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William John Ferguson (1859–1935)

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William John Ferguson, n.d.

William John Ferguson, n.d.

William John Ferguson (1859-1935) mining engine driver, journalist and gaoled trade unionist 

Birth: 5 September 1859 in Redruth, South Australia, son of Scottish-born parents James Boyce Ferguson (1835-1899), a smelter from Stranraer, and Barbara Anderson, née Robinson (1836-1918), from Blantyne. Marriages: (1) 12 November 1881 at New Town, SA, to Elizabeth Poole. They had two sons and six daughters. (2) 8 December 1927 at Marrickville, Sydney, New South Wales, to Lily Gertrude Hanks. Death: 23 May 1935 in hospital at Brisbane, Queensland. Religion: Presbyterian. 

  • Educated to primary school level. Worked as an engine driver in mining areas of South Australia.
  • To Broken Hill, NSW, by 1889. Became secretary of Broken Hill Trades and Labor Council. Early member of the Political Labor League. His candidacy for Wills ward in municipal election in February 1890 was declared informal. In June 1891 he was elected secretary of the newly formed Caledonian Society but was defeated by J. H. Cann in the preselection for the parliamentary seat of Sturt.
  • In 1892 chaired founding meeting of Broken Hill branch of Australian Socialist League. With Richard Sleath was sentenced to two years imprisonment for 'conspiracy' during 1892 Broken Hill miners' strike. Released in July 1893.
  • At NSW Labor Party conference of November 1893 co-sponsored successful motion condemning parliamentarians John Daniel Fitzgerald and Andrew Joseph Kelly as 'traitors to the sacred cause they were elected to support'. Member Australian Workers' Union.
  • Elected Member of the NSW Legislative Assembly for Sturt on 17 July 1894. Left the ASL within a year of election. Was a Labor candidate for federal convention 1897. President of the provincial council of the Australian Labour Federation in 1899.
  • Supported Reid government against caucus censure motion decision in 1899. Left Labor in 1901 and retained his seat as an Independent Labor candidate. Member Royal Commission on Crown Tenants in 1901. Was defeated for Sturt as a Liberal and Reform League candidate on 16 July 1904.
  • Unsuccessfully contested seats of Macquarie (Federal) in 1901, Lachlan (NSW) 1904, Newtown (NSW) 1910, Alexandria (NSW) 1912, Willyama (NSW) 1913, Barrier (Federal) 1914, Hunter (Federal) 1917 and Mackay (Queensland) 1935.
  • Moved to Queensland about 1929, was a farmer at Mulgoa and journalist, possibly for Sane Democracy League. Appointed secretary of the Country Progressive National Party, with headquarters in Townsville. Suffered head injuries in motor-car accident while campaigning against Labor in Queensland in April 1935.

Heather Radi, Peter Spearritt and Elizabeth Hinton, Biographical Register of the NSW Parliament 1901-1970 (Canberra, 1979); C. N. Connolly, Biographical Register of the New South Wales Parliament 1856-1901 (Canberra, 1983); Verity Burgmann, In Our Time: Socialism and the Rise of Labor, 1885-1905 (Sydney, 1985).

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'Ferguson, William John (1859–1935)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

William John Ferguson, n.d.

William John Ferguson, n.d.

Life Summary [details]


5 September, 1859
Burra, South Australia, Australia


23 May, 1935 (aged 75)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death

motor vehicle accident

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