Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Wanderer: Donald Fraser. XX.

In late 1891, Donald Fraser seemed a healthy, active man of sixty-five. That autumn he and his wife returned to the Highlands for a holiday - for it is true that the Highlander's heart is in the Highlands even when he himself is forced to leave his beloved land. They took the train to Edinburgh from King's Cross, then travelled to the picturesque town of Oban, and thence to Inverness, scene of so many happy memories. Dr. Black, then the pastor of the Free High Church, pressed Fraser to take the morning service on the 16th August, and so Donald Fraser occupied his old pulpit for the last time. In the evening he demonstrated that spirit of regard for the Church of Scotland that had been one of his reasons for leaving Scotland by attending the High Church. On a weeknight he preached at the Free West Church, which he himself had helped to found. The evidences of his past work were all around him, and noned could guess how soon it would be before Donald Fraser left them all behind.
The Frasers returned to London via York,visiting the Minster on thier way. Fraser returned to London refreshed to continue his ministry.
That winter he seemed as fit as ever, until 8th December, when he slipped and fell on the icy steps of Westminster College, where he had been attending the usual monthly Presbytery meeting. It left him shaken, and with two sprained wrists, but he thought little of it at the time. Indeed, he was planning a trip to Canada in the autumn of 1892, when he would be one of the English Presbyterian delegates to the Council of the Presbyterian Alliance. He was looking forward to returning to the country where he had begun his ministry, but it was not to be.
In the midst of his work and study, which he continued as before, a cough troubled him in late January, but it seemed to leave him in the first week of February. On 7th February he preached as usual in his own pulpit at both services and administered the Lord's Supper in the evening. He seemed well. The next day was the annual congregational business meeting, which Fraser presided over. The next morning, however, he woke in pain. A doctor was called and pronounced the cause of the pain as congestion of the right lung. The congestion spread quickly to the left and became a serious attack of pneumonia. Fraser sank fast, and on Friday night he died. The active ministry was over.
He was not buried in London, but instead his body was taken, at the end of his funeral service at Marylebone on Thursday 18th February, to King's Cross Station, where it was put on board a special train to Inverness. There Fraser's body was taken to the Free High Church, where he had been pastor for ten years. A simple funeral service was held in the church on Friday 19th, and then the coffin was carried down the snow-covered high street as the bells of two of the churches tolled solemnly. He was laid to rest in the Chapel Yard, in the Fraser family plot, alongside his two little daughters.

God willing, next time we shall give something of an assessment of Fraser.



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