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TITLE
John Fraser, Inverness silversmith (6 of 39)
EXTERNAL ID
GB1796_SINCLAIR_SILVERSMITH_06
PLACENAME
Inverness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona
PERIOD
1970s
CREATOR
John Fraser
SOURCE
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
ASSET ID
2223
KEYWORDS
jewellery
jewelry
craftsman
craftsmen
metalwork
silversmiths
audio

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John Fraser, an Inverness silversmith, served his apprenticeship in the 1930s with Medlock and Craik, watchmakers and jewellers at 6 Bridge Street, Inverness. The firm later had premises in Exchange Place, and Queensgate.

In this audio extract from the 1970s, Mr Fraser reflects on his time as an apprentice. The photograph, courtesy of Inverness Museum & Art Gallery (IMAG), is of one of John Fraser's silver pieces - a Clan Fraser badge with the motto, 'Je Suis Prest' (I Am Ready).

'You were treated as an apprentice for a long period of time - your apprenticeship was seven and a half years. Even after you had really started doing good work and that, you know, people would look at you, as much to say, 'Well, he's only an apprentice so, there's a job for so and so, and just take it back, and don't be long.' And you were treated all the way through.

And then, even when I became a journeyman, you had to go through a period of improvement which meant that, for instance, if you had -, you weren't allowed to do a job fully on your own. You were led through the job. Each stage was laid out for you and you were briefed on it, and then you were told perhaps, you know, 'You can do the job all right, but remember watch this, and watch that, and watch the next thing and see that you do a proper job of it, 'cos, I mean, we can't have you working in gold or silver like that and making a mess of it, you know, it's expensive stuff. So, I mean, just watch your step, and do the best you can, and keep us informed at each way you're-, each step you're doing, so that we can advise you.'

Even when you had developed a skill, then you becam-, you came up against the petty jealousy. You had people much more experienced than yourself, people whom you looked up to, and who you looked at with awe, in a sense, and these people, at the same time, had that wee bit of jealousy when they seen that your work was actually reaching a certain peak. It was getting close to themselves and they didn't want that. So, when it came to that point, they discouraged you then, they held you back, in other words.

You could do the job, and you could be left in charge of it, and you could accomplish the work that was placed out in front of you, but you were never allowed to do that. You were always treated as if you weren't capable of doing the whole thing like the boss was. You would do so much of it and he would do the rest.

The only time that you really, in a sense, had a bit of a laugh to yourself - which was very seldom - was when you did a job where there was so many pieces to be done. and they all had to be done with the same initials with the same crest. And then when they went all back to himself he couldn't tell which was his and which was yours 'cos he went away perhaps downstairs or disappeared and when he came back he says, 'Well, we better polish them up' and then he would sort of stop, and he'd look at it, and he'd be waiting for you to say, 'Well, this is mine, and that's yours' and it wasn't my place so you would keep quiet. And then he would sort of cough and he'd say 'Well, you'd better just take the whole lot down and get them done'. And you knew then that he was a wee bit mesmerised, he wasn't sure'

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John Fraser, Inverness silversmith (6 of 39)

INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona

1970s

jewellery; jewelry; craftsman; craftsmen; metalwork; silversmiths; audio

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Bill Sinclair Audio: John Fraser, Silversmith

John Fraser, an Inverness silversmith, served his apprenticeship in the 1930s with Medlock and Craik, watchmakers and jewellers at 6 Bridge Street, Inverness. The firm later had premises in Exchange Place, and Queensgate. <br /> <br /> In this audio extract from the 1970s, Mr Fraser reflects on his time as an apprentice. The photograph, courtesy of Inverness Museum & Art Gallery (IMAG), is of one of John Fraser's silver pieces - a Clan Fraser badge with the motto, 'Je Suis Prest' (I Am Ready).<br /> <br /> 'You were treated as an apprentice for a long period of time - your apprenticeship was seven and a half years. Even after you had really started doing good work and that, you know, people would look at you, as much to say, 'Well, he's only an apprentice so, there's a job for so and so, and just take it back, and don't be long.' And you were treated all the way through. <br /> <br /> And then, even when I became a journeyman, you had to go through a period of improvement which meant that, for instance, if you had -, you weren't allowed to do a job fully on your own. You were led through the job. Each stage was laid out for you and you were briefed on it, and then you were told perhaps, you know, 'You can do the job all right, but remember watch this, and watch that, and watch the next thing and see that you do a proper job of it, 'cos, I mean, we can't have you working in gold or silver like that and making a mess of it, you know, it's expensive stuff. So, I mean, just watch your step, and do the best you can, and keep us informed at each way you're-, each step you're doing, so that we can advise you.' <br /> <br /> Even when you had developed a skill, then you becam-, you came up against the petty jealousy. You had people much more experienced than yourself, people whom you looked up to, and who you looked at with awe, in a sense, and these people, at the same time, had that wee bit of jealousy when they seen that your work was actually reaching a certain peak. It was getting close to themselves and they didn't want that. So, when it came to that point, they discouraged you then, they held you back, in other words. <br /> <br /> You could do the job, and you could be left in charge of it, and you could accomplish the work that was placed out in front of you, but you were never allowed to do that. You were always treated as if you weren't capable of doing the whole thing like the boss was. You would do so much of it and he would do the rest. <br /> <br /> The only time that you really, in a sense, had a bit of a laugh to yourself - which was very seldom - was when you did a job where there was so many pieces to be done. and they all had to be done with the same initials with the same crest. And then when they went all back to himself he couldn't tell which was his and which was yours 'cos he went away perhaps downstairs or disappeared and when he came back he says, 'Well, we better polish them up' and then he would sort of stop, and he'd look at it, and he'd be waiting for you to say, 'Well, this is mine, and that's yours' and it wasn't my place so you would keep quiet. And then he would sort of cough and he'd say 'Well, you'd better just take the whole lot down and get them done'. And you knew then that he was a wee bit mesmerised, he wasn't sure'