Fairley
Item 2 of 4Builder17 April 1934  Obituary
Item 3 of 4RIBA Journal7 July 1934v41London: Royal Institute of British Architectsp890 - obituary
Item 4 of 4Scotsman16 April 1934  Obituary

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2National Monuments Record of Scotland/NMRS, RCAHMSCollection of personal papers of J Graham Fairley Relate to attendance at Edinburgh Academy (although he does not appear in Edinburgh Academy Register) and the University of Edinburgh and exhibiting at Le Salon, Paris 1922 and 1923
Item 2 of 2RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Nomination Papers A v5 p127, microfiche 21/D5; F v11 p125, microfiche 113/B1