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Munro-Ferguson, Sir Ronald Craufurd, Viscount Novar


Eldest son of Colonel Robert Munro-Ferguson, M.P., for Kirkcaldy, Scotland, and his wife, Emma, daughter of J. H. Mandeville, was born on 6 March 1860. He was educated principally at home, and at the age of 15 joined the Fife light horse. He subsequently studied at Sandhurst, and in 1880 became a lieutenant in the grenadier guards. In 1884 he was elected a member of the house of commons for Ross and Cromarty, but the franchise having been enlarged, he lost his seat at the 1885 election. In 1886 he was elected for Leith Burghs and in the same year became private secretary to Lord Roseberry. He went to India with Roseberry in 1888, and there met Lady Helen Blackwood, daughter of the viceroy, Lord Dufferin, and married her in 1889. Munro-Ferguson was a lord of the treasury when Roseberry was premier in 1894-5, and in 1910 he was made a member of the privy council. He was friendly with Spring Rice, Asquith and Haldane, and was closely associated with the liberal party though of too independent a cast of mind to be considered a good party man. This was probably the reason of his not attaining cabinet rank. At the time of the last Irish home rule bill he advocated home rule for Ulster, within home rule for Ireland. Apart from politics he took much interest in his estate and especially in forestry.

In February 1914 Munro-Ferguson was appointed governor-general of Australia and arrived there in May. Soon afterwards Joseph Cook, then prime minister, finding the parliamentary position unworkable, asked for a double dissolution which was granted. The election was held in September and the Labour party was returned with a good working majority. War had broken out in the meantime, and Munro-Ferguson and his wife had immediately taken the lead in encouraging the many war organizations that were started. It was difficult to travel much about Australia in the circumstances, but what was possible was done. He continued his interest in forestry, made a collection of specimens of Australian woods, and endeavoured to encourage the planting of trees. He worked well with the leaders of all political parties, uniting a simplicity of manner with much strength of character and devotion to duty. His term ended in 1919 but was extended for another year to cover the period of the visit of the Prince of Wales. Munro-Ferguson left Australia in 1920 amid general regret and on his return to England was raised to the peerage as Viscount Novar. He was secretary for Scotand from 1922 to 1924, but did not afterwards hold office. He died on 30 March 1934 and was survived by Lady Novar. He had no children. He was made G.C.M.G. in 1914, and a knight of the Thistle in 1926.


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