Provost Daniel Alexander Fraser

by George Beattie

Daniel Alexander Fraser was born on 19th June, 1874, at Monastery Street, Dunfermline, the younger son of Alexander Fraser and his wife, Catherine. His career was spent in the family firm of Fraser and Carmichael, the large Dunfermline firm whose interests included milling, wholesale and retail grocery, brewing and the City Hotel. He was also a renowned Provost of Dunfermline. In 1904, he married Beatrice Mitchell, the daughter of Michael Mitchell, Farmer.

Daniel Fraser’s lengthy obituary in the Dunfermline Press of 31st July, 1937, centred mainly on his contribution to municipal affairs in his home town, with which he had been involved for several years. He was elected a member of the Town Council in 1920 and quickly showed his business efficiency as Convenor of the Gas Committee. Four years later he was elevated to the rank of Chief Magistrate, or Provost, and occupied that position for three years. If his colleagues’ desires had been fulfilled he would have undertaken another term of office. When his intention to retire was announced, practically all the members of Council signed a requisition expressing “their high appreciation of the manner in which he conducted the business of the Council and earnestly desiring him to stand for re-election”. The reason why he did not accede to this request was that he felt the strain of the duties devolved upon him, particularly on public and ceremonial occasions.

Mr Fraser’s Provost-ship was marked by business enterprise and municipal progress. It was during his first year in office that the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty announced their intention of reducing H.M. Dockyard, Rosyth, to a care and maintenance basis. That was a staggering blow for Dunfermline, which had invested many thousands of pounds in the naval establishment on the Forth. If it had been possible to upset the Admiralty’s decision the campaign engineered by the Municipal Departments, under the Provost’s inspiration and guidance, would have produced the desired result. One cannot recall the agitation without expressing admiration for those efforts that enlisted on Dunfermline’s behalf, the sympathy and support of public bodies, the newspaper Press, and the general public throughout the length and breadth of Scotland. It was our Town Council’s misfortune, and not its fault, that the opposition did not succeed. Then again, similar persistence was shown in endeavouring to convince the Treasury of the justice of Dunfermline’s claim for compensation.

What made Provost Fraser’s three years term of office noteworthy in terms of municipal annals was the fact, despite the knock-down blow administered by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, the period was one of quite exceptional municipal activity. The Town Council appear to have been determined to show that Dunfermline was anything but “down and out” because the Admiralty had dealt with it so shabbily. They boldly proclaimed their faith in Dunfermline’s future, although the great expectations entertained regarding Rosyth had been ruthlessly dispelled. As a result Provost Fraser’s term of office was associated with several important schemes and with many indications of progressive municipal administration. During his three years occupancy of the chair the burgh’s main outfall sewer was extended. Road reconstruction, street widening and street repair involved a large expenditure and housing needs received due attention. In addition, the sum of £26,000 was spent on installing vertical retorts at the Gas Works, the domestic water supply was improved, and adequate provision made for public health requirements. It can be said of the late ex-Provost’s regime that it was successful. He pursued a progressive, enlightened course, promoting the well being of the community.

Although, apart from his work on the Council, he did not identify himself prominently with public life in the City, Mr Fraser had many interests, and was a generous supporter of charitable and other voluntary institutions. He was a trustee of the Dunfermline & West Fife Hospital, and an honorary president of the Dunfermline Nursing Association. He was also one of the trustees of the Dunfermline & District Savings Bank. A keen angler, Mr Fraser was a member of the Dunfermline Angling Club and the West of Fife Angling Association. He was for some years President of the Dunfermline Golf Club. Mr Fraser was also interested in bowls, and he was honorary president of the Nethertown Club and an honorary member of the Dunfermline Northern Club.