The Ferguson Family History

Ray Brown
Updated: 20180405

This is not a ‘wordsmith’ document. None of my ramblings really are. I like the research side of things and being a bower bird and collecting historic articles and evidence and getting out and about with the camera, but sifting through them all and creating a legible, readable and engaging article is not in my realm.

The following epistle originally came about as a series of letters (emails) to a member of my family trees. By the end of it all I realised I had written what seems like volumes.  So here it goes…

The last two hundred and fifty years of Ferguson family history originated in Scotland at Wallacetown in Ayr, where the family were predominantly tradesmen as Plumbers, Slaters & Glaziers.

Whilst it has taken me many years to research the family history to this point I have not really attempted to go back much further than the late 1700’s as the available information older than this becomes feeble and records can not be positively proven to be correct. Instead I have decided to stop going back any further than what can be absolutely proven and have resolved to concentrate mainly on the ancestors who came to Australia and their descendants.

Accurate information is known about the Ferguson family lines back in “The Old Country” and this is where I’ll begin.

Chapter 1:

The head of the family in Scotland was James Ferguson Snr (1777-1866) and Janet Kay (1791-1860). Their parent’s names are known as per what was recorded on their death certificates but nothing much more. James’s parents were William Ferguson (a farmer) and Marion Harper. Janet’s parents were John Kay (a builder) and Antonia Wallace. As I have found so far, the “Wallace” and “Kay” family names would be handed down through the generations. As it stands at the moment, my uncle William Kay Burleigh is the last person I know of in the family tree who has the middle name “Kay” but it has appeared in many other generations and branches of the family for over two centuries.

The historic Census records, Government Gazette’s, business directories, birth, death and marriage records and historic newspapers from Scotland have provided a wealth of information about the life and times of James Ferguson Snr and his family. He was a Plumber, Slater and Glazier in Wallacetown, Ayr, who at one point in time employed over twenty men in the family business. The family home was in River Street Wallacetown and he also had a slate yard down by the river between “New Bridge” and “Old Bridge”. James and Janet had over ten children and the ones who would make their mark in Australia were his sons James and David, who came out to Australia in 1853. David’s mark in Australia was short though and he returned to Scotland in 1857 after only four years in the Colony.

James Ferguson (1818-1894) and his brother David (1825-1872) departed Scotland in December 1852 aboard the ‘Tamerlane” bound for Australia. David was a batchelor and James’s wife Jane, who he married in 1841, would remain in Wallacetown with their five young girls until he had established the business in Australia. After more than four months at sea the ship Tamerlane arrived in Hobson’s Bay on the 28th April 1853.

Prior to their departure from Scotland James was given a farewell party at the “Burns Arms Inn” at “New Bridge Street” in Wallacetown and he was presented with a purse of 25 Sovereigns by his friends. The event was even published in the local paper of the time and was reprinted again 150 years later in the “Troon Times” in 2012 as part of their “look back at the past” series of historical newspaper articles.

“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 feelingly replied. Many other toasts followed and the party spent a social and happy evening together.”– Wallacetown, Ayr, December 1852.

I doubt that at that time in history the tabloid even knew that the little historic article they were publishing would have such historic importance in regards to Australia, nor how much information I would find over a century and a half later as to what became of that colonial pioneer named James Ferguson and his brother David and their business partner James Urie.

Within a short time of the Ferguson brothers arriving in Melbourne they started business as “Ferguson & Urie,” plumbers, slaters and glaziers of Curzon Street, North Melbourne.  The partner named James Urie was a native of Kilmarnock and the most unusual coincidental piece of information I found about him was in the March 1851 Scotland Census. Twenty two year old James Urie (incorrectly transcribed as ‘James Uric’ in the census record) was listed as a visitor to James Ferguson’s house in John Street Wallacetown on the night of the census. This was an amazing coincidence having him listed together with the Ferguson’s on the same night. My belief was that Urie was either James’ apprentice or possibly apprenticed to James’s father, James Snr. Urie was ten years younger than James Ferguson Jnr, which makes the apprentice theory quite plausible but I have no positive proof. Both men were listed as “Slaters and Glaziers” in the Census. To this day I still haven’t positively ascertained which ship Urie arrived aboard in Australia. He wasn’t a passenger aboard the Tamerlane with James and David and this was also confirmed by James Urie himself during a speech he made at the company dinner held at the North Melbourne mechanics institute hall in 1886. He was stated as saying that he had left a day earlier than James Ferguson, but despite that significant clue it still hasn’t helped me ascertain which ship he arrived on.

During the early period of my research I started building a family tree for James Urie in an attempt to find out his origins and whether there were any of his descendants still living in Australia. It wasn’t long before I hit the jackpot and came across a lady named Noelle Nathan from Sorrento on the South East side of Melbourne. Noelle’s husband John was a descendant of James Urie. When I got in contact with her I found that she had coincidentally been looking for some Ferguson & Urie stained glass windows at the same time as I was! Noelle and John helped me fill in a lot of information about the Urie descendants and a few very significant historical photos have also been found amongst the family members. Unfortunately Geoffrey ‘John’ Nathan passed away in 2013 at the age of 83. His funeral service was held at St John’s Anglican Church at Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula which is where an historic Ferguson & Urie stained glass window resides. It was originally erected in St Paul’s Pro-Cathedral opposite Flinders Street Station in Melbourne in 1866/67.

In May 1853, only a few weeks after the Ferguson brothers arrived in Australia, the largest number of migrant ships ever recorded in Australian History were anchored in Hobson’s Bay off Melbourne! This was all as a result of the Victorian Gold Rush period. Everyone came with the prospects of making themselves wealthy from either digging for the gold or selling commodities to the miners. Despite the fact that the Victorian gold rush produced the largest gold output outside of California at that time in history, those who made the most money were the pastoralists and sheep farmers and those who sold goods and services to the miners. The Ferguson brothers and James Urie advertised themselves as Plumbers, Slaters & Glaziers and their first advertisement appeared in the Melbourne newspapers in August 1853 and that’s the trade they stuck with until 1861.

Newspaper advertisements for Ferguson & Urie would appear in the local newspapers for the next forty-six years, but the period from 1853 to 1860 seems to be devoid of any significant information about the company or work they may have carried out. The most intriguing piece of information about the firm occurred in late 1854 when the company won an award at the Victorian Exhibition in Melbourne for “exhibit 69, Plumber’s work”, and “exhibit 455, for stained windows”. This is the first and last mention of the firm having dabbled in stained glass until 1861. My guess is that the stained windows for the exhibition were only very simple designs for the borders of windows to be used as a decorative element. The company imported coloured glass pieces from the UK by the box load and even after they became a household name after 1861 their most recognisable budget border design was used in many church windows until the mid 1890’s.

The gold rush period was when Ferguson & Urie made the most of their early money in the Colony because practically every able bodied tradesman had deserted Melbourne with a shovel over his shoulder to dig for gold. This meant that building and construction in the city and surrounding suburbs had practically come to a stand still because there were no tradesmen left. Those that did remain were much sought after and they could demand a higher price for their skills.

The plumbing trade was fairly lucrative it would seem and this was probably demonstrated by an event that occurred on the evening of 27 Sept 1855 when James Ferguson was held up at gun point in the vicinity of the old Exhibition building in King Street, Melbourne. The thieves threatened to blow his head off if he resisted. He was robbed of fifty pounds cash in the form of five ten pound notes, his notebook was also stolen along with a letter to his business partner James Urie. Fifty pounds in 1855 was a hell of a lot of money and would be the equivalent of walking around with a few thousand dollars in your pocket in today’s terms. Anyhow, luckily he didn’t get shot, but I suspect that he was setup and that the robbers knew that he had the money on him after collecting for some completed jobs. There was no record of the perpetrators ever being caught.

Chapter 2:

In November 1855 James Ferguson’s wife and the five children arrived in Melbourne aboard the “Emma.” Jane and the children had waited two years back in Wallacetown, Ayr, whilst James established the business and purchased a cottage. The children who arrived with Jane  were; Margaret (1842-1913) who was mentally disabled from birth, Janet Kay (1844-1925) who was my 2xGreat Grandmother, Jane Williamson (1846-1875), Marion (1848-1927) and Antonia Wallace (1852-1926). There was another child named James born about 1851 back in Scotland but he died as an infant in the same year.

When the family arrived in Melbourne they lived in a small cottage in Little Curzon Street North Melbourne not far from the company workshops which fronted Curzon Street opposite the old Union Memorial Presbyterian Church.

In October 1856 a newspaper advertisement appeared asking for a James or David Ferguson of Ayr to call on a Mr Thomas Cairns aboard the ship ‘Antarctic’ as he had “word from home”. Nothing further is known as to what this “word from home” may have been, but in early 1857 a notice was placed in the Victorian Government Gazette in which James’ younger brother David had “dissolved by mutual consent” his partnership with his brother and James Urie in the “Ferguson & Urie” company but the business would continue under the same name. A short time later David returned to Scotland and re-joined his father, James Ferguson Snr, in the family business at Wallacetown in Ayr.

A couple of years later, in 1859, old James Ferguson Snr was declared bankrupt but this wasn’t the end of the business and it continued until 1866 when he died at the extraordinary old age of 89. It wasn’t old age that claimed him either! His death certificate stated that he died as a result of Typhoid! God knows how many years longer he may have gone on for. David continued to run the business until late January 1872 when, fully aware that he too was dying from Typhoid, he sold the business to a long-time employee named John Meikle. David died nine weeks later on the 26th March 1872 aged 48. David had never married and in his Will he bequeathed all his household and kitchen furniture to his surviving unmarried sisters, Antonia and Margaret (no information is known about these two sisters). Apart from small monetary amounts, he also left a silver watch and gold chain that was left to him by his father James Snr in 1866, to his other brother Robert who was a stone mason residing in Manchester. His own gold watch and chain were to be left to his Australian nephew James Ferguson Jnr (the only son of his older brother James Ferguson of “Ferguson & Urie” at North Melbourne).

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to know if those old fob watches still existed somewhere among the family lines!

Family heirlooms and artifacts sometimes have a strange path as to how they are handed down through the generations. Since I started doing the family history research a lot of fascinating things have been discovered in the possession of relatives. In a lot of cases they have been handed down without the story of their significance or their history has been embellished beyond the original facts. One of the most interesting I found was a polished wooden box in the possession of my cousin Andrew Burleigh, which had been given to him by his father Graeme shortly before he passed away. Andrew described the item to me as a wooden box that had the name “James Ferguson” engraved on a copper plate on the top and it opened out into a wedge shape. When I saw a photo of it I nearly fell over in surprise! It was James Ferguson’s portable writing desk which folded out and had drawers for stationery, ink well compartments, and a torn old felt surface with leather trim on the writing surface. It was still in a solid condition, even though the drawers were stained with ink and the leather and felt was torn and rotten. It was over 120 years ago since James Ferguson died and if he had brought the writing box with him from Scotland it would mean that it would now be over 160 years old! Andrew’s father never told him anything about the history of the writing desk or where it came from or who James Ferguson was because it was likely that he did not know anything himself other than it belonged to an ancient relative. I too also have an old family history artefact which is a hand carved wooden commode chair. It’s quite an elaborate piece of furniture that supposedly came from James Ferguson’s house “Ayr Cottage” in Parkville, Melbourne (supposedly). Old nana, (Isabella Stella Burleigh – nee Auld), had it in her home at Wilson Street in Moonee Ponds and when I was a boy I loved to sit on it because I thought it was a regal throne, not knowing that under the seat was the hidden chamber pot! I was given the chair before my parents had died and it still sits in the hallway of our house like a regal throne to the entrance of our ‘castle’. It’s an amazing old antique chair and looks nothing like a commode that hides the chamber pot beneath!

In 1858 James Ferguson enticed an English artist by the name of David Relph Drape to Australia. This is the first significant clue that Ferguson & Urie had definite plans to transform the business to stained glass production. The wealth generated by the gold rush was enormous and this had a flow on effect that James Ferguson & James Urie were obviously keen to capitalise on. Churches were being erected at an extraordinary rate in all states of Australia and especially around Melbourne and the Victorian gold fields. Prior to 1861 nearly every stained glass window in Australia procured for churches and the mansions of the wealthy came from the UK or the Royal Bavarian glass works, and at great expense. Whilst the phrase ‘every window’ sounds like a lot, it is actually relegated to a very rare few as the expense was enormous and of those that could afford the luxury of a stained glass window, only a few examples still exist. Ferguson & Urie saw the emerging market for this kind of decoration and the gothic architecture revival was fuelling it even more.

Enticing the English artist Drape to Australia was obviously the first phase in their plans but on his arrival the plan went out the window!

Drape was a native of Greenrow, Cumberland, and was born in 1821 to Isaac Drape and Catherine Relph. His last known significant work in England was the decoration of Carlisle Cathedral in partnership with John Scott as “Scott & Drape”. He is known to have been responsible for the beautiful blue ceiling of the cathedral with the thousands of gold stars and other decorations as well as some of the glazing. Recent renovations at Carlisle Cathedral revealed some amazing clues to confirm Drape’s involvement. Some leaded windows high up in clerestory of the Cathedral were being removed for restoration and on one of them the following was found scratched into the glass;


Drape arrived in Melbourne aboard the ‘Morning Light’ on the 20th September 1858. Ferguson & Urie had promised him, that on his arrival in the Colony, they would have completed the erection of a new workshop in Curzon Street North Melbourne which would be fitted out with everything required for stained glass production. Unfortunately the labour shortage in Melbourne was still going on because of the gold rush and when Drape arrived and found that there was no workshop and no work for him he threatened to tear up his contract. He probably knew that Ferguson & Urie couldn’t do anything about it and so he decided to head for the gold fields himself. Drape ended up in the small goldfields town of Maldon which is 150km North East of Melbourne and there he remained for the next five years. During his time in Maldon he made a meagre living as an architect and some of his work still exists in the town. He designed the historic “Beehive Chimney” for a quarts crushing gold mine and the main brick stack of this can still be seen from all around Maldon. He also designed several public buildings which no longer exist but the two most significant that are extant is the Maldon Hospital and the Holy Trinity Church. Amongst a folio of sketches and designs by Drape that are held by the State Library in Melbourne is an original pencil drawing he did of Holy Trinity Church!

In late 1861 the Melbourne Exhibition was being held and this seems to be where the turning point for Ferguson & Urie occurs. Another Scotsman by the name of John Lamb Lyon had entered a design for an early English stained glass window and in the same category Ferguson & Urie received a commendation for ornamental glazing! This was obviously the catalyst for Lyon to join Ferguson & Urie and in early 1862 it was advertised in the newspapers that, Ferguson & Urie had engaged the services of a competent artists in this difficult and useful art…” When Lyon was interviewed for the Australian Decorator & Painter magazine in 1909 he stated that he’d joined Ferguson & Urie in 1861 and that their initial work was on a very primitive scale and they ground and mixed their own colours and made their own acids and they fired the glass in a colonial camp oven!

John Lamb Lyon (1835-1916) was the son of James Lyon and Janet Thorburn and he was at some stage an apprentice to the master glazier David Kier in Glasgow. He also worked with John Cairney & Co as well as the London firm of Ward & Hughes. He married Elizabeth Gillespie Pearson on the 3rd of December 1860 and six days later they departed Liverpool aboard the ‘Donald Mackay’ for Australia. Their arrival in Australia was a bit tumultuous as the entire ship had to be quarantined due to an outbreak of smallpox, but eventually they made their way to Maldon (which is coincidentally where D.R. Drape was also residing). Lyon’s parents had migrated to Australia some time earlier and setup as shopkeepers in Maldon and so this would seem to be the obvious reason why John and his wife Elizabeth headed there too.

Chapter 3:

Ferguson & Urie began to receive commissions for their stained glass work and with John Lamb Lyon at the helm as their stained glass artist, the company began to flourish. In July1862 the company created a magnificent stained glass window for entertainer George Selth Coppin’s Apollo Music Hall in Bourke Street Melbourne. The window depicted Shakespeare and other Shakespearian characters and the company gained much publicity and notoriety for it. In July 1862 one of the newspaper articles wrote the following about the window:

“I have just received per mail, a photograph of a splendid piece of work – in the shape of a magnificent stained glass window, it is equal to anything of the kind produced in the old country, and is a credit to the colony. This splendid piece of work has just been completed for the new theatre now about opening in Melbourne, and has been manufactured at the works of Messrs. Ferguson and Urie, of Curzon-street, Melbourne, its designers and the artists to whom it will testify for years to come; they have successfully carried out a specimen of the fine arts, such as could not be excelled in any part of the Queen’s dominions…”- The Portland Guardian 12th July 1862.

The Shakespeare window had its own mysteries during its history. The window mysteriously disappeared about a year before the Apollo Music Hall and Haymarket Theatre burnt down under suspicious circumstances in 1871and the bond holders accused Coppin of its theft. Despite various attempts to get Coppin to return it, the window remained installed at his mansion “Pine Grove” at Richmond for many years and then it was moved to his mansion “The Anchorage” at Sorrento. In 1906 George Coppin died and in the 1960’s his daughter Lucy donated the window to the State Library where it remained in storage for many years. Originally there were three parts (three lights) to the window but only the centre one depicting Shakespeare remains. No-one knows what became of the outer parts of the window which contained the other characters such as Macbeth, Hamlet, Beatrice and others. The window was restored in 2005 by an expert artisan named Geoffrey Wallace and it is now on public display mounted in its own frame on the top floor of the dome above the La Trobe reading room in the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne.

A month earlier in June 1862, the foundation stone of Samuel Wilson’s ‘Longerenong’ homestead near Horsham was laid. The building was designed by the Crouch & Wilson architects who had a very close relationship with Ferguson & Urie for their glazing and custom stained glass decorations. Ferguson & Urie were to be favoured to do all the glazing of Longerenong.( As ast 14 Oct 2017 I haven’t published an article on Longerenong yet) The grand entrance windows consisting of transom and sidelights are very typical of early secular Ferguson & Urie designs. The stained glass themes consists of gothic floral designs incorporating, in the transom light, the Irish Harp, flanked by the monograms of Samuel Winson’s initials ‘”S.W” and the year “1862”. In the sidelights are the English Rose, Scotch Thistle, and a Welsh Leek,  which after later restoration or repairs seems have morphed into a lily.

The skylightabove the stairwell at Longerenong represents’ Mining, Agriculture, Commerce, and Vines, and in the centre is a unique example of the yet to have been approved (in the 1860’s) Colonial Coat of Arms depicting the Emu & Kangaroo (unusually facing outwards).

From this point on Ferguson & Urie concentrated solely on glazing and stained glass window production and no longer advertised themselves as slaters and plumbers. Orders were coming in from all over Victoria and the adjoining colonies and the newspapers began to diligently chronicle the company’s marvelous stained glass windows being installed in the churches and mansions of the rich and well to do. Whilst stained glass was their specialty, what was rarely reported was their ecclesiastical decorations which included gilded tablets and altar decorations which were a specialty of Drape.

In 1867 James Urie had decided that mere newspaper advertisements were not enough to propel the company’s fortunes. To spread the company name across the colonies he headed south to Tasmania (originally named Van Diemen’s Land until 1856). He took a folio and catalogue of the company’s designs for stained glass which customers could use to mix and match a wide variety of border designs and infill diamond quarries and various other elements as well as all manner of religious depictions of Jesus, Saints, Apostles and Flora and Fauna etc. The trip was highly successful and his “sojourn” through Tasmania was chronicled a number of times in the local Tasmanian newspapers as he travelled throughout the state:

“…The admirers of art workmanship will be glad to hear that there has for the last couple of weeks been sojourning in Tasmania, a partner of the Victorian firm of Ferguson, Urie, and Lyon, to whom many ecclesiastical and private edifices in this and the neighbouring colonies are indebted for some of the finest specimens of pictorial decoration on glass…” – The Mercury Hobart 7th Aug 1867.

“…This gentleman is now in Launceston, and we were much gratified yesterday by inspecting a large portfolio of designs for church and other windows which his firm has executed or has in hand…” – The Mercury, Hobart, 13th Aug 1867.

To this day many extant examples of the company’s stained glass windows can be found in a number of churches and private buildings all over Tasmania. I’ve been to Tasmania a number of times in my quest to find and photograph the windows and in 2012 I was invited to speak at a fund raising event at All Saints Anglican Church in South Hobart. This little historic church has three Ferguson & Urie stained glass windows and these, and others by historic English firms, were to undergo restoration and conservation work. The event was widely publicised and I was interviewed by Radio, Television, and Newspapers organisations. I also met the Federal Member of Parliament, The Hon. Andrew Wilke and other local government members who had graciously promised additional funds to bolster the money required for the restoration work on the windows. My friend Gavin Merrington (who I had met some years earlier) is a heritage stained glass craftsmen from South Hobart and he was the one entrusted to restore all the windows at All Saint’s church and he has also restored many other historic Ferguson & Urie windows around Tasmania. In 2015 Gavin also completed his Winston Churchill Fellowship tour of the UK, France, and USA stained glass studios to learn of emerging international restoration techniques.

As you can probably imagine, my research of the historic newspapers has unearthed an extraordinary amount of information about the locations of Ferguson & Urie windows and I have collected every known scrap of information I have come across and transcribed every newspaper article to my master research document about their windows and any mentions of the firm and its employees. This master document is now over 400 pages long! (as at September 2015). About seventy percent of all this research and thousands of photos have now been included on my web site so far.

Chapter 4:

On the home front in Melbourne, James and Janet Ferguson didn’t waste any time expanding their family. The first Australian child born in North Melbourne was Barbara Lawson Ferguson, born on the 5th Sept 1856, (she married Crawford Kier in Melbourne 1881), followed by Sarah Campbell Ferguson born in 1859 (she married Alexander Gentles in 1882) and finally, their only surviving son, James Ferguson Jnr born on the 1st Oct 1861, whom remained a batchelor.

I have doubts that James Ferguson had confidence in the marriage between Crawford Kier and his daughter Barbara. In June 1885, four years after they married, Crawford was declared insolvent with the causes stated as; “Want of employment, and having borrowed money at a high rate of interest…” What is even more perplexing is that James Ferguson had given him employment as a clerk with Ferguson & Urie and yet by his insolvency in 1885 he indicated he was unemployed! There were many other family members on the Ferguson and the Urie family lines who were employed with the firm and by all accounts everyone, even those not related, were regarded as family and everone was looked after and supported. What happened with Crawford may never be known. On Monday the 15th June 1885 Crawford and Barbara’s home and contents at “Elizabeth Cottage” on Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds (near the Ascotvale Hotel) was put up for auction by the Sherriff.

James Ferguson’s younger partner in the firm, James Urie, was keen to be a family man and in 1855 he married Grace Hardie Young at the Curzon Street Presbyterian Church. That original church was replaced by a more significant structure twenty four years later in 1879 and it was right across the road in Curzon Street from the Ferguson & Urie workshops. You can no doubt guess which company was to make their stained glass windows!

Between 1856 and 1882 the Urie’s had fourteen children, five of whom died as infants, but despite this, many of the surviving children lived long prosperous lives and their second eldest daughter, Isabella, became a centenarian.

Many family members and relatives of the Ferguson’s and the Urie’s were employed at the stained glass company and they would all share in the company’s success.

In 1866 the stained glass artist John Lamb Lyon had been made a partner in the firm and the company was then known as “Ferguson, Urie, and Lyon” until 1873 when a fellow named Daniel Cottier enticed Lyon to Sydney. Cottier was Lyon’s old friend and former fellow apprentice and he was establishing businesses in Glasgow, New York and Australia and he wanted Lyon to join him and head the Australian arm of the firm to be known as “Lyon & Cottier” in Sydney. Daniel Cottier had also coincidentally been an apprentice to David Kier in Glasgow in the early 1850’s (before Kier became Master Glazier to Glasgow Cathedral) and he later worked with John Cairney & Co before continuing artistic studies in London. Cottier then set-up his own studio in Glasgow in 1864 and in 1865 was admitted as a member of the Glasgow Architectural Society and he was now about to make his own mark on the world. In following up research leads in Australia about Lyon & Cottier, I found some articles that intimated that Cottier had never even come to Australia which I later found were completely wrong. At some point his daughter Isabella had come to Australia and she was marrying a Dr. Arthur Marwood from Geelong. Daniel Cottier came to Australia from New York for the wedding, landed at Sydney, and then travelled by train to Melbourne to attend their wedding in St Matthew’s Church in Prahran, Melbourne on the 10th April 1890. Coincidentally St Matthew’s Church has (had) a lot of Ferguson & Urie stained glass windows but the main chancel window was later to be made by  Powell & Co of London to a style that complemented the earlier Ferguson & Urie windows at such a low price that Ferguson & Urie could not compete with it. Despite a fire that gutted the centre section of the church in 1982, many of these historic windows still survive.

Lyon’s departure from Ferguson & Urie left a temporary void in the firm’s artistic skills but this would be alleviated by the remarkable talents of the English stained glass artist David Relph Drape. In order to ensure that the firm could continue to foster talent and their competitive longevity, they decided to establish the “Hotham School of Art” in 1873. Many members of the firm were on the school committee and David Relph Drape was also a teacher in the field of Ornamental Shading and Landscape. The concept proved very successful and many young men who displayed the best talent would later become apprentices at Ferguson & Urie.

In March 1882 David Relph Drape died at his home in Chapman Street Hotham (North Melbourne), aged 61. This was a major setback for the company but fortunately their succession planning would come into effect with two of the companies most talented young artists named Charles William Hardess and Frank Clifford Lording stepping up in responsibility. Another talented young man named George Coates was a gifted portrait painter but he left the firm in the late 1880’s or early 90’s and became famous in his own right.

In Drape’s nineteen years with the firm, he painted many of the delicate landscape and portrait scenes in both ecclesiastical and secular windows. Many of the scenes depicted in the roundels and other intricate parts of the secular windows have his name or initials almost invisibly hidden within the artwork such as the hunting scenes in the stained glass windows at Rupertswood Mansion in Sunbury and the garden with creek scene at the mansion “Mandeville Hall” in the wealthy suburb of Toorak.

In the year 1876 there seemed to be a level of “One Upmanship” amongst the wealthy businessmen and for some unknown reason the decorative art form of acid etched glass became quite popular as the new “must have” decoration in their mansions. In March 1876 Government House in Melbourne was being completed and the acid etched windows that adorn the front entrance and staircase landing were created by Ferguson & Urie and were likely to be the work of Drape. In the same month, Sir William Clarke’s mansion “Rupertswood” (famous as the “Birthplace” of the sport of Crickets “Ashes”) was being opened at Sunbury and it too has many examples of Ferguson & Urie acid etched windows, although the series of six stained glass windows on the bottom and top floor of Rupertswood have much more notoriety, and they also have Drape’s initials hidden on one of the windows. In October 1876 Andrew and Thomas Chirnside’s “Werribee Park” mansion at Werribee was near completion and the massive acid etched windows on the landing of the grand staircase and the St George & St Andrew windows on the bottom floor were all done by Ferguson & Urie as well as many other decorative acid etched windows throughout the mansion. Until a couple of years ago, Government House, and Parks Victoria (who own Werribee mansion), claimed that their acid etched picture windows were made in Belgium. When I first saw them some years ago I immediately suspected them as being the work of Ferguson & Urie but had no proof to backup my claim. I eventually found the detailed historic newspaper articles in the “Bacchus Marsh Express” which proved the windows were made by Ferguson & Urie at their Curzon Street workshops in North Melbourne.

By 1884 the company’s fortunes had grown considerably and they had decided to make a bold statement of their own wealth and success by redeveloping and building their flagship business headquarters on the site of their old 10 Collins Street premises. The architect, Thomas James Crouch, was a long time friend and business associate. He was chosen to design and supervise the construction of their own building which was to be seven storeys including the basement. Crouch had given Ferguson & Urie many commissions for stained glass windows over the years which were erected in many of his Gothic buildings throughout Victoria and Tasmania. For the Ferguson & Urie headquarters building he wanted to make a new statement by constructing the façade of the building with the new “Patent Hydraulic Freestone.” This new concrete building material had not yet been approved for use in Melbourne and the Town Clerk would not approve its use. Eventually, after many court cases and structural testing it was eventually approved in March 1884 and construction commenced. Within six months the building was near completion and the tabloids reported on the 22nd of August 1884;

“Amongst the new buildings approaching completion in Collins-street is one conspicuous for its bright and cheerful façade, situated near the site of the old Clarence Hotel, and soon to be occupied by Messrs. Ferguson and Urie as a glass warehouse and offices. The attractive appearance of the building is mainly due to the novel materiel of which it is composed, viz, the hydraulic freestone manufactured at Port Melbourne, where the Patent Victoria Hydraulic Freestone Company Limited…”

The Ferguson & Urie building in Collins Street was a masterpiece of its time. The very top was adorned with finials and in the parapet were the words “Est. 1853 Ferguson & Urie” and above the entrance at street level was emblazoned “Ferguson & Urie.”  In later years the architect, T. J. Crouch also occupied a floor of the building as well as the famous “Thomas Cook” Travel Agents who are now a global travel agency and the oldest established travel company in the world.

Chapter 5:

In February 1886 James Ferguson’s dreams of a magnificent family home were set in motion and he engaged local architect and builder Harry Lording to design and construct his magnificent two storey family home in Leonard Street Parkville that would be named “Ayr Cottage”.  The builder, Harry Lording, was well known to James Ferguson and Lording’s son, Frank Clifford Lording, was also an employee with Ferguson & Urie. Frank had started with the firm as an apprentice Glass Stainer and he was a keen sportsman. He was one of the first Australian Rules football club players for North Melbourne and he had also been selected for the Victorian team in 1879 to play in the first Intercolonial football match.

On the 9th April 1886 Ferguson & Urie held a company dinner at the North Melbourne Mechanics Institute. This dinner was being held to bid a farewell to a long time employee, John Scott, who was returning to Scotland for a holiday after 20 years loyal service to the firm. He had started as a an apprentice with the company as a boy. The occasion was deemed to be such an important event that they invited a news reporter from the North Melbourne Advertiser to be a guest and to chronicle the occasion. On Friday the 16th April 1886 a full page article about the dinner was published in the newspaper under the heading A PLEASANT GATHERING. The proceedings of the dinner, the speeches, presentations, and songs they sang, and the toasts they made were all faithfully recorded in the newspaper. This was not only a fantastic historical record of the occasion, it also included many other significant clues about the company and the names of employees, and many other important research clues which I have followed up over the years. One of the clues from this 1886 dinner was the hint that James Urie gave in his speech where he said “…It would be a very good thing to have an annual dinner…” That clue had me scrambling through future newspaper articles and sure enough, there they were! The newspaper records of another two company dinners held in 1887 and 1888.

Things must have all seemed to be falling into place for James Ferguson. The Ferguson & Urie stained glass business had grown substantially, their fortunes were in good shape, they had just had the first company dinner and he was about to have his new two storey family mansion built. But this is where it all started to implode! A careful study of the proceedings chronicled for the 1886 company dinner reveal that James Ferguson was not actually present at that dinner! In James Urie’s speech he indicated that his partner James Ferguson was “… unavoidably detained through illness…

But as I later found, it wasn’t James himself who was sick! It was his wife Jane, and she was seriously ill. She died eight days later on the 17th April 1886 aged 66 at their family cottage at 24 Little Curzon Street, North Melbourne. She never got to see the magnificent new “Ayr Cottage” that James was building for them in the prestigious area of Royal Park.

In late 1886 James Ferguson & James Urie began advertising their original Little Curzon Street Cottages at North Melbourne for sale. James’s “Ayr Cottage” was nearing completion and James Urie had also begun construction of his own two storey mansion named “Glencairn” in Wellington Street Flemington. Their original little cottages near the workshops in Curzon Street were no longer required and they would soon move in to their new homes.

By early 1887 “Ayr Cottage” had been completed and James Ferguson moved in as a widower. Most of his children had grown up, married, and left home and the only ones who would move in with him at Ayr Cottage were his mentally disabled eldest daughter Margaret and his only son James Jnr. The other person who would later move in with them was his sister in-law, Barbara Lawson Kennedy, who’s husband had recently passed away leaving her a widow.

Another of James’ daughters, Marion (1848-1927), and her children had also moved into Ayr Cottage after her husband Edward Williams died in 1889. Two of Marions eldest boys, Edward Sydney Williams (1875-1946) and James Ferguson Williams (1877-1959) were apprenticed to the company when they had each turned about the age of fourteen,  which was most probably at the insistence of their grandfather James Ferguson. After the Ferguson & Urie company closed in 1899 both young men went to South Australia and joined the firm of H. L. Vosz Ltd in Adelaide. James Williams started up and ran the firms new stained glass department where he was also chief stained glass designer and painter. In about 1915 the company name changed to Clarkson Ltd and in 1922 James became a director of the company. In 1924 he did a world business tour in company with Mr. A. E. Clarkson which was duly chronicled in the Adelaide newspapers. James remained a director of the company until his retirement. Although his elder brother Edward was also a member of the firm, it doesn’t appear that he played a major part or had a public profile as very little information or mention of him has been found.

In June 1887 the Ferguson & Urie Company held their second employee dinner. This dinner was probably the most significant in the company’s history, as there are extant photos that have been found which are mentioned in the newspaper report. The occasion celebrated for this dinner was Queen Victoria’s Jubilee year. Prior to the dinner everyone was admiring two large framed groups of photographs of all the employees of the firm grouped around portraits of James Ferguson & James Urie. There are thirty-one members of the firm depicted in the photo collection as well as photos of the company’s workshops at Yarra Bank South, Curzon Street North Melbourne, and the Collins Street headquarters building which was erected in 1884. The employees of the firm had these two large portrait collections made by the studios of Hewitt & Co of Melbourne and they were being presented to James Urie and James Ferguson by the employees at the dinner. There were also smaller duplicates of the same photo collection that were given out to each one of the employees and the reporter from the North Melbourne Advertiser was also given one. One of these smaller copies is in the possession of a Urie family descendant and I was graciously loaned it so I could get a good quality digital image. Over the last couple of years it has kept me busy trying to find out some information about all the employees depicted in the photo as well as the history of the company’s buildings.

The other significant photo mentioned at the 1887 company dinner was a studio portrait of James Ferguson and James Urie (an original of which I own). How I came to be in possession of an original of this photo is truly amazing. One day in 2011, I was searching the internet for “Ferguson & Urie” and I came across a link which was to the eBay auction site. I though it was rather an odd place to find any results for my “Google” search term. When I clicked on it and the page opened I nearly fell off my chair! There on the auction site was a photo of James Ferguson and James Urie staring back at me! An ephemera collector from Preston on the other side of Melbourne was selling this original photo and there was only 21 hours left to go before the end of the auction. Another collector was already the highest bidder at $44. I was adamant that I was going to get that photo at any cost and eventually I won the auction. It cost me more than $70, but it was back in the possession of someone who was a descendant with a serious interest in the preservation of the family history.  The actual odds of me finding that old photo on that day with less than 24 hours to go must have been longer odds than winning Lotto!

New Years day 1888 marked an historical day for the Ferguson Clan. All of James’s children and grand children gathered at Ayr Cottage in Leonard Street Royal Park (now known as Parkville). They were dressed in their finest clothes to pose for a family group photo and to play tennis. Two of the photos that were taken on that day still exist. One historical photo of the family was taken on the east side of Ayr Cottage and this photo was found in the possession of a descendant in New Zealand. There are 35 people in the photo with James Ferguson standing in the centre wearing a coat and tails suit and holding his top hat. The other photo was taken at the front of Ayr Cottage from Leonard Street and has some of the women and children mingling out front.

A month after the Ferguson Clan gathering at Ayr Cottage, the company’s glass store and workshop at Yarra Bank South (South Melbourne) burnt down. The fire started in the early hours of 1st February 1888 and was claimed to have originated in the adjoining building of Glover & Co’s Foundry, but this was never proven. Ferguson & Urie had insurance cover to the amount of £2000 but this was not enough to cover the entire loss. The company did not rebuild the workshops and from that point no longer had a presence in South Melbourne.

On the 15th March 1888 Ferguson & Urie held their third annual company dinner at the North Melbourne Mechanics Institute. The event to be celebrated at this dinner was the impending trip to Scotland by James Urie’s son, William Urie. As mentioned in the speeches, William was “going to the home of his fathers” and would be accompanied by his uncle John Yeaman. William was born in Melbourne in 1864 and had been apprenticed to Ferguson & Urie as a young boy. He had never been outside of Australia before, other than a boat trip along the coast to Queensland in late 1885 to assist in the installation of the company’s largest stained glass window in St Stephen’s Catholic Cathedral in Brisbane. This trip back to Scotland would be the first time he would see the country that his father and elder relatives and friends had no doubt spoken of many times before. William was presented with a handsome case containing gentleman’s shaving requisites. This present nearly brought the house down with laughter! Although William was in his mid twenty’s he was a fresh baby faced man who had probably never had a hair grown on his chin yet!

Chapter 6:

Outside of the company, James Ferguson and James Urie were very different in their approach to public life. James Ferguson was the elder statesman and master tradesman and took an active interest in the quality of the companies work from within and did not seek any role in public life. James Urie was the extrovert and front man for the company and took a very active role in the community. Urie was a Justice of the Peace, an elected Councillor of Flemington and Kensington and was Mayor of Flemington from August 1887 to August 1888 and also took active roles in a business partnership with his brother-in-law. He was an avid inventor, having filed several patents, including one in 1865 for “An invention of an improved and cheap method of converting basalt rock into street flagging and other pavement.”

On the 21st of July 1890 James Urie died at his home ‘Glencairn’ in Wellington Street Flemington. He was highly regarded in the community and the members of the Flemington Council presented his wife Grace with a gilt illuminated letter of condolence bound in a morocco leather case. That historic letter and case has never been found.

James Urie’s funeral was held Wednesday 23rd July 1890 and it was one of the largest ever seen in the district. All the employees of Ferguson & Urie marched in front of the hearse followed by four mourning coaches and upward of fifty vehicles (horse drawn buggies) immediately following enroot to the Melbourne General Cemetery. The Honourable Alfred Deakin (later Premier of Victoria) was a Pall Bearer at the grave site and many Councillors from other municipalities around the district also attended.

By this time the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company had lost a number of its skilled craftsmen, all of whom were considered to be part of the company family.

Tragedy had also struck again in the Ferguson family. James Ferguson’s daughter Barbara and her husband Crawford Kier and their three children had departed Sydney for Scotland in early 1889 for a holiday (as family legend has it), but they would never return. Barbara died of Kidney disease at Bothwell on the 3rd of November 1889 and only a few months later Crawford also died, on the 3rd of March 1890. Their three children, William, Mary and James were then brought up by James Ferguson’s widowed sister Marion Bishop (nee Ferguson), who was residing in Glasgow, and the children would never return to Australia. Their grandfather, James Ferguson, made modest provisions for their upbringing and included the grandchildren and his sister Marion in his Will of 1894.

Coincidentally, Crawford Kier’s own ancestry was also in the stained glass trade. His grandfather David Kier (1802-1864) was a master glazier from Irvine and was later appointed as the Master Glazier to the Glasgow Cathedral in 1859 and was responsible for the controversial installation of 60 Bavarian stained glass windows in the cathedral in 1856. He had established a stained glass business with his sons as “David Kier & Sons” and after his death in 1864 two of his sons continued the business as “W & J.J Kier” (William and James Johnston Kier).

In 1865 the UK’s Western daily press published the following about David Kier;

“MEMORIAL TO A GLAZIER.- We have come upon a very touching memorial of the skill of a working-man. It is simple and unostentatious in character; but it shows that the First Commissioner of Public Works is not above recognising a diligent and zealous workman. An inscription has been carved in hard stone and is to be inserted in the wall of Glasgow Cathedral, near the south-west door, we believe, to the following effect:- “David Kier, master glazier, inserted with his own hands sixty painted windows in this ancient Cathedral. Died 14th March, A.D. 1864.” Mr Cowper has done well, and his example deserves universal imitation. We ought to associate conscientious workmen with their work more than we have hitherto done. – Building News”.

In 1891 the colony was starting to feel the economic effects from the rapid decline in the land boom and subsequent stock market crash. Many businesses were now restructuring and downsizing in order to survive. In April 1891 Ferguson & Urie consolidated their stained glass business to a new multi storey warehouse and workshop in Franklin Street Melbourne and advertising indicated this as their new headquarters from then on.

Stained glass windows were still being made at the Curzon Street work shops until early 1899 when it was eventually sold to the North Melbourne Freemasons and it would be their Masonic Lodge more more than a century. In 2008 the building was sold to a developer with some heritage restrictions on the facade and it now contains boutique apartments. The front apartment facing Curzon Street was purchased by a freelance journalist named Blair Speedy and in 2012 he invited me to see the apartment which has  magnificent unimpeded view of the Curzon Street Union Memorial Church across the road, which of course has original Ferguson & Urie stained glass.

The façade of the Franklin Street warehouse also still exists today and some years ago I visited it to get photos from the front to compare with an old photo I found from the late 1890’s. What struck me as unusual was the existence of a heritage brass plaque on the building which stated that it was originally the site of Melbourne’s first Ice works and refrigeration, invented by a James Harrison in the early 1850’s. I found some heritage survey documentation which was commissioned by the Melbourne City Council and there were some details that had me doubting the legitimacy of some of the information. The building wasn’t originally built as the James Harrison’s ice works and even more doubtful that it was even built in the 1850’s. The Argus newspaper article published in 1891 about Ferguson & Urie’s new premises said: “…The new premises are in Franklin-street, and are four stories high, being commodious and comfortable throughout…” The article goes on to give a thorough description of the building and gives the very distinct impression that the building was solely occupied by Ferguson & Urie and built for them specifically for their business purposes of stained glass production.

“…The name of the firm is shortly to be fixed on the summit of the roof, with the letters delineated on variegated glass…”

A city scape photo showing the Franklin street warehouse post 1891 clearly shows the name “Ferguson & Urie” in large letters at the top of the building on the side facing Elizabeth Street. On the Franklin Street side, above the top floor, is “Glass Stainers and Manufacturers of Church Windows”. Above the floor below is “Plate Glass Warehouse”. Whether the signage was actually made of “variegated glass” appears to be unlikely as it simply looks to be simply painted on.

Regardless of the Franklin street buildings history, before and after Ferguson and Urie occupied it, I consider the building has a more historical significance to the history of Melbourne as being one of the cities greatest artistic establishments that created many of Australia’s oldest and most historical stained glass windows which can still be seen in many places throughout Melbourne and the suburbs as well as other eastern states of Australia to this day. In the last few years the heritage council has changed some of the on-line heritage documentation to include information about Ferguson & Urie as the owners and original inhabitants of the building!

Many of the original members of the Ferguson & Urie Company were becoming older and there was no-one to replace their skills. The colonies once insatiable appetite for stained glass windows as a decoration was now in obvious decline. The company, who once held a monopoly in stained glass production from 1861 to about 1878, now had many competitors from new local firms such as “Brooks, Robinson & Co”, “Rogers & Huges”, “William Montgomery”, “Mathieson & Gibson”, “Auguste Fischer” as well as cheaper imports from Europe.

On the 17th of April 1894 James Ferguson died at Ayr Cottage aged 74. Coincidentally it was the exact same date eight years earlier on the 17th April 1886 that his beloved wife Jane had died. The family placed an “In Memoriam” notice for Jane and one for James in the Argus newspaper the following day.

The North Melbourne Advertiser published a simple obituary for James on Friday 20th April 1894 :


“We regret to have to record the death of Mr. James Ferguson, the surviving partner of the well known glass staining firm of Ferguson and Urie. Mr. Ferguson was a colonist of about forty years’ standing, and for many years carried on business with his partner, Mr. Urie (deceased about six years ago), in Collins Street, near the National Bank. Mr. Ferguson passed away at his residence, Parkville, early on Tuesday morning, his death being simply a decay of nature, as he was in his seventy-first year. For the past four years the business of the firm has been carried on in Franklin Street and Curzon Street, North Melbourne. Mr. Ferguson was a member of the Presbyterian Church, and was much respected as a private citizen, but never aspired to enter public life. He died a widower, and leaves a grown up family. The funeral took place yesterday afternoon, deceased being interred in the Melbourne general cemetery and the cortege was followed by a large number of mourners. The body was conveyed to the grave in a panelled hearse, and enclosed in a plain coffin. There were three mourning coaches. Mr. Ferguson was buried in the Presbyterian compartment, the arrangements being carried out by Alfred Allison, of 221 Victoria Street, West Melbourne.”

Chapter 7:

With the original two founders of the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company now gone, the future of the company would be at the hands of their sons, James Ferguson Jnr (1860-1945) and William Urie (1864-1907).

One thing that has always been highly noticeable amongst the Scottish Colonists was their penchant for ensuring that their families and relatives were well catered for in their Will’s after they had passed. James Ferguson Snr’s Will of 1894 was very complex and had divisions of his estate spread across Victoria, Australia and Scotland. His actual probate documents were very complex and detailed and provided a wealth of knowledge and clues as the structure of the family history. On the 14th  June 1894 the Argus newspaper published a brief but concise summary of the beneficiaries of his Will;


“The will, dated April 2, 1887, and codicils, dated May 8, 1890, and September 27, 1891, of James Ferguson, late of Leonard-street, Royal-park, glass importer, who died on April 17, has been lodged for probate. The estate is valued as £24,317, of which £15,088 is realty and £9,229 personalty. The testator directs that his interest in his Collins-street property shall be sold, and that out of the proceeds a sum of £1,000 shall be invested for the three children of his deceased daughter, Barbara Kier, wife of Crawford Kier, of Sydney, and £1,000 for the benefit of his daughter, Margaret Ferguson, for life, and then to his other daughters now surviving in equal shares. The residue of this fund and the proceeds of his Dryburgh-street and Eden-park properties is to be equally divided among his daughters, Janet Kay Auld, wife of Thomas Auld, of Flinders-street, Melbourne, grocer; Marion Williams, wife of Edward Williams, of Inglewood, Ironmonger; Antonia Wallace Gordon, widow of Alexander Gordon; and Sarah Campbell Gentles, wife of Alexander Gentles, of Moonee ponds, wool-classer. Her directs a sum of £1,000 to be invested for the benefit of his sister, Marion Ferguson Bishop, of Glasgow, Scotland, for life, and then to her son, Thomas Bishop, and the testator’s sister in-law, Barbara Lawson Kennedy, in equal shares. The residue of the estate is left to the testator’s son, James Ferguson, for life, and then to his children, or failing children to the testator’s surviving daughters in equal shares”.

A summary of his Will, from a family history perspective, indicates that his estate was valued at £24,317.He would have probably been worth more than twice that amount if it were not for the stock market crash of 1891 which saw the end of land speculation.

Apart from the amounts bequeathed to his daughters and his son, he left £1000 to be invested for his three grandchildren who had been orphaned in Scotland; Mary Ferguson Kier, William Maitland Kier, and James Ferguson Kier, who were now living with his sister Marion in Glasgow. Marion was also bequeathed a £1000 investment to assist with the upbringing of the children. Also of interest in the will was the amount of £1000 to his eldest daughter Margaret, but in the Will it also mentioned an amount of £1000 additional to his second eldest daughter, Janet Kay Auld (wife of James Auld) which was specifically for the purpose of looking after her sister Margaret. I had found a couple of old photos that had Margaret Ferguson in them which indicated to me that she may have been mentally disabled, but this information in her father James’s Will was the first solid clue I had found that confirmed it.  The other interesting thing was the inclusion of ‘Barbara Lawson Kennedy’ in the Will. Barbara was James’s sister in-law (sister of his wife Jane Williamson Lawson). Previously I did not know that there was any other relative of Jane’s ‘Lawson’ family who had come to Australia but as it turned out, Barbara had married Gilbert Kennedy in Scotland in 1859, but so far I have not ascertained whether she and Gilbert both emigrated to Australia or whether she had emigrated as a result of Gilbert’s death in Scotland which is most likely. In any event, Barbara was a widower and she had moved into “Ayr Cottage” with her brother in-law James Ferguson not long after “Ayr Cottage was built in 1886. Barbara died in 1901.

Now that the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company was in the hands of the founders sons, the business began its slow decline. The older members of the company were slowly dying off and there were many other glazing companies competing with them in the stained glass trade.

Family lore has it that James Ferguson Jnr was a spoilt brat due to him being the only son amongst his six elder sisters. It doesn’t appear that he really had the business acumen and pioneering spirit of his father and so the business was destined to fail.

Despite James Ferguson Snr specifying in his Will in 1894 that he wished the family to retain Ayr Cottage after his death, it was eventually sold to the “Lockington” family who resided in it until 1901. It was then sold to the Victorian Neglected Children’s Aid Society who used it as an orphanage for the next sixty five years. By 1965 the society deemed Ayr Cottage uneconomical to continue repairs and upkeep on and decided to either demolish it, and rebuild on the same site, or sell and move elsewhere. Fortunately they opted to sell it and the adjoining University of Melbourne purchased it in 1966. At one stage during the University’s ownership it was used as their library. The university still own it today and in 2012 I was given a personal tour through the building (which at that time was re-named “Hilda Stevenson House”).

It was a surreal experience seeing all the original stained glass windows in Ayr Cottage. A portrait of the Scottish poet Robbie Burns appears in the stained glass window above the first flight of stairs and there are many other windows depicting flora and fauna and scenes from Scotland. Above the entrances to the two main doorways are fan light windows and each one has a bee hovering over a thistle which is the Ferguson Clan Motto “Dulcius Ex Asperis” which means “Sweeter after Difficulties.” It was a truly moving experience but the window that had me mesmerised was on the top floor facing Leonard Street. At the end of the hallway, facing the street was a pretty little window with small birds in it. Through the lighter shades of glass you could clearly see into the distance past the small birds where the multi storey buildings of Melbourne dominated the skyline. I couldn’t help but imagine what the scenery would have been out that window one hundred and thirty years ago.

Chapter 8:

Very few extant Ferguson & Urie stained glass windows have been found between the years 1894 and 1899. I have found some, but it seems that the tabloid interest in reporting this form of art seemed to have started to wane after 1895 and therefore finding them being mentioned in the newspapers has become a harder task. At the same time the public’s interest in stained glass as a decoration had also diminished significantly in favour of simpler lead-light windows. By this time Ferguson & Urie had many competitors in the trade and their styles in the simpler lead-light designs are almost indistinguishable between the various competing studios.

One of Ferguson & Urie’s largest windows made during the period 1894-1899 was for the Presbyterian Church in Werribee in Victoria. It’s coincidentally less than three kilometres from where I live. During the week of 13th June 1896 the company erected a three light stained glass window depicting the “Last Supper” in the Werribee Presbyterian Church to the memory of brothers Andrew and Thomas Chirnside. The Chirnside brothers were wealthy pioneers of the district and Thomas had donated the land for the church many years earlier and had also paid for the construction of the church. The Chirnside family lived in a huge sandstone mansion known as “Werribee Park” which was constructed between 1874 and 1876 and, as I have mentioned earlier, it also has windows by Ferguson & Urie which were “Acid Etched” glass with no stained or painted glass. These acid etched windows represent the single largest single collection of acid etched windows that were made by the firm and were created in the same year as those created by the company for Government House in Melbourne.

On the 22nd of August 1896, one of James Urie’s sons, James “Jim” Urie, died of Tuberculosis.  The newspaper notice of his funeral revealed further interesting clues about the men who were employees of the company. One of the names mentioned was “James Auld” who was James Ferguson’s grandson, the son of his second eldest daughter Janet Kay Ferguson and Thomas Auld (they were my great, great grandparents via one of their youngest daughters Isabella Stella Auld).

James Auld was the second eldest of ten children and was born on the 27th August 1873 at the family’s grocery business in Flinders Street Melbourne. His parents, Janet & Thomas operated a “Ships Chandlery” and grocery business from the bottom floor of a two storey building in Flinders Street Melbourne on the site which is now the current location of Melbourne’s iconic Federation Square, opposite the famous Flinders Street Station. At that point in time, the part of Flinders Street station as we know it today had not yet been built. A story recollected by my Great Grandmother, Isabella Stella Burleigh (nee Auld – his younger sister) was that as youngsters they could remember watching the masts of the tall ships coming up the Yarra River from the top floor of the grocery shop and they used to play amongst the scaffolding of the via duct when the station was being built. Their two brothers, James and Thomas Jnr, would mischievously place wax vesta matches on the tram lines along Flinders street.

James Auld (1873-1945) was apprenticed to Ferguson & Urie as a young boy about circa 1888. At some point in time prior to 1899 James went to Western Australia to visit relatives for a brief period before leaving Australia and heading to New Zealand. In New Zealand he gained employment with the decorating and glazing firm of ‘Robert Martin Ltd’.  This firm had their own stained glass department and undoubtedly James fitted right in with his Australian experience in the glass trade. On the 6th April 1903 James married Charlotte Mary Clarke and they had seven children. In 1907 James returned to Melbourne with his family and legend has it that they intended to stay, but the fierce heat of the Australian Summer didn’t agree with them and they subsequently returned to New Zealand in 1908. In 1913 James formed a business partnership with a Mr Patrick Gleeson as “Auld & Gleeson” and by the 1930’s they had premises in Taranaki Street Wellington as Oil and Colour merchants, leadlight makers, glass bevellers, decorating suppliers and mirror makers. In 1920 the company was awarded a significant government contract which enabled them to expand the business to include premises in Napier and Gisborne. In 1937 his wife Mary died and in 1938 James visited his six surviving sisters in Melbourne and photos from that occasion still exist. James died in New Zealand on the 12th February 1945 at the age of 71.

When I was growing up, all the elders would speak of the Auld sisters but no-one ever mentioned the two brothers (James & Thomas). Three of the sisters, Isabella Stella (my Great Grandmother), Florence and Jane, all lived together in a small cottage in Wilson Street Moonee Ponds. Isabella was a widower, her husband Andrew Burleigh having died in 1952, and her sisters; Jane (Jean) and Florence (Flo), had never married. Isabella was the last one of them alive by 1980 and as a boy I had visited her many times at Moonee Ponds. By about 1975, after her two sisters Jane and Flo had died, she moved in with my grandparents at Trafalgar in Gippsland, Victoria. Her only son, Andrew “Kay” Burleigh, being my grandfather on my mother’s side, always complained that he hated being an only son and when he married he tried to set a record by having nine children, one them of course being my mother, Isabelle ‘Margaret’ who married my father Barry in 1962.

After deciphering some of the old photos that we used to spread over the kitchen table at my grandparents house at Trafalgar, I finally figured out who the man was in some of the photos with the Auld sisters. He was their brother James Auld from New Zealand! For some years I dug deep to ascertain whether he had any family in New Zealand and that’s when I found out about his business history in the glass trade and his marriage to Charlotte in New Zealand, but for a long time could not find any evidence children. Eventually I applied for a copy of his death certificate and that’s where it mentioned his children’s names and ages. One day I came across an obituary notice for one of his daughters named “Jessie Lee,” who had died in 2009 aged 99 years. The notice also included other clues (as well as an address) and other names which all had the abbreviation ‘dec’ (deceased) after their names. But the most perplexing line in the obituary was a line that said she was a special sister of “Stella” (but no ‘dec’ after her name?) By my calculation, her sister “Stella Mary Auld” was born in about 1907 which would have made her 102 years old! Surely that was a mistake!

I wrote a snail mail letter to a Mrs Pat Pointon in New Zealand and introduced myself and provided an insight into my family history research of the Auld and Ferguson family from Australia. Some weeks later I got a reply from her and from this I was able to piece together who all the “Auld” descendants in New Zealand were. The biggest surprise was that her Aunt, Stella Mary Fowler (nee Auld) was indeed still alive at 102 years of age!

Over a period of nearly a year I spoke to Stella a number of times on the phone. She was as sharp as a tack and still mobile without any walking aides. Stella had married a New Zealand Government diplomat named Charlie Fowler in 1939 and they lived and travelled all over the world but had no children. Despite my information on the family history, Stella knew nothing of her great grandfather James Ferguson or of the Ferguson & Urie stained glass business.

On the 23rd October 2017 Stella’s Niece, Janice Ball (nee Auld) recollected of her Aunt Stella: “…they left N.Z. on the start of their overseas travels in 1954 when Charlie was appointed Trade Commissioner for N.Z.  They left for England in August 1954 on the R.M.S. Ruahine which sailed from Wellington.   Various members of the family were there to bid them farewell and I was allowed to go on board and remember being so excited at looking at their flash suite and will always remember seeing the ship going astern with all the streamers flying.  I still have a one page letter which my Aunt wrote to me aboard the ship after they had been a week or so at sea when they were due to arrive at Pitcairn Is.  They returned to N.Z. Jan/Feb 1959…”

In August 2010 Stella had a bad fall at her nursing home and she never recovered, as can be expected at that age. She died a month later on the 19th Sept 2010 at the extraordinary age of 103. She had received a record three letters from the Queen since passing her century in 2007!

By this time, three of the New Zealand relatives and their spouses had visited me in Australia and undertaken the family history pilgrimage and seen many of the stained glass windows around Melbourne. None of them had previously known anything of their stained glass heritage prior to this but one of them, Errol Vincent, had some old historic photos that he didn’t know the history of. One of them was the photo of the whole Ferguson Clan outside Ayr Cottage on New Year’s Day in 1888! Over the following two years Errol and his wife Ann and myself identified and named every single person in the photo based on the images from other known photos and a process of elimination. There are thirty five people in the photo. Another Kiwi cousin, Janice Ball (nee Auld), and her husband Cleeve have been looking for an extant Ferguson & Urie windows in New Zealand and have travelled thousands of kilometers across Kiwi land to get photos of the windows, some of which appear on this web site, such as Porangahau and Remuera.

My favourite quote from Janice back in 2013 is:
“Ferguson & Urie stained glass windows not only tell stories of the Bible but encompass medicine, explorers, humanitarians, sea tragedies, war, love and respect, royalty, bravery, Shakespeare, education, human suffering and even a famous race horse!”  – Janice Ball, 2013

Chapter 9:

In July 1899 James Urie’s widow, Grace Urie (nee Young), had died and at the end of the same month a notice was placed in the Victorian Government Gazette stating that a dividend by the Ferguson & Urie company would be paid:

“The Insolvency Acts.- In the Court of Insolvency, Melbourne District.

A DIVIDEND is intended to be declared in the matter of FERGUSON AND URIE, of 100 Franklin-street, Melbourne, in the colony of Victoria, glass stainers, whose estate was assigned on the 22nd day of June, 1899. Creditors who have not proved their debts by the 5th day of August, 1899, will be excluded.

Dated this 20th day of July, 1899.
DRYSDALE PURVES, 49 Elizabeth-street, Melbourne, Trustee.  5431.
ictorian Government Gazette, 61, Friday, July 21st 1899, page 2967.

The following day an advertisement appeared in the Melbourne Argus which stated that between the 8th & 11th August 1899 an auction would be held on the premises of Ferguson & Urie at 100 Franklin Street Melbourne.

The entire stock in trade and business equipment was to be sold with an unreserved price!

“PRELIMINARY NOTICE. TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY, THURSDAY, and FRIDAY, AUGUST, 8, 9, 10, and 11. On the Premises, 100 FRANKLIN STREET, MELBOURNE. The ENTIRE EXTENSIVE and VALUABLE STOCK IN TRADE, &c. In the Assigned Estate of Messrs. FERGUSON & URIE, GLASS STAINERS and MERCHANTS. For UNRESERVED SALE. FRASER and Co, have received instructions to SELL by AUCTION, on the premises, 100 Franklin-street, Melbourne, on dates as above, at half-past eleven o’clock. The above EXTENSIVE and VALUABLE STOCK IN TRADE &c, Consisting of sheet glass, rolled plate glass, fluted glass, Obscured rolled plate glass, Coloured glass, various tints, Cathedral glass, Mui?le glass, ripple glass, Roundels, Floor lights, Leaded panels, Heraldic and ornamental panels, Cartoons, large and small, glass stainers’ colours, Cut jewels, &c. Also, MACHINERY, WORKING PLANT, Tools, and a large Quantity of Sundries, Rolling-stock, Horses, Harness, &c. Catalogues in course of preparation. For UNRESERVED SALE.” –The Argus, Melbourne, Saturday 22nd July 1899

Unconfirmed reports indicate that the “E. L. Yencken” stained glass & glazing company brought the entire stock of glass and equipment. A stained glass artist named Alan Sumner (1911-1994) who was apprenticed to this firm at the age of 15 circa 1926, supposedly obtained a lot of the original sheets of antique glass that came from Ferguson & Urie sale in 1899 and in later years he would use some of this original glass to perform restoration and conservation work on historic Ferguson & Urie windows and also some of his own original works.

On the 6th of September 1899 the trustees advertised the premises at 100 Franklin Street for rent and on the 17th October 1899, newspapers reported that Edward Keep and Co had rented the Ferguson & Urie warehouse. This came about because of a fire which had occurred at the Keep & Co Lonsdale premises and the Ferguson & Urie warehouse was nearby and conveniently situated for them to move to and continue their business;

Messrs. Fras and Albert Keep, in conjunction with the departmental manager, Mr H. S. Wood, propose to continue the carriage ironmongery and agricultural implement business at 100 Franklin-street”.

In 1913, Keep Bros & Wood still advertised their business at 100 Franklin Street but now advertised as “Keep Bros & Wood Wheel Factory, Franklin Street” producing wooden coach wheels. By 1916 they had diversified the business and were selling agents for the “Trumbull Car” and later they manufactured bicycles!

Today the façade of the Ferguson & Urie Franklin Street warehouse still exists and is known as “Burbank” house.

In December 1899 the final Ferguson & Urie company dividend was to be paid. The only remaining piece of real-estate to be finalised was the company headquarters building in Collins Street. The magnificent Ferguson & Urie building had long been passed to the mortgagees before the closure of the company and had for some years been tenanted by many different companies which included the headquarters for a soft drink company and also the famous “Thomas Cook” travel company.

For more than two years the Ferguson & Urie building in Collins Street remained unsold but in February 1901 the newspapers reported that it had eventually found a buyer which just so happened to be the Citizens Life Assurance Company (formerly the Planet Building Society) which was right next door to the Ferguson & Urie building. By November 1902 the Citizens Life Assurance Company had made extensive renovations between the two buildings and in late November the staff assembled at the “Vienna Café” in Collins street to take part in a  “ ‘house warming’ in connection with the entry into the company’s new premises in Collins-street. The old buildings of the planet Building Society and Ferguson and Urie’s have been rebuilt and formed into a new and handsome edifice…”

In the next fifteen years the infamous demolition company known as “Wheelan the Wrecker” was responsible for the destruction of many of the historic buildings around Melbourne and especially Collins Street. In about 1915 the historic Ferguson & Urie building and the Citizens Life Assurance building fell to “Whelan’s” wrecking ball.

In the streets and laneways of Melbourne today you can see many old original gothic buildings nestled between the skyscrapers. It’s quite a random and surreal scene seeing these magnificent old historic buildings in the shadows of the modern ones. It seems completely random as to how some survived and others didn’t.

The destruction of Melbourne’s colonial buildings continued into the 1970’s until public rage intervened and now many of those old buildings are protected by heritage legislation.

In Curzon Street North Melbourne the façade of the original two storey Ferguson & Urie workshops building still exists. Up until about 2012 the building still existed in its original form with the exception of the parapet at the top with the finials and the name “Ferguson & Urie” emblazoned across the top. This part of the buildings original decoration had been removed long ago in the early 1900’s. Today the shell of the building has been converted to boutique apartments but the façade has been preserved and can still be clearly identified as being the same as what can be seen in a photo of the building from the 1887 Ferguson & Urie company dinner photos.

In 2013 I was contacted by the owner of one of the apartments facing Curzon Street and he invited me to see inside. It was a remarkable modern transformation and from the kitchen window overlooking Curzon Street you had a full view of the Curzon Street Union Memorial Church which was built in 1879. The church, which has been closed for restoration for many years, still contains many Ferguson & Urie stained glass windows. This view of the church and its imposing spire would have been exactly the same as what the Ferguson & Urie employees would have seen from the top floor window more than a century ago!

Chapter 10:

James & Jane Ferguson’s Children.

  1. Margaret Ferguson (1842-1913)

Margaret was the eldest of James and Jane Ferguson’s children. James and Jane married on the 25th June 1841 at Wallacetown in Ayr, Scotland, and Margaret was born the following year in 1842. All research and photos indicated that Margaret was mentally disabled but it’s not known whether she was born with the disability or whether it may have been as the result of a later disease or accident.

When I was researching the Scottish census records of 1851, which was conducted on the evening of the 30th March, the household record for James Ferguson’s family in John Street, Wallacetown, records her parents, James & Jane, Margaret’s younger sister Janet Kay (age 6), Jane (age 4), Marion (age 2), and James Jnr (age 5 months). James Urie (James’s future business partner) was listed as a 22 year old visitor and the only other person listed was Janet Mills who was listed as their 15 year old servant. But there was no mention of Margaret!

Usually there is a logical explanation for the missing names in the census records and mostly, in relation to children, it’s a fair indication that a child has either died or depending on their age between the census records, they have reached adulthood and have left home and they may appear in another census record with another family.

In Margaret’s case, this was a perplexing anomaly because she was only about 9 years old at the time of the 1851 census and therefore it’s unlikely she had left home. Because it was highly probable that she was born with the mental disability, it may have been the case that she had been sent away for treatment or to an institution!

Further research of the other Ferguson relatives revealed where Margaret was on the night of the 1851 census. She was listed as being the granddaughter visitor with her maternal grandparent’s, Gavin Lawson and Margaret Williamson, at their house at Gallowgate in Glasgow!

Exactly why Margaret was visiting her grandparents in Glasgow may be explained as simply visiting and nothing more but I guess we’ll never know, after all it was well over a century and a half ago!

Margaret was about thirteen years old when she arrived in Australia with her mother and her three younger sisters aboard the “Emma” in 1855. Her younger brother James had died as an infant before they left Scotland and so it would be a mother and her three young girls who would undertake the perilous voyage across the seas to Australia in 1855.

Very little is known about Margaret growing up in Melbourne but she appears in the Ferguson clan family photo taken at Ayr Cottage in Leonard Street Royal Park (Parkville) on new Year’s Day in 1886 and another photo taken circa 1892 in which it clearly shows from her facial expression indicating she had a disability.

In the years after her father James had died in 1894 it can only be assumed that her sister Janet Kay Auld was responsible for looking after her. Her father bequeathed her an annuity of £1000 and her sister Janet Kay was given an additional £1000 which was expressly for the purpose of looking after Margaret. A family portrait of the Auld family taken circa 1900 does not include Margaret in it. Whether she was deliberately left out of the family group photo or whether by this time her sister had placed her in a care facility may never be known until asylum records can be researched.

Margaret died aged 71 on the 12th May 1913. There doesn’t appear to have been an obituary notice published in the newspapers so the only record of her death is her death certificate and the cemetery record which indicates that she was buried in the family plot with her parents, James & Jane, at the Melbourne General Cemetery on the 13th April 1913. Her name is not listed on the gravestone.

  1. Janet Kay Ferguson (1844-1926)

Janet Kay Ferguson was the second eldest daughter of James & Jane Ferguson. She was my Great, Great Grandmother and was born on the 28th June 1844, presumably at the family home in John Street Wallacetown. Her exact date of birth was found handwritten in the historic Auld family bible which has been restored and is in the possession of my aunt Jessie Tamblyn (nee Burleigh).

Janet married Thomas Auld (1838-1913) in the West Melbourne Presbyterian Church on the 8th November 1871 when she was about 27 years old. They ran a grocery shop in Flinders Street Melbourne which I believe was located at the eastern end of Flinders Street on part of the site which is now known as Federation Square, opposite the iconic Flinders Street Station. They had nine children who were all born on the second floor of the building above the grocery shop.

  • Jane Auld (1872-1967) – Known as Jean, she was born in 1872. She never married and died in 1967.
  • James Auld (1873-1945) – James was born in 1873, he was apprenticed to his grandfather at the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company when he was a teenager and later went to New Zealand and started business in Gisborne in the glazing trade. He married Mary Charlotte Clarke in 1903 and they had seven children. James died in 1945. I’ve been in contact with their surviving children from New Zealand and most of them have since visited Australia and I’ve taken them on tours around Melbourne and other localities to see their family history and many of the historic stained glass windows.
  • Mary Auld (1875-1971) – Mary was born in 1875 and married Arthur Ernest Cleverley in 1909. They had two girls named Edna Mary Cleverley and Marion Australis Cleverley. They moved to Sydney, New South Wales, some time after 1914 where she died at Terrey Hills in 1971 aged 96.
  • Marion Auld (1876-1922) – Marion was born in 1876. She never married and died of breast cancer in 1922.
  • Jessie Auld (1877-1966). Jessie was born in 1877. She married John Charles Winder in 1911. They had no children and she died at Parkville in 1966 aged 89.
  • Isabella Auld (1878-1879) – Isabella was born in 1878 but she died as an infant the following year.
  • Florence Auld (1880-1972) – Florence “Flo” was born in 1880, she never married and a family story told by my grandparent’s parents of when she died in 1972 was that she always loved to go for a ride in a motor car. When they hearse arrived at the Melbourne general Cemetery on the 6th of June 1972 the grave had not quite been completed and so the hearse had to do a few laps of the cemetery whilst the grave diggers completed it. On the final lap she was given a standing ovation as the hearse pulled up at the grave site because she had had the last laugh on everyone by having her last long drive in a motor car!
  • Thomas Kay Auld (1882-1936) – Thomas was born in 1882. His trade was coach builder and he moved to South Australia where he married Florence May Dawes in 1911 and they had five children. Unsubstantiated family rumour says that he had “fallen out” with the family because he had married into a Catholic family! Thomas died at Torrensville South Australia in 1936.
  • Isabella Stella Auld (1881-1980) – Isabella was my great grandmother and was born in 1884. She and her sisters were dressmakers and milliners and they ran their own business at Essendon. Many photographs of her and her sisters show them always immaculately dressed in magnificent dresses and fancy hats which they had made themselves.

Isabella married a farmer, Andrew Graham Burleigh, in 1911 at the West Melbourne Presbyterian church. Wedding photos of Isabella show that she was an extremely pretty woman with a perfect complexion and fine cheek bones. Her wedding dress and decorations were all hand made by her and her sisters. After she married Andrew Burleigh they ran a farm at Iona in Western Victoria but Isabella was not the “farmer’s wife” type and preferred the refinements of city life and the “high tea” society.

Isabella and Andrew only had one child, being my Grandfather, Andrew Kay Burleigh who was born in Brunswick 1913. After her husband Andrew died in 1952, Isabella and three of her other sisters lived together in a quaint little cottage in Wilson Street Moonee Ponds and in the late 1970’s, when she was the only one of the Auld sisters left alive, she moved in with my grandparents at Trafalgar. Isabella died at Warragul in Gippsland in 1980 aged 96. When we used to visit her and her sister Flo at Moonee Ponds in the 1970’s it used to freak me out a bit because both of them had these big thick glasses and if you happened to look at them at a certain angle it was like staring at Cyclops! I obviously got over it as I got older, especially when she used to give my brother and I a 20 cent coin each which she had tied up in the corner of her hanky! I used to buy a Disney comic with it and in later years the 20 cent coins became 50c coins.

When I was about 15 years of age, I used to spread out the old box of sepia photos my grandparents had on their kitchen table at Trafalgar during Christmas holidays. Old Great Grandmother Isabella Stella and my Grandparents and aunts and uncles would help me identify who the people were in the photos and I’d write the information on the back in pencil. Thirty years later a lot of those old photos were given to me by various aunts and uncles and at the time I remember thinking how awesome it was that someone had written notes and names on the back of them, until I realised later on that it was my own handwriting from thirty years earlier! I obviously had this family history bug in my blood from when I was a boy.

  • Elsie May Auld (1885-1979) – Elsie was born in 1885. She married John Noel Rentoul at the West Melbourne Presbyterian Church 1911 and they had two children, Jean Isobel in 1912 and John Laurence “Laurie” in 1918.

Their daughter Jean never married and travelled the world as personal assistant to a wealthy American couple named “Tode” and in her later years she remained as a close friend and assistant to the widowed Mrs Kate Tode until they were both in their advanced years. Jean died at Bingil Bay in Queensland sometime before 2000.

The son, Laurie, never married and it was a well known family secret that he was a gay man. He lived in the Dandenong ranges into his advanced years and was a very close friend of the famous ballet dancer Sir Robert Helpman. Laurie also appeared in many plays and dances during his life but he gained no fame himself.

Laurie appeared at many family gatherings as I was growing up. He was a kindly and quiet man but I remember him having a “limp” cold handshake and he was always very pale looking and thin. The last time I saw him was in the late 1980’s when, by then, I had my own family. Laurie died in January 2000 and family lore has it that his “partner” scattered his ashes from a small plane over the Dandenong ranges. Apparently Laurie knew a fair bit about the Ferguson family history and amongst some of his possessions were some family photos which were handed down to my grandfather (his cousin), Andrew Kay Burleigh which I now have and have been researching the people in those photos for some years now.

Elsie’s husband, John Noel “Jack” Rentoul, was the son of the Reverend John Laurence Rentoul who came from a long line of Presbyterian Church ministers but Jack appears to be the black sheep of the family and was a “smooth talking” travelling salesman. Family photos depict him as a “debonair” chap in a good looking suit, fedora hat, and cigarette hanging out his mouth which made him look more like a two bit gangster.

In 1910 Jack was injured in a spectacular train derailment at Hamilton in Western Victoria. In 1915 his father, the Reverend J. L. Rentoul, secretly petitioned a local member of parliament to have his sons WW1 enlistment cancelled on the account of his “injuries” obtained in the earlier train accident and citing the “devastation” it would cause his family if he were to be killed during the war. He was deemed medically “unfit” for service on the 24th April 1915.

Jack Rentoul died in 1944 and Elsie was left penniless. Elsie was a very proud woman and was always immaculately dressed like her elder sisters, but she hid the fact that she was broke. She lived her later years in a tiny flat in Queens Road Albert Park with son Laurie and regularly visited her surviving sisters at their home in Moonee Ponds until she died in 1979 aged 94.

On the 11th January 1913 Thomas Auld died at the age of 75. At that time the Auld family were living in a Victorian era house called “Tyneville” in Bayles street Parkville. I have a few photos of Thomas as well as a group photo of the seven Auld sisters standing on the veranda of Tyneville circa 1922 shortly before Marion’s death. The house still exists and is now owned by St Carthage’s Presbytery who has immaculately restored it with all its period features of its time. St Carthage’s history of the house claim it to have once been owned by a Mayor of Melbourne (which I can find no record of) and during WW2 was supposedly used as a brothel for the troops camped in Royal Park!

In an article published in the “Weekly Times” in May 1964, five of the Auld sisters were photographed and interviewed for an article titled “Auld friends don’t depart.” The reason this came about was that apparently my grandfather (Andrew Kay Burleigh) had previously read an article by someone who had claimed that his mother’s sisters combined ages were over 400 years. Not to be beaten, my grandfather scoffed at it and wrote to the newspaper with the claim that his mother & her surviving sisters combined ages far exceeded five hundred years between them. Consequently the newspaper turned up at the Wilson Street house in May 1964 and photographed them and wrote an article about them for the Weekly Times. The only one missing from the newspaper photo of the six surviving sisters was Mary who was living in Sydney at the time. In the newspaper photograph the sisters are shown having “silver service” tea and cake at the lounge room dining table. In the photo are two artefacts shown on the table which I currently own. One is the fancy silver teapot and the other is a pedestal cake plate which their father Thomas had brought at the 1888 Melbourne Centenial Exhibition!

Old Janet Kay Ferguson died on the 30th September 1925 at the age of 81. Vague stories told to me by my aunts and uncles was that she had apparently been run over by a Tram in Moonee Ponds but when I started researching and looking through the old newspapers for any account of the event I found the true story! The recollections about the tram was almost correct but in fact she had been hit and run over by a Lorry Truck when she was getting off a tram only a short distance from the house in Wilson Street Moonee Ponds:


Unlicensed Driver’s Ignorance

The driver of a motor-lorry which knocked down and killed Mrs. Janet Kay Auld, aged 81 years, of Wilson street, Moonee Ponds, on the evening of September 30th, was described by the coroner (Mr.Berriman) at the morgue on Friday as a potential danger to the community. Michael Vernon Gallagher, tram conductor, of Lennox street Ascotvale, said:-About 10 minutes to 6 o’clock on the evening of September 30 I was working on a tram car in Pascoevale road, Moonee Ponds. At the corner of the strand, Mrs Auld alighted from the car and walked slowly towards the footpath. I then heard the horn of a motor lorry, which was approaching the tram, and, seeing it only a short distance away, called out to the woman. She appeared to hesitate, as if about to return to the car again, and then went on. She was struck by the mudguard of the lorry, thrown across the radiator and after being carried about 15 paces fell to the ground underneath the van. I went to her assistance and had her conveyed to the Melbourne Hospital. Albert Edward Farrow, Munro Street, Ascotvale, said:- I was seated alongside Vincent Burns, of Addison street, Moonee Ponds, who was driving the van at the time of the accident. When he saw the woman he slowed down the vehicle to a speed of about 10 miles and hour. The woman did not look either to the right or left and was struck. In a statement Burns said: – At the time of the accident I was not a licensed driver. It was the first time I had been in charge of the lorry, and I did not know that I should not have passed the stationery tramcar.  Mr Berriman: – Are you licensed now? Witness: – No, I have not driven since the accident. In finding that Auld died from injuries received through having been accidentally knocked down by a motor-lorry, Mr Berriman said that it was most unfair to motorists that there was such a lack of uniformity of regulations regarding the passing of stationary trams by motorists.” –The Argus, Saturday 10 October 1925

Chapter  11:

James & Jane Ferguson’s Children  – Continued.

  1. Jane Williamson Ferguson (1846-1875)

Jane was born at Wallacetown, Ayr, in 1846 and was about 9 years old when she boarded the “Emma” for Australia with her mother and siblings in 1855. At about the age of 19 she married Richard Coop at North Melbourne on the 21st September 1865. They had four children, and only one, a son named James, survived to adulthood. James Coop was born in 1866 and he appears standing near his grandfather James Ferguson at Ayr Cottage on New Years Day 1888. His father Richard doesn’t appear in the photo. What became of James after 1886 has not been ascertained. His fathers, “Coop” family had a business in Melbourne making lead pipes and many other lead products, including lead ‘cames’ for leadlight and stained glass windows (did they supply Ferguson & Urie ?) and also “rifle shot”. They owned and operated the historic “Coop’s Shot Tower” in Melbourne which still exists as a heritage listed structure inside the massive glass dome at Melbourne Central shopping centre. The other Coop children all died as infants; Richard (1868-1869), William (1870-1870), and Henry 1872-1872).

Strangely, two of his infant siblings, William and Henry, died as a result of being “accidentally” smothered in their parent’s bed as indicated in the inquests.

Jane Williamson Coop (nee Ferguson) died on the 8th of May 1875 aged 29. Her husband Richard re-married a Lavinia Smith circa 1883 and they had a further seven children. The Coops are buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery but there is no gravestone.

  1. Marion Ferguson (1848-1927)

Marion was born in Wallacetown Ayr in 1848 and was about seven years of age when she boarded the “Emma” in 1855. She married Edward Sydney Williams in 1871 and they had seven children; Jane “Jean” Grant Williams (1872-1908), Annie Williams (1873-1948), Edward Sydney Williams (1875-1946), James Ferguson Williams (1877-1959), Elsie Marion Williams (1882-1966), Percy Alexander Williams (1883-1952), and Francis William Williams (1884-1884). Marion died at Box Hill, Victoria, on the 24th June 1927 aged 78 and is buried in the Williams family plot at the Melbourne General Cemetery. The family gravestone is only a few paces from the Ferguson gravestone in the Presbyterian section of the cemetery.

  1. James Ferguson (1851-1851)

James was born at Wallacetown in 1851 but is considered to have died as an infant in the same year or before Jane and the children departed for Australia aboard the “Emma” in 1855.

  1. Antonia Wallace Ferguson (1852-1926)

Antonia was born in Wallacetown, Ayr, in 1852 only a short time before her father James left for Australia. She married Alexander Gordon in Melbourne on the 11th October 1877 and they had four children; Robert “Bob” Gordon (1879-1957); James Ferguson Gordon (1880-1932) who served in WW1; Jane Williamson Gordon (1882-1884) – who died as an infant, and a second Jane Williamson Gordon (1884-1886) who also died as an infant.

Antonia Wallace Gordon died 8th December 1926 aged 73 and is buried in the Gordon family plot at the Melbourne General Cemetery. This gravestone is also only a short distance from the Ferguson grave in the Presbyterian section.

  1. Barbara Lawson Ferguson (1856-1889)

Barbara was the first of the Ferguson children to be born in Australia. She married Crawford Kier in Melbourne on the 19th May 1881 and they had three children; William Maitland Kier (1881-1936), Mary Ferguson Kier (1884-1946), and James Ferguson Kier (1886-1964). All of this Kier family appear in the Ferguson Clan photo at Ayr Cottage on New Years Day 1888.

Crawford was a native of Scotland and was born 3rd May 1858 in Glasgow to William Kier (1825-1886) and Mary Maitland (1827-1890). He arrived in Australia in 1879 aboard the “Loch Garry” and two years later he married Barbara in North Melbourne. At one point in time Crawford was employed at the Ferguson & Urie stained glass company in a managerial role but four years later he was declared bankrupt and was unemployed! Why he was not still employed with Ferguson & Urie is a mystery because many other Ferguson relatives and connections were employed by the company and everyone was treated as family and were well looked after in times of need.

The Kier’s left Melbourne and headed for Sydney, New South Wales. On the 30th March 1888 they all departed Sydney aboard the “R.M.S. Parramatta” and returned to Scotland via London. Legend has it that the family only intended on returning to Scotland for a holiday but that’s where it all ended.

On the 3rd November 1889 Barbara died at Bothwell of kidney disease and only four months later Crawford also died on the 3rd of March 1890. His death was originally recorded as being of Kidney disease but a later correction to the death certificate indicated that the cause of death was likely from an epileptic fit.

In the short period after their mother’s death the three Kier children resided at their grandfather’s widowed sister residence, Marion Bishop (nee Ferguson), at 33 West End Park Street Glasgow and their father Crawford was paying Marion board and school fees for the children (as indicated in his probate documents). When Crawford died they were orphans. They were brought up by their aunt Marion and would never return to Australia.

The first of the Kier children born in Australia, William Maitland Kier (1881-1936), married Catherine “Kate” Henderson on the 6th June 1901 and they had seven children; Ella Kier (1911-????), Thomas “Tommy” Kier (N.d?), James “Jimmie” Kier (????-1982), Crawford Kier (1903-1971), Marion May Bishop “Cissie” Kier (1906-1976) who married Jonathan Black], Wilhemina Barbara “Winnie” Kier (1909-1983), who married James Kirk Wise, and Irene Ferguson Kier (1913-??), [who married Alan Hay].

On the 19th July 1915 William then married Margaret Violet Wright and there were another four children; Janet “Jennie” Kier (1915-????), William Maitland Kier (1917-1986), John Maitland “Jackie” Kier (1924-2007), who married Annie Lauder Eskdale, and Margaret Maitland Kier (1927-????) who married Archibald McLean Finnie.

The second of the Kier children born in Australia was Mary Ferguson Kier (1884-1946). On the 29th July 1915 she married David Phin and they had three children; David Kier Phin (1916-1988) who married Joyce Henderson in 1944 (Joyce only just passed away at Barrow-in-Furness in June 2015); Mary Ferguson “May” Phin (1919-2009), married Henry Donnachie in 1942; and Crawford Kier Phin (1921-1943), was an airman in the RAF during WW2 and was killed when their plane was shot down over Germany in March 1943.

The third of the Kier children born in Australia was James Ferguson Kier (1886-1964). In the early 1900’s he was a merchant seaman and married Mary Ellen ‘Nellie’ Bishop in January 1910. They had four children; Winifred “Winnie” Kier (N.d?), Crawford Kier (N.d?), William Kier (N.d?) and Irene May Bishop Kier (1910-1993) who married Thomas Carter Smith in 1929.

When the three Kier children’s grandfather, James Ferguson, died in Australia in 1894 he left amounts in his will as trusts for the children, as well as an investment annuity to his sister Marion Bishop (nee Ferguson) who was their guardian.

Mrs Joyce Henderson (who died in June 2015), told me that her mother-in-law, Mary Ferguson Phin (Kier), did not know until her advanced years that she had been born in Australia. It sounds unusual, but then again, she was only five years old at the time they all returned to Scotland.

The Kier family ancestry also has an artistic background in the art and craftsmanship of stained glass like the Ferguson’s. Crawford Kier’s father, William Kier (1825-1886) and brother James Johnston Kier (1833-1907) had a stained glass company by the name of “W & J. J. Kier” in Glasgow and their father, David Kier (1802-1864) was the famous glazier and stained glass craftsman who was appointed master glazier to Glasgow cathedral in the late 1850’s. His sons William & James worked with him in the stained glass trade and were at one stage known as David Kier & Son’s until his death in 1864 and then they formed partnership as “W & J. J. Kier”. The authorities of Glasgow Cathedral held the workmanship of David Kier in such high esteem that they placed a monumental tablet in the Blackadder Aisle of Glasgow Cathedral. The Glasgow Herald of 3rd January 1865 wrote the following:

The First Commissioner has performed a graceful act, by causing an inscription, carved in hard stone, to be inserted in the wall of the Cathedral, near the south-west door. It is to the following effect:- “David Kier, master glazier, inserted with his own hands sixty painted windows in this ancient Cathedral. Died 14th March, A.D. 1864.” To the skill of the late Mr. Kier was entirely owing to the perfect workmanship with which the painted windows were inserted in their places as they arrived; to his care, also, we owe the perfection to the measurements, which enabled the artists to fit their work so perfectly to the spaces destined to receive it. It too often happens that the skilful and conscientious working man is forgotten, and our attention is drawn only to those who from their station in life and other circumstances are better known to the public. This recognition of the diligent and zealous workman, and this commemoration of his humble but invaluable services, reflect infinite credit on the judgement and good taste, as well as on the good feeling, of the First Commissioner, We are happy to think that Mr. Kier’s connection with the Cathedral windows was the means of establishing an excellent business now carried on, with daily increasing prosperity, by his son.”

This memorial tablet still exists in the Cathedral!

  1. Sarah Campbell Ferguson (1859-1935)

Sarah was the second of James & Jane Ferguson’s children to be born in Australia. She married Alexander Gentles in 1882 and they had nine children. William Thomas Gentles (1883-1968); Jane Gentles (1886-1957); James gentles (1888-1888); Ann “Annie” Gentles (1890-1921); James Alexander Gentles (1892-1968); Frederick Houghton Gentles (1894-1990); Victoria Kaye Gentles (1897-1965); Elsie Florence Gentles (1902-1978) and Marion Rita Gentles (1904-1975). The group of the Gentles family appears in the Ferguson Clan photo at Ayr Cottage on New Years Day 1888 but only includes the children, William and Jane, as they were the only ones who were born at the time the photo was taken. Sarah Campbell Gentles died at Ascotvale on the 6th January 1935.

  1. James Ferguson Jnr (1861-1945)

James Jnr was born in North Melbourne on the 1st October 1861 and was the only boy amongst his seven elder sisters. James never married and family legend has it that he was very spoilt because he was the only son. After his father died in 1894 it doesn’t appear that he showed much of the “Pioneering spirit” to continue on with his fathers stained glass business. The future of the Ferguson & Urie Company was at the hands of James Jnr and a son of James Urie, William Urie. The business slowly declined in the following six years until it closed in 1899.

James Ferguson Jnr slipped into obscurity and nothing is known of his life after the turn of the century. In the 1919 electoral roll his address was listed as 77 Capel street North Melbourne which was just behind Melbourne’s famous Victoria Markets. James died at the “Mount Royal” hospital at Royal Park on the 26th July 1945 at the age of 84. He was the last of the Ferguson’s that could have carried on the family name but he died a bachelor. He was buried with his parents and his elder sister Margaret at the Melbourne General Cemetery. Like his sister Margaret, his name is also not recorded on the headstone.

The End

Well, it’s not really the end…..what I’ve written is just what was known to me at the time of writing it. Undoubtedly this page will be the subject of continual editing over time.



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