From the Book of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee 1513 to 1885.

William Ferguson, Magister, Physician - 21st May 1592

 

WHICH DAY MAGISTER WILLIAM FEEGUSON, PHYSICIAN, IS MADE A BURGESS AND BROTHER OF THE GUILD, BY REASON OF THE PRIVILEGE OF HIS FATHER, DAVID FERGUSON, MINISTER OF THE WORD OF GOD AT DUNFERMLINE, WHO IS A BROTHER OF THE GUILD; ACCIDENTS GRATIS.

The principal importance of this entry is in the fact that it shows that DAVID FERGUSON, the famous Minister of Dunfermline, was not only a native of Dundee, but also an admitted Burgess of the Burgh. An extended account of his life is not necessary in this place, but the following particulars regarding his career may be useful to future biographers.

DAVID FERGUSON was born in Dundee in 1533, and early declared himself an associate of the Reformers. The first notice of his profession as an adherent of the new doctrine occurs in the Exchequer Rolls, under date 7th July, 1558, and is in the following terms:

Item, the said day to DAVID LINDSAY, Rothesay herauld passand of Edinburgh, with letteris, to summond GEORGE LUVELL, DAVID FERGUSONE, and certain utheris personis within the burt of Dunde, to tak sourte of thame that thai sall compeir befoir the Justice and his deputies in the tolbuith of Edinburgh, the xxviii. day of Julii instant, for thair wrongus using and resting of the Scripture, and disputting upoun erroneous opinions, and eiting of flesche in Lenterone and utheris forbidding tymes, contrair the actis of parliament, iij. lib. v.s."

The immediate result of this summons is not recorded, but it is certain that on the 19th of July, 1560, DAVID FERGUSON was nominated by the Lords of the Congregation as the first Protestant Minister of Dunfermline, and continued in that office till his death, at a date long subsequent to this. Though he had not graduated in any college, his great natural ability had brought him early to the front, and he was described by his fellow townsman PRINCIPAL SMETOUN as "a man ,of refined wit and of great piety." His efforts were especially directed towards the preservation and improvement of the Scottish vernacular, and he has left behind him several striking examples .of the vigour and expressiveness of his mother tongue in the sermons which were published by him. One of these sermons was preached before the REGENT MAR, at Leith, on 13th January, 1571 2, and called forth the special commendation of JOHN KNOX, then on his deathbed, who subscribed this sermon with these strikingly pathetic words: "JOHN KNOX, with my dead hand, but glaid heart, praising God, that of his mercy he levis such light to his Kirk in this desolation." DAVID FERGUSON was member of thirty nine Assemblies, from 25th June, 1563, to 10th May, 1597, and was twice elected Moderator, in 1572 and 1578.

His literary works, though not voluminous, were eminently serviceable to the Church at a very trying period of its existence and the boldness of the language in which he rebuked the rapacity of the Protestant Lords had much effect in preserving the Reforming ministers from the starvation which at one time threatened them. Besides a collection of Scottish Proverbs which he made, and which were published forty years after his death, he left a Diary, which formed the foundation of the "Historie of the Kirk of Scotland," written by his son in law, the Rev. JOHN ROW, of Carnock.

His power as a divine and his force as a writer have been equally lauded in several elegant Latin poems by his contemporaries. He died at Dunfermline on 23rd August, 1598, in his sixty fifth year, having outlived his early associates in the work of the Reformation, and being recognised at the time of his death as the Father of the Church of Scotland. By his wife, ISSOBEL DURHAME, he had five sons and four daughters, his eldest son being that Magister WILLIAM FERGUSON, Physician, whose name is here enrolled amongst the Burgesses of Dundee. In his Will the aged minister left "his buiks of natural history to his son WILLIAM, and all his buiks of theology and human historic, estimat to jc lib. to his three sons in law, Mr DAVID SPENS, Mr JOHN Row, and DAVID RAMSAY."


WILLIAM FERGUSON, the Physician, who was made a Burgess of Dundee in 1592, was born at Dunfermline, in 1563, and settled in his father's native town, where he ultimately rose to the dignity of Bailie of the Burgh. His house stood a little to the west of the foot of Couttie's Wynd, nearly on the site of Union Street. After a long career of usefulness, he died in 1627, and was buried in the Howff of Dundee, where his tombstone is still visible. It lies on the ground near the west wall of the Cemetery, numbered 24, and has evidently been a very elaborate monument. The inscription upon it, though now much defaced, has been in these words:

[To M. WILLIAM FERGUSON, Physician and Bailie in Dundee, and EUPHAM KINLOCH, his dearest parents; also to seven brothers and sisters german, who died through the disturbance of the order of Nature; likewise for himself and HELEN DUNCAN, his lawful wife, the surviving WILLIAM FERGUSON, Merchant, has raised this monument to their pious memory. Mr WILLIAM FERGUSON died 25th March,, 1627, aged sixty four years, and EUPUAM KINLOCH died 6th June, 16 3, aged fifty seven.]