Ferguson, Robert William (1874-1922)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference by R.W.B. Whiteway

Robert William Ferguson was an honoured son of the Primitive Methodist manse, and worthily trod in the footsteps of his father, Rev. Joseph Ferguson, D.D., who in his day was one of our most gifted and popular preachers and administrators, and for five years held the office of General Sunday School Secretary, and eventually rose to the presidential chair of the Conference.

His son, Robert William, was born at Aston, Birmingham, on July 13th, 1874, and was educated at Bourne College, Birmingham. On leaving college he entered into business life with the firm of Driffield Bros., of Bury, where he showed qualities of mind that would be certain to ensure him success in business and commercial life. But with such a parentage, and the atmosphere of a holy Christian home still influencing his life and character, what wonder that he should hear the call of God to the higher work of a Christian minister! The call was unmistakable and irresistible. Without hesitation, he gave himself whole-heartedly to the Church, and was accepted as a student for college in preparation for the work to which he had consecrated his gifts. After a term at Hartley College, he was stationed by the Conference of 1900 to Cambridge, where he spent the whole of his probation. Having been ordained, he was placed on the Approved List of ministers by the Conference of 1904—the same Conference at which his father superannuated, after an active ministry of forty-three years.

The subsequent spheres of our friend’s labours. were Wisbech (four years), Walden (six years), Lymm and Altrincham (six years), and Manchester Ninth, where he was finishing his fourth year, and, had he lived, would doubtless have remained a considerable time longer. On al! these Stations he laboured with great acceptance, exercising a ministry full of power and blessing to his people. He was a great worker; indeed, it is thought by many who knew him that he worked beyond his strength, for he was never robust. Some years ago his health failed, and he had a long period of affliction. On his removal to Lymm and Altrincham Circuit, and during his stay there, residing as he did amidst the lovely scenery and breathing the bracing fresh air of one of the beauty spots of Cheshire, his health was for the time being restored, and he was able to do much good work for Christ and the Church. 

During his term in Manchester, however, the old signs of weakness returned, and he was able, only with great difficulty and much suffering, to do the work of the Circuit, and fulfil all his duties, of which he had a very exalted ideal. He continued working under the severest strain, and with a tremendous expenditure of strength, until nervous exhaustion entirely broke him down, and he was compelled to seek entire relief from circuit work. 

There was a certain amount of tragedy in his life, but there was also a Christian heroism of the highest order. The last winter of his earthly life was spent at Penmaenmawr, and in the spring of the year he returned to his wife’s home at Tarporley. For a time he seemed to gain strength, and hopes were entertained of his recovery. But it was not to be. On Thursday, April 13th, the day before Good Friday, he retired to rest with no particular signs of being weaker than usual. During the night, however, he was taken worse, and before the morning dawned his spirit had passed into the  immediate presence of his Lord.

A little while before this, and during the period that he retained hopes of returning to his much loved work, he said, referring to his residence in Manchester, ‘I am going home for Easter.’ And it was so, but it was to the Home Eternal.

As to his character and work as a minister, much might be said, He was a great reader and deep thinker. He kept himself abreast of the latest thought in the theological world. He had the deepest possible faith in immortality and the eternal life, and made this truth mainly the theme of his pulpit ministrations. His message was clear and rang with a note of certainty, which carried conviction and consolation to the hearts of his people. The young men of his churches gathered around him, To them he was not only a minister but a brother and friend. They appreciated and loved him. He had many sincere friends among his ministerial brethren. They, too, appreciated and valued his friendship. 

One of his former colleagues writes:—‘We shall ever remember him as a Christian gentleman, and shall ever cherish the memory of his lovable and genial personality. He was an ideal husband and father, a loyal, manly friend, a good, unselfish citizen, a capable, devoted and faithful minister of Jesus Christ. Ever in the affections of his people, his death will be mourned by a wide circle of friends.’

When the end came he had no fear of death. He simply passed out of the darkness of earth into the glorious light of heaven. His remains were laid to rest at Tarporley on April 17th. He leaves behind him a loving wife and little daughter. We pray that the Divine consolation may be theirs in this time of loneliness and sorrow, and that they may share the confidence of the eternal hope that cheered and strengthened the soul of the loved one who so recently passed from their sight, but who still lives and moves in a higher sphere.


Robert was born on 13 July 1874 at Birmingham, Warwickshire, to parents Joseph Ferguson and Mary Williams.

He married Elsie Singleton Dutton (1886-1961) in the summer of 1910 at Tarporley, Cheshire. Records identify two children.

  • Joyce (b1913) -a probationer nurse (1939)
  • Dennis (1917-1917)

Robert died on 13 April 1922 at Tarporley, Cheshire.


  • Hartley
  • 1900 Cambridge
  • 1904 Wisbech
  • 1907 Walkden
  • 1913 Lymm
  • 1919 Manchester IX


PM Minutes 1922/255

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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