Papers of Olive Fraser

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This small collection of papers was accumulated by Helena Mennie Shire through the work which she undertook in publishing The Pure Account and The Wrong Music. It is believed to contain a comprehensive collection of the extant, known, literary works of Olive Fraser, and is complemented with a small volume of personal papers, photographs, correspondence, and associated papers regarding the publishing of The Pure Account and The Wrong Music.

The collection has not been fully listed, but has been loosely arranged and is available for research. Two boxes contain poetry and prose (manuscript and typescript), written by Olive Fraser in the period dating from the late 1920s until shortly before her death in 1977. These papers have been arranged into 13 files of poetry, 1920s - 1970s (mostly from 1950s onwards) and 1 file of prose, some of which is autobiographical or semi-autobiographical in nature, 1950s - 1970s and n.d.. They are accompanied by a series of card index files and a supplementary index. A third box contains correspondence, loosely sorted into the following series: correspondence between Olive Fraser and Elma R. Mennie, 1965 - 1977, sister of Helena Mennie Shire, and student contemporary of Olive Fraser (1 file); mixed correspondence, 1950s - 1970s, including letters from the Arts Council of Great Britain and the University of Aberdeen re. literary awards, and letters from Olive Fraser to her mother re. family affairs (1 file); correspondence to and from Helena Mennie Shire, re. the publication of Olive Fraser's works, 1979 - 1981 (4 files).

The remaining boxes are largely unsorted, but comprise 1 box of family photographs and other papers, n.d.; 1 box miscellaneous printed papers of and relating to Olive Fraser, including notes made by Helena Mennie Shire, n.d.; and 1 box miscellaneous papers, comprising photographs, letters, poems and prose loaned by Helena Mennie Shire to various museums for exhibition, n.d.

Administrative / Biographical History

Olive Fraser Olive Fraser was born in Torry, Aberdeen, on 20 Jan 1909, the daughter of Roderick and Elizabeth Fraser. Her parents emigrated to Australia when she was still an infant and she was brought up in Nairn, by her great-aunt, Ann Maria Jeans, who owned a lodging house in the town. She was educated in Nairn and at Aberdeen University, from where she graduated MA with honours in English in 1931. After graduation, she received a Scottish University scholarship to continue her studies in Cambridge, but chose to return to Nairn for 2 years, before taking up her place at Girton College, Cambridge in 1933. During her time there she began to display the first signs of mental illness which afflicted her for the remainder of her life, jeopardising her success at the college and affecting her ability subsequently to gain and hold down steady employment. During her time at Aberdeen she had already gained a strong reputation and won several awards for her poetry, and, despite other difficulties, at Cambridge she became the first woman to receive the Chancellor's Medal for English Verse, in Spring 1935. Her later life was characterised by many short periods of employment, including war service, and intermittent periods spent in hospitals in England and Scotland. She continued to write throughout her life, awarded with occasional publication and upwards of 20 literary prizes or medals, but most of her work remained unpublished and largely unknown until after her death, in Aberdeen, on 9 Dec 1977. A fuller account of her life is given in The Wrong Music: The Poems of Olive Fraser (1909 - 1977), ed. by Helena M. Shire (Edinburgh: Canongate, 1989).

Helena Mennie Shire Helena Mary Mennie was born in Aberdeen on 21 June 1912. She was educated at the Aberdeen High School for Girls, gaining the Dux medal in 1929, and at the University of Aberdeen, graduating with First Class Honours in English Literature and Language in 1933. After taking a First in Part II of the English Tripos in 1935 at Newnham College, Cambridge, she continued her studies there over the next two years, undertaking a special study of broadside ballads of the seventeenth century, focusing particularly on the Bedlam Ballads. In 1936 she married Edward Shire, a physicist and Fellow of King's College, and settled in Cambridge, where they had three children. She taught at Cambridge and London, and has written and published many books, primarily on the music and early poetry of Scotland. She died on 16 Nov 1991.

Over the final decade of her life, Helena Mennie Shire undertook a major project as a memorial to Olive Fraser (1909 - 1977), a friend of Aberdeen and Newnham days. As a result of her work a short volume of Olive Fraser's poems was published in 1981 by Aberdeen University Press as The Pure Account, followed by a second larger volume, The Wrong Music (Edinburgh: Canongate, 1989). For further details about the life and career of Helena Mennie Shire see GB 231 MS 3407.

Arrangement

Papers arranged loosely in series as described above - listing in process.

Conditions Governing Access

Open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet

Acquisition Information

Gifted to the University in Jan 1990 by Helena Mennie Shire

Other Finding Aids

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/library/

Alternative Form Available

No copies known

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to the condition of the original, copies may be supplied for private research use only on receipt of a signed undertaking to comply with current copyright legislation.

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: speclib@abdn.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with normal procedures

Custodial History

The papers contained in this collection were gathered by Helena Mennie Shire from a number of sources, chiefly Olive Fraser's family and friends, amongst whom they had become dispersed. Further details regarding provenance available upon request.

Accruals

No accruals expected

Related Material

Papers regarding Roderick Fraser, father of Olive Fraser (GB 231 MS 3601) Papers regarding Roderick Fraser, father of Olive Fraser (GB 231 MS 3601) Papers of Helena Mennie Shire (1912 - 1991) (GB 231 MS 3407) Papers of Helena Mennie Shire (1912 - 1991) (GB 231 MS 3407) Papers of Elma R. Mennie (MA, Aberdeen University, 1938), mainly lecture notes and related papers (GB 231 MS 3335). Elma R. Mennie was a sister of Helena Mennie Shire, and friend of Olive Fraser. Correspondence between Elma R. Shire and Olive Fraser is contained within GB 231 MS3336. Papers of Elma R. Mennie (MA, Aberdeen University, 1938), mainly lecture notes and related papers (GB 231 MS 3335). Elma R. Mennie was a sister of Helena Mennie Shire, and friend of Olive Fraser. Correspondence between Elma R. Shire and Olive Fraser is contained within GB 231 MS3336. Blooms and Blossoms of the Reigns of Elizabeth, James, Charles Ist&IInd: anthology of verse (GB 231 MS 3333). Photostats deposited by Elma R. Mennie - original records in Edinburgh University Library Pinkerton MS: anthology of verse from the library of John Pinkerton (1758-1826) (GB 231 MS 3334). Photostats deposited by Elma R. Mennie - original records in Edinburgh University Library

Bibliography

The Pure Account, ed. by Helena Mennie Shire (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1981) The Pure Account, ed. by Helena Mennie Shire (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1981) The Wrong Music, ed. by Helena Mennie Shire (Edinburgh: Canongate, 1989)

Additional Information

This material is original