The 1886 Ferguson & Urie Company Dinner

The principals of the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company were known to have held company dinners for their employees in the years 1886, 1887, and 1888. At each of the dinners, a reporter from the “North Melbourne Advertiser” was invited to each occasion to document the proceedings. Each occasion was published in extraordinary detail in the North Melbourne Advertiser and represents a fantastic insight into the company history and the employees.

North Melbourne Advertiser, Friday 16th April 1886, page 3


On Friday evening[1] a banquet was given in the Mechanic’s Institute, Hotham[2], by Messrs Ferguson and Urie[3], of Collins street[4], to Mr. John Scott[5], who for the last 20 years has been in their employment, and is now enabled to make a short trip to Europe on pleasure and business combined. Mr. James Urie[6] presided, and on his right was the guest of the evening, Mr. John Scott, and on his left Councillor Barrett of Flemington, and Mr. Allan Scott (G. Stevenson’s). At the other end of the table sat vice-chairman, Mr. A. Young[7], and over 30 of the employės and a number of guests were present. The menu was of a most elaborate character, and included all the good things common to a well appointed table. After dinner had been disposed of the chairman rose and proposed the toasts of ‘The Queen’[8] and ‘The Governor,’[9] both of which were drunk with enthusiasm. The chairman next proposed ‘The Parliament of Victoria’, which he considered should be allowed a fair trial, as peace and quietness was much better than strife and turmoil and with such able men as Messrs Gillies and Deakin at the head of the government there was every reason to believe that the country would continue to prosper. The toast was drunk with musical honours, accompanied with ‘Pull Together Boys’.

The Vice-chairman (Mr. A. Young) then on behalf of the employės presented Mr. John Scott with a very handsome diamond locket as a mark of the high esteem in which he was held by them. In making the presentation Mr. Young addressed a few words of good advice to the recipient, whom he strongly recommended to become a Benedict so that he could hand down the locket to his family as an heirloom.

Mr Charles Hardess[10] by request sang ‘Sailing’. Mr. John Scott in responding said that the presentation was the more welcome from its being so unexpected. When he made up his mind to take a holiday, he had no idea that Messrs Ferguson and Urie would give him such a splendid banquet or that his fellow employės would present him with such a handsome locket. He could hardly find words to sufficiently express what he then felt but he assured them that he would always remember with gratitude the many kindness which he had experienced both from the firm he was proud to say he had served for 20 years, and also from his fellow employės.

Mr Allan Scott sang, ‘Thinking of home’, with good effect. The Town Council of Hotham, and kindred municipalities was proposed by Mr. A. Scott, coupled with the name of Cr. Barrett.

Mr. James Lillas[11] sang ‘Never give in’. Cr. Barrett in replying said he was very glad to be present on so important an occasion and considered that gatherings of the kind were most beneficial as well as enjoyable as they tended to bring both employers and their employės together. He was not going to talk politics as he did not think it would interest them just then, but instead would recommend them to think of the appropriate song they had just heard entitled ‘Never give in’ and if they followed out that maxim, no doubt success would eventually crown their efforts.

Mr. John Scott, gave the ‘Bonnie Hills of Scotland’ and Mr. Hill a humorous song entitled ‘4s 9d’ which created considerable amusement.

Mr. Allan Scott in a neat speech proposed ‘The firm of Ferguson and Urie’ and wished them long continued prosperity and success.

Mr. James Urie who on raising to respond was received with loud applause said it was just 34 years since he left the old country for the colony and Mr. Ferguson[12] left a day after him. The firm had every reason to be satisfied with the hearty manner in which their employės had supported them, as the success achieved was in a great measure to be attributed to it. If the firm had not been supported so well they would not have progressed so rapidly and therefore they had a great deal to be thankful for. Mr. Scott had come to them when a boy as an apprentice and had gradually worked himself up to be the right hand man in his department. A trip to the old country would now do him good and would enable him to return refreshed and with new ideas. It would be a very good thing to have an annual dinner when the firm and the employės could meet together and enjoy themselves and he would try and get his partner
(Mr. Ferguson) who that night was unavoidably detained through illness, to consent to this arrangement (loud applause).

Mr. F. Lording gave ‘The Old Brigade’ in capital style.

The health of ‘The Guests’having been duly honoured Mr. William Urie[13] sang ‘Steer may bark’ and was loudly applauded.

Mr. George Young proposed the ladies in a few well chosen words, and Mr. Auld then favoured the company with ‘Ye Banks and Braes’.

Mr. R. King responded for the ladies in happy speech.

Mr. A. Scott sang “Remember me Mr George Drury, when Jeff comes home today’, and R. King ‘The Anchors Weighed’. Mr. Auld[14] proposed ‘The Press’, coupled with the name of Mr. M. Marshall, who replied on behalf of the North Melbourne Advertiser, Chronicle, & c.

Cr. Barrett proposed ‘The Chairman’, who he considered had performed his duties that evening with remarkable ability. Mr. James Urie, as a councillor of Flemington and Kensington, would shortly be called on to fill the office of mayor for that borough, and would he felt sure acquit himself well in that capacity.

(Loud cheers). Mr. Urie was valued not only as business man, but also as a private citizen, and the time might come when he could aspire to even a higher public position. (Loud applause.)

Mr. Urie returned thanks for the enthusiastic manner in which the toast had been received, and stated that it would always be the desire of his firm to advance the interest of their employės. Should he or his partner deem it necessary at some future date to visit the old country for information they would have another gathering, when he hoped they would all enjoy themselves as much as they had done that evening.

Mr. Urie proposed the health of the caterer (Mr. C. D. Straker)[15] in some very complimentary remarks, which were responded to by Mr. Straker, who stated his intention of shortly erecting a hall of his own where entertainments could be held, and where his patrons would not be tied to time as in other places.

The company separated about 12 o’clock after singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’. Mr. Schenal Schwartz during the evening presided at the piano in a most efficient manner”.


[1] Friday 9th April 1886.

[2] In 1859 the area including North Melbourne and West Melbourne was declared the municipality of Hotham. It became a borough in 1863 and a town in 1874. In 1887 Hotham was renamed North Melbourne and was merged with Melbourne city on 30 October 1905.

[3] The Ferguson & Urie company operated between 1853-1899. The principal partners James Urie died in 1890 and James Ferguson Snr died in 1894. The business was then carried on by the sons James Ferguson Jnr 1861-1945 and William Urie 1864-1907 until the firms final dividends were declared on the 21st of July 1899.

[4] The Collins Street building was completed circa August 1884 between the National Bank and the Planet Building Society at 10 Collins Street East and later re-numbered as 281-283 Collins Street East in the late 1880’s. It was demolished circa 1915.

[5] John Scott 1850-1915 was apprenticed to the firm circa 1866 at about the age of 16. He died at his home in Doveton St Ballarat on 1st June 1915.

[6] James Urie 1828-1890, one of the principal partners in the firm ‘Ferguson & Urie’ as well as a local Justice of the Peace and councillor in the Borough Council of Flemington and Kensington. He served as a councillor from August 1886 to August 1888, and was Mayor from August 1887 to August 1888.

[7] Alexander Lumsden Young (1833-1889) was James Urie’s brother in law. He and James Urie’s son William travelled to Brisbane to supervise the installation of one of the firms largest stained glass creation the ‘Murphy Memorial’ window in St Stephen’s Catholic Cathedral, Elizabeth street Brisbane, in December 1887.

[8] Queen Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901)

[9] Sir Henry Brougham Loch, Governor of Victoria 1884-1889.

[10] Charles William Hardess 1858-1949. After the closure of Ferguson & Urie in 1899 he started business with another employee, Frank Clifford Lording to become ‘Hardess & Lording’.

[11] James D Lillas or Lillis?

[12] James Ferguson Snr 1818-1894, a principal partner in the firm Ferguson & Urie, he was a Master Slater and Glazier from Wallacetown, Ayr, Scotland and came to Australia in late 1852 and joined James Urie in starting the firm.

[13] William Urie 1864-1907, son of James Urie, (see foot note 6), a principal partner in the firm Ferguson & Urie.

[14] Thomas Auld 1838-1913 was James Ferguson Seniors son in law who married his second eldest daughter Janet Kay Ferguson in 1871. Thomas was a ships chandler and grocer and did not work for the firm Ferguson & Urie.


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