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FRAZER, Thomas McKenzie (c1822-1885)

FRAZER, Rev. Thomas McKenzie (c1822-1885)

Rev. Thomas McKenzie Frazer was notable among the founders of Geelong College as a member of the committee convened to enquire into the feasibility of establishing a Presbyterian Grammar School in Geelong in April 1861 and, as a member of the first Committee of Management. At the time he was a Minister of the Presbyterian Church in Geelong.

His name was spelt 'Frazer' in most Geelong references but in later life particularly in New Zealand seems to have commonly been spelt as 'Fraser'

The Auckland Star newspaper reported his death:
'Citizens of Auckland generally, outside the congregation of St. David's Presbyterian Church, will learn with sincere regret of the death of the Rev. Thomas McKenzie Fraser, who for four years past has occupied the pulpit of St. David's, Mr Fraser's demise was not immediately expected by his friends. Only yesterday he appeared somewhat better, but the promise proved but the temporory brightening of the flame of life before its final exit into the shadow-land. The disease which carried him off was affection of the liver. He died at New Manse, View Point, Mt. Eden, into which he moved from Grafton Road about eight weeks since.

Mr Fraser was a native of Inverness, which is regarded as the capital of the Highlands of Scotland, surrounded by memories of Scottish history and scenes of beauty and grandeur. A short time ago, in his introductory lecture to the St, David's Young Men's Mutual Improvement Society, entitled ‘When I was a Boy’," Mr Fraser told very graphically the romantic story of his eariy life in Scotland, and his educational years at the famous Christ's Hospital, London, familiarly known as the ‘Bluecoat School’. He quitted this school for King's College, Old Aberdeen, where he distinguished himself as a Greek scholar, carrying off the highest prizes, three years out of four, and leaving with the degree of M.A.

His theological studies were prosecuted at Edinburgh, under the celebrated Dr. Thomas Chalmers, as he told his audience in St. James's Hall, in his able lecture on Chalmers. Before he had closed his studies under his eminent preceptors, he was chosen minister of the Free Church in a neighbouring district, the congregation agreeing to wait until he should receive his license from the Presbytery of Edinburgh. ‘In the quiet parish, Yester’, he said, I spent the first eleven years of my ministry, the monotony of which was varied by frequent visits to Edinburgh, where I enjoyed the society of my sister, Lydia Falconer Fraser, who became the wife of Hugh Miller, the well-known geologist, and author of the 'Old Red Sandstone’. In Miller's ‘My Schools and Schoolmasters’, the story of this lady is poetically related. Mr Fraser for several years contributed and reported for Hugh Miller's ‘Christian Witness’. Mr Fraser was so attached to his country and the quietude of the parish that he declined to accept several tempting offers at Islington and elsewhere.

In 1856 Mr Fraser was selected by his friend, Dr. Guthrie (the philanthropic friend of the ragged and homeless children of the Scottish capital), to go out to Singapore. Mr Fraser accepted the position, and spent four years and a-half in that beautiful island, where he successfully established a mission to the Chinese. In 1861, with the view of having his family about him, he resigned his charge at Singapore and went to Victoria, where he received the appointment of minister of the High Church, Geelong, and there he laboured for 19 years, and founded the Aged and Infirm Ministers' Fund, which he said gladdened the old age and broken health of about twenty superannuated pastors, and now amounts to the respectable sum of £14,000. Mr Fraser also assisted and strengthened many other benevolent institutions. He also originated the Loan Fund for assisting in the erection of churches and manses throughout the colony, and which distributes upwards of £2,000 per annum to struggling congregations.

During his ministry in Geelong, he published a volume, ‘Sermons for Colonists’, which had a wide colonial circulation. On leaving Victoria for this colony, chiefly for the benefit of his health, his old friends presented him with an address and a purse of 400 sovereigns. Shortly after arriving in New Zealand, he accepted the pastorate of St. David's Presbyterian Church, Auckland, where he continued to minister with much acceptance to the period of his death. Since Mr Fraser has laboured at St. David's the congregation has largely increased in numbers, and his sermons and lectures on Scripture characters have been exceedingly instructive and attractive in style. He was moreover, a linguist, a correct scholar, with, apparently, a ready, command of the choicest and most forcible language, while his manner was characterised by earnestness, eloquence, and clearness of utterance. His presence will be long missed by those who listened to his teachings, both in the church and the classes connected therewith. For some weeks past he experienced intimation of the approaching end of his earthly journey, and at last expressed himself prepared for the great change. During his illness he has been visited by Bishop Cowie, Ven. Archdeacon Dudley, and other ministers and friends out of his denomination. Dr. Stockwell was his medical attendant. He leaves a widow and five daughters to mourn their loss. The funeral takes place tomorrow.'

A photograph of Rev Thomas Frazer taken between 1843 and 1847 is held by the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland.

No children of Rev. Thomas Frazer are known to habe attended Geelong College.

Sources: Geelong Advertiser 10 July 1863 p3; Auckland Star 11 August 1885 p2.
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