by Sam McBride

On the the 50th anniversary of the passing of Mrs. T.J.S. (Amy) Ferguson on February 20, 1972, many of her singers, colleagues and friends are reflecting on her amazing life and incredible contribution to the music scene in Nelson, British Columbia.

She was born in London, England on November 6, 1884, daughter of Daniel Spencer and Elizabeth Luce. Amy came to Nelson in 1917 with her husband, Rev. T.J.S. “Joe” Ferguson. Soon after Joe became reverend at St. Paul’s United Church in 1930 Amy established the Nelson Boys Choir which would be prominent in the Nelson and around the province and further afield for the next 41 years.

the story of the Nelson Boys Choir in 1964

I joined the choir shortly after Joe’s death in 1960. As a widow with her children grown up and on their own, she may have had more time to devote to the choir than previously. She certainly kept us boy sopranos busy with rehearsals, concerts and tours. I was amazed at how well she controlled the behaviour of choir members. If there was even a hint of talking or goofing around, one glaring stare by Amy would set the offenders straight.

While she was best known for her work with the award-winning Nelson Boys Choir, she also led other choirs of both sexes, and taught piano from her home on Mill Street for many years. Her name lives on today with the Amy Ferguson Institute (www.amyfergusoninstitute.ca).

The motto of the Nelson Boys Choir, meaning Always Faithful
Mrs. Ferguson grieved at the deaths of 7 of her Nelson Boys Choir “boys” in World War Two. A fund-raising campaign resulted in a new organ for St. Paul’s United Church in their honour.

In the 1960s and into the 70s she received numerous awards and honours for her work with the choir, including Nelson Citizen of the Year and an honourary doctorate in music from Notre Dame University. She never retired from the choir, as it was still going strong when she died, and it had recently done an Okanagan tour. A key to the success of the tours was the help of choir alumni in various cities who organized the concerts as well as billets for the choir members. They were among an estimated 800 participants in the choir over the years.

Here is a news clippings about her and the choir, as well as a variety of memorabilia courtesy of the Shawn Lamb Archives at Touchstones Museum in Nelson, and my collection.

Review in Nelson Daily News of 1934 performance,
Mrs. Ferguson receiving her honourary doctorate in music from Notre Dame University in 1970.
Nelson Boys Choir in 1961, photo taken on Mrs. Ferguson’s lawn on Mill Street in Nelson.
Note from Mrs. Ferguson to she sent me with the “Boys. Music and Mrs. F” book