John McCallum Ferguson OBE FCIWM – 13 October 1927 to 5 June 2024

CIWM takes the opportunity to celebrate the life of John Ferguson, living to 96 and sadly passing away 5 June, after a fall at home. Anyone that has had contact with John will know what a pleasure it was to talk to him, always interested in what you were working on, wanting to know the detail of how things worked and fully supportive of the next generation coming along to learn.

John joined CIWM 1 June 1982 as a Fellow and he was also a Fellow of ICE (Institute of Civil Engineers) and CIWEM (Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management) and a Member of IMechE (Institute of Mechanical Engineers). John was appointed as Life Member of CIWM in December 2019.

Influence from his father’s work encouraged John to consider a degree in engineering which he paused whilst he did military service from 1947, with the Royal Engineers, becoming a captain by the age of 21. John could have been swayed here but wanting to learn and educate himself – a trait that continued throughout his life – he decided to finish his degree, doing so by 1951.

John joined the company his father was working at in 1951, working in numerous aspects of engineering, equipment and maintenance. This is where John aimed to become a chartered engineer, achieving chartered status of ICE in 1965. At this time, he also became engaged in sewage-based engineering work leading to engaging with the Institution of Public Health Engineers. This prompted John to consider a move, as a newly chartered engineer to the recently formed Greater London Council (GLC), in 1966, which was looking to create a public health engineering department. His first project was setting up a waste transfer station before moving onto Edmonton incineration plant, a major project for a young engineer to work on.

In the 1970s he was Head of the Design and Development Division of the Department, then its Deputy Director. From 1982 he was General Manager of the GLC’s waste management branch of public health engineering, until the Council’s dissolution in 1985. He was then appointed the Director of the new London Waste Regulation Authority (LWRA) in 1986, until his retirement in 1996 when the LWRA was subsumed into the Environment Agency (EA). John then took on the role of chair of the Environment Agency’s Thames Region liaison committee for Environmental Matters for two terms of 3 years.

CIWM knew John as an active participant in its London and Southern Counties Centre, taking the Chair 1987 – 1989, his term continued as elected councillor till 2019 as well as being an ex-officio member right up until a few weeks ago. He attended General Council from 1999 to 2019. He was also CIWM President 1990 to 1991 and chaired the ISWA National Committee (now CIWM International Group), that CIWM as a National representative carries out ISWA related activities. John was ISWA President 1998 to 2000.

John kept reunions with his school colleagues as noted in 2014, when he recorded his role in the history of waste management. An attribute very characteristic of John, keeping in contact with his colleagues and supporting their progression when he was working in his numerous senior roles.  Even ensuring those colleagues impacted with the change from LWRA to EA secured new roles. 

Several members have mentioned how much John was an inspiration, and great support for new entrants into the resources and waste sector, Sarahjane Widdowson noting John taking her under his wing when she joined the London SC Council as a graduate member of CIWM.

John’s other zeal besides waste was art, but even here he brought his two main passions together. Undertaking a degree in 3 D Art – as he said to me “as a very mature student!”, following it with a Masters in Fine Art at Central St Martins, graduating in 2006. Both courses involved the production of art works for a final show, where John’s work was influenced by waste materials. He was interested in paintings and contemporary art and undertook a number of specialist short courses in applied arts at the V&A (Victoria and Albert) museum.

Poetry was another life-long interest, especially Robbie Burns and during Covid when he was restricted on his outdoor activities he undertook online poetry courses to become an even more accomplished expert on his favourite poet.

John also loved cooking, taking cookery courses during Covid, entertaining his close friends with “exquisite sauces”, says Amanda Barratt. I knew John for many years and he was always agile for his age, something he put down to doing his regular yoga exercises, only in the last 6 weeks of his life moving to chair yoga due to an injury to his hand.

Whether you know John from his early days or worked alongside him with CIWM activities he always listened, wanted to learn more and could get pleasure from the simplest things – such as Rebecca Penberthy asking him to dance at a train station, after a dinner event.

To me, John will always be the ‘gentleman of waste’ and he will be sorely missed by many and so CIWM and his countless colleagues, friends and associates send our condolences to his family.

John's funeral took place at St Lawrence chuch, Hilmarton on 1 July 2024. Any members wishing to celebrate John's life by attending an event in October with the London and Southern Counties Centre, do please contact Stephen Didsbury.






Tina Benfield
14 June 2024