Ferguson Industries

Ferguson Industries

Pictou, NS

Circa 1856 to present

Ferguson Industries Limited was originally founded as The Pictou Iron Foundry in 1856 by William Davies.

W. H. Davies built a foundry on the Pictou waterfront in 1856. His sons George and Charles, carried on the foundry's operation until the late 1800s when ownership transferred to Joseph Robb and Douglas Hannon. In 1906, Allan A. Ferguson bought out the interests of partner Robb and the business was renamed, The Pictou Foundry and Machine Company. In 1910, Allan became the sole owner and head of the business.

After the outbreak of the First World War, the company participated in the war effort and machine finished thousands of shells forged in nearby Trenton. When the war ended, the primary work for the Pictou Foundry and Machine Company became ship repair.

Allan A. Ferguson died in 1932 and the business was then taken over by his eldest son, Robert.  Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, Robert was joined by his three brothers Allan, Thomas and James. Before World War Two there had not been a ship launched in Pictou in over 60 years.

The Second World War Britain had been at war for less than a year when it realized that Germany was destroying their merchant (cargo) ships faster than they could reproduce them. Due to Britain's focus on the production of naval ships, it did not have the capacity to keep up with merchant ship losses. This led to a British Shipbuilding Commission arriving in North America in October 1940 looking for help to supply the much needed transport of cargo and war materials. The Commission found the help they were looking for and some of these new ships would be built as Park class vessels in Pictou. A total of twenty-four, 4,700 ton Scandinavian class freighters would eventually be built.

When the good news hit Pictou on October 9, 1941, the Pictou shipyard consisted of a marine slip with refit and repair capability. Major changes had to be made, launch ways had to be built and more fabrication space had to be created. The landmark of Battery Hill was bulldozed to make room for the new yard. Along with the new developments, the new yard was taken over by Foundation Maritime Shipbuilding Limited. This allowed the Ferguson brothers to retain the operations of the original marine slip and carry out repairs to naval vessels. The first ship built was the Victoria Park, launched on October 22, 1942.  The last British ship sunk in World War II, the Avondale Park, was built in Pictou.

After World War Two to Present With the twenty-four Park Ships built and the war over, Foundation Maritime Limited closed the shipyard and the equipment was sold. Convinced that shipbuilding could be a viable industry in Pictou, the Ferguson brothers, took over the shipyard building and modernized the yard.  In 1953, the three brothers incorporated the business as Ferguson Industries Limited, which amalgamated Foundation Maritime Ltd., The Pictou Foundry and Machine Company, The Pictou Marine Railway, W.C. Wetmore (a plumbing and heating business) and Fullerton's Limited (woodworkers).

The Ferguson's continued operations in Pictou during the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's with a workforce that ranged from 300 to 500.  The shipyard built a total of 107 steel ships which included barges, fishing trawlers, and passenger car ferries.  Among these were the MV Lord Selkirk, MV Prince Nova and MV Prince Edward which served the Caribou to Wood Islands crossing to PEI for many years. In 1966, a third Allan A. Ferguson joined the business and served until his passing in 1972.  The Ferguson's ownership lasted until 1974 when the firm was sold to H.B. Nickerson & Sons Limited.

Through many business booms and busts as well as several changes of ownership, the business continues to operate today under the ownership of Aecon Atlantic Industrial Inc.

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