Ray Fraser ONB nomination

Posted on November 26, 2020
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March 29, 2012

The Order of New Brunswick Advisory Council
Intergovernmental Affairs
Office of Protocol
670 King Street, Room 174
P.O. Box 6000
Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1

Re. Raymond Fraser nomination for the Order of New Brunswick

Dear Advisory Council members:

It has been my pleasure to know Ray Fraser since 1976. I think his contribution to and involvement in the New Brunswick arts community over that time and before make him a highly qualified candidate for the Order of New Brunswick.
In his books, Ray captured the characters of the Miramichi I came to know more clearly and accurately than anyone else.
It is difficult for a journeyman wordsmith and scribe like myself to explain but it is important that I try to help you appreciate what Ray accomplished. There are elements of the Miramichi character combined in ways I had never seen elsewhere, before or since.
Wicked wit is part of it. Hot temper and violence are two more. Amazing generosity and a talent for care giving are two more. Speaking one’s mind vehemently is another along with the expectation that you will too. Miramichiers may dislike what you say but they expect you to have an opinion and do not respect you if you do not express it.
Ray captured all this and one more, perhaps most defining, Miramichi characteristic of which he is just about the most dramatic example I have met. His characters are as amused as distraught by the consequences of their actions and flaws. They are more inclined to laugh at themselves than whine and blame others.
I don’t think anyone really got all that down as clearly and consistently as Ray Fraser. The closest comparison I can think of occurs in Alden Nowlan’s “The Unhappy People,” the message of which totally belies the title.
The honesty of his writing cuts much closer to home than that of anyone else I can think of.
Ray was, of course, one of the key members of the gang of New Brunswick literary rascals responsible for so much irreverence, fun and imaginative activity in New Brunswick in the 1960s and 1970s. He was a member of the promotion of Jim Stewart as the proper king of England as the heir to the Stewart line. Begun as a game to attract the attention of young women to the shy Jim, the scheme became a world-wide media story.
He was an active member of Leo Ferrari’s “Flat Earth Society,” another game which challenged conventional wisdom and again generated international media buzz.
In addition to his novels and creative social activities, Ray has also written biographies which are and long will be significant records of Miramichiers of our time.
Of these, his biography of “The Fighting Fisherman,” Yvon Durelle is a treasure. When Yvon was on trial for the shooting death of Albin Poirier and being defended by the young Miramichi stars of the New Brunswick bar, Dennis Lordon and Frank McKenna, my Miramichi Leader could not spare a staff member to spend weeks in court. Ray’s then wife, Sharon, was editor of the paper at the time and we were able to get Ray to cover the case.
His understanding of the Miramichi and Miramichiers, his intelligence and his writing skills led to brilliant coverage of the case and provided him with important knowledge when he eventually wrote the biography.
His biography of Todd Matchett, one of the men who, with Allan Legere, was convicted of the murder of Black River Bridge storekeeper, John Glendenning, deals with the dark side of the Miramichi. One year, I calculated that the per capita murder rate in our county exceeded that of the city of Detroit.
Ray’s biography, “Todd Matchett, Confessions of a Young Criminal,” describes the process that set Matchett on his path in the lurid detail necessary to make more normal readers understand. It not only explains Matchett but also the side of Miramichi society at that time that made him and others like him not only possible but inevitable. It is not a story unique to Miramichi but it was certainly common there and a useful piece of the long and vivid historical record of the fabled region.
Others than myself will be more useful sources of information regarding his athletic abilities and contributions to the Miramichi and New Brunswick.
Among his many accomplishments that have made a big impression on me is his now three-decades-long success combatting alcoholism.
In conclusion, to me, Ray Fraser’s work represents brilliant portrayal of his region, startling honesty, wit, and compassion.
His personal life helped create and celebrate what I remember as the most colourful and joyful New Brunswick literary era.
His reportage in his biographies give us a lasting, accurate record of ground-level life in his region in his time.
His time and the future, in Miramichi and New Brunswick, would be much poorer without his work.
We should recognize his valuable contribution with inclusion in the Order of New Brunswick.
David Cadogan


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