Volume 1 Issue 6 September 1996

Tena Koutou e nga whanaunga o te whanau a Neke.

In this issue we discuss our forthcoming REUNION to be held in Bluff over Easter 1996. Alexander Fraser the 3rd child of the union between Jane Smith and Alexander Fraser and other news that we have gleaned from around the country.

Congratulations to Gordon and Dot Harding on their 40th Wedding Anniversay and bwe look forward to seeing them next Easter.

ALEXANDER (SANDY) FRASER was born in 1873 at Dipton, Southland and married MARY JANE NIVEN step daughter of John Kelly 1st citizen of Invercargill had four sons - Eric, Alexander (Ike), Robert Donald and Horace (Bay), died Jun 1953 at 77 Tweed St, Invercargill. Yep that's all the information I had about Alexander until I stumbled across a newspaper article my mother had tucked away which while not throwing much light on Alexander certainly did on some of his family. I understand that Alexander spent most of his time in the bush around Preservation Inlet and other remote parts of Southland and had a lifelong intrest in timber but let the article tell story.

THEIR RECORDS HAVE STOOD FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS

The standard of competition in the world of port today is so high that records are estblishd, broken and bettered all the time. But, wit hthe passing of 34years a world record timefor 20in crosscut sawing, set by the Fraser brothers of Southland New Zealand, at the Ulverstone axeman's carnival in Tasmania, has never been broken.

An unbroken New Zealand recoud time of 19 1/5s for two cuts of a 15in kamahi log, was set by the same brothers in Bluff on the eve of their departure for Tasmania.

These remarkable records were made in 1930 and the champions of that time remain the chamions of today.

With the takeover by power saws in bush work, the hand pulled crosscut saw is mostly discarded and at many axemen's sports meetings of the present day, this competition event does not appear on the progrmme, It is a dying art.

Alexander and Horace Fraser, better knowen perhaps as Ike and Bay, practically grew up among logs saws and axes, Their father, Sandy Fraser, was employed at sawmills in Southland all his life and was a skilled saw doctor. Both brothers took up bush work with milling companies, Ike at Tokanui and Bay at Progress Valley.

When he was 16 years old, Alex pulled a saw with his father at the Gorge Road sports, for Sandy Fraser was a well known bushcraft competitor in his younger days. In 1926, these two elder brothers of the Fraser family teamed up together with the crosscut saw, going from one success to another as they followed the bushcraft circuit. Their first big win was in the 18in double handed open championship at Tahakopa, in the Chaslands area, and following that winning pull, they became back markers with heavy handicaps.

The Fraser brothers often won an event after starting when the leaders were halfway thgout her their cut. Prizes piled up - gold medals for sawing, engraved silver cups and many other trophies. They were sawing at the Wellington Show in 1927 attended by the Duke and Duchess of York. The climax came when the brothers were chosen as members of the seven-man coach and trainer team of Southland axemen to e sponsored to attend the Ulverston Carnival in Tasmania. Though several New Zealand axemen travelled to this event, the Southland team was the only official team to go from here. 

It was at these games that the Fraser brothers received a dramatic message the night before the carnival. A cablegram came from invercargill to say that their father was seriously ill with pneumonia. "Do win at all costs" the message read. and win they did, in the astounding time of 16.4s for a 20in cut from a swamp gum log, the toughest wood they had yet met.

News of the great victory soon reached their homeland and it made all the differnce to the ailing Sandy Fraser, Within two weeks, he was up and about, happily receiving congratulations on behalf of his sons from hundreds of jubilant Southlanders.

For it was Sandy Fraser the father who took such pride in the saws his boys used, filing and setting them with meticulous care. They mostly used three M-tooth saws, the favourite one being especially made for them. It ws a 5ft 6in Simmmonds saw made in America. This saw was used in the world record breaking cut in Tasmania, It proved a trusty friend to the brothers for many years until at a meeting in Winton,  Southland an accident lost them the saw for ever.

When they were sawing in an event there, a bot of sloven to one side caugth a saw tooth, the saw buckled and suddenly became three pieces, the centre in the log cut and Ike and BAy each holding a piece. Sandy Fraser was most upset about this loss, for he had often made the boys use the older saws for the heats and keep his saw for the all-important final.

Vaying types of woods were encountered in different parts of New Zealand and Sandy filed the saws to suit the timber used. In the far south, kamahi blocks were used, while round Sout Canterbury it was silver poplar. In the North Island they met up with pukatea and kahikatea. The Fraser brothers had to have the carefully filed saws reset in Tasmania when they found they had to saw through the swamp gum wood.

Sandy Fraser lived for many of his later years with this son Ike at Tokanui. His daughter in law Edna recalls how he would be out in the yard with a file, a saw and a log. Then he would come to the kitche door and call: "Edna! What are you doing?" "I've got scones in the overn" Edna woudl call. "Well take them out and give us a pull with the saw". Edna would take a few minutes to go out and get on the end of the big crosscut. "No! It's not right yet" the old man would growl. "you can put the scones back in and I'll give it another go".

After their triumphant return from Tasmania, the Fraser brothers were in demand at shows and sports meetings throughout New Zealand. They travelled to the North Island again visiting the King Country circuit and the challenge, Fraser brothers versus Manson and Thomas from Gorge Road was a big draw card at the Dunedin Summer Show when Lord Bledisloe was present. Lord Bledisloe personally congratulated the brothers.

The challengers, Manson and Thomas, were keen to break the Fraser brothers record but the result was a draw both pairs winning a heat and in the final the judges had to declare a dead heat.

The Fraser brothers were with many good sawing pairs in their day, names remembered are Geoff Blank and Archie Chisholm  the McEwing brothers, the Wilson brothers, Smith and Smith , the Cook brothers, Hibbs and McCrae and the Johnstone brothers. Occasionally the sawyers would arrange a special challenge at a sports meeting. Once at Frasers Park Timaru, five pairs competed on the basis of 10 pounds in from each pair, winner take all. This was for three cuts on a 14in block, that is, three rounds were sawn off one after the other. Horace (Bay) Fraser was and exceptionally good axe man too, especially in the underhand chop, thought he was a competent performer in the standing chop as well.

In later years, Alex Fraser continued to take an active interest in bushcraft events even after Horace withdrew from the field. When he was 49 years old, Alex won the Southland 18in single-handed championship, which is regarded as one of the toughest of bushcraft events. The same day, Alex pulled with Jack Knight to win the double handed handicap.

Alex went on to several more wins at other meetings, pulling with Hal O'Brien and Jack Knight. In 1957 the brothers teame up again to win at 15in event at Quarry Hills. The spectators were thrilled to see the famous pair in action once again and it was a popular win. 

to be continued..........

Page last updated 3 Apr 2014