Quality Local Family Firm of Building Contractors

Our History

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Reading this website you might just get the idea that our history as a family business means a great deal to us. You’d be right!

Ours is a fascinating story that begins with Alexander Fergusson, also known as the Miller O’Driep, in the 1790s. Back then, Alexander milled grain at the Mill O’Driep located at the north end of Loch Eck, just a few miles from Strachur. After marrying Margaret Cameron from St Ninians, he went on to have a family of seven.

His eldest son Archibald, born in 1799, started the firm which still bears his name in 1823 operating from a workshop located at Tigh-Saor at the top of the Clachan Brae in Strachur.

Archibald married Mary Ann Kennedy and they lived in Ivy Cottage which sits just across the road from our present workshop. There they raised a family of 12, the eldest being Alexander born in 1828. After serving his apprenticeship but with work scarce in Strachur, in 1854 Alexander set sail for Australia. Drawn by the gold rush in the state of Victoria, he left hoping to be able to send money back to his parents.

We know that he sailed from Liverpool on the Marco Polo, a famous tea clipper, and that the voyage took six months. After two years in Australia he returned on the White Star Line’s clipper, Red Jacket, in an Intermediate Class cabin at a cost of £25, suggesting he had fared well enough not to need to travel in the lowest class, steerage.

Upon his return Alexander married Rachel Moodie from Glendaruel and started a business in Sandbank as a joiner and carrier. Tragically, both he and Rachel died of cholera in 1866 leaving behind a family of three: Archibald, Jane and Mary. The orphaned children came to stay with their grandfather at Ivy Cottage and when young Archibald reached the age of 16 he was indentured to James Black a joiner in Greenock.

There he served a five-year apprenticeship, beginning on a weekly wage of four shillings, a sum which had risen to nine shillings in his fifth year. On completing his apprenticeship Archibald returned to the family firm in Strachur, married Annabella MacArthur, and had two sons: Alexander and Charles. He took over the firm when his grandfather, the founding Archibald Fergusson, died in 1893.

The younger Archibald was a member of the 5th Volunteer Battalion, Princess Louise’s Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and a keen shot and travelled to Bisley in Surrey every year for small bore rifle shooting championships. Archibald’s son, Charles, served his apprenticeship and worked with his father until he joined the Royal Navy during World War I. During the conflict he served in the Royal Naval Air Service as one of the crew on tenders which ferried the Sopwith Camel fighter biplanes across the Channel.

Charles’ elder brother, Alexander, was a sea-going engineer and served on HMS Tiger and other naval warships during the war. On demobilisation Charles returned to Strachur and to his trade, taking over the firm in 1932 when both his father and brother died.

He married Catherine McWalters in 1933 and daughter Iseabal was born in 1934. During World War II, Charles was engaged on work of national importance and spent the war years building and maintaining the many camps which were built for the army and navy in this part of Argyll. In the 1950s he started building timber framed houses clad with western red cedar and these he called ’Argyll Bungalows’. To this day we still build high-quality timber-frame houses.

Charles’ daughter Iseabal and son-in-law Walter Thomson took over the running of the business in the late 1970s when Charles became less active in the business. After a long, adventurous and productive life, he died in 1984 in his 90th year.

Today it is Charles’ grandson and Walter’s son, Stewart Thomson who is the firm’s Managing Director. As the sixth generation to head the business, Stewart is keenly aware of his family’s extensive history in the area and strives to maintain the close connection between the firm and its local community. “There’s a sense of added responsibility that comes with running a company which has been in the family for so long,” says Stewart. “But by adhering to the strong work ethic and guiding business principles laid down my forebears, all the way back to the original Archibald Fergusson, I see no reason why we cannot be successful while remaining based in Strachur for many generations to come.”

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