Keith Ferguson – a remarkable man

Normally, this blog is meant to be a repository of the quirky, surreal, and all that sort of stuff. However, I can’t let my father’s passing simply go unmentioned.

Dad was admitted to Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy, on 27th December last, and died in Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on 22nd January. Although he was 85, and he was admitted with a serious condition, we always expected him to recover, so his loss is all the worse for us because of that. His funeral on Tuesday helped a little, but life will not be the same without him.

For those of you who weren’t fortunate enough to know Keith Ferguson, his obituary is on the Scotsman website. He was a remarkable man with many achievements – achievements which he was still adding to right up to his final illness. In a few weeks I’ll be telling you about his book, which we’re publishing posthumously.

For now though, here’s what I gave the Humanist celebrant by way of my contribution to the tribute at the funeral. Sleep well, Dad. We miss you more than we could possibly say.


Dad was an inspiration, even when I didn’t think he was. I never had that Mark Twain moment of thinking he was the most ignorant man in the world when I was 14, only to find out he’d learned a lot by the time I was 21.

But when I was 17, I was determined to go to University, but do anything other than law, like him. I ended up doing law.

When I was 18, in my first year, I was determined I would do anything other than end up becoming a solicitor, like him. Wrong again.

It wasn’t that I didn’t admire him even then, and what he did. But I saw what life as a high level lawyer in a public sector organisation took out of  him. By the time I was 21, he was in hospital getting a triple bypass, and I was deciding that, ok, I would probably end up being a solicitor, but I definitely wouldn’t end up being a solicitor in public service, like him. Guess what.

Fortunately, Dad was an inspiration in far more important things than career choices. One of my fondest memories of teenage years was the way he used to bring me a cup of tea in bed to encourage me to go off to the pool with him, first thing, before school and work. His successful management of his heart condition by exercise and sensible eating was not lost on me, and I’m pretty sure it’s the reason I’ve kept good health up to now.

More importantly than that, he taught me the virtues – and benefits – of hard work, positivity, courtesy, kindness, listening to the other point of view, and treating people the same no matter what their age or social class.

Of backing up your arguments with facts. Of having at least half an idea of things like Latin, and nineteenth-century authors. The importance of revising and revising anything you wrote until you were pig sick of it, and then putting it away in a drawer to let it settle before you revised it one more time. The importance of being Scottish.

Even more importantly, he taught me how to bowl a leg-spinner, and the googly. Crucial life lessons about the right amount of water to put in your whisky, how to wear a false moustache with style, how to tell a good anecdote.

When I think back on Dad, as I now must do, there are a million tiny things he taught me by example, about being a man, a husband, and a father. There’s a phrase we non-fiction writers like to put in the start of our books when we thank sundry folk for their help in editing, commenting, doing research, or otherwise getting the book over the line. The errors, we say, are all our own.

That’s how I feel about Dad. All my best bits come from him. The errors are all my own.

Oh, and dreams. Not giving up on them. He definitely taught me that, too.



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