When the name Fraser is mentioned in Singapore, most people ask ‘you mean Fraser & Neave?’ In this case the answer is ‘No’.
The author’s rigorous historical research and superb narrative skills bring to life the fascinating story of the relatively unknown pioneer, Lewis J. Fraser. Born in Singapore in 1841, Fraser became a well-known and popular businessman there. But fickle markets and financial difficulties in the early 1880s resulted in a high-profile court case which brought his commercial downfall. Fraser was sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment.
On release he left Singapore for Pahang. There, based in the tiny mountain-side village of Tras, he developed a lucrative tin mining business, overcoming the many challenges which faced him. Fraser later moved his operations up to what became known as Bukit Fraser, working the steep gullies until his retirement in 1900. With diminishing yields, the hill was abandoned until 1919, when it was decided to create a new hill resort.
This is the story of ‘old white beard’, after whom Fraser’s Hill takes its name.
Richard E. Hale retired from a long career in international banking in 1995. Remaining in Singapore, he then added research into Singapore and Malaya’s mercantile history in the 19th century to his existing interests of ornithology and philately. In 2016 he published The Balestiers: the first American Residents of Singapore and is preparing further articles and books on similar subjects.