My great-great-great grandfather, Donald Cameron, was born in the Perthshire town of Little Dunkeld in about 1811, when King George III was in his fifty-first year of rule. His father was reported to be one John Cameron, a farmer, and his mother Ann McDonald - but the accuracy of these names is not certain.
In 1837, in the Parish of Caputh, Donald married Catherine Campbell. Catherine was apparently the daughter of a Sergeant in the 42nd Foot, and her mother's name was Barbara Stevenson. A family story tells that Catherine was born at the Battle of Waterloo, and while the census returns do indicate she was born around 1815, they also say she was born in France, a British Subject, and Waterloo was in the Netherlands at the time (now within the borders of modern-day Belgium). Donald and Catherine lived for nearly all their lives in and around the tiny parish of Clunie, where Donald was the Church Officer, and also farmed at Pitscally (colloquially known as ‘Scally’), somewhere near Craigton and Auld of Clunie.
For such a small place, Clunie has a fascinating history. A place of political and administrative importance at the time of the Pictish King Kenneth McAlpine, it also claimed the legend that Alexander the First's Queen Sybilla died and was buried there, as well as it being a resting place for the rampaging Edward the First. Were victims of the medieval Black Death entombed in stone on Castle Hill? Certainly a band of robbers once hid out on the man-made crannog in the loch, using it as a base from which to rob churchmen carrying money from Alyth to Dunkeld.
On 20th February 1839, Catherine gave birth to a daughter who they named Ann. Another daughter, Margaret, was born in 1841, and the 1840s saw more children - Charlotte, Alexander, William and Barbara. A son, born in 1852, was named after Donald himself, and another son, Robert (born in 1854) was named after the Minister of Clunie Parish Church where Donald was Church Officer - Robert Leishman. In April 1856 my great-great grandfather was born at Pitscally, Peter Cameron.
Robert Leishman, the Clunie Church Minister, was born in about 1800, and in 1844 - a year after becoming Minister at Clunie - he married his cousin, Elizabeth Gibb. The church was brand new then, having been built in 1843 after the previous church was destroyed by fire three years earlier. Robert Leishman presided over the weddings of two of Donald’s daughters - Ann (to Charles McGregor) and Barbara (to James Wilson). Robert died in 1871.
Charles McGregor was a farm servant and, during the 1880s, lived with Ann at Drumdewan, Kinloch - about 3 miles east of Clunie. By 1887 Donald and Catherine Cameron were living with the McGregors, and Donald died there on 21st November of that year from long term heart disease, aged 76. Two years later Catherine died suddenly from a heart attack at 2.30 in the morning, also at Drumdewan.
Second daughter Margaret had an interesting series of relationships ... in 1866 she had a daughter, Sarah, with a farm grieve named William Paterson. Another daughter, Henrietta Juliana Lorimer, was born in 1871 - the father remains unknown, but perhaps her middle names give a clue. By the early 1880s Margaret was living in Roxburghshire with a Yorkshireman, Thomas Featherstone - he died an alcoholic in 1889. By 1891 she was with another Englishman, Robert Ashmore. He died in 1904, and Margaret lived on until the grand old age of 82.
But what of the Cameron brothers, Alexander, William, Donald, Robert and Peter?
Alexander and Donald both joined the 72nd Highlanders and served in India, the Afghan War of 1878-80 and Egypt (1882). Alexander joined the 72nd Foot on the 15th August 1867 (his parents’ 30th wedding anniversary) when he was 21 years old, and his younger brother joined up just 3 weeks after his 18th birthday in 1870. During the Afghan War, in 1879, Donald was appointed as a piper in the regiment, and played his way into Kandahar after Lord Roberts' famous forced march from Kabul in August 1880.
Both brothers saw action at Charasiab, Kabul and Kandahar, and Donald was also present at the earlier battle of the Peiwar Kotal, while Alexander was garrisoned at Kohat. In Egypt they were at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, advancing on the enemy position south of the canal.
The 72nd returned to England in 1882 and were stationed on the Isle of Wight where Donald and Alexander both found wives. Alexander's marriage was to an 18 year old Elizabeth Dyer in January 1884, and barely a week later she gave birth to a son, Mark. Donald was a witness at the marriage, along with his future wife, Ann Topping (they were married 6 months later, and had their first daughter, Catherine, in March 1885).
After duties at Windsor, Aldershot and Edinburgh, the two Camerons were, by 1890, living in Glasgow where Alexander, without his wife, worked as a railway store man, and Donald variously as a furnaceman, night watchman, tramway conducter and railway timekeeper.
We can jump ahead in time a little here to see what became of Alexander's son, Mark William Cameron. In 1901 he was a Boy, 1st Class, aboard the battleship HMS San Pareil. The Great War saw Mark still in the navy, but now as a gunner on the ill-fated HMS Invincible, the world's first battlecrusier, which clashed with the mighty German fleet at Jutland in 1916 before being dramatically sunk with only six survivors (out of 1,032). In 1910 Mark had married his cousin (uncle Donald's daughter), Margaret. Donald also lost a son in the war, just over a month after Mark's death, when Peter Cameron was killed in action with the 8th Seaforth Highlanders at Hulluch in France.
Middle brother William did not opt for a military life abroad, but stayed as a farmer in Scotland. In 1870 he married an Angus girl, Jane Anderson from Newtyle (though her mother, Catherine Heggie, was English). He later became a coal merchant in Dundee, and his youngest son, Robert, a Lance Corporal in the Scots Guards, was killed in France on Boxing Day 1916. So three Cameron brothers each had a son killed in action in 1916.
Robert Leishman Cameron married Margaret Edward Begg at Errol in Perthshire, in 1878 when he was 24. Margaret came from Monimail in Fifeshire, and they lived together in Glasgow. In 1879 they had a daughter born back at Clunie. They named her Annie Pearson Dickson Cameron after Margaret’s mother, Ann Dickson. A son, Alexander, was born to them in Glasgow in 1880.
A look at the 1881 census returns will find both these children staying with their grandparents, Donald and Catherine, at Concraigie, Clunie Parish. Robert can be found back in Glasgow working as a railway carter. Margaret was ill at this time, a patient at Greenock Poorhouse and Asylum - probably the reason her children were lodged with their grandparents. By April 1891 she was back at home with Robert, but five days before Christmas of that year she died from a long illness and exhaustion.
In 1901, Robert, Alexander and Donald can all be found living in Kyle Street in Glasgow.
Since 1880, Robert had worked for J & P Cameron carting contractors as a lorryman. One Spring morning in 1923 he had collected some wood and iron poles from Buchanan Street Station and took them to Sighthill Goods Station to be weighed. As he brought the horse-drawn lorry off the weigh bridge, which was on a steep slope, the poles slid, prodding the horse and causing it to bolt. Robert held on to the animal and brought it round, but he couldn’t keep control and fell, being trampled. The head injury and fracture of both his legs was too much for a man of his age, and he died in hospital early the next morning.
His younger brother, Peter, had died 10 years earlier at Dundee Royal Infirmary, aged just 56. There were happier times for him in 1881, when he married Margaret Auchterlonie Horsburgh, the eldest daughter of William Reekie Horsburgh, a city pioneer of road transport and carting.
Although the couple married in Dundee, the home of the Horsburghs, they lived in Glasgow where they had their first son - Peter McDougall Cameron, in November of that year. Peter (snr) worked as a railway carter, but by 1891 he was a grocer. The couple also had five more children - Margaret Birrell, William Horsburgh, Catherine Campbell, Robert Leishman and Walter. The family story goes that Peter’s grocery venture failed, and perhaps this is what prompted a move to Dundee by the turn of the century, where Maggie had her more prosperous Horsburgh relations.
In Dundee Peter worked as a horse wagon driver for the town council, a brewer’s carter, and later as a motor driver in an electric works. They’d had four more children before they moved (John, Alex, David Horsburgh and Isabella Horsburgh) and then one, Angus, was born in Dundee in 1900. By this time they were living at 44 Lilybank Road. Peter McDougall Cameron (jnr) was now 20, and working as a jute labourer. It wasn’t long before he also got into the transport business of Dundee, being a van man or ‘tower waggon driver’ for the town council, and later a chauffeur. During the First World War, he drove high ranking officers around to visit the war graves - apparently chosen for the job because he was well spoken.
Before that, in 1907, he married Elizabeth Blyth, a jute weaver from Wellington Street. They lived at 38 Lilybank Road and had several children including Elizabeth Blyth, Robert Leishman (the name of the Clunie Church Minister still lived on 40 years after his death), Margaret Horsburgh, Harry Blyth, Peter McDougall, Alexander Blyth, and David Horsburgh. Actually there had been a previous Peter McDougall, born in 1917 - sadly he died after 13 weeks from whooping cough.
Further tragedy struck in 1923 - just two months before his uncle Robert was killed in the lorry accident - Peter McDougall Cameron died after a routine appendix operation went wrong. Just under nine months later, their last son, David was born. A walking funeral from the house at 38 Lilybank Road was held on Saturday 3rd March, with his car following the coffin along the route.
His daughter, Margaret (my gran), has happier memories of him, “... he used to sit in his easy chair and was always quoting Robbie Burns. He could play the pipes, the fiddle and the piano - everything he touched. He was a natural musician and winter nights when he was in, he always sat in his easy chair and played the malodeon. He sat in that corner and he had a nice singing voice.”
If you have further information, stories or photos, or are a family member who would like to know more, please get in touch.