Hamish Fraser

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Hamish Fraser (16 August 1913 – 17 October 1986)[1] was a Scottish communist who fought with the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. He gradually became disillusioned with the Communist Party of Great Britain and resigned in 1945. Fraser was received into the Catholic Church in 1948, and became a Catholic anti-communist journalist and campaigner, founding and editing the traditionalist Catholic periodical Approaches.

Early life and communist activities[edit]

Fraser was born into a Presbyterian family in Inverness. He moved to Berwickshire with his family as a child. In 1931, he entered the University of Edinburgh to study Technical Chemistry. He also became a member of the Young Communist League[1] He joined the International Brigades on the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, and was the only British member of the International Brigades to serve as an officer with the Servicio de Información Militar, the secret service of the Spanish Republican Armed Forces. Following the end of the conflict, he returned to Scotland and became a Communist Party of Great Britain group leader at the John Brown & Company Engine and Boiler Works at Clydebank. He authored a successful pamphlet defending the party's position on the Second World War, The Intelligent Socialist's Guide to World War II, and was subsequently appointed Scottish Propaganda Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain. He became increasingly unhappy with the party in the mid-1940s, leaving the party in 1945.[2]

Conversion to Catholicism[edit]

Following his resignation, Fraser enrolled in Jordanhill College of Education, becoming a primary school teacher in Ayrshire after his graduation. During his time at Jordanhill, he received religious instruction from a Jesuit priest and converted to Catholicism in 1948. He abandoned Marxism and became an outspoken anti-communist, campaigning against the Communist Party of Great Britain MP Willie Gallacher in the West Fife constituency in the 1950 UK general election. Gallacher later attributed the loss of his seat in the election to the opposition of Fraser and other Catholic anti-communists.[2] Fraser helped to introduce the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fátima, an international lay Catholic and anti-communist organisation, to Scotland.[3]

In marked contrast to his earlier membership of the International Brigades, Fraser supported the reintegration of Francisco Franco's Spain into the international community in the post-Second World War period. He applauded 'the heroic stand of General Franco against Soviet barbarism' in a speech in Dublin in the early 1950s.[4] He argued that the political repression of the Servicio de Información Militar during the Spanish Civil War presaged state repression in the Eastern Bloc during the early Cold War.[5] In 1954, Fraser published Fatal Star, an account of his journey from communism to Catholicism.[6] In 1956, he led protests in opposition to a visit to Britain by the Soviet statesmen Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin.[7]

Later life and death[edit]

Fraser was critical of the liberalising reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and of the contemporaneous emergence of liberation theology in Latin America.[8] In 1965, he left his teaching position to devote himself full-time to his periodical Approaches. The publication reflected Fraser's traditionalist Catholic views and his uneasiness about the changes within the Catholic Church in the 1960s.[9]

In the 1970s, Fraser served as a Scottish Conservative councillor in the town of Saltcoats, Ayrshire.[10] He died on 17 October 1986 and was survived by his wife, Kathleen, and his seven children.[8] His son Anthony Fraser edited the Catholic magazine Apropos, a successor of Approaches, until his death in 2014.[11]


  • The Intelligent Socialist's Guide to World War II (1943)
  • The Truth about Spain (1949)
  • Spain and the West (1952)
  • Fatal Star (1954)
  • Civil rights, yes! : civil war, no! (1971)
  • Ireland 1971 : is civil war inevitable? (1971)
  • Saltcoats: anatomy of a socialist 'rotten borough' (1971)
  • Freemasonry and the Church: are they compatible? (1973)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 'Edinburgh University Students in Spain', Archives @ University of Edinburgh. http://libraryblogs.is.ed.ac.uk/edinburghuniversityarchives/2016/12/, December 2016. Accessed 31 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b Tom Gallagher (1987),Glasgow, the Uneasy Peace: Religious Tension in Modern Scotland, 1819-1914, p. 230
  3. ^ Bernard Aspinwall, 'The Transatlantic Catholic Conservatism of Colm Brogan', Innes Review, 53:2 (2002), p. 214.[1]
  4. ^ Andrée Sheehy-Skeffington (1991),Skeff: The Life of Owen Sheehy-Skeffington, 1909-1970, pp. 153-154.
  5. ^ Rob Stradling, 'English-speaking Units of the International Brigades: War, Politics and Discipline', Journal of Contemporary History, October 2010, Vol.45(4), p. 765.[2]
  6. ^ Hamish Fraser (1954), Fatal Star.
  7. ^ Tom Buchanan (1987),Britain and the Spanish Civil War, pp. 197-198.
  8. ^ a b Obituary, The Times, 29 October 1986.
  9. ^ Interview with Hamish Fraser, Irish Independent, 9 December 1973.
  10. ^ Daniel Gray (2009), Homage to Caledonia: Scotland and the Spanish Civil War, p. 83.
  11. ^ 'Anthony Fraser RIP', Catholicism.org. https://catholicism.org/anthony-fraser-rip.html, 28 August 2014. Accessed 31 December 2018.