Joseph Fraser – a legacy lives on:
Joseph Fraser was born in a farmhouse in Aberdeen, Scotland, on 20th September 1852. He was among the more fortunate of nine babies to survive and live a full life in the Fraser family of fourteen children.
In 1871, as a young man of just 19 years, Joseph Fraser sailed to Colombo to begin a life and career as a planter in Ceylon’s tea and rubber plantations.
Little did he realise as he set foot on the unfamiliar shores of Colombo, that his memory as a distinguished planter in Ceylon would be immortalized, leaving a legacy which to this day, a century later, provides premium care for women, children and babies in a state-of-the-art hospital.
The Joseph Fraser Memorial Hospital is a loving tribute and salutation, to celebrate Joseph Fraser’s contribution to our country and society by his beloved wife, Chrissie Watson. |
Chrissie Watson, a girl also from Aberdeen married Joseph in 1875, at St. Andrew’s Church in Haputale, and made a home with him in Ceylon. They were parents to five children – Julia, James, Christine, Fred and Josephine.
During his career as a planter in Ceylon, Joseph Fraser worked mainly in the East Matale area, at their tea plantation Pitakanda, where he distinguished himself as a member of a pioneering team which revolutionized yields with the introduction of chemical fertilizer for tea and rubber crops. He was awarded a gold medal in London by the Rubber Growers’ Association in recognition for his valuable services to the plantation industry.
Joseph Fraser passed away in 1914 at the age of 62, leaving behind sorrowful Chrissie whose fervent wish and dream was to establish a hospital in memory of her beloved husband.
Her initial intention of funding a new wing at the Colombo General Hospital, now the National Hospital, did not materialize and Mrs. Fraser eventually established a nonprofit private hospital, mainly catering to the European planters’ community. While Mrs. Fraser worked with the Planters’ Association in Kandy for her project, Dr. Percy Chissel, took the project ahead with assistance from the then Colonial Secretary. Finally, after an arduous search for a suitable location, the ideal location was discovered; a 31/2 acres of sprawling gardens and wooded trees, in one of the most secluded areas of Colombo. While the property was leased to build a nursing home in 1920, the Planters’ Association appointed a subcommittee to monitor the progress of the project.
Three years later, in 1923, the hospital was founded by the Joseph Fraser Memorial Trust, as a non-profit hospital. That same year in August, the Governor of Ceylon, Sir William Manning, declared open the Joseph Fraser Memorial Hospital.
And as love’s labour came to fruition, the legacy of Joseph Fraser lives on, nearly a century later in a sanctuary which abounds with fountains of happiness and love as new life begins and the unity of family life is celebrated.
More than half a century later, post-independence in 1978, the hospital came under the care of a board of trustees, who leased the land from the government. The two decades from 1980 – 2000 is yet known as the golden era of the Joseph Fraser Memorial Hospital, which catered to a niche market in Colombo including foreigners, expatriates and the diplomatic corps, as a premium mother and child care hospital. With a change of hands in management, the hospital went through a major upgrade in 2009, with the expansion of an entirely new wing and an upgrade in technology.
Management shifts to Melsta Health (Pvt) Ltd.
The dawn of another Golden Era
Ten years later in 2019, one of Sri Lanka’s top ten conglomerates, Melstacorp PLC took JFMH under its wing. Now the Joseph Fraser Memorial Hospital, managed by it’s subsidiary, Melsta Health (Pvt) Ltd., went through its most recent upgrade, placing the hospital on par with a world class facility and adorning its colonial style façade and spacious interiors with a soothing, yet eye-catching face lift, complimented by nature. The hospital is nestled within a sprawling expanse of beautifully landscaped gardens, a nesting place for many species of birds and birth of new life.