Thomas Ferguson born 28.5.1808 Muirkirk. In 1854, he established a business as a textile manufacturer in Kilmarnock with his brothers. The Kilmarnock Standard noted the Fergusons had been associated with Catrine cotton works and "the happy thought struck them that a similar work in Kilmarnock, where abundant labour could be had, would be successful.  From the economical and skilful manner in which the undertaking was gone about, shrewd men of business foretold success."

 

The Kilmarnock Standard outlined the history of T & J Ferguson, "Nursery Mills, so called from being part of the nursery of the late firm of Dykes & Gentles are situated off Netherton St on the east bank of Kilmarnock Water, and form a pleasing feature in the outline of the town as seen from the west.  With the erection of the mills, employment was provided for a section of the community, of whom previously only a limited number could find work; in fact the ample supply of female labour in the town was one inducement to introduce power loom weaving into this district.  In 1854, Messrs T & J Ferguson built a small factory in which were placed 80 power looms for the manufacture of cotton fabrics, giving employment to about 50 girls.  This place, it can be understood by those who know the energy of the firm and their superior practical knowledge of the trade in all its branches, was soon found to be too small for their requirements and in order to meet the increased demand for the productions of their looms, additions were made to their premises from time to time, till in a few years the factory contained 536 looms in full operation, giving constant employment to about 300 girls. To ordinary businessmen an establishment of such an extent would have taxed their capabilities to the utmost and satisfied their ambition, but it was not so with the Messrs Ferguson."

 

Finding that the product of the now large mill found a ready market, they decided to erect alongside it a still larger one. This structure was completed and ready to receive the machinery early in 1869, but by that time the general trade of the country became subject to one of those periodical depressions. The proprietors decided to postpone extending their operations until warranted by a demand for their goods, at prices at which they could be profitably manufactured.  It was not until the New Year of 1871 that this mill was supplied with machinery and in full working order. It contains 547 looms, at which upwards of 300 girls find constant employment. During the autumn of 1869 and 1870, by the kind permission of the proprietors, the annual Cheese Show and Fair of the Ayrshire Agricultural Association was held in this mill, which was admirably suited for the purpose. "

 

Thomas did not marry. In 1871 he lived with his brother John and his family at 17 West Netherton St, Kilmarnock. He died on 19.2.1879, aged 70. The Ayr Advertiser noted "At Kilmarnock, on the 19th February, Thomas Ferguson, of Messrs T & J Ferguson, manufacturers there." Thomas' will was drawn up on 27.5.1869 by Dick and Stevenson, writers in Glasgow and witnessed by John Waters, salesman to William Gourlie & Son, calico printers in Glasgow and Hugh Colquhuon, iron merchant in Glasgow. He appointed his brother James, nephews John Urquhart and Thomas Ferguson and friends Henry Knox Dick and William Kerr, grain merchant in Glasgow trustees.

 

Thomas left the bulk of his estate to his brother James and nephews Thomas Ferguson and John Urquhart. He left £1,500 to his brother James, £500 to the children of his sister Anne Candlish, £300 each to his nephews Thomas and James Ferguson, £250 to his niece Mary Ferguson or Nimmo, £500 to Henry Knox Dick. The inventory, drawn up by Hugh Jamieson, shows his estate was valued at £10,101; including £7,496 as his interest in the firm of T & J Ferguson, £2,266 held by George C Dick and Co, £262 in Ceylon bonds, £50 in the Bank of Scotland, watch chain rings and clothes valued at £15, £5 in cash and £5 as an IOU granted James Candlish. The business continued to operate long after Thomas' death. Kilmarnock directories list T & J Ferguson, cloth manufacturer, Nursery Mills, West Netherton Street with minor variations from 1879 until 1936.