Obituary: Tessa Fortune-Fraser, Philanthropist and businesswoman

Tessa Fortune-Fraser
Tessa Fortune-Fraser
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Born: 7 January, 1934 in Anderston, Glasgow. Died: 21 March, 2013, in Glasgow, aged 79

TESSA Fortune-Fraser greatly assisted her husband, John Fortune-Fraser, in the expansion of his Glasgow-based business Tube Developments, helping it to become an internationally respected company supplying customer’s worldwide. But Fortune-Fraser also devoted much of her time and energies to helping others – especially through her work with the Variety Club of Scotland.

For more than 20 years, she worked tirelessly with her husband to help the young, the handicapped and those in need. The couple helped to organise many hugely enjoyable events, including special outings and visits at Christmas. Fortune-Fraser was active in many other charities in Scotland, although she preferred that much of her work remained anonymous.

Tessa Fortune-Fraser (nee McAulay) was brought up in somewhat straightened circumstances. Her mother was a cook at Glasgow University. Fortune- Fraser attended Garnethill School and from her youth was a devout Catholic – it remained a hugely influential part of her life.

In 1953, she married John Fortune-Fraser, who had founded the Kilsyth-based Tube Developments. In the late 1980s, the company supplied tube products to the fast-expanding oil industry and its turnover rose to in excess of £30 million.

Fortune-Fraser, who began his working life as an apprentice at Clydeside Shipbuilders, expanded the company through shrewd management and it became one of the world’s largest private steel stockholders. It was a success in which he graciously included his wife. Family was important to both. Their strong sense of family values crossed over from home to their business throughout their lives together.

The charity work she did in the West of Scotland was undertaken quietly and tactfully – her work for the Variety Club of Scotland was unceasing. Her devoted service was recognised when Fortune-Fraser served for 20 years on the principal fundraising committee and was then appointed the first female chairman of the Variety Club of Great Britain in Scotland.

The charity helps disadvantaged or handicapped children in many practical ways and Fortune-Fraser supported such events as the days-out supervised by the Variety Sunshine Coaches, which ensures appropriate assistance is available for the less mobile. Fortune-Fraser’s zeal and commitment also proved invaluable at fundraising events. She was a popular member of the Variety Club’s dedicated workers and it was fitting that recently she had a Sunshine Coach named after her.

Last year, her husband was made an MBE for his services to the business community and his extensive charity work. He said when the announcement was made: “I had second thoughts about accepting my MBE because I’m modest, but my wife insisted. Buckingham Palace is so magnificent. I’ve seen it from the outside, but when you are actually inside, it is absolutely fantastic.”

Many friends considered it appropriate that her death announcement included the sentence: “Tessa was a charismatic, energetic and super glamorous lady, a valued and respected friend and devoted to her husband.”

One friend added: “Tessa was a little fire-ball of energy with a generous and kindly nature. She was blessed with a warm and joyful personality and her absence will be felt at many charities in Scotland.”

It was that welcoming personality that made Fortune-Fraser such an ideal companion and supervisor on many of the club’s outings. She not only put everyone at their ease and helped to make the day relaxed and special but she also had the ability to keep in touch with those who went on the trips.

The couple’s pride in their Scottish heritage was further evidenced when the Fortune-Frasers invested in Billi Productions, based in Glasgow, that was set up to make Scottish animated feature films. Its first film, Sir Billi, featured Sir Sean Connery voicing the title role, with Alan Cumming as Gordon the Goat.

Tessa Fortune-Fraser is survived by her husband, her five children, 15 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.