Thomas Fergus

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Thomas Fergus

Thomas Fergus (6 April 1850 or 1851 – 29 September 1914) was a 19th-century New Zealand politician.

Early life[edit]

Thomas Fergus was born in Ayr Scotland on 6 April 1850.[1] There is some question as to the Hon Thomas Fergus' date of birth as the NZ Government records are two years different from this birth record, and his newspaper obituary gives 1851 as the birth year.[2]

His father was also Thomas Fergus. It is uncertain when his father was born as there is no birth certificate to coincide with the date of 1815, however there is record of him in both 1851 and 1861 census for Scotland, and the age in those suggest that his birth was in fact in 1807.[1] His mother Annie McGechin is also found in census records but no birth certificate has been found to verify her date of birth, although the census suggests her date of birth to be in 1810.[1] In the 1851 census for Scotland the household included his paternal grandmother Elizabeth Fergus. The family is registered as living in Gordon Place, St Quivox, Ayr at the time of the 1861 Census for Scotland and included seven surviving children (Elizabeth, Thomas, Martha Grange, Robert, John, Ann, Margaret). He was the second to eldest and the eldest son.[1]

He initially travelled to Melbourne on the Esmerelda in the early 1860s.[3] It is thought that he may have travelled with two sisters and a brother, although this needs to be verified.[citation needed] He later travelled on to New Zealand in 1869. He was educated in both Melbourne and at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand from 1872 to 1876 and worked as a civil engineer.[3][4]

Family and personal life[edit]

On 8 July 1874 he married Letticia Mckay at Hampden, North Otago, at the house of her father.[5] They had one daughter, Margaret Annie, born in 1875 at Cromwell, Otago. Letticia died at Hampden on 27 September 1876, aged 22.[6] She is buried in the Hampden cemetery.[citation needed]

On 31 July 1878, he married Margaret McGregor Reid, daughter of his business partner Donald Reid. The marriage was conducted at Reid's residence Salisbury[7] in North Taieri.[8] They had four daughters, Fanny Stewart Fergus, Annie Grange Fergus, Daisy McGregor Reid Fergus, Elizabeth (Bessie) Barr Fergus.[9]

Political career[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1881–1884 8th Wakatipu Independent
1884–1887 9th Wakatipu Independent
1887–1890 10th Wakatipu Independent
1890–1893 11th Wakatipu Independent

Fergus considered standing in the Otago electorate of Wakatipu electorate in the 1879 election, but decided against it.[10] He represented Wakatipu in Parliament from 1881 to 1893, when he retired.[11] He was Minister of Defence (1887–1889), Minister of Justice (1887–1889), Minister of Public Works (1889–1891) and Minister of Education (1889–1891).[12]

Death and commemoration[edit]

Fergus died on 29 September 1914.[2] Lake Fergus, a small lake between Lake Te Anau and Milford Sound and adjacent to the State Highway 94 (the Milford Sound Road) in Fiordland National Park, is named after him. William H. Homer (after whom the Homer Tunnel is named) and George Barber named it on 4 January 1889 after the then Member of Parliament for the Wakatipu electorate. After a brief ceremony, they "drank his health from a bottle of painkiller".[13][14]


  1. ^ a b c d "Search the Records". General Register Office for Scotland. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Obituary". Ashburton Guardian, Volume XXXIII, Issue 8956. 30 September 1914. p. 4. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Cyclopedia Company Limited 1897, pp. 83–84.
  4. ^ "Death of the Hon. T. Fergus". Evening Post. LXXXVIII (79). 30 September 1914. p. 8. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  5. ^ Marriage certificate No 49,Page1576,Marriages in the district of Hampden
  6. ^ Sept 29,1876,
  7. ^ "Salisbury". Register of Historic Places. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 3 September 2011. 
  8. ^ "Marriages". Otago Daily Times (5138). 6 August 1878. p. 2. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Miscellaneous". Otago Witness (1449). 30 August 1879. p. 11. Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  11. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 105.
  12. ^ Scholefield 1950, p. 39.
  13. ^ "Growing appreciation of the scenic beauty of the Milford area in the 1880s led to a determined search for access to it by land". New Zealand Travel Tips. Archived from the original on 31 March 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  14. ^ Reed 2010, p. 122.


Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Tole
Minister of Justice
Succeeded by
William Russell
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Hugh Finn
Member of Parliament for Wakatipu
Succeeded by
William Fraser