James Ferrie (1857-1929)
by Norrie Reid


James Ferrie was born in Greenock on December 1857 to parents of Irish extraction. In his early years he was apprenticed as a joiner with Messrs. Caird & Co, then a well known firm of ship builders on the lower Clyde. His earliest acquaintance with draughts (so James said) was roughly on his eighteenth year. Anyway, by 1875 he was champion of the Greenock Draughts Club. He then won the Glasgow Central Draughts Club handicap tournament, defeating many top players in the process.

In 1883 he had a minor setback in a match with W Cambell of Glasgow. Ferrie Lost this match 0-1-7. In 1884 he met and defeated Beattie of Liverpool, the then brilliant editor of the Liverpool Mercury, with a score of 2-1-3. James then spent some time in London where he defeated all comers and in fact won the London Championship. He held this for eighteen months, beating all who played him. During this time he played and defeated G Smith for 40. The well known American Champion JP Reed was trounced by Ferrie in a short match: Ferrie 4-1-1. After his return to Greenock he won the Renfrewshire Cup, and again met Cambell, being this time more successful (3-0-1). In the first International Scotland-England match in 1884 he performed very well indeed (3-1-13).

In May 1891 James met William Bryden of Glasgow for the championship of Scotland. Ferrie won the match 6-2-19 collecting 100 in the process! At the time he was also Lanarkshire Champion, an extremely strongly contested tournament. James very generously resigned his rights to the Scottish title for the purpose of promoting the first Scottish Draughts Championship Tournament of 1893.However, he suffered defeat in this at the hands of Robert Stewart and after the tournament he seemed to have second thoughts! He issued a challenge to anyone in Scotland for the title and 50 in a thirty game match; there were no takers!

He was without doubt a player of phenominal ability and continued to play at the very highest standard until his death in 1929. James was a very retiring and unassuming man, reserved in manners, but was a pleasant conversationalist when he was introduced. In play he appeared nervous, making his moves rapidly and seldom being in time trouble.

His greatest achievement was in 1894 when he took the World Championship (and 200) by defeating James Wyllie in a gigantic match of ninety games by 13-6-69. This match took place during April and May of 1894 in Glasgow. He lost the title two years later, again in Glasgow, to the great Richard Jordan (no disgrace to this!) in a close match 3-4-33. The photograph, taken at this match, shows Ferrie seated on the right.

After Greenock, Ferrie lived a short time in Coatdyke near Coatbridge, and then for most of his life in Glasgow, where he was a businessman. He lived a long life, and was still playing top class draughts at the Second International Match against the USA in 1927, at the ripe old age of seventy! Ferrie played top board for the Govanhill Liberals Draughts Club, which also included stars like J Searight, W Bryden, J Moir and T Ballentyne. His last years were spent at 203 Onslow Drive, Dennistoun, Glasgow where he died on the 17th of December 1929 aged 72. He is buried, without tombstone, in St Peters cemetery, Dalbeth, Glasgow overlooking the River Clyde beside which he was born.