The Hon. Thomas Fergus,
who held the several portfolios of Justice, Defence, Public Works, and Mines in the Atkinson Government, 1887-91, was born in Ayrshire, Scotland. His father, after whom he was named, came out to Melbourne in the early sixties with his family, per ship “Esmeralda.” Educated partly in Melbourne and partly at the University of Otago, the subject of this notice, who had arrived in New Zealand in 1869,
studied for the profession of a civil engineer, and subsequently joined the Provincial Government service as District Engineer in charge of the goldfields of Otago. After four years service he resigned shortly before the abolition of Provincial Governments, and joined Mr. D. Henderson, a contractor, under the style of Henderson and Fergus. This firm was well-known in the Colony for ten years, during which they constructed the Mosgiel and Outram Railway across the Taieri Plains, and completed a good many other railways, besides waterworks, bridges, etc., in the North and South Islands. In 1886 Mr. Fergus joined Mr. J. B. Blair in business, the firm being Fergus and Blair. They went to Australia where they undertook many large public works. In Tasmania they built a railway forty-five miles long to Mersey, in Victoria, the Alplinton to Heidelberg line, and that from Kooroit to Warnambool, in the Western district, besides sundry other works in that Colony, and a good many in New Zealand. After visiting Western Australia, Mr. Fergus gave up contracting, and four years ago joined Mr. Donald Reid, under the style of Donald Reid and Co., stock and station agents, and grain brokers in Dunedin. This firm does one of the largest grain businesses in the South Island. In 1878 Mr. Fergus received a requisition signed by something like three-fourths of the electors of the Wakatipu electorate inviting him to stand for that constituency in Parliament. As his business engagements would not permit, he was compelled to decline. Three years later he offered himself, and was returned to the House, and represented that constituency, being twice re-elected unopposed, till the general election of 1893, when he retired. The honourable gentleman was never defeated at any election. In 1878 he was married to the second daughter of his present partner, Mr. Donald Reid, of Salisbury, Taieri, one of the prominent settlers in Otago, who for many years was Provincial Secretary, and invariably at the head of the Government in those days, and who was twice a member of the Ministry of the Colony. Mr. Fergus has a family, which consists of five daughters.