Much of the information on Hugh Fraser on the web or in books is woefully inaccurate. The following story of his life is by far the most complete and accurate to be published, but if any reader spots a defect, or can add to it, then amendments are most gratefully received!
Braelangwell House, now the home of Hugh and Linda Mitchell. Photograph by Andrew Dowsett.
The hill fort of Copaul Droog, the capture of which led to the knighthood of Sir Hugh Fraser of Braelangwell. Photograph by Paul Mackenzie Fraser.
Hugh Fraser was one of the longest serving military men in the East. He must have had the constitution of an ox, given the mortality rate of soldiers and their families in India at the time.
Clearly as an officer through and through he was used to giving orders and following orders. Civilian life where people did not necessarily do what they were told must have been a challenge!
We know that Hugh Fraser was a generous man. Benefits to the Northern Infirmary and the deserving poor regularly flowed from his purse.
He must have been keen to have children. Four children with his first wife Marie Louise Jeanne Helene De La Sauvagère in India, three of whom survived to adulthood. A second marriage with Isabella Mackenzie of the Kincraig family, many years younger than him, was followed by five more children, two born in India and three in Scotland. Four of them survived to adulthood. However, with servants to help, and the children being sent away to schools, perhaps family life was not quite what most of us are used to.
Unlike many other northern proprietors, Fraser of Braelangwell did not get involved in litigation with neighbours. Perhaps he had picked up from his lawyer father that only the legal profession benefits from a dispute. Similarly, he does not seem to have been swift to use the courts to get his tenants to pay their rent, again unlike most of his circle. However, curiously he did decide to take on most of the beneficiaries of his brother’s will, leading to a series of expensive actions in the High Court of Chancery. With his father being a Commissary, he would have been well aware of probate processes. There was much money involved. Presumably, he would have used his military nous to weigh his chances of success against the losses that could be sustained. If someone has explored the basis of this litigation, held at the PRO in Kew, please let us know.
His father, William Fraser (c1731–1811), was a solicitor who became the depute Commissary of Inverness in 1762, and Commissary of Inverness in 1778. The Commissary acted as a judge in the Commissary Court, which confirmed wills and testaments, registered inventories and settlements and dealt with executry matters generally, and had jurisdiction over a range of other activities like actions of slander and maintenance. In one document, Hugh Fraser’s father is called “William Fraser junior” which, whilst not conclusive, suggests his father was also William. I have researched numerous avenues for the antecedents of Sir Hugh without a definitive result, but we will get there – watch this space! Update 22 July 2018: I think William Fraser, the Commissary, was of the family of Fraser of Ardochy (on the south side of Loch Ness, near Fort Augustus), although there was much association with the Frasers of Errogie. Curiously, the Commissary had an earlier relationship with the Black Isle than Sir Hugh – in the 1760s, when Lord Pulteney and Sir John Gordon of Invergordon were battling it out to create votes to become MP for Cromartyshire, the Commissary (who at this time called himself William Fraser of Ardochy) “purchased” land in the parish of Cromarty which entitled him to vote for Lord Pulteney. There is a long series of legal challenges around these votes which are I confess very tedious to read but which would yield more on the Commissary’s activities. I note that in 1768 Sir John’s factor, and Commissary of Ross, John Gorry wrote to a friend, “I hope Fraser of Ardochie who has been for some time at Edinr. has been Examined at Our Instance – that Gentlemans Conduct in his former Declarations has been very Extraordinary by all Accounts of it”. The Commissary also appears in a series of sasines relating to land transfer which also seem a little dubious; in the Index to the Particular Register of Sasines he thus appears as “William Fraser of Ardochy, writer, Inverness, formerly writer, Edinburgh, XI.145 153, 169, 403, 471; XIII.310”. Who his parents were I still have not found out, although I have identified quite a few brothers and sisters. Continue watching this space!
His mother was Jean Fraser of Errogy (c1747–1826). Errogy, or Errogie, lies to the south of Loch Ness. Hugh Fraser’s entry in Dod’s book on the Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage (1844) states that his mother was the niece of General Simon Fraser (1729–1777) who died at Saratoga (in the American War of Independence). For those wishing to follow this up, Simon was a younger son of Hugh Fraser of Balnain, by his wife, a daughter of Fraser of Forgie. At Saratoga, the American commander noted the organised activity of Simon on the battlefield directing and encouraging his men, and had a long-range shooting expert target him until he fell, mortally wounded.
General Simon Fraser, 1729–1777
Inverness, from Pennant’s Tour of Scotland (1771)
I note, by the way, that General Simon’s younger brother Charles was Commissary of Inverness prior to Hugh’s father, so a close connection with the Balnain family is very likely. This is all the more so as Charles appointed William as his deputy in 1762, the same year as he became Commissary himself. Charles was based in Edinburgh and had no wish on being appointed Commissary actually to live in Inverness, although he maintained a house there.
Hugh Fraser’s parents married at Dores in 1764.
Willm. Fraser Writer Inverness Jean Fraser Erogy [contracted]  8
Both are commemorated on a tablestone in Chapel Yard, Inverness:
To the memory of William Fraser, writer and Commissary in Inverness, who departed this life the 29 day of June 1811, aged 80 years; and his dutifull spouse Jean Fraser, who departed this life the 12th day of Jany 1826, aged 79 years; and their children. [carved on both ends, and presumably indicating when the stone or lair was purchased] W F – I F: 1810
Hugh was born in 1773 and, still a teenager, in 1790 “entered the military service of the East India Company in the Madras presidency” (Dod). I think it likely that his elder brother Alexander had been out before him – I know from their mother’s will that although Alexander was in Inverness in 1809 he had previously been in Goruckpore in India; in 1822 he was in London, where he died in 1841.
His father apparently was a very convivial man. The Aberdeen Press and Journal, reporting his death on 10 July 1811, said:
Died on the 30th of June, William Fraser, Esq; Commissary of Inverness, in the 80th year of his age.– He was a man of worth and probity, a kind husband and parent, nor was there ever an individual whose house became more the hospitable resort of his friends while he had youth and health to enjoy their society, or exert his powers to serve them.
In Chapel Yard, Inverness, there is a line of five tablestones commemorating the family. Well, four of them definitely are: William Fraser the Commissary and his wife Jean; their daughter Ann; their daughter Marjory who married Alexander Tolmie, merchant in Glasgow; their daughter Jane, who married Captain Simon Fraser. The fifth one is dedicated to an Alexander Fraser, farmer and merchant in Inverness, who married Margaret MacBean and died in 1811 aged 82. I feel this fifth one has to be a brother of the Commissary. A small slab beside this fifth tablestone, where the spouse bears the initial “F” for Fraser may also be associated. The full inscriptions of all these stones may be read in the publication on Chapel Yard Cemetery by the Highland Family History Society (easily located on a website search).
The line of five Fraser tablestones in Chapel Yard, Inverness. Photograph by Jim.
The decorative end of the Commissary’s tablestone. Photograph by Jim.
Tablestone commemorating the Commissary and Jean Fraser. Photograph by Jim.
The baptism record for the children of William Fraser, Commissary of Inverness, and Jean Fraser, is incomplete; indeed, Hugh himself is not to be found within the surviving records, though an extract of the register was used as evidence of his age when he entered the British India service. The following is drawn from the Inverness baptism register, supplemented by information drawn from wills by Sir Hugh, Sir Hugh’s mother and Sir Hugh’s older brother, Alexander, and tombstone inscriptions. I provide the baptismal witnesses (inside quotes) as they are often a clue to family connections.
Alexander 1765. “Lieut. John Fraser & Lieut Alexander Fraser witnesses.” Alexander was a doctor who was in India, returned to Inverness, but then established himself in London, where he died in 1841. His will, extracts of which follow, demonstrates him to have been a man of some wealth, although I have yet to discover why his brother, Sir Hugh, raised an action in Chancery against the executors and most of the beneficiaries. “This is the last will and testament of me Alexander Fraser of Great Coram Street in the parish of St. George Bloomsbury in the County of Middlesex Esquire” “my daughter Anne Fraser residing with me” “and whereas on the marriage of my daughter Jane with her late husband Frederick McGillivray of the Bombay Engineers I made and entered into” “on the marriage of my daughter Margaret I paid to her husband Captain George Barnes Brucks of the Indian Army” “my eldest sister Jane Fraser wife of Simon Fraser and residing in Rose Street Inverness” “Catherine & Jemima the two daughters of my said Eldest Sister and residing with her” “my sister Harriet Dely or Fraser now residing at Bedford” “my granddaughter Elizabeth Child, and to my grandsons William Alexander Charles and Frederick Ranken the three boys of my deceased son Alexander Fraser of the Bengal Artillery … and my granddaughter Harriet daughter of my said son Alexander Fraser widow of the deceased Thomas Read of Calcutta and residing at Prince of Wales’s Island, East Indies” “and to Conrad Reid or Hugh Atkins Conrad Reid the only child of the said Harriet by her late husband Thomas Reid” “Rest Residue and Remainder … to my daughters Jane Anne and Margaret and to my Brother Major General Sir Hugh Fraser of Braelangwell in North Britain K.C.B. equally” “said Daniel Stoddart [of Charles Street St James’s Square] and Eneas Mackintosh [of Montague Square] executors of this my will… [16 Jan 1841]” “Proved at London 6th May 1841”
Descendant Ann Fraser Brown has sent to me (March 2019) the following information about Alexander:
“Alexander Fraser (my 3x great grandfather) was born in Inverness in August 1765. He was employed as a ship’s surgeon on the East India Company’s “Earl Fitzwilliam” from 1789–1790 and then on the naval vessel “Duke of Montrose” from 1791–792. He was then posted as surgeon to Chunar in Uttar Pradesh Northern India SW New Delhi in 1794 then transferred to Gorakpur Uttar Pradesh Northern India NE New Delhi in 1802. All his children were born in Calcutta West Bengal India. The name of his spouse is unknown as well as the date and place of his marriage. It is not known when he returned to the UK or if he lived anywhere else in India. In his son’s obituary it is stated that Alexander occupied a high position in India. There is documentation that he bought the Acharn Estate in Perthshire Scotland from his son William on May 13 1826. He died in St Pancras London on April 24 1841."
William 1767. “Duncan Fraser & Daniel McPherson Merchts. witnesses.”
Simon 1769. “Hector Fraser Rector of the Gramer School & Duncan Fraser Merct Witts.”
Jean 1771. “Arthur Robertson of Inches and Donald McQueen of Curybrugh witnesses.”
Thomas 1772. “Simon Fraser of Farraline Esqre Shirriff and Arthur Robertson of Inches Esqre Witts.” His mother in her will left special instructions for Thomas as he was incapable of acting for himself.
Hugh 1773. (from India Office records; “Witnesses Arthur Robertson Esqr. of Inches Captain Angus McIntosh of Kylachy and Captain Hugh Fraser of Knocky.”)
Anne 1778. “Arthur Robertson of Inches Esqr. & Baillie John McIntosh Witss.” A tablestone in Chapel Yard, Inverness, carries the inscription:
Sacred to the memory of Ann Fraser, daughter of the deceased William Fraser, Commissary of Inverness, she died at Inverness on the 21st day of August 1822 in the 43d year of her age. Distinguished through life for her exemplary conduct as a dutiful child, an affectionate sister, a faithful friend and a sincere Christian, her meek and humble spirit quitted this transitory scene of probation in the assured hope of enjoying through the power of Redeeming Love, eternal happiness in the presence of her adorable Creator. Psal XXXIX, 7. “And now Lord what is my hope, truly my hope is in thee”. [both ends] A F: 1822.
Angus 1779. “Arthur Robertson Esqr. of Inches & Mr Hector Fraser Witts.”
Marjorie 1786. “Arthur Robertson of Inches and Simon Fraser of Farraline Wittness’s”. She is named on another tablestone in Chapel Yard:
Under this stone lie interred the remains of Marjory Fraser, daughter of the late William Fraser, Commissary of Inverness & spouse of Alexander Tolmie, merchant in Glasgow, who departed this life the 13th day of February 1818, aged 31 years. Her life was an instructive display of filial affection, conjugal regard, maternal tenderness, sincere friendship and universal benevolence while her death was a most exemplary pattern of submissive placid and consoling Christian resignation. Her surviving sons are William & Alexander. [both ends] A T + M F: 1818.
Jane I think will be the daughter in the baptism record as “Jean” although the two names are not interchangeable. She is mentioned in the wills of both Hugh and Alexander, and is commemorated on a tablestone in Chapel Yard, Inverness:
Here repose the ashes of Jane Fraser, eldest daughter of William Fraser, Esq., late Commissary of Inverness, and wife of Captn Simon Fraser. She died on the 8th day of April 1848, aged – years, also of their dutiful and affectionate youngest daughter, Jamesina Fraser, who died on the 31st of May 1873. “Blessed are the peace-makers for they shall be called the children of God”. Matt. 5 chap. 9 verse.
Harriet Margaret is mentioned in the will of brother Alexander. She married Major Thomas Dely, H.M.. 38th Regiment of Native Infantry, who died at Cawnpore in 1828. They had one daughter, Jean Anne. Harriet died, aged 68 or 69 (sources vary), at 2, Sion-hill, Bath in 1847.
It can be seen that the family as a whole had a remarkable association with the Indian military. It would have been astonishing if Hugh had not followed suit.
Hugh was just a youngster when he joined the service. Evidence had to be provided of his age, and hence the British India Records contain the following:
I Donald Fraser Session Clerk of the Parish of Inverness hereby Certify that Hugh Fraser Lawfull son to William Fraser Commissary of Inverness was born upon the Twelfth and Baptised upon the Fourteenth days of May one thousand seven hundred & Seventy three years by the Reverend Mr. Robert Rose one of the Ministers of the Gospel of the sd. Parish Witnesses Arthur Robertson Esqr. of Inches Captain Angus McIntosh of Kylachy and Captain Hugh Fraser of Knocky Given under my hand at Inverness this Fifth day of April one thousand seven hundred & Ninety One years. / Donald Fraser Ses. / The above is a true extract / Robert Rose Min.
His career thereafter is summarised in the Dod entry, but it somehow omits that in 1924, as Brigadier-General Hugh Fraser, he was active in Burma. In The Naval History of Great Britain: From the Declaration of War by France in 1793 to the Accession of George IV by William I. James (Volume 6, 1827), it is recounted that in the Burmese war in 1824, in an offensive against Penang, where fire-rafts were being constructed to destroy the naval force, whilst the naval department moved up the river “Brigadier-general Hugh Fraser commanded the land forces.” The expedition “returned to Rangoon on the 27th, having not only succeeded in their enterprise, but surveyed the river until it narrowed to 60 yards in breadth.”
A large seaborne British expedition took Rangoon without a fight in 1824, but the war was to prove costly; painting by J. Moore.
The First Anglo-Burmese war, although only of two years duration, was to be the longest and most expensive in the history of British India, with the loss of 15,000 troops on the British side alone. It is curious that Burma is not mentioned in the summary in Dod; otherwise his entry seems accurate. Hugh Fraser:
became a captain in 1801; a colonel in 1819; and attained the rank of a lieut.-general in Nov. 1841; received the order of the Bath, after having commanded the troops at the assault of Copaul Droog; was on several occasions confidentially employed during a service of upwards of 50 years in the East;
My italics identify a curious phrase – perhaps some judicious searching in the military records would reveal the diplomatic missions on which he was confidentially employed.
The supposedly-impregnable Copaul Droog; photograph by Paul Fraser
Copaul Droog had been notorious, a hill fort considered even more impregnable than the usual dreaded hill fort. Fraser’s activity in the action to take this hill fort, with relative ease, was mentioned when he was awarded his knighthood a decade later. Interestingly, as revealed by Paul Fraser who has visited the location of his ancestor’s triumph, it appears to be a different Copaul Droog from the hill fort of that name where a generation earlier Tipu Sahib had murdered a number of captured British officers.
I am indebted for the details of Sir Hugh’s military career to Ann Elizabeth Fraser, Sir Hugh’s descendant, who forwarded to me via her brother Paul several pages of a microfilmed report on his career from an unidentified source. All the details which I have been able to check are exactly correct, so my thanks to the original compiler of this information which forms the basis for this section.
Hugh Fraser arrived at Madras on the “Bridgewater” as a humble Ensign on 9 October 1791, rising to Lieutenant in 1794. He served at the capture of Columbo, an important fortress in the Island of Ceylon, in 1796, and was included on the subsequent prize roll. He was made Captain in 1800/1801, Major in 1805 and Lieutenant-Colonel in 1809. In 1811 he was appointed to command at Pondicherry, a district where French rule was intermittently broken by the British. When he resigned command of Pondicherry in 1816, he received approbation of his conduct. The following year he was appointed to take charge of the garrison at Vellore, a city in the state of Tamil Nadu, in southern India, famous for its 16th-century Vellore Fort, with its imposing granite walls and surrounding moat. However, he was soon relieved of this command and appointed to command the second Brigade of Infantry with Field Force under Colonel Pritzler. His services in the Battle of Nagpore were subsequently applauded and mentioned in the London Gazette of 6 May 1818. He shared the Prizes for the capture of Singkeir, Shotapore, Pogrunder and Wassotta in 1818.
In 1819 occurred the storming of the supposedly impregnable hill fort of Copaul Droog, and his part in this action was referred to when he was awarded the K.C.B. We shall return to the taking of Copaul Droog.
He was appointed in 1824 to succeed Colonel Macbean in the Command of the Madras Troops employed against Ava in the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824–26). He embarked for Rangoon, and a letter from him (as Brigadier-General H Fraser) dated 27 September 1824 details the operations of a Detachment under his command in destroying several Stockades near Paulang (reported in the London Gazette of 25 March 1825). “I am happy to add that no casualty occurred amongst the troops during these operations, but I understand two or three sailors were wounded.” Although casualties were low, conditions in Burma in this period were desperate with many officers and men falling ill and dying from fever. At this point he unfortunately fell out with the Commander of the Forces, Brigadier-General Sir Archibald Campbell, K.C.B. Fraser had taken the initiative in appointing officers – no doubt due to the need to replace those who had fallen – but suffered a reprimand from Campbell who insisted Fraser did not have the authority for such appointments. Fraser sought clarification on this from higher authority, and the Brigadier-General’s position was confirmed. Despite the difference in opinion, Campbell wrote:
The Commr. of the Forces begs Br. Genl Fraser and Captn Chadds (Royal Navy) will accept his best thanks for their perseverance in the fatiguing and harassing service in which they have been engaged in beating up the Enemy’s Quarters up the River
Fraser himself fell ill, and departed Rangoon on 31 October 1824 “in consequence of serious indisposition”, returning to Calcutta. Fraser had several periods of leave before this, but the furlough to the UK from 1825 to 1828 must have been the most welcome.
In 1828 he was appointed by the Court of Directors to succeed to the General Staff, and he returned in that role to Madras. He was appointed to the Command of the Ceded Districts (an area of India “ceded” to the British East India Company by the Nizam in 1800). An appointment of Temporary Brigadier-General in June 1829 followed, and Major-General in July the following year. (Think: “Be My Little General”). His appointment as a Knight Commander of the Bath was announced in the London Gazette of 10 April 1832.
He was on furlough again from 1833. I note a very important piece of military correspondence from him that year, indicating a humanitarian side to his nature. In this he stated that an “Asylum for the relief of the Native poor” has been established at Bellary, and requested the sanction of Government for the issue of medicine to the Sick admitted into the Asylum.
His appointment as a Lieutenant-General was reported in the London Gazette of 26 November 1841.
The taking of Copaul Droog was key to the career of Hugh Fraser, so it is worth appraising what it involved. And for this we are indebted to a book by Edward Lake on the taking of hill fortifications in India, published in 1825 although written in 1822, snappily entitled Journals of the Sieges of the Madras Army, in the years 1817, 1818, and 1819, with observations on the system according to which such operations have usually been conducted in India, and a statement on the improvements that appear necessary. I note that one of the subcribers was one “Fraser, H. Colonel”.
Fraser had been involved in the successful taking of the Fort of Asseerghur in March and April 1819, before moving on to Copaul Droog in May of that year. Copal Droog lies a couple of hundred miles south west of Hyderabad, just to the west of Bellary, where Fraser became district commander. At this time, though, he was Lieutenant-Colonel in the Native Infantry.
I have spotted the locations of Copal Droog, Bellary and Hyderabad on this contemporary map extracted from The Maps and Plans illustrating the Memoir of the Operations of the British Army in India, during the Mahratta War of 1817, 1818, & 1819 by Lieut.-Colonel Valentine Blacker (1821).
And a description of the battle is given by Edward Lake:
The works of Copal Droog are of extraordinary magnitude and strength, and (as will appear by the plan) very complicated. The hill, which forms the upper Fort, is about 600 feet high above the plain, and is totally inaccessible on three sides. The fourth, or Eastern side, is encircled with walls to the very base, where a strong rampart terminates the hill fortifications; below which there are, on this side, two additional inclosures, each consisting of a very respectable rampart with towers.
Image of Copaul Droog in more recent times. Image courtesy of Paul Mackenzie Fraser.
Plan of Copaul Droog, drawn up for Edward Lake’s work on the Sieges of Madras, published in 1825.
This then was the target. For several days in early May the walls were pounded by the British weaponry until a breach was considered practicable, and the army prepared to storm the lower forts. At this point the Indian Garrison surrendered, and 1400 men marched out and the forts were occupied by the British troops. The upper and more challenging fort confronted them. There were negotiations to persuade the Rajah to surrender, but it appeared that the Rajah was simply playing for time.
The period fixed upon having arrived, and it appearing that no reliance could be placed upon the Rajah’s professions and promises, the following plan of attack was decided upon. Two columns, of 4 companies each, to escalade the walls at the points G and H; and having gained admittance, to support each other. A galloper gun to accompany the left attack, for the purpose of blowing open the gate B. Advantage to be taken of the confusion of the enemy, to follow them to the summit of the hill, if possible. A reserve of 3 companies to advance from the mortar battery, to reinforce the column which should first establish a footing.
At twelve o’clock precisely, both columns advanced to the assault. The right under Captain Cuppage, of His Majesty’s 53rd Regiment; the left under Captain Tew, of His Majesty’s 34th Regiment; the whole commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Fraser, of the 12th Native Infantry.
Both escalades succeeded, and the gateway was blown open at the same instant. The troops rushed in, and effected a junction at the gateway C, which afforded cover to a considerable number of men. At this point, they were checked by a tremendous shower of stones, which was hurled from the rocks above … … … the enemy intimidated by the perseverance and gallantry of the attack, called for quarter, which was granted; and the Garrison, to the amount of 500 men, were marched out prisoners of war.
The steps up which an assault would proceed against a hail of weapons from above. Image courtesy of Paul Mackenzie Fraser.
View from the top of Copaul Droog. Image courtesy of Paul Mackenzie Fraser
Hugh Fraser’s role in this action was mentioned when he was awarded the K.C.B. ten years later. At the time, Brigadier-General Pritzler reported that nothing could exceed the zeal shown to the Service by him, and every thing that could be done by men was accomplished by the Troops under his command. Fraser’s own report detailing the attack and surrender of Copaul Droog (an extract appears in the London Gazette of 30 August 1820) was very complimentary of his staff and men, and his description of the final surrender of the Indian leader, the Killedar, is very prosaic:
After a good deal of firing the Killedar’s people hoisted a white flag, and demanded terms, and the Killedar after much hesitation came out and delivered himself up, on my assuring him at the gateway, he being on the top of the wall, that his life should be spared; and his whole garrison surrendered on the same terms.
Hugh married in 1811, whilst on service in India, a lady whose name seems to vary depending upon the writer. Her marriage registration in the British India records gives:
Pondicherry / Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Fraser Bachelor and Helen Savougère, spinster were united in holy matrimony according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England this 26th. day of Septr. 1811 by me (Signed) W. Thomas / Chaplain
The short biography in Dod states: “mar. 1st, 1811, Helen de la Sauvage”.
The entry in the British India register of the death of a child gives a different variant of her name: “Mary Jane Helen Sauvagère”.
However, I believe the most reliable version will be the one on her unusual headstone, erected by her husband in Bellary, Karnataka, where Hugh Fraser was district commander for several years.
Here are Deposited / The Mortal Remains / of / Marie Louise Jeanne Helene / De La Sauvagere / Wife of / Colonel Hugh Fraser / of the 12th Regt. N.I. / who departed this Life / the 2* day of May 1820 / This Amiable Person, / Cut down like a Flower / At the early age of 28 Years / Was / A Dutiful Daughter / An Affectionate Wife / A Devoted Mother / and / A Faithful Christian
I am indebted to Paul Fraser for photographs from this wild and untended graveyard (a bit like Kirkmichael a few years ago!)
The untended graveyard in Bellary. Image courtesy of Paul Mackenzie Fraser.
The unusual top of Helene’s memorial in Bellary undoubtedly has Indian associations. Image courtesy of Paul Mackenzie Fraser.
There is no record of Helene’s parents, but when you look at the sponsors of the baptisms of her children it all becomes clear.
1. Mary Jane Ann Fraser
Pondicherry / This is to Certify that Mary Jane Ann daughter of Hugh Fraser and Commandant of Pondicherry and his wife Mary Jane Helene Fraser born the 13th of Augt 1812 was baptised by me according to the form of public baptism set forth in the rubric of the Church of England this 26th day of Septr 1812 (Signed) J.G. Holzberg / Protestant Missionary / Sponsors / Alexander Fraser Esqr. Proxey Lieutt. Turner / Mary Josephine Rose Petronelle Sauvagaer / Mary Magdalene Desiree Turner
Sadly, their first child was to die before she reached her third birthday:
Cuddalore / This is to Certify that the remains of Mary Jane Ann Fraser daughter of Colonel Hugh Fraser Commandant of Pondicherry were this day the 1st of June 1815 decently interred and the funeral service of the Church of England read over them by me (Signed) J.G. Holzberg / P. Missionary
Her gravestone inscription was recorded in List of Inscriptions on Tombs or Monuments in Madras by Julian James Cotton (1946) as:
Mary Jane Ann, the daughter of Lieut.-Colonel Hugh Fraser, Commandant of Pondicherry and of Mary Jane Helen Sauvagere, his wife. Aged 2 years, 9 months and 19 days.
2. Aeneas William Heir Fraser
Their second child, Aeneas, entered the military in India like his father, but, I understand (although I have not seen the evidence) died on his passage home in the 1840s.
Pondicherry / This is to certify that Aeneas William Heir [most likely in error for Keir] son of Hugh Fraser Lieutenant Colonel and Commandant of Pondicherry and of his wife Mary Jeane Helen Fraser born the 7th May 1814 was baptised by me according to the form of public baptism set forth in the rubric of the Church of England the 7th day of June 1814 / (Signed) J.G. Holzberg / P.M. / Sponsors / Louis Paul La Sauvagere / Thomas Fraser / Mrs Jane Fraser
3. Mary Lydia Fraser
There definitely was a third child, a Mary Lydia, whom it is believed was born on 7 February 1816 in Tamil Nadu, but I have not seen the evidence for it myself. However, she was to marry in Inverness in 1835.
4. Maria Francois Theodosia Fraser
There was to be one further child, a daughter, who was later to marry in the castle of Redcastle in the Black Isle in 1838:
[date of baptism] 27th Augt 1817 [Garrison or station] Pondicherry Maria Francois Theodosia [parents] Hugh Fraser & M. J. Helena his Wife Lieut. Colonel born 1st August 1817
5. Anne Wakeman ms Fraser
And another child! Dai Bevan, who is a volunteer photographer for FindAGrave.com, made contact with me in 2019 to say he had photographed a memorial to Anne Wakeman in South Ealing Cemetery, London, and wished to link with an image of her father’s grave. The inscription on the side of the memorial in Dai’s photograph reads:
Anne, Widow of the Late Captain Henry Wakeman / 42nd Regiment Madras Native Infantry / Also Deputy Commissioner of the Saugor and Nerbudda Territories / who departed this life at Madras House, Ealing, May 7th 1885. / Aged 75 Years / She was the only surviving daughter of the late / General Sir Hugh Fraser, K.C.B. / Sweet mother Rest In Peace.
I note from the Indian records that Henry Wakeman married Anne Fraser in 1829 in Bellary, and it is mentioned that her father was Col. Hugh Fraser Comdy. Ceded Dists. He at the time was Commandant of the Ceded Districts so I imagine those abbreviations refer to that. The Indian records don’t mention her mother, but the witness was Isabella Fraser, and Hugh’s second wife was Isabella, who was indeed with Hugh in India in 1829. The East Ealing inscription says Anne died in 1885 aged 75. The 1861 census has her as 45, and the 1881 census has her as 70. That gives three alternative years of birth of 1810, 1811 and 1815. Now, Hugh Fraser married Helene De La Sauvagère, his first wife, in September 1811, and Anne herself married in 1829, so you can see that she must have been born early in the marriage or perhaps even before. In both the 1861 and 1871 census returns for “Where born” the entry is “Inverness, Scotland” so when the Indian service of Hugh Fraser is examined, that should help to place her.
I was separately contacted in 2019 by Hugh Culverhouse, a descendant of Captain Henry and Anne Wakeman ms Fraser. He possesses several letters written by Anne Wakeman ms Fraser. In one from Anne to her cousin William (wife Jane) she mentions their childhood at Stratherrick with his brother, referring to “Aunt Anne” spoiling him, “sons of her favourite sister” and their mutual grandmother [this will be Jean Fraser of Errogie]. In the same letter Anne refers to the death at sea (possibly 1847 or 1848) of her brother (name unreadable) [I assume this was Aeneas] and of the bitterness he felt towards Lady Fraser [I assume this would be Hugh Fraser’s second wife, Isabella Mackenzie]. Unfortunately further correspondence with Hugh ceased due to an email address problem!
Memorial to Anne Wakeman ms Fraser in South Ealing cemetery; photograph by Dai Bevan
Now, from information available on the Turner family (from Aberdeenshire, originally), we know that Louis Jean Paulo de la Sauvagère (1748–1824) was an Infantry officer and Storekeeper of the Kings Military Arms. The family were working for the French East India Company and stationed at Fort George. Louis married Josephine Rosemarie Petronelle Berthelin, and they had a child, Marie Magdelena Desiree Poulo de la Sauvagère (1788–1823). She married Major Alexander Turner (1786–1832). You will note that all four appear as sponsors at the baptisms of Helene’s children, and hence I think it safe to assume that Louis and Josephine were her parents, Marie her sister, and Alexander Turner her brother-in-law. As Marie was born in 1788, and Helene was born about 1792, she was the younger sister. The Sauvagere “messieurs” are mentioned in La Famille Aubert de Gaspe by Pierre-Georges Roy (1907), where a member of the Aubert family is buried in 1791 at Pondicherry: “Ont assiste a son enterrement: messier Leride, ancient capitain de brulot, et Levasseur, ancient capitaine au regiment de l’ile Bourbon, tous les deux chevaliers de l’ordre royal et militaire de Saint-Louis; les sieurs Paulo de la Sauvagère, garde-general des magasins du roi a Pondichery; et de Repentigny, eleve de la marine royal – qui ont tous signe avec moi.”
It must have been hard for Hugh losing both wife and a young child. Early death was not unexpected in India. Nevertheless Pondicherry must have been a devastating experience for him – although a pleasant place to live. Wikipedia describes the city:
Pondicherry was the largest French colony in India. There is a strong French influence in the city, especially in the old quarters, with Rues and Boulevards lined with Mediterranean style houses and bakeries, although the city remains very much Indian. French is still understood, and the whole city makes for rather pleasant mix of East and West
At the time Hugh Fraser was Commandant of Pondicherry, obviously the city and region were under British control.
Hugh was back in Britain in 1827, and seven years after the death of his first wife, married Isabella, the third daughter of John Mackenzie, Esq., of Kincraig. Several daughters of earlier Kincraig families are buried at Kirkmichael. Isabella was already a veteran of India, as she had married her first husband, Allan Cameron, a Lieutenant in the Bengal Presidency Artillery, in 1821, and had one daughter by him. Her husband had died later in that year of 1821, the year after Hugh Fraser was widowed. By 1827 both Hugh and Isabella were ready to commit to another partnership.
Kincraig House, nowadays the comfortable and welcoming residential and dining Kincraig House Hotel. Two Mackenzie of Kincraig daughters are buried at Kirkmichael. Photograph by Jim Mackay.
Their marriage record is in the register for Rosskeen, the parish within which Kincraig lies.
1827 … Col. Hugh Fraser Madras Army E:I:C:S. & Mrs Isabella MacKenzie, Kincraig, Relict of the late Capt Allan Cameron of the Bengl. He. Artillery were married 16 October.
And then it was back to duty in India.
Their first two children were born in India.
1. Helen Flora Fraser
Bellary 27 November 1828 / Helen Flora daughter of Colonel Hugh Fraser Com. Ceded Districts and of Isabella his wife born 29 Octr 1829 [I can’t help it – that’s what the chaplain accidentally wrote – the gravestone says 1828] was baptized by me / H Harper / Chaplain
Sadly Helen Flora died back in Scotland in 1840, aged 11. Her tomb is a curious one, of marble panels arranged around a rough stone and plaster central support. It had collapsed, and only in 2017 was a second panel with a touching eulogy found. The two panels read:
Sacred / to the memory / of / HELEN FLORA FRASER / the beloved daughter / of / Lieut. General / Sir HUGH FRASER K.C.B. / and / ISABELLA FRASER, / his wife; / born at Bellair / East Indies, / 29th October 1828 / died at Cromarty, / 19th October 1840.
We saw grim death come for his prey
And aim his unerring dart,
But still the victory was thine,
Altho' he pierced thy heart.
For kindred spirits took thee hence
to sing angelic dove
in seraphic lays
Thy manners praise
And thy redeemer's love.
2. John Mackenzie Fraser
Their second child to be born in India was the ancestor of correspondent Paul Fraser.
Bangalore 30th June 1832 / John Mackenzie, son of Major General Hugh Fraser & Commandant of the Contra Division and Isabella his wife born on the 18th Day of June 1832, was baptized this day be me / (Signed) Jas. Wright / Senr. Chaplain
The Relief of Lucknow by Thomas J Barker
As detailed below, John Mackenzie Fraser married an Urquhart lady, making a further link with the history of Braelangwell. Inevitably, he joined the forces in India, and gained recognition for his heroism at the relief of Lucknow. His early death received much coverage in the newspapers of the day, and this is what the Aberdeen Press and Journal of 29 September 1858 had to say:
Officers from India – Death of Lieut. Mackenzie Fraser.– The screw-steamer Hydaspes, which has arrived at Blackwall from the East, reports the death of one of its passengers, Lieutenant John Mackenzie Fraser, of the Bengal Artillery, son of the late Major-General Sir Hugh Fraser of Braelangwell, Ross-shire. Lieutenant Fraser greatly distinguished himself during the recent mutinies, especially at the relief of Lucknow by General Havelock, who afterwards mentioned him in terms of the highest eulogy. He sank, alas! like too many other gallant spirits, a victim to climate, starvation, and overwork. At the request of Capt. Hill (says a Cape paper), the deceased was buried on Monday afternoon (26th July) with military honours, being followed by detachments of the Volunteer Rifles, Artillery, and Cavalry, the Royal Artillery and Cape Corps. Major Du Prat was the senior officer in command of the volunteers. The gentlemen who thus sacrificed their time and convenience for the purpose of doing honour to the remains of a gallant soldier, would be pleased to find from the subjoined note from Capt. Hill that their sympathy is appreciated by the sorrowing widow:–
&nbs; To Major Du Prat, Cape Town Volunteers.
My Dear Major,–The widow of Lieut. Fraser desires me, in her name, to return her heartiest thanks to the Volunteers for their kind attention to the funeral of her late husband, and for paying the last honours to his remains. I have to request that you will at the same time thank them for the prompt manner in which they responded to my request to inter with military honours the poor young stranger, in whom I was much interested. I felt it particularly kind, so many turning out after having been on duty in the morning.– Believe me, yours very truly, J.M. Hill.
– The Inverness Courier says:– “In 1853, Lieutenant Fraser came home with impaired health, but returned last year to India, and resumed active service in his profession; and it is only a few months since we had the satisfaction to record acts of gallantry performed by him, which were noticed in the public despatches of the time. His delicate constitution became thus still farther enfeebled, and he found it necessary, in May last, to set out for Europe, taking, by medical advice, the ocean route, by the screw steamer Hydaspes; but the fatigue of the voyage proved too much for his strength, and, on approaching the Cape of Good Hope, in July, he died at the early age of 26. Mr Fraser was the eldest surviving son of the late Lieutenant-General Sir Hugh Fraser of Braelangwell, K.C.B., himself a distinguished officer in the Indian army, and has left a widow, the daughter of B.C. Urquhart, Esq. of Meldrum and Byth, in Aberdeenshire, who accompanied him on his journey homewards, and an infant boy, who now inherits the family estate.”
3. Isabella Forbes Fraser
Their third child, Isabella Forbes Fraser, according to some websites was born in Meldrum, Aberdeenshire, which seems unlikely, in 1834. I have not found her in any baptism record. She would marry, at Braelangwell, Beauchamp Colclough Urquhart on 5 August 1856, aged 21, so the birthdate at least would appear to be approximately correct. I think it is probably she (“Isabella Fraser”) whom I see in a London school for young gentlewomen in 1851, aged 16, and born in “Scotland”, so unfortunately there is no Census record showing her parish of birth. There were two children from the marriage, but she died a young mother in 1860.
4. Hugh Fraser
Their son Hugh is given wildly different birthdates on various websites. The real story can be found in the baptism register of the parish of Killearnan, in the Black Isle:
Hugh Fraser L.S. of Major General Sir Hugh Fraser K.C.B. E.I.C.S. and Lady Isabella Fraser residing at Red-Castle was born 26th December eighteen hundred and thirty six and Baptized 27th January 1837 By the Revd. John Kennedy of Killearnan.
I see that on the web, the myth is that Hugh became a journalist, and, at age 53, married widow Amelia Halden, ms Thornton, on 31 October 1891 in Calcutta, West Bengal, India. This must have been a different Hugh Fraser, as in the Banffshire Journal of 15 April 1862 I see: “At Nice, France, on the 1st inst., Hugh Fraser, Lieutenant in H.M. 73d Regiment, second son of the late Sir Hugh Fraser of Braelangwell, Ross-shire, aged 25 years.”
And their fifth child was born at Braelangwell itself, in 1841!
5. Alexander Fraser
Alexander (baptised 13 Jan 1842, born 29 Dec 1841, Major General Sir Hugh Fraser of Braelangwell & Lady Fraser)
I am grateful to Olaf Cellier, whose wife is a descendant of Alexander, for an extract from the South African newspaper the Kaffrarian Watchman of Wednesday 13th March 1867:
MARRIED by Special Licence at King William’s Town on 5th March by the Rev Alan Bell, Military Chaplain, Alexander FRASER Esq, Capt 10th Regiment, son of the late Lieut-General Sir Hugh FRASER KCB, of Braelangwell, Ross-shire, to Lily, second daughter of Major O.B. D’ARCY, late 18th Royal Irish, and niece of the late General the Right Hon Sir George BROWN GCB, Commander of the Forces in Ireland. No cards.
King William’s Town is in Eastern Cape province, South Africa, on the banks of the Buffalo River.
Given that Sir Hugh had been born in 1773, it is not surprising that Alexander, born at the tail end of 1841, was his last child. That year of 1841 was an important one for him: he attained the rank of Lieutenant General in November, and was appointed Deputy-Lieutenant of the shire of Cromarty.
In reality he had been back in the UK since the very end of 1833, when arrived (Perthshire Courier 2 January 1834) “Per ‘Juliana,’ from Bengal and Madras – Major-Gen. Sir Hugh Fraser, K.C. B., and lady”. We even know where he resided initially (Morning Post, 28 December 1833) “Sir Hugh and Lady Fraser and family, at Crawley’s Hotel, Albemarle-street, from Madras”.
On his arrival he attended St James’s Palace on 21 February for a great honour (Public Ledger, 26 February 1834) “Ceremonial the Investiture of Major General Sir Hugh Fraser with the Ensigns of a Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath”. It had been awarded in 1832, but this was the formal occasion.
Mary Lydia, daughter from his first marriage, married early the following year the brother of Sir Francis McKenzie of Gairloch, Captain Hector Mckenzie, in a marriage recorded in both the Kirkhill and Inverness registers, each providing additional information:
Kirkhill: 1835 Janry 8 Married of this date at the English Chapel Inverness by Mr. Fivy Capt. H McKenzie Esq to Miss Mary Lydia Fraser daughter to Sir Hugh Fraser residing at Achnagairn. Witn. Sir Francis McKenzie of Garloch and Major Fraser of Newton.
Inverness: [January 1835]: 7th. Capt. Hector Mackenzie H.E.I.C.S. residing at Balnafary Inverness and Miss Lydia Fraser, Eldest daughter of General Sir Hugh Fraser, Auchnagairn – by the Revd Charles Fyvie.
Alas, Captain Hector was to die in India and they had no surviving children.
Sir Hugh’s other surviving daughter from that first marriage married in the Castle of Redcastle, in Killearnan in the Black Isle, in 1838. Redcastle is now a ruin, but it must have been a dramatic setting for the wedding.
1838 Killearnan: James McLeod second son of the late James McLeod Esqr. Rasa [Raasay] and Mary Frances Theodosia Fraser were married at the Castle of Redcastle, by the Revd. Jno. Kennedy of Killearnan this 13th day of March 1838 in presence of Sir Colin McKenzie Belmaduthy Sir Francis McKenzie of Gairloch &c &c
The McLeods of Raasay were in dire financial straits, and a slew of them emigrated to improve their fortunes. Their story is told here
In 1838, James MacLeod was the first of the four MacLeod brothers to migrate to South Australia. James and his wife Mary (Mary Frances Theodosia, second daughter of Major General Sir Hugh Frazer KGB), arrived in South Australia on the ship ‘Pestonjee Bomangee’. They are not included on the passenger list, but arrived in the company of the colony’s second Governor, Lieutenant Colonel George Gawler and his wife, who had befriended Mary.
Their three children were James Gawler (1840–1880) (presumably in honour of the friendly Governor), who was to become Major James Gawler MacLeod, briefly 14th of Raasay, Helen Jane Gray (1842–1929) and Flora Ann (1844–1885).
James McLeod died in 1844 in Australia. He was buried twice and was involved in a fatal accident (not his own) between burials. This is not a typographical error. Read this strange story here
While we know the locations where James was buried, I have not found where Mary Frances Theodosia ended her days. Some websites say she died a young widow in Australia, which is nonsense. On the death of James, she returned to the UK with her three children. In 1885, when her daughter Flora Ann Berners ms McLeod died at 8 Rue Alexander Taylor, Pau, in France, she was living at the same address, but her movements thereafter I know not.
Now, you will notice the word “Redcastle” appearing several times during this period of Sir Hugh’s life. Abandoned as recently as the 1940s, the castle of Redcastle originated in the medieval period. Like so many other ancient buildings, it is now a ruin.
The current sadly derelict condition of Redcastle; photograph by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Redcastle in the 1800s was owned by the Baillie family, but clearly Sir Hugh, on his return from India, had taken on several homes before settling on Braelangwell. He was at Achnagairn (close to Beauly) early in 1835 at the marriage of his daughter Mary Lydia, but the records suggest he took on the castle and land of Redcastle later in 1835 and remained there through to 1839. I confess that this had completely escaped me until researching the life of Sir Hugh. I note a typical martinet approach to the disappearance of a pony, advertised in the Inverness Courier of 15 July 1835:
STOLEN OR STRAYED, FROM REDCASTLE, ON THE 11th JULY.
A Grayish dun FILLY, about ten hands high, with a black streak on its back, black Mane and Tail, and black Feet – marked a little on the knees.
Whoever can give information of the above, so as to lead to her recovery, shall be rewarded, if required. Any person keeping her after this notice will be prosecuted. Apply to Sir Hugh Fraser, at Redcastle.
You will have noted that son Hugh was born in Redcastle in 1836 and daughter Theodosia was married in Redcastle in 1838. The general’s children were so spread out in time that children were marrying when other children were being born.
Braelangwell had been on the market for a while, and there were competing potential buyers. Sir Hugh, from his nearby Redcastle home, must have been looking it over for a while, before deciding to invest in the estate on the north side of the Black Isle. Braelangwell was noted for its arable farming. It was famed for having flour mills (i.e. utilising the more demanding but higher value cereal wheat) far earlier than other estates where barley and oats were the normal corn crops. Sir Hugh appears in person at a heritors’ meeting in the schoolhouse of Resolis on 17th December 1839, and frequently thereafter, so this would seem to be the time of their arrival.
Braelangwell in the very early 1900s.
The 1841 Census record provides a snapshot of the occupancy of Braelangwell House at this time. Other servants occupied homes in the nearby steading, but there was a troop of female and male servants in the house itself.
Gen. Fraser Esq. 70 Army P.
Isabella Fraser 50
Ann Gibson 24 F.S. / Katharine McDonald 40 F.S. / Hugh McLennan 23 M.S. / William Simpson 24 M.S. / Donald Matheson 18 M.S. / Donald McLennan 19 M.S. / John McKenzie 17 M.S. / William McLea 18 M.S.
John McLennan has pointed out to me that his ancestors, John McLennan and wife Isobel McIntosh, and family, had been in Redcastle and moved to Braelangwell in the same time period as Sir Hugh did, and in fact are shown as adjacent to Braelangwell House in the 1841 census. When Sir Hugh bought Ardmeanach, the McLennans became the farmers there. They were clearly well regarded by Sir Hugh.
The 1851 Census record sets out the diverse origins of everybody occupying Braelangwell House at that time.
Sir Hugh Fraser head m 77 Invsh Inverness Landed Proprietor, & Lieut General H.E.I.C.S.
Isabella Fraser wife m 50 Lady Fraser R Rosskeen
Alexr Fraser son u 9 scholar at home R&C Resolis
Dond Mitchell servant u 23 butler Invsh Abernethy
Peter Philip servant u 14 apprentice gardener Morayshire Kinloss
Margt Gibson servant u 28 lady’s maid R Rosskeen
Ann Manson servant u 29 cook R Alness
Elizabeth McDougald servant u 24 housemaid Rosshire Avoch
Barbara Grant servant u 27 laundrymaid R&C Cromarty
Janet Chisholm servant u 48 dairymaid R Kincardine
Ann Beaton servant u 19 dairymaid R Contin
Braelangwell before Hugh Fraser purchased it had passed through several owners in fairly short succession and was, according to the Reverend Donald Sage in his Memorabilia Domestica, run down. When Hugh purchased it in 1839 he immediately began to implement improvements. And naturally, one of the first things he looked to improve was Braelangwell House.
Fraser commissioned architects to remodel Braelangwell House and farm buildings. Different sources suggest William Robertson (who died in 1841) or perhaps Archibald Simpson had commenced the operation, but all are agreed that James Ross finished the work. The new façade was constructed over the period 1839 to 1845. Work on servants’ cottages, a washing house, additions and repairs to offices and bridge are referred to in a journal of 1845, and the South Lodge is mentioned in the Inverness Courier of 1847 seen below, upper left. And in the Inverness Courier of 29 January 1845 we see him organising roadworks as well. I believe the road mentioned in the Courier of 22 July 1846 (below, lower left) will be the road from the South Lodge to Braelangwell House.
The advertisement for erecting the South or Porter Lodge itself appeared the following year (on the right, below).
Hugh Fraser was giving much employment to the area through these improvements. He also gave generously to support the poor. However, due to his involvement in the Disruption, he became the most unpopular man in Resolis.
It was from Braelangwell House that the Presbytery, accompanied by a party of gentlemen and ladies, set out to induct the new minister against fierce local opposition. The previous minister, Donald Sage, had left the Established Church for the Free Church, and several hundred parishioners turned out to prevent the induction of his replacement. Sir Hugh Fraser brandished a pistol which he had received from one of the Coastguard. Though he later claimed he did not fire it, certainly shots were fired.
The decision to abandon the attempted induction at Resolis was a wise one. The church halfway up Fanny’s Brae had proved a more complex challenge than the hill fort of Copaul Droog.
Following the riot, Hugh Fraser was closely involved with the arrangements for the considerable numbers of special constables deployed during the disturbances. Given he was a deputy Lord-Lieutenant, this was perfectly logical, but could only have exacerbated his unpopularity in the region.
The former Church of Scotland in the centre of Resolis, around which the battle was fought. Photograph by Jim Mackay.
The curious belfry of the former Church of Scotland; the bell was rung so vigorously during the riot that belfry repairs were required. Photograph by Jim Mackay.
Fraser of Braelangwell’s carriage was subsequently stoned near Invergordon.
For several years following the Disruption, the rather unpleasant and vindictive review to be found in the session minutes of past financial transactions was headed by Hugh Fraser. In this, the seceding Reverend Donald Sage was threatened with legal action unless any omissions were rectified. The records of this period ooze with bitterness, and this ongoing war with the highly-regarded Donald Sage must have perpetuated Sir Hugh’s unpopularity in the parish.
Returning to the riot itself, the General had 50 years’ military service in India and Burma, when no doubt he often had recourse to his pistol. The contemporary reports and subsequent trial proceedings indicate he was instinctively taking the same approach to a civil affray in the Black Isle. But to present a pistol to Resolis parishioners, some of them undoubtedly his own tenants! His and Dame Isabella’s epitaph contains the rather revealing text: “Those who knew them best, were those who regretted them most deeply.” And yet, as I say, the General was amongst the most generous in providing donations to the poor or seeking improvements for the parish.
On the character of Lady Fraser, we have little information. I have one undated letter from her, written during the 1843 Disruption riots when they must have felt as if they were back in a military zone in India – “the natives are revolting.” In this she offered shelter in Braelangwell House to Mrs Macintosh, wife of the principal tenant in Resolis, who had adhered to the established church. This one simple letter conveys a practical and kindly nature. It also suggests a potential family connection.
Dear Mrs Macintosh
The Genl & I will be glad to give you all the protection we have for ourselves. Put on Auntie’s cloak & a shawl (not a bonnet) on your head & come walking slowly with Murdo Urquhart. I will have a bed ready prepared for you.
I note that both Sir Hugh and Dame Isabella were communicants, Sir Hugh seeking entry as soon as he arrived in the parish and the two of them continuing thereafter. And Sir Hugh was always at the forefront in church activities. The pair were clearly a devout couple.
Sir Hugh devoted himself to improvements on the estate whilst actively engaging in public affairs. He was appointed Vice-Lieutenant of the County of Cromarty in 1845.
Sir Hugh Fraser died at Braelangwell in 1851. It seems unfair that having worked so long and so hard for his country, he should not have had longer to enjoy his retirement. The eulogy in the Inverness Courier refers to his funeral and Kirkmichael burial:
The Late Lieut.-General Sir Hugh Fraser, K.C.B.– We noticed last week, the death of this gentleman, which, though it took place at a ripe old age, was sudden and unexpected. His remains were interred upon Tuesday last in the family burying ground, in the beautifully situated Churchyard of Kirkmichael; attended to their last resting place by a large number of friends and neighbours. The mourners and pall-bearers were Major Mackenzie of Kincraig, the brother-in-law of the deceased … Colin Lyon Mackenzie, Esq. of St Martins… Some years after his return home he became the proprietor of Braelangwell in Cromartyshire, which he made the place of his residence, and which, by a judicious expenditure of money, he greatly improved and enhanced in value. … The estate descends to Mr John Fraser, his eldest surviving son, still in minority, who lately left this country, and is now on his passage to India.
Lady Fraser followed the General soon after, in 1852.
The full inscription on the substantial memorial, the first granite memorial in Kirkmichael, reads:
Sacred / to the memory of / Lieutenant General / SIR HUGH FRASER, K.C.B. / of Braelangwell / and of the Madras Army, / who died at Braelangwell, / on the 6th. day of October 1851, / aged 79 years. / And also / to the memory of / DAME ISABELLA FRASER, / his wife, / who died at Braelangwell, / on the 12th. day of August 1852, / aged 55 years. / Those who knew them best, were / those who regretted them most deeply. / May they rest in peace
Sir Hugh Fraser’s legacy can be seen on the detailed 1844 plan of the estate by surveyor G. Campbell Smith of Banff, an extract of which can be seen below.
Braelangwell in 1844
The mansion, greatly expanded in size from before his time, forms a complete square. A porch on the south face indicates the front door has been moved to the south. For those travelling from Fortrose, the road now branches off at the Porter’s or South Lodge and comes directly down by the Ballycherry Burn to Braelangwell House. The road which previously came in from the east has disappeared. The orchard has been re-named “Apple Park”. Even the layout of the plots in the Walled Garden is set out.
Following Sir Hugh Fraser, the passage of the estate followed his deed of entail. The earliest known occupants of Braelangwell were Urquharts. Surprisingly an Urquhart dimension was to return to Braelangwell, through two of the children of Sir Hugh Fraser. First, John Mackenzie Fraser of Braelangwell married in July 1856, at Meldrum, Elizabeth, daughter of Beauchamp Colclough Urquhart of Meldrum, Aberdeenshire, and their son (born in Barrackpore in 1857) became Hugh Kenneth Fraser of Braelangwell. And, in a charming reverse, Isabella Forbes Fraser of Braelangwell (c1835–1862) married the eighth Urquhart laird of Meldrum, Beauchamp Colclough Urquhart (1830–1896) the following month, in August 1856, at Braelangwell.
Sir Hugh Fraser’s will shows his passion for Braelangwell, as he left instructions for completion of improvements on the estate should he die before they were finished. His will also contains an interesting description of the layout at Braelangwell:
All and whole the mansion house and garden situated upon the lands and estate of Braelangwell after described together with the house at the north side of the said mansion house then occupied by the gardener and farm servants at Braelangwell the Laundry and Stable on the west and small stable of three stalls on the north side of the square of offices at Braelangwell as also the cattle house and small room adjoining thereto near to and on the south side of the gate of entrance to the said Square of offices the cattle yard opposite to the said cattle house and the pigeon house above the said gate together with the coach house all as possessed by George Mackay Sutherland then of Udale when he resided at Braelangwell as also all and whole the lands and grazings between the Porter’s Lodge at the South entrance to the property along the burn to the mansion house and the lands and grazings about the said mansion house and lawn extending from the said mansion house to the Square of offices together with the two fields or parks situated at the east front and west back of the said mansion house and the apple park on the south side of the garden and laundry
The pigeon house, or doocot, referred to above the entrance way to the farm buildings, crops up in the early photograph below, and remarkably is still there!
The Braelangwell steading with doocot.
The doocot holds on.
photograph by Alpin Stewart, licensed under Creative Commons.