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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


FERGUSSON, Right Hon. Sir James, K.C.M.G., G.C.S.I., Bt.


Eighth Governor of New Zealand.

Sir James Fergusson was born at Edinburgh on 14 March 1832, the eldest of four sons of Sir Charles Dalrymple Fergusson (1800–49) and Helen, daughter of David, Lord Boyle. He was educated at Rugby and at University College, Oxford, but left to join the Grenadier Guards, with whom he served in the Crimea (1854–55). Fergusson was elected Conservative member for Ayrshire (1855–57) and again (1859–68). He became (1866) Parliamentary Under-Secretary to India Office, and (1867) Home Office, and a Privy Councillor (1868). He was Governor of South Australia from 1869 to 1873, where he gave his Ministers material assistance in organising the telephone system. He became Governor of New Zealand in 1873, but resigned shortly after Disraeli regained office in 1874. He returned to England, where he tried unsuccessfully to re-enter Parliament. On 10 March 1880 he was appointed Governor of Bombay, where he headed a most energetic administration, and his measures in agriculture, famine relief, and local government made the province the most progressive in India.

Fergusson relinquished his government on 27 March 1885, and returned to England, where he represented Manchester Northern Division in the House of Commons (1885–1906). He acted “with stolid discretion” as Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office (1886–91), and was Postmaster-General (1891–92). He represented the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co., in which he was a director, at the British Cotton Growing Association at Kingston, Jamaica, in 1907, and while there was killed in the disastrous earthquake on 14 January 1907. He is buried near Kingston.

Fergusson married three times, and his first wife, Lady Edith Christian, daughter of the Marquess Dalhousie, was the mother of Sir Charles Fergusson. His second marriage, on 11 March 1873, to Olive, daughter of John Henry Richman, of Warnbunga, South Australia, was celebrated in New Zealand, the only “Royal” wedding to take place in the colony.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • Governors' Papers (MSS), National Archives.


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.