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Fraser, Sir Simon (1832–1919)

from Argus (Melbourne)

Sir Simon Fraser, n.d.

Sir Simon Fraser, n.d.

from Pastoral Review, 16 August 1919

Sir Simon Fraser, who died early yesterday morning at a private hospital, at Ivanhoe, was well known throughout Australia as contractor, pastoralist, and politician, and his death will be mourned by a large circle of friends. He was the youngest son of Mr William Fraser, millowner and farmer, of Nova Scotia, British North America.

Sir Simon was born at Picton, Nova Scotia, on August 21, 1832, and was educated at the East Run Seminary. He carne to Australia when 13 years of age and, on his arrival in Melbourne, in 1853, began business in produce dealing. One of his early ventures was importing a large consignment of potatoes from Sydney. The steamer encountered a severe storm, and part of the consignment went overboard.

On the whole, however, the transaction showed a profit, but Mr. Fraser decided that produce dealing was not satisfactory, and on the advice of a friend embarked upon contracting. He was the successful tenderer for the construction of a bridge on the Geelong road, and by carrying out his contract smartly made it pay to the surprise of the engineer, who considered the tender price too low. Mr. Fraser did not, as he said, make that mistake again. He had a contract for the preliminary work on the Bendigo to Echuca railway, and while carrying it out, looked about for supplies, in case he should (with prospective partners) obtain the main contract. No bluestone ballast was known to be obtainable between Bendigo and Echuca, nor within some distance south of Bendigo. Mr. Fraser, however, discovered a deposit of excellent large-sized quartz in a good situation. On the basis of this he and his partner tendered, and the railway department accepted the gravel instead of bluestone, for which both in construction and in maintenance it proved a most desirable substitute, in handling and solidity when laid. The contactor saved the cost of hand quarrying and long haulage. It had been the custom to transport ballast in ordinary trucks, and empty them by the side of the track by shovelling, but Mr. Fraser devised a plan of letting the ballast drop through a movable bottom, between the rails, where it could be easily spread. By forsight of this kind the contractors did well, and later Mr. Fraser was able to enter on the profitable enterprise of squatting, particularly in Queensland, which underwent great development with Victorian money, in the early seventies.

In South Australia Mr. Fraser was one of the contractors for the Port Augusta and Government Gums railway, a line 200 miles in length. He was also identified with the Coliban water scheme, with which his name, if not his memory, will always be associated, for one of the most dfficult pieces of excavation through a forbidding granite formation was accomplished under his supervision and the place which marks this achievement is still known as Fraser's Tunnel. His pastoral interests were chiefly in Queensland and New South Wales. In the development of his own holdings he incidentally assisted towards the more profitable occupation of other large stretches of grazing country. With a keen intuitive business knowledge, he forsaw the immense value of artesian water in the arid regions of Australia and immediately commenced to exploit the vast subterranean water supply of North-western in New South Wales and Southern Western Queensland. Subsequently he became managing director of the Squatting Investment Co. At the time of his death he owned Nyang Station near Moulamein, N.S.W., which until recently was managed by his eldest son, Simon Fraser, jun., who died in May of this year. He was also a director of the Widows' Fund Life Assurance Society.

In politics, Sir Simon Fraser was a staunch Liberal, and an ardent Imperialist. He first entered the Legislative Assembly for the electorate of Rodney in 1874, and continued to occupy a seat in the Lower House for the nine following years. From 1886 to 1901 he sat in the Legislative Council as one of the representatives for South Yarra Province, and during that time held a position, without portfolio in the Munro Minristry. He was elected as one of the Victorian delegates to the 1897-98 Federal Convention, and upon the inauguration of Federation resigned from the Legislative Council and offered himself as a candidate for the Senate. His wide popularity and his business ability were attested by his election at the top of the poll. At the end of his six years' term he was again a candidite, and again he was returned at the head of the list. He retired from politics at the close of 1912. He was also an ardent Orangeman, and he held the office for some time as grand master ot the Loyal Orange Lodge.

In January, 1918, His Majesty the King conferred the honour of knight bachelor on Mr. Fraser. Lady Fraser survives her husband, and he also leaves one daughter and two sons, both of whom have recently returned from active service. The funeral, which will be carried out by A. A. Sleight, will leave "Norla," Irving road, Toorak, for the Brighton Cemetery at half-past 2 o'clock this afternoon.

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'Fraser, Sir Simon (1832–1919)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 26 November 2015.

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