Fraser, William (1817-1879) (DNB00)

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FRASER, WILLIAM, LL.D. (1817–1879), educationist, was born at Cullen in Banffshire about the end of 1817. At an early period he entered the Normal Seminary in Glasgow, where he soon became one of the head-masters and a zealous coadjutor of David Stow in carrying out his training system—a new feature in Scottish education. Soon after the disruption of the Scottish church, the Normal Seminary was claimed by the church of Scotland, and Stow, Fraser, and nearly all the other teachers, having become members of the free church, had to leave, but were soon provided with a new building. In 1849 Fraser, after completing his studies for the ministry, was ordained to the pastoral charge of the Free Middle congregation, Paisley. In this office he remained till his death, greatly distinguished both for his pulpit and pastoral labours, and especially his work among young men. In 1857, at the request of some gentlemen of influence, he undertook an inquiry into educational work throughout Great Britain and Ireland, the results of which were published in a large volume entitled ‘The State of our Educational Enterprises,’ embodying important suggestions for educational legislation, which were brought by an influential deputation before the lord advocate, and several of which were made use of in the Education Bill for Scotland. In 1872, as a recognition of his scientific work, the university of Glasgow conferred on him the degree of LL.D. For nearly thirty years he laboured unweariedly on behalf of a literary association and a natural science association in Paisley. In 1850 he instituted a special class for boys who had attended the Sunday-school, in order to give them higher instruction; this class developed into the Paisley Young Men's Bible Institute, which he met with on Sunday evenings without intermission for many years. Some of his prelections were published in a volume called ‘Blending Lights, or the Relations of Natural Science, Archæology, and History to the Bible.’ In 1857 he took on himself the resuscitation of the Paisley Philosophical Society, and besides rendering many other services made valuable collections which became the basis of a free museum in connection with a free library. Having proposed that a free library should be formed for Paisley, and this project being approved of, he was able to intimate on behalf of a wealthy citizen, Sir Peter Coats, a gift of site and buildings both for museum and library. Another of his undertakings was to compile a list of about three thousand volumes and raise a sum of 1,000l. in order to furnish a reference library as an addition to the free lending library. Fraser was twice a member of the Paisley school board. His services obtained more than one public recognition. In 1873, in acknowledgment of his long services as president of the Philosophical Society, he was presented with a microscope and a purse of sovereigns; in April 1879, on the part of the museum and library, with his portrait; and in August 1879, on the part of the community, with a cheque for two thousand guineas. He was highly respected in Paisley. He died 21 Sept. 1879.

[North British Daily Mail, Glasgow News, Paisley Daily Express, all of 22 Sept. 1879; Glasgow Herald, 29 Sept.; Renfrewshire Gazette, April 1879; Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, January 1880.]

W. G. B.