Chaplain of Eversley School, Sandgate 1915 – 1935 (thereafter in Lymington).
‘I wandered out on the Leas, amid the gay butterflies listening to the military band, which that afternoon was playing on the glorious headland. In the midst of all that kaleidoscope of colour and buzz of talk I had a sense of being separate and aloof.’
Stealthy Terror (1918)
Scottish by birth, novelist and dramatist John Ferguson became chaplain of Eversley girls’ school in Sandgate in 1915.1 The following year he wrote a paper for the Folkestone War Refugees Committee on the town’s contribution in helping Belgian refugees.2
His spy novel Stealthy Terror was published in 1918, but captures the mood of 1914, just before the outbreak of WW1. In a memorable scene in Folkestone, the narrator watches human ‘butterflies’ on the Leas, as they gather round a military band. The bandstand had been erected in 1893, when Folkestone ranked as one of the more fashionable Victorian resorts. But as Ferguson’s readers would have been well aware, the Leas promenade gives on to what would later be designated The Road of Remembrance, along which thousands of soldiers had passed on their way to the trenches. Henry Williamson (best remembered as the author of Tarka the Otter), would call it ‘the English Via Dolorosa’ in his post-war novel The Dream of Fair Women (1924).
Ferguson was present at the presentation of a bouquet of rosebuds to the retiring headmistress, Miss White, in 1933.3 When the school moved to Lymington in 1935 (conflicting reports cite either increased development around the Kent location or financial loss as the reason), 4 he relocated and remained its chaplain. In 1948 the school was purchased by Middlesex County Council, to house a school for children classified as ‘delicate’. In 1949 it changed its name to Elmer’s Court and continued to operate until the late 1970s.5.
Folkestone library holds rare copies of several of Ferguson’s books: Campbell of Kilmhor (1915), The King of Morven (1922), The Secret Road (1925), The Man in the Dark (1928) and Murder on the Marsh (1930).
Bertie, David M. Scottish Episcopal Clergy 1689-2000. Edinburgh: T. and C. Clark, 2000.
Ferguson, John. Stealthy Terror. London: Penguin, 1954.
Oulton, Carolyn W. de la L. Oulton. Down from London: Seaside Reading in the Railway Age. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2022.
His address is given in local papes as 6 Devonshire Terrace. With thanks to Hilary Tolputt. ↩
With thanks to Hilary Tolputt. ↩
Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald. 2 December 1933. 8. ↩
Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald. 6 July 1935. 10. ↩
With thanks to Mary Annetts, St Barbe Museum. ↩