paternal grandfather of (John) Malcolm Fraser, Prime Minister of Australia
(1975-83), Sir Simon was born at Pictou, Nova Scotia on 21 August 1832 and
educated locally before migrating to Victoria at the age of twenty-one. On
the Bendigo gold-diggings he amassed enough wealth to open a business in
Elizabeth Street, Melbourne trading horses and produce from Sydney but soon
realised the lack of commercial viability and on the advice of a friend went
on to become a successful contractor building railways. One of Fraser’s
first constructions was the Echuca-Bendigo railway line (1864) where he
showed an intuitive business mind. Realising no bluestone ballast was
available in the area, he instead proposed the use of quartz deposit and
coupled with efficient work practices allowed the company to clear £100,000
of which nearly one-third was Fraser’s share. Other works included the
Deniliquin-Moama railway (1876) and the 200-mile Port Augusta-Farina line
(1877) in South Australia. From early in his career, Fraser invested
heavily in pastoral pursuits showing a strong resolve to overcome the arid
nature of the outback by championing the use of artesian water; at his
Thurulgoona estate on the Dawson River (Queensland) he managed to bore
some 576,000 gallons of water a day. Like many successful men, he entered
state politics representing the Echuca district in the Legislative Assembly
seat of Rodney (1874-83) and the Legislative Council seat of South Yarra
Province (1886-1901); in Sir James Munro’s (St. Kilda Cemetery)
cabinet he held the position of minister without portfolio (1890-92).
Fraser’s passion was Federation. He was one of the Victorian
representatives at the Federal Constitutional Convention (1897-98) along
with William Trenwith (q.v.); a conservative and ardent imperialist
he opposed the move to enfranchise women at federal elections. In 1901 he
topped the Victorian poll at the first Federal Senate (1901-13) as an anti-Labor
and anti-socialist candidate; The Herald commented “he was passionate
in debate, and though a hard fighter, he always proved a generous
opponent”. As an ardent Presbyterian, Fraser was for many years Grandmaster
of the Orange Lodge (1887-1904) known for his “prudence, judgement and
powerful influence”. He resided at Norla - Irving Road Toorak, and
died at a private hospital in Ivanhoe from asthma on 30 July 1919 aged 86
(above) Sir Simon Fraser
(By permission of the
Library of Australia, nla.pic-an21399820-37)
ADB Volume 4 1851-90 (D-J).
The Age 31 July 1919.
The Argus 31 July 1919 & 1 August 1919.
The Herald 30 July 1919.
Melbourne Punch 17 December 1903.
Lahey, J., “Faces of Federation. An
Illustrated History” (2000).
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