The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Fergus, Hon. Thomas

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Fergus, Hon. Thomas, M.H.R., was born at Ayr, Scotland, on April 6th, 1851, went with his parents to Melbourne, Australia, as a boy, and arrived in Otago, N.Z., in the beginning of 1870. Shortly after landing in Otago he decided to enter the engineering profession, and to that end studied at the Otago University under Professor Shand, who was one of Mr. Fergus's tutors when at Ayr Academy. In 1872 he was appointed by the Provincial Government as district engineer for the goldfields, with his headquarters at Cromwell, and held that position until 1876, when he left the service of the Government in order to enter into partnership with Mr. D. Henderson. The firm of Henderson & Fergus carried out several important undertakings, including the construction of the Mosgiel-Outram Railway, the Patea Bailway, the waterworks at New Plymouth, and the railway wharf at the Bluff. In partnership with Mr. J. B. Blair, he was instrumental in building the Deloraine-Mersey Railway in Tasmania and the Heidelberg-Alphington Railway in Victoria. At the general election of 1881 he was returned to the New Zealand House of Representatives for the Wakatipu district, after a severe contest, and in 1884 he was re-elected, having had again to encounter strong opposition. In 1887 and in 1890 he was returned unopposed. On the formation of the Atkinson administration in 1887, Mr. Fergus attained Cabinet rank, being entrusted with the portfolios of Justice and Defence, which he retained until Oct. 15th, 1889, when, consequent on the re-election of the Hon. T. W. Hislop, a rearrangement of portfolios took place, Captain W. R. Russell joining the Ministry and relieving Mr. Fergus of the departments of Justice and Defence, while the latter took over the more important portfolios of Public Works and Mines. He administered these departments until Jan. 1891, when, the Atkinson Government having been defeated at the polls in the previous December, he resigned with his colleagues. He married a daughter of Mr. Donald Reid (q.v.).