Thanks to her lively letters and a number of photographs Gracie Ferguson, or Aunt Gracie as she was always know in our family, has a special place in this story. She was the second to youngest daughter of James Murray Ferguson with his second wife Helen. It was mostly she who kept up correspondence with the Australian Fergusons. Even after her half brothers , James and John, had died she her wrote regularly to her niece Vera who, luckily for me, kept many of her letters. Their correspondence has contributed greatly to my knowledge of the family.
Gracie worked for many years alongside her father at The Observer and continued this work even when he sold it on. The above photo is taken at The Observer. The below (left) is with her McCall cousins at a local waterfall and (right)walking in Ayr.
She never married but was a significant figure with the children and grandchildren of her siblings as testified by her sister Maud’s grandson Bill Morton. In a letter to me he wrote:
" I have very fond memories of Great Aunt Gracie who stayed in Ayr, and was a real character. She
was a very much a traditionalist, who set great store on proper behaviour and good
manners, but nonetheless, was great fun and a favourite with her nephews and the next
generation as well. We were frequently invited to her house for high tea, followed by a
trip to the local theatre, of which she was a patron."
Gracie welcomed her great-niece Win Weidenhofer, in 1950-51, and her niece Vera Dunbar (nee Ferguson), in 1964, into her home. Vera wrote in her autobiography.about her arrival in Ayr, the birthplace of her father, “...a tall upright figure came up beside me looking in the other direction. I said “you are Aunt Grace aren’t you? whereupon she turned and said “However did you know?” From there on we got on famously.”
She lived for many years at 3 Arrol Road and, although she never drove herself, she enjoyed many car trips into the countryside. She loved the theatre and frequently played cards, including for small amounts of money, and also roulette. When recounting to Vera about an evening of playing roulette she wrote “.........Ronald (Morton) has all the necessary bits and pieces (for Roulette) and carts it down with him. Alison (his daughter) and Gordon were also down another night – cards this time. You must think we are dreadful gamblers!”
As single woman Gracie's views of marriage were also quite strong. On responding to news of a females relative’s broken engagement she wrote in a letter to Vera “She has had no luck in her affairs in that line & she’d be better to leave men alone & get on with her work!! By heaven, they’re not worth the worry & the trouble, but for goodness sake let this be between ourselves.’". On responding to Vera’s queries about all of her siblings, the children of James Murray Ferguson, she writes “...Imagine, 11 children – men have been shot for less.” (In fact he had 12 children –one of whom died in infancy.
A hardy woman herself she did not easily tolerate friends who were less so. Of one she wrote “She is one of those unfortunates who cannot live alone & she lives a most unsettled life – it would drive me mad. She is now in a hotel in Ayr and she made me go for lunch last Sunday (and a rotten lunch it was too) . She never stops talking and an afternoon with her or a morning in town and I am a wet rag.”
Gracie's idea of a good time can be gleaned from how she finishes the same letter: “Mrs Jackson (another friend and obviously more to her liking ) and I had a burst in Glasgow one Saturday afternoon and evening at the theatre!”
She also enjoyed walking and for many years had walked the 4 miles into the centre of the town and back on a regular basis. At the age of eighty her doctor advised that she rest and that she should no longer walk in to and out of town. She wrote to Vera saying “...taking care of myself does not agree with me – I felt better before and I’m afraid I slip badly from time to time. I don’t know what lies I will be telling him (the Doctor) next Wednesday. I’d rather walk than stand around at draughty corners waiting for a late bus & then scrambling on and lurching along the gangway to find a seat & the same excitement getting off.”