Acting Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 13/03/1911 - 05/03/1912
Judge, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 06/3/1912 - 06/10/1931
Acting Chief Justice, Supreme Court of New South Wales, 01/02/1929 - 31/12/1929
Challis Lecturer, University of Sydney, 1901 - 1911
Fellow of University of Sydney Senate, 1913 - 1934
Vice-Chancellor, University of Sydney, 1919 - 1921
Official Visitor to German prisoners of war in NSW, 1915 - 1916
Chairman, Returned Soldiers and Sailors Employment Board (NSW), 30/04/1935 - 02/11/1941
Commissioner, Royal Commission of inquiry respecting the Wheat Acquisition Act, 27/02/1915 - 19/05/1915
Commissioner, Royal Commission of inquiry into the 'standard price' of gas (Australian Gaslight Company and North Shore Gas Company Ltd), 23/04/1918 - 18/06/1918
Commissioner, Royal Commission of inquiry into the 'standard price' of gas (Australian Gaslight Company and North Shore Gas Company Ltd), 31/10/1919 - 30/11/1919
Chairman, Commonwealth Royal Commission on Taxation, 06/10/1932 - 10/10/1934
David Gilbert Ferguson was born on 7 October 1861 at Muswellbrook, New South Wales, the son of John Ferguson and Elizabeth nee Johnston. He was educated at Scone National and Church of England schools, and at Fort Street Model School, Sydney. (1)
Ferguson worked in Sydney as a clerk in a copyright office and as a shorthand writer with Want and Johnson, solicitors. From 1883 to 1890 he financed his studies by working as a journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph and by reporting for Hansard for the Queensland Parliament and the New South Wales Parliament. He graduated from St Andrew's College, University of Sydney (Levey Science Scholar 1883, BA 1886). The Levey Science Scholarship of fifty pounds was given to a second year student, after examination, for proficiency in natural science. (2)
Ferguson was admitted to the New South Wales Bar on 8 March 1890. His speciality in practice was Common Law jurisdiction. He was a member of the NSW Bar Association council from 1902/3 to 1910/11. He also held a Challis Lectureship at the University of Sydney from 1901 to 1911, lecturing on the law of procedure in civil and criminal cases, evidence and pleading. (3)
Ferguson was appointed an Acting Judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales from 13 March 1911 for six months under the Supreme Court and Circuit Courts Act, 1900, to sit and act in every jurisdiction. His appointment was extended from 13 September 1911 for further six months. On 6 March 1912 he was permanently appointed a Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court. Ferguson's expertise was in the law of evidence. In 1926 he presided over the action brought by Sister Ligouri (Brigid Partridge) against Bishop J W Dwyer. He was Acting Chief Justice from 1 February 1929 to 31 December 1929. He retired from the Supreme Court on 6 October 1931. (4)
From 27 February to 19 May 1915, Ferguson presided over the Royal Commission of inquiry respecting the Wheat Acquisition Act. He investigated whether interference or bribery was used to secure the passage of this Act, which cancelled forward contracts for the sale of wheat following the failure of the 1914 rains. From 23 April to 18 June 1918 and 31 October to 31 November 1919 he presided over three of the Royal Commissions of inquiry into the 'standard price' of gas under the Gas Act, 1912 (Act No.71, 1912) and Gas (Amendment) Act, 1918 (Act No.3, 1918). The Australian Gaslight Company and North Shore Gas Company Limited applied for an increase in the price of gas above the 'standard price' set in the 1912 Act. (5)
Following his retirement from the Supreme Court of NSW, he was Chairman of the Commonwealth Royal Commission on Taxation. This commission, established on 6 October 1932, looked at the simplification and standardisation of the taxation laws of the Commonwealth and States where they related to the same matters, for example income tax, land tax and death duties. The commission presented its fourth and final report on 10 October 1934. He received his knighthood on 4 June 1934 for being Chairman of the Royal Commission into Taxation. (6)
In 1902 Ferguson was a vice-president of the Sydney University Law Society, established that year, and president in 1912-1913 and 1917-1918. He was a Fellow of the Senate of the University of Sydney from 1913 to 1934 and Vice-Chancellor from 1919 to 1921. (7) In 1915 and 1916 he was Official Visitor to German prisoners of war in NSW and later Chairman of the Returned Soldiers' Amelioration Committee. He was Chairman of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Employment Board (NSW) from its establishment on 30 April 1935 until his death. (8)
On 16 March 1887 he married Alice Rosa Annie Curtis. His third son, Keith Aubrey Ferguson, became a Supreme Court Judge. David Gilbert Ferguson died at Woollahra on 2 November 1941. (9)
1. J L Arthur, 'Ferguson, Sir David Gilbert (1861-1841)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Carlton, Melbourne University Press, 1981, Vol.8, p.484; Fred Johns, Johns's Notable Australians and Who's Who in Australasia, 1906, p.67; 1908, p.130; 1912, p.54; 1913, p.44; 1914, p.65; 1922, p.91; 1927-8, p.87; 1933, p.128; 1935, p.178; 1938, p.190; 1941, p.262.
2. ADB, op.cit., University of Sydney Calendar 1886, pp.154, 177-78, http://calendararchive.usyd.edu.au/calendar/1886/1886.pdf (cited 17 March 2008); Fred Johns, op.cit.,1908, p.130.
3. Barristers Admission Board; NRS 13665, Roll of Barristers, 1876-1926; Reel 2147, p.5; Fred Johns, op.cit.,1908, p.130; 1927, p.87; University of Sydney Calendar 1912, pp.259, 518-9, http://calendararchive.usyd.edu.au/calendar/1912/1912.pdf (cited 18 March 2008); 'Bar Councillors 1902-2006', New South Wales Bar Association http://www.nswbar.asn.au/docs/about/history/bclist1902_1910.php and http://www.nswbar.asn.au/docs/about/history/bclist1910_1920.php (cited 24 December 2007).
4. New South Wales Government Gazette No 31, 8 March 1911, p.1419; No.123, 13 September 1911, p.4927; No.33, 6 March 1912, p.1582; New South Wales Law Almanac for 1932, Sydney, NSW Government Printer, 1932, p.28; ADB, op.cit.
5. D H Borchardt, Checklist of Royal Commissions Select Committees of Parliament and Boards of Inquiry, Part IV New South Wales 1855-1960, Bundoora, La Trobe University Library, 1975, pp.266, 276; NSW Government Gazette No.271, 19 December 1919, pp.7111-12, 7120.
6. National Archives of Australia - Agency notes for Agency CA 2493, Royal Commission on Taxation[II] http://naa12.naa.gov.au/scripts/AgencyDetail.asp?M=3&B=CA+2493 (cited 11 March 2008); It's an honour website http://www.itsanhonour.gov.au (cited 23 January 2008).
7. ADB, op.cit., University of Sydney Calendar 1902, p.373, http://calendararchive.usyd.edu.au/calendar/1902/1902.pdf (cited 18 March 2008); Thomas Bavin, Jubilee Book of the Law School of the University of Sydney 1890-1940, Sydney, Halstead Press, 1940, p.111; 'The Hon Sir David Gilbert Ferguson - Vice-Chancellor 1919-1921', Vice-Chancellors - Senate - the University of Sydney, http://www.usyd.edu.au/senate/VC_Ferguson.shtml?printable (cited 14 December 2007).
8. Who's Who in Australia 1941, Melbourne, Herald and Weekly Times Ltd, 1941, p.262; Returned Soldiers and Sailors Employment Board; NRS 1918, Annual reports, 1935-1942; [4/7303].
9. Fred Johns, Who's Who in the Commonwealth of Australia 1922, Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1922, p.91; ADB, op.cit.