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A NOTABLE AUSTRALIAN
(By the Rev. W. Gray Dixon, M.A.)
The death of the Rev. Samuel Fraser, M.A., of Terang, Victoria,, removed from the ranks of onr Australian minist^ a strong and
striking personality. Beyond his own parish and Presbytery Mr. Fraser was not much in the public eye He remained to the end—for 43 years—in the attractive rural parish over which he was ordained on his arrival from Scotland, ad hering. to an extraordinary extent even to his own pulpit, for only under quite exceptional circum stances did he exchange with his brother ministers, and, although supreme in his own Presbytery, of which he was clerk, and in which he exercised a fine ecclesiastial statesmanship, he surprised his friends by studiously remaining one of the silent members in the Gen eral Assembly. But for those who knew him he was one of the out standing men of the Victorian
His sphere was that part of the western district of Victoria which is covered by the Presbytery of Mortlake. It is a land which the Lord hath blessed, worthy of the name with which its discoverer joyfully greeted it, Australia Felix. Gently rolling pastures,
subsiding inland into great sweeps of plain, the horizon broken with little volcanic cones, such as you see in and around our own Auck land, but further apart—Mount Elephant, Mount Leura, Mount Shadwell, Mount Warrnambool, and many others ; lakes in the craters or at the bases of some of these cones stony rises'where the lava outcrops, affording material for stone dykes suggestive of Home; toward the coast wooded ranges— ranges which Mr. M'Lean has sought with not a little success to immortalise in his idyll of Home Mission life, "The Man From Curdie's River" ; a beautiful coast-line, in the colour of its cliffs the most beautiful I know, a coast of golden sands and steeps, against which there booms eternally "the long wash of Australasian seas'' ; a soil in places of quite extraordin ary fertility ; and a delightful cli mate, temperate but for the occas sional hot winds in the summer, refreshed with ample winter rains, and braced with sufficient winter frosts—it is indeed Australia the Blest, and has fitly become the home of some of the most stalwart settlers that the Motherland - has. ever sent from her shores. These were originally largely from Scot land and the North of Ireland,, with the result that the Presby terian type of religion has beevt stamped uton the community to an extent surpassed in the whole of Australasia only by Otago and Southland. There are parishes with none but Presbyterian churches, and within the bouuds of the Presbytery of Mortlake there are twice as many Presbyterian as Anglican parishes.
It was in the heart of this favoured region that Mr, Fraser spent his ministerial life. When he arrived he was a pale, thin young man threatened with con sumption, but through the greater part of the 43 years of his pastorate there was no more portly form to be seen driving over those beauti ful Western District roads than that of the minister of Terang. Broad-shouldered, stout, with square face topped with thick black hair, beard thick and short, ruddy complexion, pleasant Highland voice, he was a picture of good health and genial heart, and we used ofteu to joke about the success with which he filled any pulpit he had occasion to occupy.
Terang is 137 miles W.S.W., of of Melbourne, and 29 miles from the Southern Ocean, where it- is greeted by the pretty white town of Warrnambool, an Australian Oamaru. One hundred and thirty seven miles from Melbourne ! One can see at once the look of dis missal on the face of the Austral ian counterpart of the Aberdonian who declared, "Aberdeen! TwaP mile oot o't, an' far i'ye?" A place so evidently in the "bush" cannot be expected to show much in the way of civilisation ! And yet had this critical man of the town had sufficient intellectual in terest to desire to see the finest manse library in Victoria, I should have had to ask him to go to Ter ang. Probably not even in the professors' manses at Ormond College would he be able to find such- a library. What pleasant hours I have spent in that manse !: It is a spacious one-sto^ building —I forget whether there are 12 rooms or 15,—set on a pleasant hill in its glebe of 15 acres, and the park in front slopes down to a lake. To the left, partly beyond the lake, can be seen the spire of the church through and above the gum trees. When you come to have a closer view of the church, you will be astonished at its beauty. Terang is little more than a 'village, but here is one of the finest Gothic buildings in the Presbyterian church of Australia. It is of yellow stone, with nave, aisles, transepts,, clerestory, e.viquisitel3--taDering spire, and inside stone columns, a white stone yulpit, and other fur
cisbiugs of the noblest woodwork. It cost ^10,000, and was erected by his widow to the memory of john Thomson, "Esq., of Keilam bete, the outstanding benefactor of the parish. It was in the heart of Mr. Thomson to erect this church himself, when he was suddenly cut 0ff by an accident ; but he had made provision in his will for the endowment of the Terang parish to the amount of ^6000, the interest of which all goes to the minister's stipend, and he had already pre sented to the parish the manse and glebe. As showing the resources of the district, it may be noted that, when the Keilambete estate was cut up into farms and sold, it realised an average of ^43 per
Thus you have manse, glebe, church, and endowment all the gift of one family. The neighbour ing Church of Noorat is the gift of another family of squatters, the Blacks. It is this same Western District that produced the hundred thousand pounds and more that Mr. Francis Ormond lavished upon Ormond College, Melbourne, and Mr. Wyselaskie's handsome dona tions to the Theological Hall and the Ladies College in the same city ; while, not to mention other bene factions from this "Golden West," Mr. John Thomson's legacies to the general schemes of the Presby terian Church of Victoria ran into scores of thousands.
Well, we were at the Terang manse. The gracious lady of the house is a daughter of the pioneer minister of the district now covered by the Mortlake Presby tery, the Rev. William Hamilton, of Mortlake, and nobly does she support her husband in kindly, re fined hospitality. Mr. Fraser is a rare conversationalist, full of the most varied information and a most delightful humour. Book after book is taken down from the beautiful shelves, an edition de luxe of the poets, the latest notable work on theology, some new book of Scottish humour, some rare treatise on Scottish folk lore. Cheerily the hours pass and most profitably, until I have -to leave on my return to my own manse in the
town by the sea.
One felt instinctively that Mr. Fraser would die minister of Te rang. He was wedded to his first love for life, and his work for this first love was wrought on a life plan. He did everything thorough ly. systematically, steadfastly. It was his oest thought, quickened by the best literature, that he gave his congregation, and his classes for the young were models of efficient and attractive teaching. His co presbyters knew him best as clerk of the Presbytery—an office which lie filled with such distinction as to win for the Presbytery of Mortlake the name of the model Presbytery of the Church. A nephew of the late Dr. MacDouald, of Emerald Hill, Melbourne, he had much of the shrewdness and level-headed ness characteristic of his uncle. He was eminently sane in his judg ment, not liable to be carried away by a temporary enthusiasm, and yet openminded and progressive. He was a strong personality, and we used to say that with his little finger—which he had a habit of raising when he was laying down the law—he ruled ecclesiastically the Western District of Victoria ; but his genial temper and quick sense of humour saved him from the aspect of domineering even when he was most masterful. We al1 recognised the reasonableness and the beneficence of his sway. A more brotherly Presbytery than that of Mortlake it would be diffi
cult to imagine—the meetings were |
a periodical delight,—and very much of this happy condition of affairs was due to the quiet potency of the clerk, at once so business like, firm, reasonable, genial, and
It is with regret for an old order chat is passing away that we con template Mr. Fraser's ministry. Thoroughly modern in his reading and outlook, he yet stood for a phase of ministerial service which is becoming less and less common in our restless age. The life pastorate. we trust, will never cease to characterise our Church. Who knows but that there inay come about a reaction in its favour ? Certainly in the case of a man of the character and culture and steadfast devotion of the Rev. Samuel Fraser, of Terang, it is a rare boon to a community, a cumulative gift to a generation, a full light of day which leaves along and beautiful after-glow upon a broad countryside.