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Sir James Fergusson of Kilkerran - Wellington Square, Ayr

Sir James Fergusson of Kilkerran Statue

The Fergussons of Kilkerran are one of South Ayrshire's oldest landowning families. Robert Hamilton of Rozelle (see Rozelle under property) sold the Rozelle sugar plantation on Jamaica in 1763, and half of it came into the possession of a brother of Sir Adam Fergusson of Kilkerran. In 1782 Sir Adam himself received the plantation as settlement of his brother's debts to him, and it remained in the hands of his family down to the abolition of slavery in British possessions in 1834, and beyond.

Sir James Fergusson of Kilkerran, born 1832, whose statue stands in Wellington Square, had a distinguished career in politics and imperial administration. His is a positive story, as during his time in India he sought to empower Indians and encourage their educational aspirations.   

Having governed South Australia (1869-73) and New Zealand (1873-75), Sir James was Governor of the Presidency of Bombay (now Mumbai) from 1880 to 1885. He undertook long tours throughout the province to acquire first-hand knowledge of the living and working conditions of the population, and implemented a deliberate policy of promoting Indians to positions of responsibility, especially in administrative and educational affairs. After the defeat of the 1857 uprising, leading Indian intellectuals set out to improve education, in order to equip the population to pursue independence by peaceful means. The New English School of 1880 and the Deccan Education Society which developed from it in 1884 both received encouragement from Sir James. When the Indian educationalists involved in these ventures founded the first privately governed college in India in Poona (now Pune) in 1885, Sir James provided financial support, and it was named Fergusson College in his honour. It is still in existence, having become famous for educating many of India's political leaders.

Having taken up yet another administrative post in Jamaica, Sir James Fergusson died in an earthquake there in 1907.