Fairborne, Palmes (DNB00)

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FAIRBORNE, Sir PALMES (1644–1680), governor of Tangier, was the son of Colonel Stafford Fairborne of Newark (Harl. Soc. Publ. viii. 268–9), and probably related to the Yorkshire family of that name. When a lad he fought as a soldier of fortune in the defence of Candia (Crete) against the Turks (a siege which lasted on and off for twenty years, 1648–69), and, in token of the valour he there displayed, a Turk's head was afterwards included in his arms (see grant or confirmation of arms, about 1677, Grants, iii. 63, by Sir H. Norroy). At the age of seventeen Fairborne was back in England (Keepe, Mon. Westmonasteriensia, p. 6366; epitaph on monument). In the autumn of 1661 he enlisted as a captain in the newly formed regiment called the Tangier Regiment of Foot, afterwards the 2nd Queen's, now the Queen's West Surrey Regiment. The regiment mustered one thousand strong, besides officers, on Putney Heath, 14 Oct., and sailed to garrison Tangier, under the command of the Earl of Inchiquin, in January 1662 (see for these and other details Colonel Davis's history of the regiment). During the next eighteen years Fairborne took a prominent part in the defence of Tangier, which was exposed to constant attacks from the Moors, receiving the honour of knighthood for his services (Luttrell, Rel. of State Affairs, i. 36). By 1664 he had risen to the rank of major. In 1667 he fought a duel with a brother officer, which threatened to have a fatal termination had they not been separated and forced into a reconciliation. The account Fairborne gives of the place in his letters home is deplorable; in 1669 he writes: ‘Tangier never was in a worse condition than at present. I hope some care is taken to remedie this, or else the Lord have mercy upon us’ (Colonel Davis, i. 95, &c.). The soldiers were often in want of stores and victuals, and constant desertions took place. Fairborne rode on one occasion alone into the enemy's lines, and brought a deserter back in triumph on his horse (26 Dec. 1669). In May 1676 he was made joint deputy-governor in the absence of the Earl of Inchiquin, and on the death (21 Nov.) of his coadjutor, Colonel Allsop, he had the sole command for the next two years. Under Fairborne's firm and wise rule great improvements took place both in the discipline of the garrison and in the construction of the mole for defence of the harbour. But the pay being two years and a quarter in arrears, disturbances occurred among the soldiers. In December 1677 a serious mutiny took place, which Fairborne promptly quelled; wrenching a musket from the leading mutineer, he shot him dead on the spot. He afterwards wrote home regretting that any man should have fallen by his hand, but hoped that the king would not condemn his zeal in his service (ib. i. 122). In the spring of 1678 he went to England. Two years after, 25 March 1680, the Moors, under their emperor, Muley Hassan, blockaded Tangier, and Fairborne returned early in April to conduct the defence as sole governor and commander-in-chief. In July a new governor, the Earl of Ossory, was appointed over Fairborne's head, in Inchiquin's place. Fairborne petitioned in August that ‘the small pittance of 500l. per annum allowed him as commander-in-chief might not be taken away, nor yet his pension, as things at Tangier are three times as dear as in England, and he had not received a farthing of pay’ (ib. i. 158–60). Ossory died on 30 July, and Fairborne remained as sole defender of Tangier. The Moors made a desperate attack in October. On the 24th the governor, riding out of the town to inspect the defences, took part in a slight skirmish and was mortally wounded by ‘a chance shot,’ according to his epitaph, but an account of the engagement says that ‘being a man of undaunted spirit, in courage and resolution fearing nothing, but still riding in every place of danger to animate his soldiers, and never changing his horse, the enemy did know him, and firing often, with an unfortunate and fatal shot wounded him mortally’ (see account of his death, ib. i. 171, &c.). After three days' fighting, which the dying governor watched from a balcony, the Moors were forced to raise the siege and repulsed with great loss, while Fairborne, lingering till evening (27 Oct.), saw his victorious troops march into the town. An account is given of his dying speech in a paper called ‘The Tangiers Rescue,’ by John Ross, 1681, and all agree in calling him a ‘worthy, able, and brave officer’ (Shere's Diary; Tangier State Papers, No. 30, 27 Oct. 1680, p. 254), ‘a man of undaunted resolution and spirit,’ and ‘of indefatigable diligence’ (Davis, i. 177). By his wife, Margaret Devereux (first married to a Mr. Mansell), he left a large family in great poverty, but early in 1681 the king granted Lady Fairborne an annuity of 500l. (Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. iv. 351); their eldest son, Stafford [q. v.], became a knight and rear-admiral. Lady Fairborne afterwards remarried (Paston, son of the first Earl of Yarmouth). She died in 1698, and was buried in Westminster Abbey (Chester, Abbey Registers). She erected a monument in the nave of the abbey to Fairborne, with an epitaph by Dryden recounting his exploits. Three years after Fairborne's death Tangier was abandoned to the Moors, and the costly fortifications razed to the ground.

[History of the 2nd Queen's, now the Royal West Surrey Regiment, by Lt.-col. John Davis, vol. i. passim; Addit. MSS. 15892, f. 90, and 17021, f. 14, &c.]

E. T. B.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.120
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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125 ii 7 Fairborne, Sir Palmes: for Tangiers read Tangier and so throughout the article.