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REV. J. FLIERL, SENIOR MISSIONARY, NEW GUINEA & J. FERGUSON, JUDGE

The cover has a manuscript ‘From Senior Missionary Joh. Flierl, Finschafen New Guinea, via Rabaul and was addressed to Mr. J.A. Ferguson, University Chambers, 167 Phillip Str., Sydney, N.S.W., Australia. It has 3 violet handstamps, with 2 straight line ‘PASSED BY CENSOR’ as well as an oval ‘CENSORED BY/ DISTRICT OFFICER/ WM OGILVY’ cachet. There are 5 green ½d ‘Roo on Map of Australia’ stamps, a single and block of four, all perfined with the official O S. The stamps have several cancellations, described by the vendor as ‘the defaced court seal of Friedrich-Wilhelmshafen’ in 1915. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

The second cover has a ms. ‘From Senior Missionary Joh. Flierl Finschafen, New Guinea Printed matter only, regarding Miss(ionary) Work Value 10/-‘ and it was addressed to Mr. J.A. Ferguson, University Chambers, 167 Phillip St., Sydney, N.S.W., Australia. There is a blue crayon ‘58344' mark and 15 red 1d ‘Roo on Map of Australia’ stamps (blocks of 8 and 4, a pair and a single) have multiple cancels of the defaced ‘/ [eagle]/ Friedrich-Wilhelmschafen’ mailbag seal. The vendor considers the total of 1shilling 3 pence would have paid the registration fee of 6 times 2½d = 15 pence. It was uncensored, there were no arrival postmarks and it was sent in early 1915 (Figure 2).

 

The third cover has a manuscript ‘from Joh Flierl, Luth(eran) Missionary, Finschafen’ (largely concealed by tape) with a ms.‘Passed’ and it is addressed to Rev: F. Otto Theile, Bethanien-Waterford, near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. There are 4 stamps, two ‘Roo on Map of Australia’, a green ½d and a grey 2d both perfined OS and a pair of the red 10 Pfennig Deutsch Neu-Guinea stamps, all canceled with three good strikes of the defaced ‘_/[eagle]/ Friedrich-Wilhelmschafen’ mailbag seal. In addition there is a red ‘PASSED CENSOR/ 23 MY15/ BRISBANE (Figure 3).

The reverse has 2 mss. ‘Please send by Post parcel, Pencils and pens - ,writing utensils, for native Mission, Schools, F. Thierl, Missionary’, and ‘Goods. Sent by you, and friends, allready (sic) in Finschhafen., Many Thanks! etc’ (Figure 4).

Johann Flierl, missionary, was born on 16 April 1858 at Buchhof, Bavaria, son of Johann Konrad Flierl, farmer, and his wife Kunigunda. He was determined to become a missionary but with parents too poor to send him to university a missionary seminary was his only hope, and he entered the seminary in Neuendettelsau, near Nuremberg, Germany. I t had been founded in the 1850s, primarily to train pastors to serve communities of Lutheran emigrants. He was told that a missionary was wanted for work among the Australian Aboriginals, and he left for Australia shortly after his consecration at Easter 1878.

Flierl spent seven years working on Bethesda station at Cooper's Creek. In 1882 he married Beate Maria Louise Auricht, daughter a Lutheran pastor in the Barossa Valley, South Australia. Early in 1885 he heard about the founding of a German colony in New Guinea and decided to go there as a pioneer missionary, but i t was July 1886 before Flierl, landed in Finschhafen, the capital of the new colony. His first station in New Guinea, Simbang, near Finschhafen, seemed discouraging. The local people were hostile and Flierl and his first colleagues battled with health, language and supply problems. Having started a second station on Tami Island, the local trade centre, in 1889 they were just finding their feet when an epidemic wiped out almost half the European population; Finschhafen was abandoned in 1891, but Flierl resolved to stay in Simbang, perhaps most of all because he felt too old to make yet another start. Spurred on by an ultimatum from his wife, who was worried about their baby daughter, Flierl embarked upon a determined push into the mountains to avoid the effects of the climate. A supply station was founded at Finschhafen in 1903 and next year Flierl moved down to Heldsbach on the coast where, besides starting a commercial coconut plantation, the mission acquired its first substantial vessel in 1907.

With the outbreak of World War I, he was under the eye of a distrustful Australian military occupation, and Flierl steered the mission carefully, strengthening connections with Lutheran churchmen in Australia and the United States of America, to secure supply of goods and personnel. These connections became even more important after the war, when it seemed as if the German missions would be expropriated and their staff deported. Flierl retired in 1930 with his wife to her hometown, Tanunda, South Australia. Four years later, after his wife's death, he returned to Neuendettelsau, Germany with his daughter, who died before him; he died there on 30 September 1947. Of his four children, Wilhelm and Johannes became ordained mission pastors. A prolific writer, his main publication in English is Forty Years in New Guinea (Chicago, 1927). Flierl’s photo is seen in Figure 5.

 

Sir John Alexander Ferguson, barrister, bibliographer and judge was born on 15 December 1881 at Invercargill, New Zealand, the eldest of five children of Rev. John Ferguson, Presbyterian minister and his wife Isabella, both Scottish born. Educated at Invercargill until his father was called in 1894 to St Stephen's, Phillip Street, Sydney, John continued at the William Street Public School, then was privately tutored. He attended the University of Sydney (B.A., 1902; LL.B., 1905; D.Litt., 1955) and he graduated in arts with first-class honours and the university medal in logic and mental philosophy.

He was admitted to the Bar on 27 May 1905, and Ferguson soon developed a sound practice, principally in Equity and industrial law, and contributed to the Commonwealth Law Review. He appeared before the High Court of Australia and the Privy Council, most of his briefs being in the areas of industrial and constitutional law. In 1934 he became the first lecturer in industrial law at the university. When the Industrial Commission of New South Wales was reconstituted in 1936, Ferguson was appointed a judge, an office he held until starting a year's leave in December 1951 prior to his retirement. During his seventeen years on the bench Ferguson dispensed justice with grace and was the author of many improvements in industrial awards.

His early interest in Australian history and bibliography, which was to be his major preoccupation, had been fostered by his marriage on 2 January 1907 to Bessie (d.1937), daughter of George Robertson, bookseller and publisher. Ferguson spent his lunch hours browsing in second-hand bookshops, and his interest in books, libraries and Australian history grew apace. In 1914 he joined the (Royal) Australian Historical Society and began book-collecting in a serious way, an activity assisted by his father-in-law. Representing his 'personal and scholarly interests', his library included books, newspapers, periodicals and pamphlets, encompassing law, bibliography, publishing, religion, mission material in the vernacular languages of the Pacific islands, New Guinea and New Zealand, works on Captain Cook and R. L. Stevenson, military history, crime, convicts, transportation and literature. He encouraged scholars, whom he welcomed to his home, to use his collection.

In 1917 Ferguson had published the first part of A Bibliography of the New Hebrides and a History of the Mission Press, which reflected his interest in the Presbyterian Church, of which he was an elder (from 1912) at St Stephen's and procurator (1921-36). His article on 'Studies in Australian Bibliography' in the Journal and Proceedings of the R.A.H.S. in 1918 foreshadowed the magnum opus that he was to undertake: the seven-volume Bibliography of Australia, 1784-1900. Ferguson married Dorothy Kathleen Johnston, on 16 July 1945 at St Stephen's. Survived by his second wife, and their son and daughter, and by the daughter and two of the three sons of his first marriage, he died on 7 May 1969 at his Roseville, N.S.W. home. His eldest son George became publishing director of Angus & Robertson, John followed in his father's footsteps as a lawyer and Colin was killed in 1943 while serving with the Royal Australian Air Force. Sir John's collection of Australiana passed to the National Library and was housed in the Ferguson room. A picture of Judge Ferguson is shown in Figure 6.

 

 

I wish to acknowledge the help of Matthew Stuckings, Reference Librarian, Manuscripts Branch, National Library of Australia confirmed that Senior Missionary John Flierl wrote to J.A. Ferguson on 24 Sept. 1915 and that Ferguson was a barrister at the University Chambers address on the first cover, who became a judge and was subsequently knighted. Flierl refers to his missionary work and refers Ferguson to visit his son, Rev. Wilhelm Flierl, who was in the Prisoners Camp in Liverpool, N.S.W., in spite of the fact he was also the son of an Australian mother. The Librarian stated that Ferguson frequently communicated with missionaries, particularly in New Guinea and New Hebrides. I acknowledge that the majority of information on both Flierl and Ferguson was extracted from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

 
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