Former PM Malcolm Fraser and former editor of The Age Ranald Macdonald step back in time

FORMER Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and former editor of The Age Ranald Macdonald took on the roles of their Scottish ancestors in a one-off reading at the official launch of the exhibition For Auld Lang Syne at the Art Gallery of Ballarat last night.

Portraits of both Mr Fraser’s grandfather, senator Sir Simon Fraser, and Mr Macdonald’s great grandfather, newspaper proprietor David Syme, hang in the exhibition. 

The pair were friends, until a political disagreement communicated through letters.

Mr Fraser and Mr Macdonald read out the letters, playing the parts of their ancestors. 

It begins with a letter from Mr Syme to ‘My dear Simon’ about his concern for free trade and protection, with the paper supporting protection.

The letters digress from “my dear”, to “dear”, to “dear surname” eventuating to where they were just addressing the other by surname. 

It finishes with Mr Syme writing “Your name will never again appear in the correspondence column of the Melbourne Age”, with Sir Simon’s reply: “You are wrong. Read the half page advertisement I have taken out on the front page of the Melbourne Age for tomorrow morning’s issue.” 

Mr Macdonald said they had never done anything like it before. 

Mr Fraser’s grandfather’s portrait belongs to a private holder in Queensland, now available for public viewing for the first time in the exhibition in more than 100 years. 

“The portraits have never been together before,” Mr Fraser said.