Ferguson’s Gang was formed in 1927 with five core members, all of whom were women. Their aim was to raise awareness of the need to protect rural areas and they supported the organisation they considered to be the most dedicated to preserving England’s heritage: the National Trust. The Gang raised huge sums to protect and preserve important buildings and land that could otherwise have been destroyed.
The Gang’s ‘swag’ donations to the National Trust were delivered in strange ways: Money inside a fake pineapple; a one-hundred pound note stuffed inside a cigar; five hundred pounds with a bottle of homemade sloe gin.
Their stunts were avidly reported in the press, and when they made a national radio appeal for the National Trust, the response was overwhelming.
Ferguson’s Gang was a group of fascinating women, some from troubled aristocratic backgrounds, others the daughters of wealthy merchants and industrialists.
They were fun and food-loving philanthropists, undaunted by bureaucracy and public opinion, breaking through legislation and gaining mass appeal. And above everything, they were dedicated to serving their cause of protecting England’s heritage.
To this day, the identities of all but one of this group of well-educated society women, who were dedicated to preserving the countryside from the 'octopus' of urban development, remain a secret. They hid behind colourful pseudonyms such as Silent O'Moyle, 'Erb the Smasher and Black Maria, and in disguise delivered money and bequests to the National Trust, beginning with Shalford Mill in 1932. Their gift of Mayon Cliff was celebrated with a song written by gang leader Bill Stickers - Cornish Bard Dr Margaret ('Peggy') Pollard.
" Save me barrow, me old ring barrow, Take it safe to the National Trust! Save me castle, me old cliff castle, Save us all from the Octopus."