Charles Fairholm

Charles Ferm

Charles Ferm, Ferme, Farholme or Fairholm (1566–1617), was the principal of , Scotland.

Ferm was born in Edinburgh of obscure parentage. His name is spelled in divers ways; he signs himself ‘Carolus Pharum’ (after 1588), and ‘Chairlis Ferm’ (21 February 1605). Calderwood spells the name ‘Farholme.’ Adamson latinises it ‘Fermæus.’ He was brought up in the family of Alexander Guthrie, and entered the university of Edinburgh in 1584. In 1588 he graduated M.A., and in October of that year was an unsuccessful candidate for a regency. On 13 December 1589 he was authorised by the presbytery to preach, when necessary, in the second charge of the High Kirk, Edinburgh. He studied Hebrew and theology, and was elected regent in 1590, in which capacity he graduated a class of nineteen on 12 August 1593, and another of thirty-five on 30 July 1597. Among his pupils were John Adamson, Edward Brice, David Calderwood, Oliver Colt, professor of Latin at Saumur, and William Craig, professor of theology there.

In 1596 and again in 1597 ‘Mr. Charles Fairme’ was called to the proposed second charge at Haddington, but he preferred his college work. On 12 September 1598 ‘Mr. Charles Ferume’ preached in the High Kirk of Edinburgh, later in the same year he was reported as ‘gane to the north parts.’ He accepted the charge of , Aberdeenshire, incorporated in 1613 under the name of Fraserburgh, the intention of the patron, Sir Alexander Fraser (d. 1623), being that Ferm should be the head of a university which he was proposing to establish. Fraser obtained a royal grant (1 July 1592), confirming his possession of the lands of Philorth, and giving him powers to erect and endow a college and university. A ‘spacious quadrangular building’ was erected, of which Lewis traces the remains at the west end of Fraserburgh. In 1594 the project was approved by parliament, which on 13 Dec. 1597 endowed the university with the revenues of the parishes of ‘Phillorthe, Tyrie, Kremound, and Rathyn.’ The general assembly in 1597 sanctioned the appointment of Ferm as principal; but it appears that he expected to resign his pastoral charge. On 21 March 1600, Fraser having ‘refusit to intertaine a Pastour … vnlesse he vndertake both the said charges,’ the assembly enjoined Ferm to fill both offices.

Ferm's robust presbyterianism got him into trouble on the reconstitution of episcopacy. In October 1600 Peter Blackburn was appointed bishop of Aberdeen, with a seat in parliament. Ferm denounced this innovation. In February 1605 he appeared before the privy council with John Forbes, to justify their excommunication of the Earl of Huntly. He was a member of the general assembly which met at Aberdeen on 2 July, and was about to hold proceedings, contrary to the king's injunction. For this irregularity he was imprisoned (3 October) in Doune Castle, Perthshire, at his own expenses. On 24 October he was summoned to appear before the privy council, but would not own its authority in causes spiritual, and made his escape. He was again cited for 24 February 1607, appeared before the council on 20 May, and again escaped, hiding himself for four days in Edinburgh. After incarceration at Stirling, and again at Doune, he was ‘confynned in the Hielands,’ namely, in the island of Bute, and spent nearly three years in prison. He appears to have received the stipend of Philorth (82l. 17s. 9d.) in 1607, but not in 1608, in which year he suffered much privation. After 1609 he was restored to his parish and college, and the university maintained an existence till his death. He died on 24 September 1617, aged 51, and was buried in his church.


This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Ferm, Charles". Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1900 . London: Smith, Elder & Co.

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