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William Ferrier (1853–1916)

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William Ferrier, c.1910

William Ferrier, c.1910

Auchmuty Library, University of Newcastle

William Ferrier (1853-1916) stonemason and trade union official 

Birth: 2 March 1853 at St Cuthberts, Edinburgh, Scotland, son of William Ferrier (1819-1857), “cawfeeder” [perhaps cowfeeder?], and Margaret, née Neil (c.1820-1863). Marriage: 29 July 1875, at Edinburgh, to Isabella Young (1855-1950). They had nine daughters and three sons. Death: 10 September 1916 in his residence, Ponsonby, at Glebe Point, New South Wales. Religion: Presbyterian. 

  • Stonemason and active member of Stonemason’s Society in Scotland. Emigrated following crash of City of Glasgow Bank crash, 1878. Arrived in Sydney with his wife and eldest daughter aboard the Peterborough on 7 May 1879. Lived at Balmain for some years.
  • In Sydney was employed in building Gladesville and Callan Park asylums, St Mary’s Cathedral and other major banking buildings.
  • Established Balmain Stonemason’s Society, representing Sydney Stonemason’s Society on NSW Trades and Labor Council, Eight-Hour Day Committee from 1881, and financial secretary of the Trades Hall Council from 1884 to 1889. Successfully lobbied Government re grant for purchase of Trades Hall site.
  • Six times president of Operative Stonemason’s Society; four times secretary.
  • Best known for work with Eight-Hour Day committee, general secretary 1883-84, revamping and enlivening demonstration with artwork, assisted by public holiday.
  • First appointed to NSW Public Service in October 1889, becoming foreman of works and later overseer at Bathurst Gaol. While in this position he supervised the construction in 1904 at the National Art Gallery [Art Gallery of NSW] of what is reputedly “Sydney’s finest marble staircase”. In June 1909 he was appointed clerk of works in Sydney.
  • Member of the Court Progress 7942, Ancient Order of Foresters. Great worker in the Presbyterian church and superintendent of the Sunday school.
  • Son Gordon David Ferrier (1893-1967), a surveyor, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 6 January 1916, served in France with the 1st Battalion and was discharged in Sydney on 13 April 1919.

Australian Star, 7 October 1889.

Citation details

'Ferrier, William (1853–1916)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 24 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

William Ferrier, c.1910

William Ferrier, c.1910

Auchmuty Library, University of Newcastle

Life Summary [details]


2 March, 1853
St Cuthbert, Mid-Lothian, Scotland


10 September, 1916 (aged 63)
Glebe, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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