1852: The James Ferguson farewell at the Robert Burns Arms.

In 2002 the Scottish TROON TIMES newspaper began reprinting some historic news articles from more than a century ago in their series: “Look back at the old news in your Advertiser series.

One article reprinted from December 1852 detailed the farewell party for James Ferguson given by his friends and loyal employees on his decision to emigrate to Australia:

The Troon Times, Scotland, 25th December 2002, page 11.

“NOT a few of our townsmen and country neighbours are still leaving for Australia, big with the prospects held out to them by every successive mail from that golden land of promise of pushing their fortunes more rapidly there than in “the old country”. To the number of those who have already gone, and whos names have appeared in our columns in connection with paragraph reports of testimonials of respect given them on the eve of sailing by their friends, we have now to add that of Mr James Fergusson Jnr, long known and respected in Ayr as a master Slater, plumber and glazier. Previously to his departure, he was entertained on Monday in the Robert Burns Arms Inn, New Bridge Street by about 40 of his friends who had convened for the occasion from a circuit of country bounded on one side by Prestwick and by Doon water on another. The room was neatly decorated with flags and evergreens. Mr Affleck, cabinetmaker, occupied the chair, and Mr Caldwell, blacksmith, did the duties of croupier. After the usual preliminaries, Mr John Templeton, watchmaker, in neat and appropriate terms, proposed the health of Mr Ferguson and, in name of many friends, present and absent, presented him with a splendid purse containing 25 sovereigns. Mr Fergusson [sic] feelingly replied. Many other toasts followed and the party spent a social and happy evening together.”

This is a magnificent article that sets the scene for the beginnings of the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company in Australia.

The ‘Robert Burns Arms Inn’, mentioned in the article as at ‘New Bridge street’, is highly likely to be (as at 2011) the establishment named the ‘Burns Arms’ listed as address 7 River Street Wallacetown, which is a short distance from New Bridge Street. James Ferguson Snr (1777-1866) also lived in River street a short distance from the Tavern and his son, James Jnr (1818-1894 of Ferguson & Urie Australia) lived only a short walking distance away at 1 John Street.

It’s known that James and his brother David departed Greenock aboard the ‘Tamerlane’ on Sunday 12th December 1852. This reasonably leads me to believe that the party at the Burns Arms was held on the evening of Monday 6th December 1852. The next recorded account of the voyage to Australia occurred three days after after their arrival on the 29th April 1853 when the committee of  passengers penned their letters of thanks to the Captain Caldwell of the Tamerlane.

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