Ferguson, James LEUT (P)
James was born on May 21, 1929 at Lady Bowen Hospital, Brisbane. He did not start school until late, as his single mum was a cook on a remote station near Cunnamulla in Western Qld. When he turned 11 she realised he was illiterate and sent him to attend Marist Brothers College, Ashgrove as a border in Brisbane.
He joined the Navy at 19 as an electrician’s mate. He was ambitious and soon became an officer and pilot of the prestigious Fleet Air Arm. In 1952 they were sent to the UK for training in Lossiemouth on Seafires, and to Cornwall on Sea Furies. He served on 805 Squadron (Sea Furies) and 723 Squadron (Sycamores). He returned to HMAS Sydney in 1953 to engaged in peacekeeping duties in Korea.
In 1958 he married Jill Irene Lewis and together they had one child, Lisa. After ten years James went on to marry another three times.
Jim transferred to the (inactive) Emergency List at a LEUT in 1956 and worked for the ANA’s Helicopter Division, and became Reg Ansett’s private pilot. Over the period 1968-1970 he reengaged in the Navy, including for short periods of service with the RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam.
In 1963 James branched out to buy a Hughes 269 VH-IHB and began a commercially successful business in the Australian and South Western Pacific region in the helicopter chartering field. ‘Rotor Work Helicopters’ pursued pioneering exploits, such as conducting gravity surveys for the Australian Government in the central and western deserts, piloting for Skippy the Bush Kangaroo TV series; ferrying goods in the New Guinean highlands and creating the Wales Surf Rescue service at Long Reef, Sydney in 1977. Whilst working at Well 44, near Balgo Hills in the Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia, he came across a woman with her pickaninny (his words), the child was malnourished. James flew them to safety where they were well looked after. The son was so thankful he named himself ‘Helicopter’ and is now an internationally renowned artist. He contacted James to be present at a recent exhibition in Melbourne, but unfortunately he was too unwell to travel.
In 1969 James was entered into the Guinness Book of Records for seeing the last Tasmanian Tiger whilst flying low along Birthday Bay Beach in the south of Tasmania.
During the 1970’s James retired to the land to become a successful pastoralist.
He will be sorely missed. RIP.
A Funeral Service to celebrate the life of Mr James Thomas (Jim) Ferguson was held in Padbury on Friday 02 November 2018, followed by a wake for his family and friends. There will be a Brisbane Memorial Service at a date TBC.