Wednesday 15 March 2023

Ernest Bristow Farrar (1885 - 1918) – Scholar of the Royal College of Music. Composer and Organist.

Found by Historian Debbie Cameron while trying to find out more 

about the WW1 poet E.D. Farrer*

Ernest was born in Lewisham, London, UK in July 1885. His parents were the Rev. and Mrs. C. D. Farrar, of Micklefield Vicarage, Leeds, where the family moved in 1887, where his father was a clergyman. The rest of Ernest’s life was very much centred in the North of England, which had a thriving concert and recital tradition, particularly at the turn of the century. 

Ernest became involved in the thriving musical scene in Harrogate. He conducted the Harrogate Orchestral Society and was involved with the Harrogate Municipal Orchestra through his friendship with the flamboyant conductor Julian Clifford, who performed a number of his premieres, including the now-lost Orchestral Rhapsody No.2 ‘Lavengro’ in 1913, the extended orchestral fantasy The Forsaken Merman in 1914 and the Variations on an Old British Sea Song on Ernest's 30th birthday in 1915. 

Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the 3rd Battalion Devonshire Regiment on 27th February 1918,Farrar was posted to France on 6th September 1918.   When he arrived in France Ernest had briefly befriended the playwright and later broadcaster J.B. Priestley. He was granted leave in the summer of 1918 and returned to England, where he conducted the premiere of his final opus, the “Heroic Elegy”, at the Royal Hall in Harrogate. This piece was dedicated to his fallen comrades. 

Ernest returned to duty in September and was killed by machine gun-fire at the Battle of Ephey Ronssoy on the Western Front Farrar near Le Cateau in the Somme Valley, south west of Cambrai on 18th September, after just two days back in the Front Lines. Ernest was buried in Ronssoy Communal Cemetery, Grave Reference: B. 27. His grave lies just outside the churchyard wall in Ronssoy Communal Cemetery Extension, in a corner under a few trees.

Ernest’s obituary published in the “Musical Times”: ‘He was a musician of the highest ideals, and was devoted to the art he served so faithfully.’ Stanford, writing in the “Durham University Journal” wrote: “Farrar was one of my most loyal and devoted pupils. He was very shy, but full of poetry, and I always thought very high things of him as a composer, and lamented his loss both personally and artistically.”

Sources: Find my Past ranscript?id=GBM%2FLIVES%2F1200125

Debbie Cameron runs the Facebook Group Remembering British Women in WW1 – The Home Front and Overseas

Here is the poem Debbie found written by E.D. Farrer and published in "Forget=me-Not" Journal in 1914: