Ferguson’s: Timeless Repository of Info and Knowledge | Sunday Observer

Ferguson’s: Timeless Repository of Info and Knowledge

24 September, 2017

The well-known Ferguson’s Ceylon Directory which was the most comprehensive, complete and reliable guide on ready reference information on Ceylon in the 19th and 20th Centuries has been out of print for nearly 20 years. The Ferguson’s Directory was first published by MacKenzie Ferguson at the Observer Press in the 19th Century. MacKenzie Ferguson was the Editor and proprietor of The Observer, and after his death, his nephew John Ferguson edited the Ferguson’s Directory.

Copies of Ferguson’s Directory can now be accessed at the National Archives of Sri Lanka in Colombo 7. The Assistant Director of National Archives, Dilini Liyanage says that every effort has been made to include information in many areas such as, Government, civil servants, plantation industry, education, climate, population, military, medical, banks, trade, government offices, newspapers and periodicals. The Ferguson’s Directory was known for its accuracy, and the importance of this publication was that it enabled readers to gain new insights or perspectives on issues that mattered to them, helping them to have a new understanding of the many aspects of Ceylon as the country was known before 1972.

According to Liyanage, the purpose of printing the Ferguson’s Directory was to record the political and economic situation and developments in Ceylon. “During the 19th and 20th Centuries vast changes took place in the political and economic fields. The development of the plantation industry was a major event.

During the period between 1830-1850, coffee production progressed to being among the world’s best. By 1870, the tea industry also began to gain a reputation for producing the world’s finest tea. The success of the plantation industry had numerous benefits across multiple fields, including, the beginning of construction of a network of roads, railways and bridges. The evolution of newspapers and publications also took place in the 19th century with The Ceylon Observer and The Times of Ceylon being published.

19th and 20th Centuries

Liyanage says, “The Ferguson’s Directory played a very important role during the 19th and 20th Centuries, and new information and sections were introduced in every issue. It tried to include every aspect of the Government and private sectors. The Ferguson’s Directory has been a regular and reliable compendium of information about Ceylon.

This series of publications provided valuable information on people who worked in the Ceylon Civil Service. It included coloured engravings of views from Ceylon and the relevant maps, for example, the map of the Ceylon Railway. Information about the location and spatial characteristics of the country and of society and culture was taken from the maps. Especially, it analyzed locational distributions and spatial patterns of Ceylon.

With an accurate map, researchers can get information in the safest and fastest way possible.

It was interesting to compare other views with the earlier views. It also supplied the lists of owners of estate properties in Ceylon, including the planters’ directory. The major developments that took place in the economy during that period gave rise to wide changes in the political, social, economic, religious and cultural fields of Sri Lanka.”

“The British established their rule in the coastal areas in 1796 and captured the Kandyan Kingdom in 1815, which brought the entire island under their control.

The reforms, especially, the Colebrooke-Cameron reforms were introduced by the British in 1833. After 1833, there were massive changes in the economic system. Ceylon gradually saw a trend towards a commercial economic system. The proposals made by Colebrooke exerted a powerful influence on the development of the plantation industry. In this manner, the proposals of Colebrooke helped to remove the obstacles faced by the private entrepreneurs to a large extent, resulting in rapid progress in the plantation sector. From about 1804, the British had been attempting to develop coffee cultivation.

By 1830, coffee plantations had begun to expand in various areas. After 1837, coffee plantations achieved a high degree of success. Starting from very small beginnings, by 1840 coffee had expanded in to a wide area in the Kandyan Provinces.

Tea began to increase rapidly in the 1880s. In this manner, although the price of tea fluctuated from time to time, by 1920 tea had come to occupy a major position among the exports of Ceylon. Coconut was another plantation crop that was developed under the British rule during the 19th century,” Liyange explains.

The Ferguson’s Directory provides an alphabetical list of all civil servants, British colonial Governors of Ceylon, European residents and principal public servants, members of the State Council, Calendar, List of coffee and tea estates and owners, immigrant labourers, Rubber Research Scheme and Rubber restriction, Coconut Research Scheme, education, natural features of Ceylon, climate, population, the military, medical, banks and Banking in Ceylon, Currency of Ceylon, Colombo professional and Trade Lists, Outstation Trade Lists, Mercantile and planting companies, newspapers and periodicals, details of remarkable events, roads, railways, coach, carriage and boat, Census of Ceylon, Licences, Legislative Enactments, Toll rates, Rules for sale of crown lands, Birth, Death, and Marriage regulations, Tax Ordinances, Shops Ordinances, Income Tax Ordinance, List of Justices of Peace, lawyers, notaries, judicial system of Ceylon, sports, Civil Establishments, Survey General’s Department, General Treasury, Audit Office, Customs Department, Post Office and telegraph rates and rules, List of weights and measures, Meteorology, Immigration, revenue and expenditure, timber, agriculture, municipal, The Public Trustee, Radio Ceylon, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Advertisements, Report on Northern Province, Financial statements, Illustrations and maps, Addresses section and arrivals of mails from Europe, consumer price index and retail prices.

Printed copies of Ferguson’s Directory can be obtained and studied at the National Archives, the D.R. Wijewardene Memorial Library at Lake House (ANCL), the National Museum Library, National Library Services Board, National Library, Colombo, Royal Asiatic Society Library, University of Peradeniya Library and the Internet (the 1999 version). The National Archives has copies of Ferguson’s Directory from 1863 to 1996. Liyanage says, there are no plans at present to resume printing of the Ferguson’s Directory.