Do you remember Hector Fraserius?

During our online talk with Stuart MacKellar last week this conversation arose in the comments:

Carol : There was a bust on the windowsill of our English classroom … does it still exist and who was he?

Dave : Was that bust not called “Hector”?

Monica : That was Hector!

William : Hector Fraserius!!

Marilyn : Hector Fraserius!!

Carol : Rings a bell, we took him for granted. 

We’ve found out more about the bust of Hector Fraser on the Am Baile website. For 22 years Hector was master (later called Rector) of Inverness Grammar School, the school which preceded Inverness Royal Academy until 1792. A bust, sculpted by Richard Westmacott (who was also responsible for some of the carving on Marble Arch in London), was put up in the Hall of the original Academy building in 1812 on Academy Street. It then moved to the Midmills site in 1985 and is now on display in the Inverness Royal Academy school library at the new Culduthel building.

Image courtesy of Am Baile (photo credit: Ewen Weatherspoon)

Fraser was a native of Inverness, but had been a bursar, both for arts and for divinity, at King’s College, Aberdeen. He graduated in 1732 probably at about age 18 or 19, as was common in those days, and then became the master of an Academy at Bethnal Green, now part of the east end of London. He would have been in his forties when, in 1755, he came back to Inverness, having been selected by the Magistrates as master of Inverness Grammar School, teaching primarily Latin and perhaps Greek. The magistrates gave him £15 for transporting himself and his family from London.

He clearly saw the way forward for the Grammar School as part of an Academy, where the various subjects being taught were brought under the control of one person – the Rector. Consequently he petitioned the Town Council to introduce a scheme presumably similar to the arrangement at Bethnal Green, and was beginning to take hold through England and in some parts of Scotland.

After consideration, the Council decided to proceed with his plan and ordered the salary agreed for the teacher of mathematics, and money for the rent of a suitable school house, to be paid to Fraser. Within a year the Council also gave him, his family and his servants, free crossing of the old stone toll bridge over the River Ness.

Nothing else is heard of Fraser until April 1777, when he must have been approaching 65 years of age. This silence in the Town Council minutes presumably indicates that the Council had no cause to complain, and probably were very satisfied with his service. In that year the Provost reported that there was reason to believe that Mr Hector Fraser, Rector of the Grammar School [the first recorded use of the term ‘Rector’ in connection with the school], would willingly demit office in order to pass the remainder of his life in ease and retirement. In consideration of his having served the community for many years with fidelity and reputation they judged it a part of their duty to testify their sense of his service by bestowing an annuity of twenty pounds sterling on him, which they accordingly promised him. He accepted the offer and retired as from 30 April 1777. He died in 1786.

Fraser is buried in the Chapel Yard in Inverness, and he was held in such high regard by many of his pupils that for many years there was a dinner held in his memory by his former pupils. The first such event which has been traced was in September 1792. By 1811 his reputation was such that a marble bust of him was ordered.

The Latin inscription on the plinth translates as follows:
“Hector Fraser
A man truly great
if greatness is indicated by a sense of duty, loyalty, the highest learning,
and remarkable love for one’s fellow citizens.
Born at Inverness,
he grew to old age as a teacher of this school.
With what enthusiasm, devotion, and success, he pursued this calling,
the many young people, who imbibed his teaching, are witnesses.
To his memory, as deserved by his excellent qualities,
his pupils arranged to have set up
this portrait of an outstanding teacher
in the Year of our Lord 1812.
When will they find his equal?”

Research found on the Am Baile website.

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Our heritage programme is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund

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