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Donald Lovat Fraser (1875–1962)

by Lorna L. McDonald

This article was published:

Donald Lovat Fraser (1875-1962), mining entrepreneur, was born on 8 August 1875 at St Giles, London, second child and eldest son of William Fraser, tanner, and his wife Annie, née Grieve, both Scottish born. Harold was his younger brother. The family emigrated to Queensland in the Highflier in 1878. William established a fellmongering business at Rockhampton in 1879 and later speculated in mining ventures. Educated locally, at an early age Donald became interested in gold-mining. In 1898 he joined the rush to the Yukon Territory, Canada, encountering the hardships of that 'perpetual land of snow and ice'. He trekked through a pass on the Alaskan border where some hundred adventurers had been swallowed up in a single snowslide, pegged his claims, and tried to persuade his father to form a company, raise £500 and share in 'the greatest boom . . . that the world has ever seen'. Within three years the odds had turned against the miners. While Fraser failed to make a fortune and lost his quartz-mine to a claim jumper, he gained valuable experience during his years in the Yukon.

He returned to Rockhampton in 1903, his fascination with mining unabated. In subsequent prospecting throughout Central Queensland he added coal to his interests. Although the mighty Bowen Basin coalfields had been lightly tapped in the 1890s, lack of markets had stifled development. In 1911 Fraser applied for leases in the Blackwater area, but his Mammoth Mine syndicate exhausted its small capital within a year in sending 300 tons of coal to be tested by the British Admiralty: despite a favourable assessment, no orders were placed. The Mount Morgan Gold Mining Co. Ltd took an option on the lease in 1912, then relinquished it and turned to Baralaba.

Giving his occupation as assayer and metallurgist, Fraser enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 28 November 1914 and was posted to the 5th Light Horse Regiment. He embarked for Egypt next month and served at Gallipoli from May until July 1915 when he was evacuated to England with enteric fever. In November 1916 he was transferred to the 42nd Battalion and sent to the Western Front. Commissioned in January 1917, he was seconded in October as intelligence officer, 11th Brigade headquarters. On 21 April 1918 he witnessed the action in which the German air-ace, Baron von Richthofen, was shot down. Fraser was given leave in England from March to September 1919 to study the manufacture of cement. His A.I.F. appointment terminated in Australia on 13 December.

In 1921 he sold his Mammoth Mine lease and next year established the Rangal Mine at Blackwater which was to produce 110,000 tons of coal by 1934. Still attracted to gold, in 1933 Donald and his brother Harold began to sink shafts at Crocodile Creek, near Rockhampton, and in the following year were instrumental in floating the Crocodile Creek Dredging Co. in Melbourne. Over four years they recovered 2352 ounces (73 kg) of gold. Donald bought the dredge in 1938 and, operating as Resarf Gold Dredging Co., salvaged another 1408 ounces (44 kg) by 1944 when mining ceased. A member of the Rockhampton Stock Exchange, he had sold all his coal interests, including the Excell Colliery at Bluff, by 1941.

Six ft (183 cm) tall, blue eyed, good looking, but modest, Fraser was reputed one of the most adventurous men ever raised in Rockhampton. A member (from 1910) of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, he attended the sixth Commonwealth Mining and Metallurgical Congress, held in Canada in 1957, and was welcomed back at the Klondike as one of its earliest prospectors. Fraser's success as an entrepreneur was confirmed by his generous and often anonymous donations to numerous Queensland and Rockhampton charities, churches and schools. At Scots Church, Melbourne, on 10 February 1931 he had married 38-year-old Cora Armstrong Macleod; she died in childbirth the following year. Fraser died on 19 October 1962 at Rockhampton and was buried with Presbyterian rites in the local cemetery. He had recognized and drawn attention to the resources of the Bowen Basin coalbeds long before foreign investment made them a major national asset.

Select Bibliography

  • Notable Men of Queensland, 1950
  • L. McDonald, Rockhampton (Brisb, 1981)
  • Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 20, 22, 25 Oct 1962
  • J. G. 'Battler' Pattison newsclippings, series 5, no 37, series 7, no 21 and 'Breaking up Gold Dredging', no date, newsclipping (Rockhampton and District Historical Society collection)
  • Fraser/Macaree papers (Rockhampton Municipal Library)
  • R. S. Archer papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Lorna L. McDonald, 'Fraser, Donald Lovat (1875–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 16 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


8 August, 1875
London, Middlesex, England


19 October, 1962 (aged 87)
Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia

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