Samuel Ferguson

An important forerunner to the Irish literary revival

Samuel Ferguson was born at 23 High Street, Belfast, in 1810, and educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. He was an important forerunner to the Irish literary revival, recovering, translating and promoting ancient Irish literature.

His poem ‘The Forging of the Anchor,’ appeared in Edinburgh's Blackwood’s Magazine when Ferguson was only 21. An ‘industrial poem’, it can be read as a heroic recollection of Belfast’s nascent iron working and shipbuilding industries. Ferguson went on to produce epics drawn from Irish sources, collected in 1865’s Lays of the Western Gael and the posthumous Lays of the Red Branch (1897), as well as many original and translated lyrics.

A political unionist and cultural nationalist, Ferguson’s public life was long and successful. Called to the Irish Bar in 1838, he took Silk in 1859, abandoned legal practice on his appointment as deputy keeper of public records, was knighted in 1878, and elected President of the Royal Irish Academy in 1882. Samuel Ferguson died at Howth near Dublin in 1886 and was buried at Donegore, Co Antrim.

Further reading
Poems (1916) edited by AP Grave; Poems (1963) edited by Padraic Colum (1963). Some of his papers are also held in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.