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Courier obituary writer Chris Ferguson dictates one final tribute… his own

The veteran Arbroath journalist managed to share his final life story before passing away aged 60.

DC Thomson journalist Chris Ferguson of Arbroath.
DC Thomson journalist Chris Ferguson of Arbroath.

If ever there was a quintessential “newspaper man” it was Arbroath journalist Chris Ferguson.

Over four decades in the industry, the proud family man and Courier stalwart straddled “old school” days of print production – “getting the paper out no matter what” with more recent shifts to pioneering digital media, taking both expertly in his stride.

Starting as a “cub reporter” Chris’s journalistic debut was a report of his days as a council refuse collector, part of the crew responsible for “the fastest bin round in Perth”.

His swansong would be the notes for this obituary, dictated from his hospital bed, where he died on Friday May 10, age 60.

Happy Dundee home

Christopher Robert George Ferguson was born in Dundee on February 10 1964.

The second of four “Ferguson boys”, his father George was a Second World War veteran. His mother Jean looked after her boys and later worked in insurance.

Journalist Chris Ferguson as a youngster.

A qualified engineer, George worked for the British Jute Trade Research Association on Dundee’s Kingsway.

Raised in a “happy home” the family always enjoyed spending time together and worshipped at St Columba’s Church, Lochee.

Farmland freedoms

In 1971, with the closing down of “Jute Research”, the Fergusons moved to Perth where George found factory work.

“We were given a council house twice the size of our last home. They were liberated times,” Chris reminisced.

“A move up the river brought different sights, noises, and smells into our lives.

Chris Ferguson, who spent four decades as a journalist in Scotland.

“As children, we had a huge amount of freedom, on that farmland by the river.”

Having started his education at Rockwell Primary in Dundee, Chris transferred to Northern District Primary School in Perth after the move.

He and his brothers Peter, Jeffrey, and Adrian joined the 16th Perth Company Boys’ Brigade at North Church.

“Saturdays were for hoofing about the football field,” Chris added.

Work hard, play hard

Always highly intelligent with a huge capacity for remembering information, Chris attended Perth Grammar School.

There, amid an eclectic diet of subjects including Latin and Spanish, he began to excel as an athlete.

An accomplished cross-country runner, he played first-15 level rugby, making regular appearances for Perthshire Colts.

Chris enjoyed sport throughout his life, still cycling until earlier this year.

Never a stranger to hard work, Chris spent his school holidays working on West Cultmalundie Farm to the west of Perth.

A rejection of further education then saw him join friends on the Black Isle to undertake subcontracting work, laying the foundations of the Hutton oil field platform.

With extra cash in his pocket, he indulged his love of music, creating a record collection the envy of his brothers, and travelling to see The Clash more than once.

East coast career

In 1983 Chris began a 40-year career in journalism.

Initially a trainee at The Courier and Evening Telegraph’s Perth office, the following years took him to Montrose, Aberdeen and Peterhead.

Shown in 1984, fledgling reporter, Chris Ferguson.

After a brief spell editing the Deeside and Donside Pipers, he went back to Angus to launch The Arbroath Guide and Carnoustie Leader.

He returned to the Courier as sub-editor at the Kingsway plant in 1995, before a switch back to reporting opened the door for shifts on the newsdesk.

DC Thomson stalwart Chris Ferguson.

A journalist with a keen understanding of the communities he served, Chris was involved in numerous campaigns, including efforts to save the Black Watch and moves to scrap Tay Bridge tolls.

All this led to his appointment as assistant editor.

Obituary innovation

For the next 15 years he was, by his own admission, “immersed in production” helping DC Thomson maintain a frontline print and digital presence “even during the pandemic.”

DC Thomson journalist Chris Ferguson.

When, in 2021 DC Thomson restructured its Dundee and Aberdeen newsrooms creating mini publishing teams working across both sites, Chris pitched the idea of a new, dedicated obituaries team.

Joined by Lindsay Bruce from Aberdeen, the pair reinvented obituaries for the Courier and Press and Journal.

Royal expert

A year into his work managing this new and award-winning team, the most high-profile death in a generation occurred in his news patch.

The loss of Queen Elizabeth II saw Chris’s unrivalled knowledge, both of the monarchy and her time in the north of Scotland, harnessed to create a 108-page supplement of her life.

The Courier editor David Clegg said it was a milestone in an already remarkable career.

“In my opinion, his incredible coverage of the death of Her Majesty the Queen in September 2022 was the moment The Courier’s proud print legacy and exciting digital future meshed together most perfectly,” he said.

Ever the newspaper man, Chris Ferguson.

“It is a testament to his remarkable talent that Chris was equally at home in newsprint or cyberspace.

“I learned an incredible amount from him and will miss him dearly.”

Chris’ outstanding work led to his attendance at the late Queen’s memorial service in Edinburgh’s St Giles’ Cathedral.

The prestigious invite was a source of great pride, though he rejected the unofficial accolade: “royal correspondent.”

Proud dad and grandad

Only one thing superseded Chris’ considerable dedication to his work: his fierce love for his family.

Chris met Carolyn Clark on May 28 1986 in Toffs’ Disco, Montrose.

“It was a Wednesday night when you got in free. I remember the date so well,” said Carolyn.

“I saw this good-looking man I hadn’t seen before. Chris saw me too. He said it was love at first sight.”

Newlyweds, Carolyn and Chris Ferguson on their wedding day.

The young couple tied the knot on September 19, 1992 in Old Church, Montrose, where they set up home.

Three years later daughter Caitlin arrived, followed by son Calum in 1999, by which point the family had moved to Arbroath.

Tough times

Soon after Calum was born Carolyn was diagnosed with cancer.

It was “an incredibly difficult time”, but here Chris’ strength of character was evident.

As he worked to provide for his family, he also took part in fundraising events for cancer research.

Chris with his family, Caitlin, Calum and wife Carolyn.

“You learn to appreciate everything more,” he once remarked.

“Although cancer casts a long shadow it gives you a new perspective from then on.”

When Calum graduated from university in 2021 he reflected: “these are the days worth celebrating. Not everyone gets to be there when their son graduates.”

Proud grandad

In 2017 Caitlin started dating Latvian Dāvids Cīrulis.

“As soon as I met him he was family right away,” Chris said.

Throughout the following years Chris enjoyed getting to know his Latvian “in-laws” and visiting Riga.

However, in February 2019 he took on his “proudest role of all” becoming grandad to Caitlin and Dāvids’ little boy, Isaac.

Chris with his beloved grandson Isaac on a day trip.

“Saturday mornings were for Isaac,” Carolyn said.

“He would take him out to the harbour, or on a trip.”

“He was brilliant with him,” said Caitlin. “They had such a special relationship.”

Family memories

Chris celebrated his 60th birthday in February this year with a family meal.

Just weeks later, on Good Friday, he was admitted to hospital following a massive heart attack.

He passed away peacefully on Friday May 10.

Shown centre right, next to son Calum, is Chris Ferguson on his 60th birthday.

Sharing the news on social media Caitlin wrote: “After a six-week long battle in intensive care at Golden Jubilee National Hospital, (Clydebank) my dad, Chris Ferguson, has sadly passed away age 60.

“I can’t even begin to describe how much we as a family will miss him.

“We are so proud of how strong he had been during his time in hospital, and in his own words, he is ‘pain free at last.'”

Chris is huge loss to The Courier

Among qualities too many to mention, Chris will be remembered for his warmth, his humour, his love of a good quiz, being the office savant and for his relentless loyalty and compassion.

Graham Huband, managing editor of Dundee and Aberdeen publications, paid tribute to his colleague of 30 years.

The Ferguson brothers Jeff, Adrian, Chris and Peter.

“A funny, erudite, kind and wise man who made every day at DC Towers that little bit brighter and easier for colleagues who admired and respected him in equal measure,” he said.

“A huge loss.”

Another former colleague Richard Rooney added: “He seemed to live five lives.”