Friends of the Somme - Mid Ulster Branch  
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   Staff Nurse Rachel Ferguson
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Dated added: 30/12/2015   Last updated: 01/05/2020
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (British Army)
Date Of Birth: 29/12/1886
Died: 26/06/1918 (Died of Illness)
Age: 31
Summary      
Rachel was born on 29th December 1886. She was the daughter of John Stewart Ferguson and Annie Ferguson of Lanebrook House, Ballygoney, Coagh. Rachel was educated at Ballygoney National School and Lady’s School, Cookstown. She trained at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where she qualified as a Staff Nurse. She was serving in Italy until May of 1918 when she was given leave for fourteen days. She re-joined No: 62 General Hospital on 25th May 1918 but on 26th June she was admitted there as a patient, suffering from bronco-pneumonia. She was by now dangerously ill and died later that day. She is buried in Plot 2, Row B-, Grave 7 at Bordighera Cemetery in Italy.
Staff Nurse Rachel Ferguson
Further Information
Rachel Ferguson was the youngest child of John Stewart Ferguson and Annie Ferguson. John Stewart married Annie Henderson on 14th February 1871 in the district of Magherafelt.
Rachel was born on 29th December 1886 in Ballygoney, Coagh. She was the youngest of eight children, seven surviving.
Family: John Stewart Ferguson, Annie Ferguson, Annie Collins Ferguson (born 5th January 1872), Jane Ferguson (born 8th January 1873), Andrew Ferguson (born 10th December 1874, died 14th September 1875), Andrew Ferguson (born 24th September 1876), William Ferguson (born about 1879), John Ferguson (born 24th January 1881), Martha Ferguson (born 15th July 1884), Rachel Ferguson (born 29th December 1886).
Rachel was educated at Ballygoney National School and Lady’s School, Cookstown.
The 1901 census lists Rachel as age 15 at house 7 in Ballygoney, Springhill, County Londonderry. They were a farming family. Rachel was described as a farmer’s daughter.
The 1911 census does not list Rachel at house 7 in Ballygonny More, Springhill, Londonderry.
Rachel trained at the Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast from 16th August 1911.
1915
On 23rd April 1915, Rachel Ferguson qualified as a Staff Nurse.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 5th June 1915:
Miss Rachel Ferguson, daughter of Mr and Mrs John S Ferguson, Lanebrooke, Ballygoney, is one of four nurses from the royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, who volunteered and were accepted by the War Office for Red Cross hospital work. Miss Ferguson was asked to report herself at the headquarters in London, and was subsequently sent to Malta, for which place she sailed on S.S. Mongolia a few days ago.
On enlistment, she gave her next of kin as her father, John Stewart Ferguson of Lanebrooke House, Ballygoney, Coagh.
Medal card
When asked to give the details of one lady to whom application could be made for a reference she nominated Mrs. George Wilson, The Manse, Ballygoney.
Notified of acceptance for service on 10th September 1915, and she joined the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (Q.A.I.M.N.S).
1916
Nurse Rachel Ferguson arrived in Salonika on 6th June 1916 where she was posted to No. 28 General Hospital.
1917
While in service, she became unwell and was admitted to the Red Cross Convalescent Home on 15th June 1917 before being transferred to a hospital ship on 29th June. She re-joined No: 28 General Hospital for duty on 8th July 1917.
With her contract due to expire on 12th November, she submitted an application on 9th October to extend her service by six months ‘Or until my services are no longer required, whichever should happen first.’ The application was accepted.
Rachel embarked on H.M. Transport ‘Abbassich’ for Italy to work in No: 62 General Hospital on 7th November 1917. They disembarked at Taranto eight days later.
Staff Nurse Ferguson served in Italy until May 1918.
In May she was given leave for fourteen days. She returned to Coagh. It was the only holiday she got during her three years’ service abroad.
1918
She re-joined No. 62 General Hospital on 25th May 1918.
On 26th June she was admitted to the hospital as a patient, suffering from bronco-pneumonia.
Staff Nurse Rachel Ferguson died of pneumonia later that day on 26th June 1918 in Italy.
In a letter received in Coagh on Thursday 27th June, she wrote that she was in the best of health and had signed on for the duration of the war. This was followed, some hours later, by a War Office telegram announcing her death from pneumonia.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 29th June 1918:
Our obituary column today contains the announcement of the death of Nurse Rachel Ferguson, one of the noble band of women with the forces at the front, who gave their lives as literally for their country as actual combatants. Nurse Ferguson was the youngest daughter of Mr John S Ferguson, Lanebrooke House, Ballygoney. She was trained at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast and shortly after the declaration of war, she volunteered for foreign service, and with a few other nurses was sent to Malta. From that station she was transferred to Salonika, and recently she had been working in hospitals in Italy. She was at home on ten days leave a couple of months ago – the only holiday she got during her three years’ service abroad, and since her return to Italy she was in her usual health. In a letter received by her friends on Thursday, she wrote that she was in the best of health and had signed on for the duration of the war. As this was followed, on the same day, by a War Office telegram announcing her death from pneumonia and expressing the sympathy of the Army Council, the shock was intensified.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 20th July 1918: The Late Nurse Ferguson
Mr John R Ferguson, Lanebrooke House, Ballygoney, has received the following letters with reference to the death of his daughter, sister Rachel Ferguson:-
‘Dear Sir, I deeply grieve to write what you will have already learnt from other sources that your daughter gave up her life in attending the sick and wounded in our hospital. She was much valued and beloved. I can personally testify to her devotion to duty, and to the deep sorrow caused by her being taken from us so suddenly. She worked till midday on 25th, being evidently, like others here, run down by the great strain thrown on all of us by the sudden arrival of hundreds of wounded. It was soon recognised that her case was grave, and she passed away about 9.30am on the 26th. I was at the hospital at the time. The matron and the nurses are deeply affected. I thought it may interest you to see where we laid her to rest, and the photographer was ordered to take a photograph showing the last ** being paid at her grave. I will send you a copy as soon as one can be processed. Having myself laid one beloved and saintly daughter to rest, and having lost my elder son in action, may I add my own heartfelt sympathy with you and those who loved her. Such lives are not lost, they set a noble and enduring example. Yours in deep sympathy, C P Lynden-Bell, Colonel, (Commandant, Bordighera Area), Bordighera, Italy. 28th June 1918.’
‘Dear Mr Ferguson, Just after sending your letter off yesterday, your daughter too very suddenly much worse and I am grieved to have to tell you that she died at 9.30am. She was quite conscious nearly to the end. Just before she passed away, she became unconscious and just passed quite peacefully away. It is a great sorrow to all the nursing staff, as your daughter was such a great favourite, and loved by all. She had her ward so much to heart and was such an excellent nurse. It will be a little comfort to you all to know that she was appreciated and loved, and so excellently ‘did her bit’, never sparing herself at all in all the great rush of active service. Sister will be buried tomorrow. Some very beautiful flowers have arrived. I will write you all after the funeral. Sister is to be buried in the New English Cemetery, two miles from here. She will be buried with full military honours. M W Nordhouse, Matron.’
‘Dear Mr Ferguson, your daughter was buried at 9pm today. I have arranged to have a photo of the grave taken for you. A great many of the sisters went to the funeral, there were six pall bearers, seven medical officers who carried the coffin from the carriage to the cemetery. There were a great many patients in blue. I thought of it so nice of them, they came to my office to ask if they might be allowed to go. Some were sent up in ambulances. They had known sister and were all so very upset at her death. There were a great many officers, the commandant colonel and many others. The Last Post was sounded. Captain the Hon. Parker, Presbyterian clergyman, took the service. He saw sister just before she passed away. There were many beautiful wreaths etc, from the officers, N.C.O.s, officers and privates of the unit, and one large bunch of flowers, sent by some Italian, as it had a bow of Italian colours. On one of the wreaths of the nursing staff were tied a bow of her ‘colours’. I feel very sorry for you all, as I know what a very great trouble and shock this will be to you. With deep sympathy, yours sincerely, M W Nordhouse, Matron.’
Memorials
Staff Nurse Rachel Ferguson is buried in Bordighera Cemetery in Italy.
As well as the memorials in Coagh, Rachel is commemorated on the Q.A.I.M.N.S. Memorial in St. Anne’s Cathedral, Donegall Street, Belfast. The Memorial is above the inner door on the north side of the main entrance at the west end of the cathedral.
Q.A.I.M.N.S. Memorial in St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast
As part of the Pages Of The Sea project spearheaded by Hollywood director Danny Boyle, to mark the centenary of the the end of WW1, beaches across the Uk were used as canvas to portray local casualties. Private John McCance from Dundrum and Rachel Ferguson were chosen as the two Northern Ireland representatives. At 2pm on Sunday 11th November 2018, a huge artist's impression of First World War nurse Rachel Ferguson was displayed at Downhill beach.
The CWGC record Staff Nurse Rachel Ferguson as the daughter of John Stewart Ferguson and Annie Ferguson, of Lanebrooke House, Ballygoney, Moneymore, County Derry
Many thanks to Tony Emptage who has kindly provided the grave photos of Staff Nurse Rachel Ferguson, via the Great War Forum.
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Relevant Cookstown Area Locations
No Location Region Location Notes Longtitude Latitude
1 Ballygoney, Coagh Coagh Census listing in Ballygonny More 54.645152 -6.641279
References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 1901 Census lists Ferguson family 1901 census lists Rachel as age 15 at house 7 in Ballygonney, Springhill, Londonderry
2 1911 Census lists Ferguson family 1911 census does not list Rachel at house 7 in Ballygonny More, Springhill, Londonderry
3 Bridge: Vol 2 - Coagh & District Magazine article on Rachel Ferguson on page 30
4 Imperial War Museum Note attached to photos
5 Imperial War Museum Photo of Staff Nurse Rachel Ferguson (2)
6 Imperial War Museum Photo of Staff Nurse Rachel Ferguson (1)
7 Inspirational Women of WW1 Brief details of Staff Nurse Rachel Ferguson
8 National Archives UK Medal card can be purchased here
9 Pages of the Sea Photos of Downhill Beach tribute
10 War Graves Photographic Project Gravestone photo of Rachel Ferguson can be purchased here.
Cookstown District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2010-2021