Can you help me track down the man who introduced football to Iceland in 1895, a Scotsman by the name of James B. Ferguson?
January 7, 2008 9:02 PM   Subscribe

In 1895 a Scottish printer by the name of James B. Ferguson introduced Icelanders to football (soccer) and gymnastics. Is there any way to find out what happened to Ferguson after he left Iceland in 1896?

His names is James B. Ferguson (no idea what the B stands for). He was a Scottish printer. He worked at a printing company called Ísafoldarprentssmiðja (sometimes known as Ísafold) in Reykjavík. He was a passionate practitioner of football and gymnastics. In 1895 he founded Reykjavík Gymnastics Club which died down after he left the country in 1896. He may have had some connection to the International Organization of Good Templars since the Gymnastics Club performed in the IOGT building in Reykjavík but that is probably a spurious link as the IOGT may simply have had the best space in Reykjavík for exhibitions of that kind.

So, that's the sum total of information I've managed to scrounge up on the man who pioneered the game of football in Iceland. Is there a hope in heck I can find out more about this man based on the extremely small amount of information there exists on him? I'm not actually in Iceland so I can't go digging through old records.
posted by Kattullus to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Certainly there's a hope in heck—you've got a decent starting point, assuming it's accurate. This seems like the kind of thing a genealogist might be good for; I'm not familiar with British sources, but I reckon someone among us MetaFiltroons likely is. You know he left in 1896... what's the source on that, and do you know where he was headed? What's Wikipedia squiggling about it? Have you tried contacting the Icelandic IOGT? It may have a long institutional memory.
posted by mumkin at 12:13 AM on January 8, 2008

The Scottish census site might be helpful for tracking him down, assuming he was born in Scotland, although I suspect you will have to wade through lots of James Fergusons. NB you will have to pay to view search records. Try also searching for Fergusson.

If he started out in Scotland, he might also have been a member of some kind of trade association. The records for this kind of thing are generally quite good - you could try contacting the Scottish Print Archive.
posted by greycap at 1:36 AM on January 8, 2008

Best answer: You could try contacting the curators at the Scottish Football Museum (contact details are on the front page). If the don't have any info on him they might be interested enough by the fact that a Scot started the game in Iceland to go look for some.
posted by Jakey at 3:01 AM on January 8, 2008

You probably noticed this, but Ísafold is still around, and is celebrating their 130th anniversary. Or so says their web site, which has a couple of sections congratulating themselves on this milestone. I imagine they might have info, or be interested enough in the connection to find it, if you got in touch.

Also, I don't know the language, and the existing online translators are (as always) horrendous. So: good luck.
posted by koeselitz at 8:40 AM on January 8, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the help, it's given me good ideas where to turn to next. I'll send out some e-mails. If something turns up I'll post it here.
posted by Kattullus at 7:52 PM on January 8, 2008

Response by poster: Contacting the Scottish Football Museum turned out to be the right course of action. They had heard of him and had some more information, including the letter sent from the owner of Ísafold to the Scottish Typographical Association requesting a printer. It turned out that there was a connection to the IOGT since the letter specifically requested that the "man must be a strict temperence man." The owner of Ísafold was a man named Björn Jónsson who later became Minister for Iceland (a position in the Danish cabinet for the head of government in Iceland) and was instrumental in passing prohibition laws in Iceland.

The best part of the story is that Ferguson is the great uncle of a man who has been trying for decades to get the full story of his great uncle. He's been attempting to get the Icelandic football association to send him a copy of a picture the association has of Ferguson but without success (here's a low-resolution scan of the picture). I contacted an acquaintance of mine in Iceland who has connections to the Icelandic football association and has done some work on Icelandic football history and he's going to prod the association to send the picture to Ferguson's relative.

The information I can add is that Ferguson was 22 at the time he went to Iceland and that he was from Glasgow.
posted by Kattullus at 8:48 AM on January 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Awesome. Success!
posted by koeselitz at 1:59 PM on January 10, 2008

posted by Jakey at 3:41 AM on January 11, 2008

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