About the Ferguson Bequest Fund

John Ferguson

John Ferguson was born in Irvine in 1787, the son of a shipmaster of that port, with a long family history in the church. He was educated at Irvine Grammar School which afterwards merged into what became Irvine Academy and now is Irvine Royal Academy.

On leaving school he worked with Paisley Banking Company, then in London in the counting house of his uncle. After a year he was sent out to New York to wind up the estates of two of his uncles who had died within a short time of one another. Four years later John Ferguson returned to Irvine. In 1842 he succeeded to a large fortune of between £400,000 and £500,000 from his uncle. John himself died in 1856.

On John Ferguson’s death a very onerous duty fell on his trustees. His estate was valued at a million and a quarter sterling, and over and above administering his personal bequests it was decreed that the residue of the estate should form the Bequest Fund for the maintenance and promotion of Religious ordinances, and Education and Missionary operations in the first instance in the County of Ayr, Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and Counties of Wigton, Lanark, Renfrew and Dumbarton and if the Trustees think fit in any other Counties in Scotland. The Churches which would benefit were the Established Church of Scotland, the Free Church, the United Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church and the Congregational Church. In 1900 a majority of the Free Church of Scotland and the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland were united under the name of the United Free Church of Scotland.

Memorial to John Ferguson

In 1869 Parliament passed an Act to incorporate the Trustees of the deceased John Ferguson of Cairnbrock, under the name of “The Ferguson Bequest Fund”, and to enlarge the Powers of the said Trustees, the better to enable them to carry out the Designs of the deceased. Subsequent Acts of Parliament were passed in 1937 and 1954 along with amendments to the Bye-Laws in 1927 and 1982 to confer further powers on the Trustees to allow improved administration of the Bequest Fund. In 2013 the Fund was transferred into a charitable company limited by guarantee and named The Ferguson Bequest Fund 2013. In 2015 the Fund reverted to its original name of “The Ferguson Bequest Fund”.

The main principles laid down by John Ferguson to the original Trustees are still being followed by the Trustees. The principle activities continue to be the provision of grants for the maintenance and repair of church buildings throughout Scotland but with priority given to churches in the west and south west of Scotland. Support is also given for new initiatives and projects in Christian Mission.

The Fund also continues to make grants towards funding university fees particularly on post graduate courses which could assist candidates for the ministry, whilst grants are also made to Schools and Sunday Schools in Irvine to assist in purchase of books and equipment for imparting religious education.