Fraser, Alexander (1537?-1623) (DNB00)


FRASER, Sir ALEXANDER (1537?–1623), of Philorth, founder of Fraserburgh, was the eldest son of Alexander Fraser, son and heir of Alexander, seventh laird of Philorth. His mother was Lady Beatrix Keith, eldest daughter of Robert Keith, master of Marischal. He succeeded his grandfather in the family estates in 1569, his father having died in 1564, and he set himself to work out the ambitious schemes of his grandfather in aggrandising and improving the ancestral inheritance. Already the lands were erected into a barony, with Philorth as a baronial burgh, where a commodious harbour had been made. The castle also had been enlarged and improved. But the eighth laird outvied his predecessor. He enlarged and beautified the burgh, which was now created a burgh of regality, changed its name to Fraserburgh, and, notwithstanding strenuous opposition from the town of Aberdeen, obtained powers to build a grand university at Fraserburgh, with all the privileges enjoyed by the other universities in the kingdom. A college was actually built, of which, in 1597, the general assembly appointed Charles Ferm [q. v.], minister of Fraserburgh, to be principal; but the college was not a success. Fraser also erected a new family residence on Kinnaird Head, which he called Fraserburgh Castle. But the situation was too exposed, and the family were afterwards obliged to remove to a more sheltered position. What remains of the castle is now utilised as a lighthouse. He likewise built a new parish church not far from the castle. The town throve well, and has now become the most important fishing port on the Scottish coast. In connection with it Fraser is distinguished among the lairds of Philorth and Lords Saltoun as the ‘founder of Fraserburgh.’

He was knighted by James VI, probably on the occasion of the baptism of Prince Henry in August 1594. Two years later he was chosen M.P. for the county of Aberdeen. In the latter part of his life he was obliged to place his affairs in the hands of trustees, and ultimately to sell several of his estates, in order to meet liabilities incurred in connection with his early projects.

His first wife died before 1606, and in that year he married Elizabeth Maxwell, eldest daughter of John, lord Herries, the staunch friend of Queen Mary, and widow of Sir John Gordon of Lochinvar. She also predeceased him. On 12 July 1623 he lay on his deathbed and made his will, dying shortly afterwards in the same month. He had five sons and three daughters. One of the sons, Thomas, is said to have written a history of the family. A portrait of the 'founder of Fraserburgh' was engraved by Pinkerton for his 'Scots Gallery of Portraits,' vol. ii., from the original in the possession of Mr. Urquhart at Craigston. His motto was, 'The glory of the honourable is to fear God.'

[Index Registri Magni Sigilli, in Signet Library, Edinburgh; Spalding's Miscellany, v. 358; Antiquities of Aberdeen, vol. iv.; Anderson's History of the Family of Fraser; Lord Saltoun's Frasers of Philorth (1879).]

H. P.