This blog began in 1997 as a single news page called Nucelus. In 2005, during a long wait to move into a new house, I decided to learn some php and MySQL and write my own blogging system, which became inkyBlog and which now powers this, my own Webbledegook blog.
Thank you to my brother, Murray Ewing, for help with some of the more challenging aspects!
The starting point is Donald's 1887 death certificate, which records his parents as being John Cameron, farmer, and Ann McDonald. Case closed! Well, not quite ... there is no baptism record for a Donald Cameron born to such parents, and no such parents coinciding with the time and place for our Donald or any possible further family. The information was provided on the death certificate by Donald's son-in-law, Charles McGregor, and we might presume it could have been confirmed before-hand by Donald's widow, Catherine, who would survive him by another 19 months.
A number of Cameron family genealogists have attributed various parents to Donald, and I'd like to go through these to see if they stand up to falsification. But first, a couple of basic facts: Donald Cameron appears on census returns for 1841-1881 with a consistent place of birth, Little Dunkeld, and the year focusing on 1810, give or take a year or so - if accurate.
There are a handfull of Donald Camerons born and baptised in Little Dunkeld who have been associated with our Clunie Donald. The earliest is Donald born to Donald Cameron and Janet Black of Tomgarrow in June 1807. But this Donald can be identified in the census returns, living for a while with his widowed mother, then as a single man into old age, dying at Tomgarrow in 1897 - so he's not our Donald.
The next one is interesting thanks to the mother's surname, Donald Cameron born at Little Trochrie in 1808 to Alexander Cameron and Clementina McDonald. But although these parents appear on many trees for Clunie Donald, they can be discounted too - their son married Catherine Duff in Little Dunkeld in 1840, and he died there in 1881.
We're taken quite a way out of our expected birth time-zone for the next possibility, namely Donald Cameron born at Tomgarrow to Donald Cameron and Lilias Duff in 1816. This Donald, too, can be crossed off the list as records show he married an Ann McDonald in 1851 and died in Pitlochry in 1899.
This one shouldn't really be a candidate, but I have seen him on a tree or two - Donald Cameron born in 1825 to John Cameron and Catherine McNaughton, again at Tomgarrow. If this were correct then our Donald would have married at the age of 12. Anyway, this Donald can be accounted for in a rather macabre way - in 1858 he went insane and murdered his two-year old son, then died in Perth prison from cholera in 1866.
It's interesting that so many of these Little Dunkeld Camerons are of Tomgarrow. This tiny village does not exist any more, but was thought at one time to be the home of tens of Cameron families, with the tale that in times long past the village was famous for its sword-makers. Certainly Tomgarrow should be considered a possible place of origin for our Donald, especially with the Little Dunkeld parish register being "not very regularly kept" according to records.
Another place of interest would be Caputh, where Donald and Catherine were resident and married in 1837. There is one Donald Cameron here that is sometimes picked up - the son of John Cameron and Catherine McDonald, but he was born in 1795 and for that reason remains an outsider in our list of candidates. It should be noted that the Caputh John and Catherine are not the same as the Inverness couple with the same names, the first married in 1792 and the latter in 1807, though they are sometimes amalgamated as their marriages are hard to find (search for Ketrin and Ketherin rather than Catherine).
A couple with the same names had a 'lawful son', Allan Cameron, in Clunie in 1811, and a Peter Cameron was also born there in 1829 to similarly-named parents - but these are different couples as Peter was a 'natural child' (illegitimate).
Some researchers have discovered a Donald Cameron born to a John Cameron and Ann McDonald and attributed them as our Clunie Donald's parents. The birth date is not quite right - with a likely baptism record of 1817 and census returns indicating the early 1820s. Also his place of birth is Sleat, Inverness, a long way off. But this Donald did actually die in Perthshire, and, remarkably, does have a connection to our Donald - though he is not our Donald.
John Cameron and Ann McDonald appear to have married in Inverness in 1807, and I can find only two children that may be theirs - Donald (1817) and Lachlan (1821). Donald went on to marry Helen Stewart in Blairgowrie and they had seven known children, including a Daniel Cameron in 1859. This Daniel married Sarah Cameron in Largo in 1891 - and this Sarah is a granddaughter of our Clunie Donald, through Margaret (born Caputh in 1841). Daniel and Sarah went on to have seven children of their own before emigrating to Canada around 1930.
That covers the majority of candidate parents most often cited from the old parish records, though I've decided not to include my notes on various other theories (illegitimacy, Ann McDonald remarrying, etc.). But let's look at some other families of interest I've found through other routes ...
In 1911 Agnes Craig Wallace, one of Donald Cameron's grandadughters, who ran a confectionary shop in Birnam, Little Dunkeld, had as a boarder the daughter of a Dundee medical practitioner, one Alice Jane Gray. Alice was a music teacher, and while she may have just been lodging with the Wallaces, it seems she stamped some kind of impression as Agnes gave birth to a daughter six months later who she named Margaret Jean Gray.
What was Alice Jane Gray to Agnes, was she a relative? If we look into her family history we find she was descended from two Cameron families of Blair Atholl, Perthshire - that of Finlay Cameron and Christina McDonald (on her maternal grandfather's side), and of Alexander Cameron and Margaret McDonald (on her maternal grandmother's side).
Finlay and Christina had a son, Donald in 1799, and he can be accounted for as dying in Edinburgh in 1870. Of more interest is Alexander and Margaret. Our Clunie Donald named his first son Alexander (it's perhaps notable, or not, that he didn't name any of his known children John), and his second daughter was Margaret (the first was Ann, so that may have significance).
Alex and Margaret Cameron had a son, Donald, in Blair Atholl in 1807 - close enough to the date we're looking for and I have not yet been able to find any trace of him after his baptism. The splinter in the theory is his birthplace, as Clunie Donald is very insistent he was born in Little Dunkeld, not Blair Atholl (20 miles north). If these Donalds were the same person, then that would make Agnes Wallace (b.1869) and Alice Gray (b.1868) second cousins - they also lived in the same quarter of Dundee through the 1880s and 90s.
It's a tenuous theory with not a lot to back it up - but then Agnes Wallace was partially responsible for me breaking down the Catherine Campbell brick wall a couple of years ago, after researching her husband's first wife, Sarah Sim. Many family connections seem to gravitate around Agnes.
Agnes Wallace can also lead us to another theory, this time discovered through her younger brother, James Wilson. When he married, at age 30 in Birnam in 1906 to Jessie Campbell, one of the witnesses was James Crockett. James was the son of Frank Crockett and his wife Janet, and a family story involving visits to her claims that she may have been "a relative". This becomes more interesting when we find that Janet was indeed a Cameron, the daughter of Alexander Cameron and Helen Anderson, and born in Caputh in 1864.
The Crocketts lived in the Little Dunkeld village of Inver (Frank would abandon the family and disappear in 1894), and that's where Alexander Cameron died in 1904. His death certificate reveals his parents to have been John Cameron, soldier, and Ann Auld - names tantalisingly close to our Clunie Donald's John Cameron and Ann McDonald.
Unfortunately nothing can be found of this couple. The military connection is interesting because Donald married Catherine Campbell, the daughter of a sergeant in the 42nd Foot - I note there is a John Cameron of Dunkeld also in the 42nd Foot from that era - but there were, as we know, a lot of Camerons from the area at that time.
Alexander was born in Caputh in 1826, some years after the supposed birthdate of Donald, and 11 years before he was married in the same place (Alexander would marry there in 1852). Another link of curiosity is that while Agnes Wallace and her husband ran the sweet shop in Birnam, Janet Crockett's sister-in-law, Helen Cameron, ran one in Dunkeld, less than a mile away across the Dunkeld Bridge.
All these historical whispers leave fairly loose ends and nothing at all concrete, but do seem to have at least some significance worth keeping in mind. The last strand I'd like to look at is DNA, and with such a lack of records I feel this perhaps offers the most hope for an answer to the problem of Donald Cameron's parents.
Currently I have 13 Cameron DNA matches who I can definitley place in the known Donald Cameron/Catherine Campbell family, but there are a handful of less certain matches that contain Cameron families, with a couple worth looking into.
One of these has a John and Alexander Cameron born at Little Dunkeld in 1810 and 1813, right in our zone of interest. Their parents were John Cameron, carpenter, and Catherine Kennedy, resident at Tomgarrow. Confusingly, this turns out not to be the Cameron hotspot of Tomgarrow at Little Dunkeld, but a place some 20 miles to the west in Kenmore, where their first son, William was born in 1806. The Little Dunkeld births were at Ballinrich, a farm on the banks of the River Braan. Not much else stands out from this family in relation to our mystery. The family mainly stayed in Kenmore, with son John becoming a teacher and moving to Argyllshire.
The most fascinating DNA link contains no Cameron name at all. I have about 15 matches, a handful quite meaningful (28cM), with Isle of Sky ancestry - notably Lamont - that emigrated and settled in Prince Edward Island, Canada c.1803. The Cameron connection exists because these matches are shared by at least four of my definite Cameron cousins, with our common ancestors being Donald and Catherine Cameron.
I've spent many months looking into this connection with no obvious linking point as yet. It centres on shared DNA in chromosome 13 (with over 70 matches so far) and brings in a number of other Scots families as well as the Lamonts, including McDonalds, McLeods, McGregors, McLeans and McLellans, among others ... it would be another article in itself to try and present it all.
While these matches could theoretically link to Catherine Campbell's forebears, I managed to break down her brick wall a couple of years ago (see Finding Mrs Keir) and her family points largely to Caithness, which leans towards the likelihood of the match linking to our unknown Donald Cameron parents, perhaps the "McDonald" mother. Maybe Donald was illegitimate, or his mother came from outside of Perthshire, and keeping an eye on this DNA puzzle could well be the key to any future breakthrough, and I'd be especially interested to hear from any fellow Cameron descendants who have DNA links to Prince Edward Island in the early 1800s.
I present this little article as a waypoint in my research (all errors my own, please feel free to correct anything), and to share the load with my fellow Camerons in the hope that an answer is somewhere out there. We'll keep digging!
We bought a Switch last Christmas, mostly for the children to play Minecraft and Animal Crossing, but I did also happen to buy Zelda: Breath of the Wild for myself - which the children quickly got absorbed by as well.
So it's really exciting now to see and play Curious Expedition 2 on our nice big TV screen - it does look rather splendid - and especially as I've not been able to play-test the game for a while as I'm on a Mac at home.
As well as a number of improvements and software tweaks from the team, I've worked on a large number of new art assets, with art director Johannes Kristmann, that have now been imported into the storyline.
These include a new 'corrupted world' biome complete with a new tribe, the Pale Masks, and a selection of new characters and enemies, including the T-Rex, the Stygimoloch, a mountable jellyfish, the Zouave veteran, the monstrous, tentacled 'Duke', and a rather cute truffle-hog called Joobee.
The New Director update is free and there are further updates planned in the coming months. If you want to give Curious Expedition 2 a play, then it's currently on sale (for one more day) over at Steam.
There was no sign of a husband with her in the 1841 census of Anstruther Wester, where she lived with her two children, and the 1851 census revealed she was a widow. Through the records of the Fife Family History Society I soon found out her husband, John Birrell, had died by drowning in July 1840 - just two years after they were married - the only details being that he was a ship's carpenter, and the locations of the accident ('River Mersay') and his burial ('Stormount').
The only River Mersey I knew was at Liverpool, and the only Stormont I knew was in Belfast - places separated by 140 miles of Irish Sea, but perhaps making sense for a ship en-route from England to Northern Ireland.
Regularly over the next 20 years I would check resources and newspapers to try and uncover any mention of the drowning of John Birrell, with no luck. The closest I came was a boat swamped on the Mersey and in which two of the four mechanics on board were drowned - no names were mentioned, but the date was off of Birrell's recorded death by just two days.
I probably hadn't done a 'Birrell check' for about three years when I decided to try again a couple of days ago, and this time I hit the mark. In that three years, the British Newspaper Archive had added the Shipping & Mercantile Gazette to their library, and in this publication was the following story, syndicated from the Montrose Review:
"MONTROSE - July 24: ... two men belonging to a Montrose vessel, the Mars, Captain Younger, last week met a watery grave. The vessel was then lying at Fleetwood, in Lancashire; and the men, whose names were John Burrell and John Menzies, having gone ashore on Tuesday night, were returning in a small boat, early next morning, when they were drowned. The boat was picked up next day, five miles from the vessel; and the bodies of the unfortunate mariners were also found. Burrell was a native of Anstruther; Menzies, of Montrose, and has left a widow and small family."
The date of death and his place of origin, Anstruther, are correct, though a couple of other details seem odd. Fleetwood is about 30 miles north of the Mersey, so either the place of drowning is not right, or they went for quite a trip. The burial at Stormont makes sense as the next destination of the Mars was Quebec, though the only report I can find so far seems to indicate it sailed from Fleetwood on the 23 July, whereas John's burial is recorded as the 17th. Hopefully, with these new details, I'll be able to get a clearer picture sometime soon.
John was just 22 when he died, but managed to have two children with Peggy (who lived to 79), both of whom would go on to have families of their own. Son Andrew married in 1858 and had two sons, one a school master, the other a soldier and then shale miner, both producing families of their own. The other child, my ggg-grandmother, married in 1859 and had 12 children, a number of them successful in Dundee-based businesses, and most surviving to have families of their own as well.
Murray and I started the War Films series back in 2014 - seven years ago ... and it's only ten podcasts! Well, we did say we wouldn't keep to a regular schedule.
Before that we'd recorded ten podcasts for the Adventure Films Podcast. Those went up much more quickly - ten films from May to December 2011.
This still isn't the 'final' version of the game as new content is still under construction, to be added into the game at various points in the upcoming months - so it's just going to get better and better.
Here's the new January 2021 trailer for the game ...
This the longest I've ever worked on a single commercial project (not including The Rainbow Orchid), so far clocking up over 3000 hours of drawing time - and there's more to go.
Part of the problem is my own Edwin Cole webpage - with, for instance, ebay sellers misidentifying the signature on the art and then Googling my page to copy info on the artist they think they're selling. In all the examples I currently have, Edwin Cole always signed his full name - Edwin Cole - and often also included a year date. Here are some examples from between 1905 and 1925.
He also seemed to work exclusively in watercolours for his paintings, and the scenes are nearly all landscape subjects in and around Shrewsbury - but I wouldn't exclude other mediums and subjects coming to light - he was versatile, working with stained glass, metal and wood.
Also coming up for sale, often under the name 'Edwin Cole', are two series of postcards titled the Kitten Series (including 'Miss Vanity', 'The Model' and 'The Destroying Angel') and the Artistique Series (featuring female portraits with titles such as 'Sandie', 'Billie' and 'Tommie'), all published by the Pictograph Publishing Co. of London in the 1920s.
These are not by Edwin Cole but by a Hackney-born artist called Edward Francis Cole. His signature is often 'Edwd Cole' (with a very small second 'd') so can be misidentified without care. Here are some examples - you'll note the long line coming from the end of Cole that was consistent throughout his career.
Edward was a poster designer before he joined the Surrey Regiment for the Great War, where he made a number of benevolent cartoons of his officers. He created art for the Pictographic postcards and went on to become a highly skilled commercial artist, later moving to and working in South Africa.
The vast majority of misidentifications concern a large number of original oil pantings being sold, not only through ebay, but also in auction houses both online and off, with the signature of E. Cole. Some of these, presumably later ones, are signed E. Cole Snr. or E. Cole Jun. (the latter not, as one ebay seller put it, because it was "painted in June").
The paintings are well-crafted (Cole senior slightly more professional, I'd say), and out of over 50 examples I've seen, all but a handful feature a country lane and a white-gated cottage (not always the same architecture), sometimes with a river or pond, sometimes with a girl walking in the lane, sometimes with a little stone bridge too. They are certainly nineteenth-century, but so far I have not been able to identify who the two E. Coles are - except they are not Edwin Cole of Shrewsbury.
One auction site has their art expert state "E Cole is probably a grandson of George Cole and a son of George Vicat Cole, both famous painters who made similar work". While the elder George Cole did indeed have a son called Edwin Cole, he was a mariner from the 1850s and my last sighting of him is in Jamaica at the end of 1880s where his Dutch second wife died. I doubt he was the artist, though he can't be fully ruled out just yet. Vicat Cole had four daughters and one son, Rex, also an artist. His daughter Edith Ivy, was probably not the 'E. Cole Snr' - most likely a male artist. But, certainly, the subject matter is thematically in line with that of the Vicat-Coles, including another son, Alfred Benjamin, so the family is worth exploring more fully.
Finally, another name has been thrown in to the mix, that of Ethel Kathleen Cole (1892-1976), sometimes identified as the painter, mistakenly I think, of one or more of the above E. Cole pieces. I have not been able to find a definite sample of her work online. A webpage of Suffolk artists assigns two paintings to her, one with the usual E. Cole signature (almost certainly misattributed) and another that says 'Cole - Ethel Kathleen' on the reverse - likely not put there by the artist herself, and probably another E. Cole painting by the looks of it.
Part of her biography states that Ethel went to the Slade School of Fine Art, and there is a figure sketch attributed to her from 1912 on the University College London site, though it is signed K. Cole, and a contemporary newspaper article refers to her as Kathleen Cole. The UCL site, confusingly, says Ethel was American and that she died in 1934 after living in Derwentwater. This does not seem to be correct, as census returns say she was born in Beccles, Suffolk, moved with her family to East Grinstead, and worked as an art teacher later in life, dying in Lewis, a spinster, in 1976. An E. Kathleen Cole is recorded as exhibiting at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1931, 1932 and 1935. Again there appears to be the biographies of more than one candidate conflated.
The research I've done here is not complete, and I especially hope to eventually identify E. Cole senior and junior. I'll update this as any new information comes to light, but in the meantime I hope it helps to correctly identify what is by Edwin Cole of Shrewsbury, and what isn't.
The game is currently in Early Access, but you can download a demo from the CE Steam page, read more about the award win here, and see the current trailer here. I can also highly recommend PalicoPadge's playthrough series on YouTube.
Is this a brand new story? No - this is the same story that was serialised in The Phoenix Comic back in 2013 (issues 75-78), though I have re-edited a bit of the text, and re-written and re-drawn large parts of two pages (pages 17 and 22 in the book).
Is this a full-length album? The actual Secret of the Samurai story is 20 pages long, but the album also contains two other short stories I wrote and drew (both of which have been published before): The Sword of Truth (2004, 6 pages) and The Girdle of Polly Hipple (2005, 4 pages). The album is 36 pages in total.
What is the book's availability? I'm not sure on this yet - as I write the album is not currently on the BD Must site. The French language edition is listed on Amazon. A crowdfunder for the French edition was successfully funded back in May on Ulule. I do know the print-run is not large, and that it's smaller for the English language edition. I will update this when I know more.
What's the story about? Briefly it's a mystery about the hunt for a missing set of samurai armour, and it takes place before The Rainbow Orchid. For more details and notes you can see some of the blog posts I wrote at the time it was serialised in The Phoenix Comic (note - some of the info in these posts is no longer accurate!): The Secret of the Samurai FAQ, blog post for part 1, blog post for part 2, blog post for part 3, and blog post for part 4.
I'll end off on the other question I get all the time (and no, I'm not tired of it, it's lovely), Will there ever be a new Julius Chancer adventure? The answer to this is yes, as long as I don't get knocked down by a bus (or whatever the modern-day equivalent is ... an Amazon delivery robot?). I'm still very busy at the moment working on The Curious Expedition 2, but I haven't forgotten Julius Chancer - the new story is all-plotted, semi-scripted, and drawing started (extract below). I fully intend for this new story to happen ... I just don't want to promise when!