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Messrs William Fergusson & Sons

Mr Fergusson came to Dundee about 1811, from Glamis. He was a clerk with Bell and Balfour, Merchants/Manufacturers, and then started his own company. His two sons, Robert Fergusson and Henry Balfour Fergusson, joined when they came of age, becoming partners.

Subscription value in 1863:

£50

Relative to inflation up to 2019:

£5000

Relative to income compared to 2019:

£40000

Details and history

Name of company:

Messrs William Fergusson & Sons

Company address:

Office:
13 Cowgate, Dundee, c.1846-1847.[1]
2 Panmure Street, Dundee, c.1850-1859.[2]
4 Royal Exchange Place, Dundee, c.1861-1892.[3]

Works:
Dudhope Works.[1]

Number of employees:

Unknown

Nature of business:

Power loom linen and jute manufacturers.

Turnover:

Unknown

Date ceased trading:

Company was acquired by Low & Bonar in May 1912 and became a Limited Company in that year. Wm Fergusson & Sons traded under their own name until 1971/72.[4]

Comments

William Fergusson & Sons, Weaving Manufacturers, traced its origins to 1818 in the Hilltown district, when William first appeared in the local directory as a merchant, on the east side of Hilltown.[5] For a number of years, William’s address was just Hilltown[6] and then 41 Hilltown[7] and he was described as a manufacturer. His sons, Henry B. and Robert, were also listed as manufacturers living at 41 Hilltown in 1844.[8] The firm of William Fergusson & Sons, power-loom manufacturers, commenced about 1846 and from this date was based at the Dudhope Works, with an office at 13 Cowgate.[1] William and Henry remained at 41 Hilltown but Robert had moved to Springfield Place in the west end.[1] Robert was also a member of the Public Library Committee, c.1846-1850.[9] In 1850, all three partners were living in Springfield Place: William and Henry at 22 and Robert at 23.[10] The firm was now described as flaxspinners as well as power-loom manufacturers and the office had moved to 2 Panmure Street.[10] Over the next few years the sons were involved in a number of outside bodies.

William and Henry had moved from Springfield Place to 4 Blackness Terrace by 1858[11] and Robert moved to Elmbank, Camperdown Street, Broughty Ferry soon after.[12] The firm’s offices had also moved to 4 Royal Exchange Place.[12] At the time of the subscription to the Albert Institute, the firm was described as power-loom linen manufacturers.[13] Robert had moved to Tayside, West Ferry and Henry to 13 Airlie Place by 1867.[14] This was Robert’s last home but Henry moved to 15 Douglas Terrace, Broughty Ferry, about 1886, where he spent the rest of his life.[15] As jute became more prominent in the trade, the firm were described as power loom linen and jute manufactures.[16]

A third generation of Fergussons had begun to join the firm by the mid-1870s and were able to carry on the business after the death of the last original partner in 1903.[17]

Dudhope Works had been erected in 1839 but the premises were destroyed by fire on 30 May 1892. The greater portion of the fabric was destroyed, damage done to the extent of £15,000 and about 300 people thrown out of employment.[18] A new Dudhope Works, designed by J. Murray Robertson, came into operation in May 1893.[4] After this date, the office at 4 Royal Exchange Place was given up and presumably new offices were incorporated into the reconstructed works.

Dudhope Mill workers were out on strike for two weeks in March 1894 because Messrs Fergusson & Son had posted a notice in their works that wages would be reduced by 10 per cent. After a conference between a deputation of workers and employers, the workers returned to work under the old terms.[19]

In 1897, many manufacturers had an overstock of manufactured goods, waiting for an improvement in trade. This was a result of a new Tariff Bill about to be introduced and New York beginning to produce its own products. A number of mills began closing on a Saturday and Messrs William Fergusson & Sons threw off 100 looms.[20]

The company was acquired by Low & Bonar in May 1912 and became a Limited Company in that year. Wm Fergusson & Sons traded under their own name until the early 1970s.[4]

William Fergusson (1786-1865)

William was born in Glamis in 1786, the son of William Fergusson.[21] He was married twice. In 1813 he married Isabella Beig[22] and the couple had William (1815),[23] Henry Balfour (1817)[24] and Robert (1821).[25] In 1829, William was one of the two Baron Bailies in the Hilltown of Dundee, entitled to hold courts to settle disputes.[26] Isabella died in 1841 from “decay of nature” and was buried in the Howff.[27] He remarried in 1842,[28] his new bride was the Dunbar-born Martha Agnes Brown and the couple had Isabella Martha (1844)[29] and William Henry (1847).[30] Martha also pre-deceased William in 1852 from “inflammation of bowels and gastric fever” aged 47.[31] William, merchant and manufacturer, died in 1865, aged 79, not living quite long enough to see the Albert Institute built.[32]

Henry Balfour Fergusson (1817-1903)

Henry Balfour Fergusson was born in Dundee in 1817,[24] probably named after his father’s employer at the time. By 1842, he was described as a manufacturer in his own right[33] and in 1846 was one of the partners in William Fergusson & Sons, along with his father and younger brother, Robert.[1]

Henry became a director of the Working Men’s Coffee and News-Room,[34] the Monthly Tract Society,[35] a director of the Public Seminaries (Dundee High School)[36] and a director and house visitor for Dundee Royal Infirmary.[37] He also became a director of the Dundee Industrial School Society[38] and the Dundee Bible Society (auxiliary to the National Bible Society of Scotland),[39] was a member of the general committee of the Mars Training Ship,[40] on the committee of the Dundee Working Men’s Club and Institute,[41] became a vice-president and, subsequently, a director of the Dundee Chamber of Commerce,[42]  was president and subsequently an honorary vice-president of the Dundee Boys and Girls Religious Association[43] and was a director of the Dundee Sabbath School Teachers’ Union.[44] He was also appointed a Justice of the Peace for the Dundee District of Forfarshire, c.1876[45] and served on the committee of the Dundee Liberal Association.[46] Henry was for many years a governor of University College, Dundee, sometimes as a representative of the Chamber of Commerce.[44] He was deputy chairman of the Dundee Savings Bank for a short time[47] and also became a trustee for the Patrick A. Lowson Memorial Scholarship.[48] In 1896, Henry was made a Deputy Lieutenant and Justice of the Peace of the County for the City of Dundee.[49]

Henry Balfour Fergusson, merchant and manufacturer, died in Dundee in 1903, aged 85.[50]

Robert Fergusson (1821-1878)

Robert Fergusson  was born in Dundee in 1821.[25] In 1844, he was described as a manufacturer in his own right[8] and in 1846, entered the firm of William Fergusson & Sons, along with his father and older brother, Henry.[1]

Robert was a member of the Public Library Committee,[9] a member of the Model Lodging House Association[35] and a director of the Dundee & Arbroath Railway Co.[36] He later became a director of the Caledonian Railway Co.[51] and served on the local board of the Scottish Provident Institution (Life) Insurance Co.[52] He also served as a director of the Dundee Chamber of Commerce[14] and was on the committee of the Dundee St. Cecilia Society.[53]

Robert Fergusson, manufacturer, died in Cannes, France, on 26 January 1878.[54]

Sources

  1. Dundee Directory, 1846-47. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  2. Dundee Directories, 1850-1859. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  3. Dundee Directories, 1861-1892. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  4. William Fergusson & Sons Ltd. MS 23. University of Dundee Archives Services online catalogue.
  5. Dundee Directory, 1818. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  6. Dundee Directories, 1834-1838. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  7. Dundee Directories, 1842-1847. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  8. Dundee Directory, 1844-45. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  9. Dundee Directories, 1846-1850. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  10. Dundee Directory, 1850. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  11. Dundee Directory, 1858-59. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  12. Dundee Directory, 1861-62. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  13. Dundee Directory, 1864-65. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  14. Dundee Directory, 1867-68. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  15. Dundee Directories, 1886-1903. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  16. Dundee Directory, 1871-72. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  17. Dundee Directories, 1876-1903 . Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  18. Dundee Courier, Tuesday, 31 May 1892. British Newspaper Archive website.
  19. Dundee Courier, Thursday, 15 March 1894. British Newspaper Archive website.
  20. Dundee Courier, Wednesday, 30 June 1897. British Newspaper Archive website.
  21. Old Parish Records. Glamis. Baptism. 17 February 1786. 289/20 176. ScotlandsPeople website.
  22. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Banns. 6 April 1813. 282/140 178. ScotlandsPeople website.
  23. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Baptism. 17 August 1815. 282/150 55. ScotlandsPeople website.
  24. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Baptism. 10 September 1817. 282/100 243. ScotlandsPeople website.
  25. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Baptism. 20 April 1821. 282/150 55. ScotlandsPeople website.
  26. Dundee Directory, 1829-30. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  27. Index of Burials, Howff Burial Ground, Dundee. 26 October 1841. Friends of Dundee City Archives website.
  28. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Banns.21 December 1842. 282/230 73. ScotlandsPeople website.
  29. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Baptism. 17 October 1844. 282/190 199. ScotlandsPeople website.
  30. Old Parish Records. Dundee. Baptism. 31 January 1847. 282/190 280. ScotlandsPeople website.
  31. Index of Burials, Howff Burial Ground, Dundee. 14 December 1852.Friends of Dundee City Archives website.
  32. Statutory Registers. Dundee Second District. Death. 1865. 282/2 464. ScotlandsPeople website.
  33. Dundee Directory, 1842-43. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  34. Dundee Directories, 1850-1862. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  35. Dundee Directory, 1853-54. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  36. Dundee Directories, 1856-1862. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  37. Dundee Directories, 1858-1862. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  38. Dundee Directory, 1867-1870. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  39. Dundee Directories, 1869-1903. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  40. Dundee Directories, 1871-1903 . Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  41. Dundee Directories, 1871-1879. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  42. Dundee Directories, 1876-1879. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  43. Dundee Directories, 1880-1889. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  44. Dundee Directories, 1884-1903. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  45. Dundee Directory, 1876-77. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  46. Dundee Directories, 1878-1886. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  47. Dundee Directories, 1886-1888. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  48. Dundee Directories, 1888-1902. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  49. Dundee Directory, 1896-97. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  50. Statutory Registers. St. Andrew, Dundee. Death. 1903. 282/4 582. ScotlandsPeople website.
  51. Dundee Directories, 1867-1877. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  52. Dundee Directory, 1876-77. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  53. Dundee Directories, 1871-1875. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
  54. Wills and Testaments. Dundee Sheriff Court. 28 February 1878. SC45/31/28. ScotlandsPeople website.

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