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Chris Ferguson: Friend’s poignant tribute on day of Courier legend’s funeral in Arbroath

Fellow obituaries writer Lindsay Bruce pens one last tribute to her friend and mentor.

Beloved DC Thomson journalist Chris Ferguson.
Beloved DC Thomson journalist Chris Ferguson.

This is a sad day for all of us here at The Courier. Today we say a final farewell to our colleague and fellow DC Thomson journalist Chris Ferguson.

He was my manager, my mentor and truly one of my dearest friends. We first met only three years ago when he interviewed me for the role of obituaries writer: the other half of his two-man team.

As the pioneer of our specialist obituaries work, he championed our team and its role in serving our communities. He was rightly proud of our work, and the articles we created.

No one was too grand, and no one unworthy of a well-researched, thoughtfully written, poignant, Courier obituary.

Knowing the difference each tribute made to our readers he encouraged me to find new ways to tell these stories, and to have confidence that every family had a story worth telling.

We didn’t plan for this

“You fairly tug on the heartstrings,” he’d often remark when he read a particularly tragic tribute. Little did we know he’d be the subject of such a story himself.

Of all the things we discussed, and we talked, messaged and WhatsApped often, him leaving us just weeks after his 60th birthday was not part of the plan.

Untold anecdotes about his grown-up children, ‘the young folk’ or his wife – Mrs F – they were part of the plan.

Comfort in the memories

Family holidays, annual gatherings with his brothers and weekend adventures with his beloved grandson, each of these were firm retirement plan components.

Organising pick-up times so a coachload of colleagues can spend a Friday afternoon in Arbroath saying goodbye to their friend. No, that was not on the cards at all.

Reminiscing does bring a measure of welcome comfort, though.

Missed, because his seat is empty

Even faithful old stories like him meeting the Village People as a naive young reporter, thinking they were just jolly, friendly young chaps, or his heroic round-the-clock production of our Queen Elizabeth II coverage, helps somehow.

Vocalising such tales as ‘memories’, however, seems like a betrayal.

Eulogies are normally the ‘bread and butter’ of obits writers yet this one is too sad to accept.

Chris and his grandson Isaac, visiting Lindsay last Christmas.

Readjusting to life without their husband, dad and grandad is unbearable for Chris’s family, and it’s still unthinkable for us as friends from work.

Years have come and gone, trends have changed, even a pandemic did its worst and one thing was certain, Chris Ferguson would be right there, next to the editor’s office in the Dundee newsroom getting the paper out no matter what.

Thinking about that reminded me of a Bible verse. Chris and I had a shared faith which we often discussed. In the book of 1 Samuel, Jonathan says to David, who is about to escape peril: ‘you will be missed for your seat will be empty.’

How apt, for what we’re all feeling.

If there’s a Courier office without Chris, none of us are ready for it.

No, I can say with some certainty, I’m not prepared, nor do I want this new normal without my friend.

Gearing up for today, knowing I’d be sharing some words, I’ve taken time to think about the man, the myth and now the legend that was Mr Ferguson.

He valued others

Mentioning Chris is to mention loyalty and commitment.

In my mind, and as far as I can tell, there are three things inextricably linked with DC Thomson: The Thomson family, Oor Wullie and Chris Ferguson.

Superlative skills and knowledge, an unending supply of afternoon storytime tales, and the utmost professionalism are attributes, we have sadly, probably, taken for granted.

Respected journalist Chris Ferguson.

Today, hearing the words of Chris’ family and of our editor David Clegg, it’ll be clear we were the lucky ones, who were afforded so much of this great man.

Emphasising how much he valued his job, but also the people around him day-to-day, Chris recently told me he had, for many years, taken time each morning to pray for all of his colleagues.

Recently he also commented that he was grateful whenever anyone considered him a friend.

‘The friend of truth’

For what it’s worth Chris, the honour was always all ours.

Even today, on the hardest of all days, my prevailing thought was that the pain of grief really is the only inevitable outcome of getting to love someone so absolutely bloody marvellous.

Chris with his wife Carolyn and grandson Isaac.

Robert Burns said it best in his poem On A Friend. He wrote: “An honest man here lies at rest, As ‘er God with his image blest! The friend of man, the friend of truth; The friend of age, and guide of youth; Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d, Few heads with knowledge so inform’d: If there’s another world, he lives in bliss; If there is none, he made the best of this.”

Go well then sir. We’ll never not miss you.