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Ferguson, William John (1859–1935)

from Daily Mercury

After making inquiries to locate the husband of a woman who had told an official in the Commonwealth Bank early this afternoon that she had taken poison, the police discovered that the husband was Mr. W. J. Ferguson, who opposed the Premier (Mr. Forgan Smith) at Mackay in the recent elections, and that he had died in a private hospital a few minutes before they made the inquiry.

The woman was taken to the hospital, but it was found that she had not taken any deleterious substance.

The late Mr. Ferguson met with an accident in a motor-car during the election campaign, and had to cancel several meetings. He later was admitted to a private hospital in Brisbane suffering from head injuries which proved fatal. A daughter of the late Mr. Ferguson, Mrs. Doreen Reynolds, arrived by plane from Sydney to-day to visit her father.

The late Mr. William John Ferguson, who contested the Mackay electorate in the Country party interests against the Premier at the recent elections, and whose death is announced from Brisbane, met with a serious accident while electioneering in this district.

Mr. J. Ferguson had concentrated on the Mirani electorate, assisting Mr. A. W. Fadden, rather than on his own campaign in Mackay, and it was while returning from Netherdale after addressing a meeting there in support of Mr. Fadden, that the accident occurred. During the long drive back to the city late at night, the car in which Mr. Ferguson was travelling struck a rut, and Mr. Ferguson was thrown upwards, striking his head on the crossbar of the car's hood.

On the following night he appeared on the platform at the Britannia Hall with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A E. Moore), and Mr. Fadden, and delivered one of his most incisive and witty speeches. By his humorous epigrams he had the audience in frequent gusts of laughter, notwithstanding the pain he was suffering from his injuries. Indeed, the audience did not suspect that he was so seriously hurt until later in the evening when he was taken back to his hotel. 

He kept up his good humor and witty sallies till the last. Some of his observations on that occasion will be long remembered. Referring to the policy of unrestricted production, he mentioned 'And the farmer thinks more of the cows he is milking than of the 'cows' who are milking him.' Then, when an interjector spoke of the standard of living, he quickly retorted, 'It is obvious that the standard is not made by Parliament, but by the individuals themselves. For example, two men are engaged in the same work; at the end of a number of years one has £200 in the bank — and the other has his wife's wedding ring in pawn!'

Referring on that occasion to politicians who promise electors anything in order to acquire power, he said that the promise 'of something for nothing inevitably had a painful ending. 'As in my case,' he said, indicating the injuries to his head. 'I got this for nothing and the consequences are indeed painful.'

Afterwards he had to leaye the platform and return to his rooms, and the following day was admitted to hospital, his subsequent political meetings being cancelled.

The late Mr. Ferguson had been prominently in the political arena for many years. He was a brilliant debater and many of his sallies, with Sir Henry Parkes in the Parliament of N.S. Wales are preserved as masterpieces of rhetoric, and are not infrequently referred to in the southern Press when brilliant politicians of former days are recalled. Only a few weeks ago a writer referred to the brilliant speech delivered by Mr. Ferguson in the House when the issue of Free Trade, and Protection was the rage in the South. He had a stormy career in politics and for the nine years he sat as the member for Broken Hill he was almost constantly engaged in vigorous political warfare. In addition, he was a frequent speaker in the Sydney Domain, that week-end rendezvous of eloquent speakers. He was one of the old stalwarts of the Labor Party in the days of Mr. W. M. Hughes's reign as a Labor leader, and with other prominent men of that party he left the movement. He came to the North some six or seven years ago and took up the position as secretary to the Country party, with headquarters at Townsville, and by his writings in the Press and platform appearances became well-known to northern electors. His passing will be sincerely mourned by political friend and foes alike, in addition to a host of friends in private life, for he was deeply respected as a fair fighter, and a political antagonist worthy of any man's steel.

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Citation details

'Ferguson, William John (1859–1935)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/ferguson-william-john-32868/text40937, accessed 5 February 2023.

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