John Ferguson by St John G Ervine

Public Domain
This Play can be Copied and Printed and performed Royalty Free



edited by Paul Thain


Public Domain





HANNAH FERGUSON, his daughter

JAMES CAESAR, a grocer

HENRY WITHEROW, a farmer and miller


SAM MAWHINNEY, a postman





It is the afternoon of a warm day in the late summer of the year 188-

Soft sunlight enters the kitchen of John Ferguson's farm through the windows and the open door

The kitchen is comfortably furnished, although the Fergusons are no longer prosperous, SARAH
FERGUSON - now sitting by the door, mending socks - takes great pride in maintaining the appearance
of fortune

She is a short, stout, healthy woman, pleasant and agreeable even when she is as harassed as she
now is and her mind is moulded in the kindliness of an Ulster woman

She's not a very intelligent woman, but within her limitations, she is an excellent wife and a very good mother

Her husband, JOHN FERGUSON, is sitting in front of the turf fire, a rug wrapped round his legs

He is reading a large Bible to himself, and his lips move as he silently pronounces each word

He is an elderly, tired, delicate-looking man, and his dark beard is turning grey

His voice is slow but firm and his words are gentle

He looks like a portrait of Moses - not that Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt, but the Moses who
surveyed the Promised Land from Mount Nebo in the Plains of Moab

The furniture of the kitchen is good and substantial, and of the sort that one sees in a decent homestead

The door leading to the "loanie" (or lane) in front of the house is in the wall at the back of the scene

A person entering the kitchen from the "loanie" would have a large window on his right hand, in the same wall as
the door, and a staircase on his left hand

Beyond the staircase, near the front of the scene, is a door leading to other rooms and also to the scullery and
back of the farm

The fireplace is in the wall opposite that in which the staircase is set

Under the window is a large sofa

A dresser is set between the foot of the staircase and the door leading to the yard

A large table sits in the centre of the room

JOHN FERGUSON's chair now stands against one end of this table, so that he can place his
Bible on it easily when he tires of holding it

The ornaments are those customary in such a house

Over the fireplace a gun is suspended

After a pause ...

SARAH FERGUSON: I wonder where Hannah is? I haven't seen her for an hour past.

JOHN FERGUSON: (without looking up) She's mebbe in the fields with Andrew. Listen to this, Sarah!

He raises his voice as he reads from the thirtieth of the Psalms of David

JOHN FERGUSON: "I will extol thee, 0 Lord; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to
rejoice over me. 0 Lord, my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. 0 Lord, thou hast brought
up my soul from the grave, thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down into the pit. Sing unto the Lord,
0 ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.'

JOHN FERGUSON: (with emphasis) For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life - weeping may
endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

He turns to his wife

JOHN FERGUSON: Do you hear that, Sarah? There's great comfort for you!

SARAH FERGUSON: Well, indeed, I hope it will, for we have need of joy in this house. We've bore enough
trouble. Here's the farm mortgaged up to the hilt, and you sick and not able to do no work this long while,
and Henry Witherow bothering you for the money you owe him

JOHN FERGUSON: (holding tip the Bible so that she can see it) "Weeping may endure for a night," Sarah, "but joy
cometh in the morning." Them's grand words! Don't be complaining now, for sure God never deserts His own people.
We have His word for that, Sarah. We're tried a while, and then we're given our reward.

SARAH FERGUSON: Well, we've earned ours anyway! It's a great pity Andrew's such a poor hand on the farm.

JOHN FERGUSON: The lad was never meant for the land, Sarah. You know rightly I dedicated him to the ministry
the day he was born. It was a sore blow to the lad when I told him it couldn't be managed, but it was a sorer blow to me.

SARAH FERGUSON: Ay, indeed, it was, John. You were always set on Andrew.

JOHN FERGUSON: (proudly) He's my son! I have great hopes of Andrew.

SARAH FERGUSON: Well, well, you would have done better, mebbe, to let him go on with his learning, for he's no use
at all on the farm. I hope to my goodness his uncle Andrew '11 send the money to pay the mortgage. It's quare him not
writing this long while.

JOHN FERGUSON: He's mebbe had bother. He'll write if he has the money by him. You may be sure of that.

SARAH FERGUSON: He never was much of a one for giving anything away, your brother Andrew, and mebbe he'll
disappoint you the same as he's disappointed many another person.

JOHN FERGUSON: I know he's near with money, but all the same I think he'll be willing to lend me the price of the
mortgage. Him and me was born in this house, and we played here together as wee lads. Our da was born here too,
and his da before him. Andrew couldn't let the farm go out of the family after all them generations.

SARAH FERGUSON: I trust, indeed, he'll not, but it's a quare poor look-out when you think he's never answered your
letters to him this long time, and him knowing well you were sick and helpless. Dear knows what'll become of us all if
he doesn't send the money! Henry Witherow's a hard man,John, and he'll not be willing to wait long.

She rises and looks out of the door

SARAH FERGUSON: Here's Hannah now! I wonder is the mail in yet!

JOHN FERGUSON: We'll know in a wee while.

He takes up the Bible again and resumes his reading

HANNAH FERGUSON, a beautiful girl of twenty, enters the kitchen from the "loanie"

Her thick black hair is uncovered

SARAH FERGUSON: Is the mail in yet?

HANNAH FERGUSON: (wearily) The long-car only went by a minute or two ago. I met "Clutie" John at the end of
the loanie, and he said the mail would be late the day.

She goes to the window-seat and sits down

HANNAH FERGUSON: It's like Sam Mawhinney to be late the time we want him to be early.

JOHN FERGUSON: (with gentle rebuke in his voice) Hannah, child! You don't know what trouble the man may have
had. It might not be his fault the mail's late. Sometimes theres a storm at sea, and that keeps the boats back. Mebbe
the train was delayed. Many's a thing might have happened. You shouldn't be blaming Sam for what's mebbe not his fault.

HANNAH FERGUSON: (going to her father, and putting her arms round his neck) Da, dear, aren't you the quare
one for making excuses for people!

SARAH FERGUSON: Well, sure, a lot of them needs it.

She has resumed her seat by the door and is again busy with her work of mending socks

HANNAH FERGUSON: How're you now, da? Are you better nor you were a while ago?

JOHN FERGUSON: (cheerfully) Ah, boys-a-boys, Hannah, what did you mind me of it for? I was near forgetting
I was sick at ll. That shows I'm better in myself, doesn't it now?

HANNAH FERGUSON: (looking) You're not letting on, are you, da?

SARAH FERGUSON: Letting on, indeed! Did you ever know your da to let on about anything?

JOHN FERGUSON: Indeed, now, and I let on many's a time! There's whiles, when I'm sitting here before the fire,
or mebbe there in front of the door when the days is warm, I pretend to myself I'm better again and can go out and do
a day's work in the fields with any man. (His voice drops into complaint) I haven't been in the fields this long time.

SARAH FERGUSON: (sharply) Now, don't be going and making yourself unhappy, John!

JOHN FERGUSON: No, woman, I won't. But it's hard for a man to be sitting here with a rug wrapped round his legs,
and him not able to do a hand's turn for his wife and family.

HANNAH FERGUSON: (soothing him) Ah, da, dear!

JOHN FERGUSON: And me the man that was always active! There wasn't a one in the place could beat me
at the reaping, not one ...

He remembers the consolations of his faith, although his voice falters

JOHN FERGUSON: But it's the will of God!

He pauses for a moment, and then his mind wanders again to his illness

JOHN FERGUSON: Sometimes, when I hear the men in the fields, cutting the corn and gathering the harvest, and
them shouting to one another and laughing hearty together, I near cry. Me not able to go out and help them to bring
in the harvest tied here like a wee child!

HANNAH FERGUSON: Da, da, don't go on that way!

SARAH FERGUSON: (impatiently) Ah, quit, the two of you! Hannah, I'm surprised at you coming in and upsetting
your da, and him keeping his heart up all day!

HANNAH FERGUSON: I didn't mean to bother you, da.

JOHN FERGUSON: No, daughter, you didn't. I know that rightly.

Stirring himself and speaking more briskly

JOHN FERGUSON: Ah, well ... "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." God always has
a word to comfort you when your heart's down. Mebbe there's a letter in Sam Mawhinney's bag this minute that'll
cheer us all up. I'm a poor, mealy man to be complaining like that, Hannah, when there's many is worse off nor me ...
only I can't help it sometimes. It's when the men are coming down the "loanie" in the evening with their scythes
over their shoulders, and them tired and sweating and hungry for their suppers! ... Well, God knows His own ways
best, and there's many in the world has a harder time nor I have.

HANNAH FERGUSON: I was letting on too, da!

SARAH FERGUSON: Well, indeed, you might have employed your time to better advantage, Hannah. You can let on
till you're tired, but you'll never alter anything that way.

JOHN FERGUSON: What were you letting on, daughter?

HANNAH FERGUSON: I was letting on that my Uncle Andrew had sent you all the money you need!

SARAH FERGUSON: Well, I hope your pretence will come true, for if he doesn't, we'll have to flit out of this. It'll break
your da's heart to go, and it'll break my heart too. (She rises and puts her work on the dresser) I come here as a young
girl, no older nor yourself, Hannah, to be married on your da, and I've lived here ever since. I'll never be happy nowhere else.

JOHN FERGUSON: Ay, it'll be hard to go.

SARAH FERGUSON: There's no sense or purpose in it, God forgive me for saying it!

JOHN FERGUSON: There's a meaning in it, whatever happens. I can't see God's purpose, but I know well there is one.
His hand never makes a mistake.

[end of extract]


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