Samuel was born in 1810. He was the son of John Ferguson.
He was born at 23 High Street, Belfast, Ireland. His father was a spendthrift and his mother was a noted conversationalist and lover of literature who read the works of Shakespeare, Walter Scott, Keats, Shelley and other English-language authors to her six children. He was educated at the Belfast Academy and the Belfast Academical Institution. He then moved to Dublin to study law at Trinity College, getting his BA in 1826 and his MA in 1832.
Because of poor family finances Samuel was forced to support himself through his student years by turning to writing and was a regular contributor to Blackwood's Magazine by the age of 22.
He was called to the bar in 1838, but continued to write and publish, both in Blackwood's and in the newly established Dublin University Magazine.
Samuel married Mary Catherine Guinness (daughter of Robert Rundell Guinness and Mary Anne Seymour) on 16 August 1848.
They appear to have had no children.
His collected poems, Lays of the Western Gael was published in 1865, resulting in the award of a degree LL.D. honoris causa from Trinity. He wrote many of his poems with both Irish and English translations. In 1867 he retired from the bar to take up the newly created post of Deputy Keeper of the Public Records in Ireland. As reward for his services, he received a knighthood in 1878.
He lived at 20 North Great George's Street, County Antrim, Ireland.
He passed away in 1886 at the age of about 76.
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