v 7.00.00
23 Jan 2024
updated 23 Jan 2024

The Ferguson Connection

Though of course every family lineage is intrinsically special to those who are directly part of it, it must be allowed that the Fergusons are important to us in that Lewis Ferguson married Meg Waddell, way back in 1919. It was in its way a very happy marriage, despite their vicissitudes of health, bodily in his case and psychological in hers. My Aunt Jane recollects his frequent mantra that despite everything, his Meg was a girl in a million. And what wife could wish for a sincerer tribute than that?

We know Meg's family background already, of course, but here is my current best effort (thanks as always to Google and the ancestry.co.uk website) for Lewis' antecedents, plus some much-improved dates for generation -3 from Simon Potter's tree in that website.)

Regarding the demise of poor Katie Ferguson, it's now recognised that middle-class women in those days (attended by male doctors during childbirth) had a far worse likelihood of fatal infection than working-class women (attended by district nurses or midwives, invariably female in those days). The reason being that male doctors, mostly hostile to Pasteur's germ researches, neglected to wash their hands and change their clothing after performing autopsies and before attending a delivery.

And I wouldn't mind betting that the meningitis from which her son Lewis later died was syphilitic in origin, acquired from his syphilitically demented wife Margaret (aka Maggie), who in turn had been congenitally infected by her unwitting parents.

#IndividualSpouse / PartnerFamily
‑4William Ferguson
(b ~ 1810)
Helen [Forbes?]
(b ~ 1809)
Margaret Ferguson
(b ~1834)

John Forbes Ferguson
(b ~ 1843/4)

William Ferguson
(25 Feb 1843 –
20 Jan 1913)
‑3John Forbes Ferguson
(25 Feb 1843 –
20 Jan 1913)

writer (ie solicitor)

at his second marriage he seems to have declared his parents as James Ferguson (wine and spirit merchant) and Mary S Young, both unsurprisingly deceased
Katie Buchanan
(m 24 Feb 1887)
(ca 1862
14 Apr 1888, puerperal fever)

death following childbirth,
the bane of middle-class women

daughter of John Buchanan (West India merchant) and Jessie Maitland (both deceased)
Lewis Buchanan Ferguson
(13 Mar 1888
2 May 1930)

middle name added 14 May 1888

(a bit late in the day, I'd say)
Christina Couper
(10 Apr 1858 –
29 Mar 1949)
(m 30 Sep 1897)

daughter of James Couper (Officer of Fisheries) and Margaret Cormack

‑2Capt Lewis Buchanan Ferguson1,  2
(13 Mar 1888 –
2 May 1930)

Margaret Wardlaw Waddell
(8 Mar 1889 –
23 Jun 1931)
(m 1 Feb 1919)

John (Jock) Halcro Ferguson
(10 Apr 1920 –
5 Jul 1968)

Helen Erskine Ferguson
(25 May 1925 –
8 Dec 1966)
‑1Jock Halcro Ferguson
(10 Apr 1920
5 Jul 1968)

of Paynes Green House, Ockley

previous wife,
name and dates unknown
none known
Joyce Dorothea Thompson
(23 Jul 1921
7 Jun 2006)
(m 20 Aug 1953)

Joint picture
none known
Valerie Campbell
(10 Aug 1919 –
7 Jan 2003)
(m 16 Sep 1957)
Charmian Ferguson
‑1Dr Helen Erskine Ferguson
(25 May 1925
9 Dec 1966)
Dr Ryland Charles Lamberty
(22 May 1908 –
5 Feb 1996)
(m 9 Sep 1950)

his second of three marriages
John Martin Lamberty
(b 1951)

Puir Dwaiblie Bodies

Readers of The Weir of Hermiston (and I am not among them) will be familiar with this phrase – but I well remember the term from childhood visits to my Grannie Waddell and my aunts: it was used, not unkindly, about folk who lacked physical or moral vigour, or both.

In fact it could well have been applied to my paternal great-aunts Mollie, Helen and Meg. Mollie never married, but declined into alcoholism in a great gloomy Hampstead mansion. Helen died in very early childhood. And Meg, though married to a fine husband, Lewis Ferguson, was by all accounts feeble and over-dependent on the sherry bottle.

But Lewis was suddenly confronted with a terminal diagnosis, and had to arrange a guardian for their children, Jock and Helen. He duly died, and Meg had a nervous collapse and put an end to herself. The guardian, Sir John Cameron, a man of the highest repute within the family, thereupon took sole charge.

Jock was evidently a very intelligent boy, though notoriously averse to soap and water. Cameron took the inspired decision to send him to Stowe, a recently-established public school which had broken with the traditional ethos of force-fed Latin and Greek, beatings, fagging and unwholesome practices in the dormitories. Jock flourished, did well, and thereafter went into journalism, becoming the Observer's chief Foreign Correspondent in South America.

Helen must also have received an excellent education, as she took a degree in Medicine at the University of Edinburgh. Whilst there, however, she met Ryland Lamberty, a lecturer, and their relationship led ultimately to his departure from the Medical School, and they went into practice together as GP's. Oh yes, and got married.

Ryland was a French Mauritian, much older than Helen and already married when they met. He was not very tall, very voluble and dynamic, and made a striking contrast with Helen, who was rather tall, cool, and quietly spoken.

What could go wrong? Why does life have to go and spoil things?

In 1960, during a visit to Edinburgh, their car was hit by a bus. They were both badly injured, but Helen catastrophically so, and she never fully recovered. There wasn't every opportunity to do so, because a year or two later she was herself diagnosed with terminal cancer. And so she must have thought, Why wait?

To-ings and Fro-ings

The address of convenience given on their marriage certificate for both Meg and Lewis was 9 Frognal Mansions, Hampstead, which was in fact the residence of Meg's mother, 'Old Grannie', the family matriarch. Over various subsequent changes of address, they remained in the Hampstead area, and eventually settled in Wyldes Hollow, which I well remember, a large comfortable house at 5 Hampstead Way. It was approached from the road by a downward flight of steps, being situated in a very pronounced dell, a rather Borrovian word ideally suited to the case.

The Electoral Registers for the area reveal that both were registered as occupants, as both were entitled to vote – in 1918 the government had passed the 'Representation of the People Act', enfranchising women over the age of 30 who met minimum property qualifications. Meg satisfied both requirements a mere 5 weeks after her marriage!

(The deceased Lewis Ferguson no longer features in the 1930 Register – replaced by a Mary Katherine Doyle, possibly a psychiatric nurse installed to manage Meg Ferguson's alcoholic instability. Meg lingered on until the following year.)

(Click here for an explanation of the Electoral Register Codes H, O, Dw, Rw, SJ etc encountered in the tabulation below.)

1919Not known
192066 Parliament Hill (London NW3)
1921Not known
19229 Prince Arthur Road (London NW3)
19239 Prince Arthur Road
19249 Prince Arthur Road
1925Not known
19265 Hampstead Way (London NW11)
19275 Hampstead Way
19285 Hampstead Way
19295 Hampstead Way
19305 Hampstead Way

But in pre-war days Lewis had prepared for a career as a solicitor in the Scottish (rather than English) legal system, qualifying in 1915, and in order to earn a livelihood he now had to find employment (or a partnership) in Scotland. This meant that he also had to maintain a residence in Scotland, as summarised in the table below (up until the war he'd being living with his parents, of course).

He clearly moved around a great deal, or perhaps he was actually purchasing some of these properties as short-term investments.

(I can't discover the meaning of the Scottish Electoral Register Codes B, D, E, G etc encountered in the tabulation below.)

19121 Melfort Avenue, Glasgow Central
19131 Melfort Avenue
19141 Melfort Avenue
19151 Melfort Avenue (now recorded as a Writer rather than Apprentice-at-law)
1916Military Service
1917Military Service
1918Military Service
1919Not known
1920190 West George Street, Glasgow Central
1921Not known
1922Not known
1923Not known
192448 Bell St, Glasgow Calton (+ 9 Prince Arthur Road, Hampstead)
192535 Broomhill Drive, Glasgow Partick (+ ditto)
A39 Forth Street, Glasgow Port Dundas (+ ditto)
B48 Bell St, Glasgow Calton (+ ditto)
C280 Thistle Street South, Glasgow Gorbals (+ ditto)
192642 Forth Street, Glasgow Pt Dundas (+ ditto)
A280 Thistle Street South, Glasgow Gorbals (+ ditto)
B53 Soho Street, Glasgow Camlachie (+ 5 Hampstead Way)
1927Not known
192835 Broomhill Drive, Glasgow Partick (+ ditto)
A48 Loom Street, Glasgow Bridgeton (+ ditto)
192935 Broomhill Drive, Glasgow Partick (+ ditto)
A42 Forth Street, Glasgow Port Dundas (+ ditto)
19306 Morrison Street, Glasgow Govan (+ ditto)
A35 Broomhill Drive, Glasgow Partick (+ ditto)
B42 Colinton Street, Glasgow St Rollox (+ ditto)
C53 Soho Street, Glasgow Camlachie (+ ditto)

He presumably had to endure a weekly commute between London and Glasgow, an arduous obligation in itself, and such regular separations over the eleven years of marriage that followed must have exacerbated her already fragile state of mind.

Midnight Musings – Lewis Ferguson

Lewis Ferguson's precise birthdate remains elusive however, despite consultation with the scotlandspeople.gov.uk website. I've even considered the possibility that his natal surname was Couper rather than Ferguson, but that didn't help.

His legal career is also impossible to elucidate – as we saw above, he qualified as a Writer [ie solicitor] in 1915, and Meg's profile on the University of Glasgow's website says that he was (or became) a senior partner of Messrs Ferguson & Blair, Writers [ie solicitors], Glasgow. But I can find no trace of them, then or now.

Aunt Jane always maintained that he was a barrister, presumably meaning at the English bar rather than the Scottish one, as in Scotland he would have been called an advocate. And indeed, on Meg Ferguson's death certificate in 1931 he is described as a (deceased) Barrister at Law.

But on Lewis and Meg's marriage certificate in 1919 he was described as a Captain in the 8th Scottish Rifles (perhaps he hadn't then been demobilised). And on their daughter Helen's birth certificate in 1925 he is described as Assistant Secretary to the Federation of Employers (and is referenced by G S Bain & G B Woolven, A Bibliography of Industrial Relations, Cambridge University Press, 1979) – I would imagine that this was in his capacity as a solicitor (or Writer).

So to achieve a concordance, we must assume that at some stage between 1925 and 1931 he qualified as a barrister (or Advocate). I suppose there was or is nothing in principle to deter a solicitor (writer) from undertaking the metamorphosis to barrister (advocate), except for the ferocious competition.

After all, though the canon of Scottish (Scots if you're a diehard purist) law may well differ somewhat from English law, neither of them is divided into "stuff for solicitors only" and "stuff for barristers only". It's the procedural practices that demarcate the two professions, not the legal principles or legislative detail.

Generally speaking, as any fule kno, the solicitor is a generalist, the first port of call from a member of the public in need of legal advice, while the barrister is a specialist, a hired gun, who is then approached by the solicitor to fight Joe Public's case against the opposing barrister in court, in order to convince the judge (civil case) or jury (criminal case). One is a wise owl, the other is an attack dog, but both of them work together on behalf of the client.

In either profession, it does no harm to start by taking a degree in law, preferably a first-class degree if you're aiming to be a barrister. But I can find no indication that Ferguson was a graduate of the University of Glasgow with any sort or class of degree (in contrast with his future wife). So the years from 1925 to 1930 must have been very hard work for him.

Another consideration in favour of his having made a transition to the Bar is that it is a very much smaller and more tightly-knit community, enabling closer friendships (or rivalries, of course) to be formed than in the more diffuse solicitorial world. And thus it evidently was that Ferguson chose another barrister, the baronet Sir John Cameron, to be guardian of his children, just before crossing his own personal bar in 1930.

Midnight Musings – "Sir John Cameron Bart"

Half of what an elderly aunt tells you, especially via trans-atlantic telephone calls from the West Coast of Canada in the small hours of the morning may be true, and the other half probably isn't. But which is which?

For quite a while I brooded over the baronetcy that family legend might have appended to Lewis Ferguson's wise and loyal friend, and I tended to dismiss it. This opened the door to a most glamorous alternative, Sir John Cameron Kt (8 Feb 1900, London – 30 May 1996, Edinburgh) a knight (though not so until 1954) but not a baronet (ie hereditary knight), son of a solicitor (though from Edinburgh rather than Glasgow), a baronet, eventually a Scottish Law Lord, with glittering records in both World Wars, and many honours and distinctions.

But his son, Lord Cameron of Lochbroom, has no recollection [Sep 2016] of any such guardianship held by his father, and so, in conjunction with the other discrepancies, I reverted to Aunt Jane's Plan A. The problem remained that virtually nothing could be found about the baronet except that he had been President of The Cremation Society of Great Britain – certainly a worthy position but undeniably dull.

But Ferguson would surely have made the arrangement in consultation with Meg's brothers – my Great-Uncle Peter and my grandfather Robert, who were anything but dull themselves and would have approved Cameron's suitability and affinity for his young protégés.


Cameron baronets, of Balclutha (1893)

The Cameron baronetcy, of Balclutha in the parish of Greenock in the County of Renfrew, was created on 27 August 1893 for the Liberal Party politician Charles Cameron, a former editor of the North British Daily Mail who was at that time the Member of Parliament (MP) for Glasgow College. Upon the death in 1924 of Sir Charles, his son John succeeded to the baronetcy – which became extinct on his death.

Sir Charles Cameron, 1st Baronet (1841–1924), MP for Glasgow 1874–1885, for Glasgow College 1885–1895, Glasgow Bridgeton 1897–1900 and President of the Cremation Society 1904–1921

Sir John Cameron, 2nd Baronet (1903–1968), President of the Cremation Society of Great Britain 1960–1968


1874–1904 Sir Henry Thompson, 1st Baronet (1820–1904)
1904–1921 Sir Charles Cameron, 1st Baronet (1841–1924)
1921–1940 Herbrand Russell, 11th Duke of Bedford (1858–1940)
1940–1955 Thomas Horder, 1st Baron Horder (1871–1955)
1955–1960 James Grimston, 5th Earl of Verulam (1910–1960)
1960–1968 Sir John Cameron, 2nd Baronet (1903–1968)
1970–1982 Anthony Greenwood, Baron Greenwood of Rossendale (1911–1982)
1982–1990 Frank Shaw Marshall, Baron Marshall of Leeds (1915–1990)
1992–2013 Richard Grey, 6th Earl Grey (1939–2013)


Sir John Cameron, Bt., M.A., LL.B.
(Son of second President; barrister, stipendiary magistrate; Vice-President of the International Cremation Federation.)

Unfortunately Sir John Cameron, Bt., President of the Cremation Society from 1960 until his death on 4th October, 1968, did not live to see his prediction of equality before 1970 proved true. Highly intelligent, loyal and considerate, he created a feeling of confidence among his friends and colleagues.

More Midnight Musings – Spirochaeta pallida

I'm not up for checking the web just at the moment, but I believe that syphilis is often categorised as a Great Imitator, insomuch as its symptoms often mimic those of other established diseases. There are apparently a number of other Great Imitators, such as Lyme's Disease, which play similar tricks on the diagnostician. And it has been authoritatively remarked that he (or, these days, she) who knows syphilis knows the whole of medicine.

In fact, that's just such a neat remark that it becomes a duty to reveal its author, also responsible for a wealth of other such wise and pithy aphorisms


British Journal of

"He who knows syphilis knows medicine" – the return of an old friend
Authors: Michael Rayment, Ann K Sullivan

He who knows syphilis knows medicine" said Father of Modern Medicine, Sir William Osler, at the turn of the 20th Century. So common was syphilis in days gone by, all physicians were attuned to its myriad clinical presentations. Indeed, the 19th century saw the development of an entire medical subspecialty – syphilology – devoted to the study of the great imitator, Treponema pallidum.


Or as preferred nowadays, Spirochaeta pallida

The idea that syphilis is such a master of disguise had its proponents and its critics. For example,

  • Latent syphilis and the autonomic nervous system, by Griffith Evans; second edition with 50 illustrations; Bristol, John Wright and Sons Ltd.; London, Simpkin Marshall, 1937

got excoriated:


(Journal of the American Medical Association)

The author discusses the place of syphilis in the etiology of diseases of the thyroid gland, asthma, angioneurotic edema, purpura, blanching and congestion of the extremities, claudication, abdominal adhesions, nervous dysphagia and pes cavus in a most unconvincing manner. It would seem that the author is unduly and unjustifiably impressed with the part that syphilis plays in the cause of certain clinical entities. Obviously the book is not recommended.

But nevertheless, the terminal symptoms exhibited by Meg Ferguson (insanity), Lewis Ferguson (mastoiditis, septic meningitis) and Jock Ferguson (carcinoma of the oesophagus, cachexia), as recorded on their respective Death Certificates, have all been observed clinically and reported (in impeccably respectable medical journals) to be sometimes caused or simulated by latent syphilis.

You are welcome to repeat the searches that I've done. And if you wonder why on earth I did so, please click here.


For witty and informative accounts of these interlocking professions, and the intensive training that they require, please follow these very helpful links: