If you read the entry on Mephan Ferguson in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, you would find no mention of Maylands. The impact this man had on our suburb is far more evident in Mephan Ferguson: A biography this book written by Mephan Ferguson’s descendant James Mephan Ferguson can be accessed in our library
Mephan Ferguson was born in Falkirk in Scotland in 1843 and aged 11 migrated to Melbourne with his parents, brother and sister in 1854. Two years later, he had moved to Ballarat and started work that began building his skills in working with metal. By the 1870s, he was being described as ‘a colonially trained engineer’ assisting with construction of an iron bridge at Shelford in Victoria’s Western District. After he and Agnes Shand married in 1874, they lived in a tent near the rail bridge he was building over the Campaspe River at Rochester. By 1877, he had built iron bridge over the Yarra at Johnstone Street in and was managing the Mephan Ferguson works in what is now North Melbourne. By 1884, his firm operated the Carlton Foundry, West Melbourne’s Glasgow Iron Works and the Newport Iron Works.
By 1888, he had built many more bridges and his firm had become known for its general general engineering work including the wrought iron mains for Melbourne’s water supply. By 1889, all the firm’s operations had been transferred to Footscray. The firm made pipes for Melbourne’s Spotswood Pumping Station would later make the pipe making machinery shipped to the firm’s interstate and overseas pipemaking locations including Maylands, where his firm made half of the pipes for the Goldfields Pipeline.
The land next to the railway between East Perth and Bayswater that Mephan Ferguson had acquired in 1899 for his West Australian pipeworks was known initially as Falkirk and later as Maylands after Mephan’s eldest daughter. May came with her father to Perth in 1899. Mephan Ferguson and May lived at the Falkirk Hotel until May moved back to Victoria. She later married and moved to Adelaide. Her bother, Bert, worked at the Maylands plant and on the laying of the pipes delivered to site by rail.
It is believed that Mephan Ferguson later moved in with the families of the foundry managers, first Mr J S Rowland and then Mr C Morrison.
Maylands street names such as Mephan, Ferguson, Falkirk, Caledonian and Foundry all relate to the pipeworks and its founder. Rowlands Street commemorates the name of the works manager. Morrison Street could be named after Mr C Morrison. Real estate agents subdividing nearby land for sale chose to call it the Falkirk Estate.
Mephan Ferguson had the pleasure of escorting the Duke of York (later King George V) on an inspection of the Maylands pipeworks in 1901. After the Coolgardie Water Scheme was officially opened in 1903, the Maylands plant made pipes for other projects until it closed in the 1928.
Mephan Ferguson died in Falkirk, his Melbourne home in Royal Parade Parkville in 1919. Despite his limited formal education, he had become a noted engineer and inventor and a world leader in pipe design and joining technology. The lock bar he invented in 1896 was integral to the success of the Goldfields Pipeline and pipelines in India, New Zealand and South Australia.
His business had been incorporated as Mephan Ferguson Pty Ltd in 1910 and his sons continued to direct the business for three decades after his death. After their deaths in the 1940s, the company was sold and in 1950 became a subsidiary company of Tubemakers of Australia Ltd.