Mission Statement

To Submit Content

Article on
Colonel Sir Donald Hamish Cameron of Lochiel, K.T. XXVI Chief of Clan Cameron
Scottish Field
September 1986

Deep in the richly wooded hills of Lochaber, not far from the glistening waters of Loch Arkaig on the north west coast of Scotland, stands Achnacarry castle. This is the very heart of Cameron country where the present Chief, Sir Donald Cameron of Lochiel warmly welcomes clan members from all over the world - "providing they give me some notice that they're coming," he says with a grin.

Sir Donald became chief at the age of forty on the death of his father in 1951. He has two sons, two daughters and twelve grandchildren, so he is confident about the survival of the dynasty.  "All the eldest sons have been called Donald since 1800," he explains. "It is very confusing, but I am Donald Hamish and my son is Donald Angus and my grandson is Donald Andrew."

As his father had done with him, he has made over the estate of Achnacarry to his son, who lives in London.  "This sort of estate is very unprofitable to run," he admits. "We have approximately 90,000 acres, but it is mostly mountains, lochs and moorland. Both my son and I have had to earn our livings away, although I was lucky that when my father died and I wanted to come home, I was offered a number of part time jobs."

These part time jobs included a directorship of the Royal Bank of Scotland, being Chairman of Scotbits Securities Ltd, Director and Chairman of Scottish Widows Life Assurance Society and Lord Lieutenant of the county of Inverness. He was a member of the British Railways Board, then Scottish Railways Board, a Crown Estate Commissioner and a Governor of Harrow School.

"We have four legs to our Achnacarry operation" he continues. "Agriculture - we have cattle and sheep. We let cottages for summer visitors and there is excellent fishing. Then we have stalking for red deer and we keep the venison and sell it and make a small profit. And finally, there is forestry, which is a long term investment."

Lochiel believes emphatically that the clan has a significant role to play in the twentieth century. "Although I wouldn't want to exaggerate the importance," he says firmly.  "I do feel that as chief I am a focal point for the clan and I feel a great sense of responsibility. The old clan idea died in 1745, but the concept has taken on a new form. People love history and tradition and they want to know what their ancestors did and how they lived. But it's very hard to get enthusiasm going in Scotland itself."

He has recently visited Australia and New Zealand. In Australia there are 2000 clan members and in New Zealand, 1500.  "We went to Brisbane where there was no clan association and some people organised a dinner announcing that I was coming. Do you know 300 people turned up! Imagine if I went to Glasgow and it was announced that the Chief of Clan Cameron was coming. Do you think that anybody would turn up?"

Glaswegians, however, should not forget that it was Gentle Lochiel of '45 fame who saved the city from being sacked by Prince Charlie's men returning from Derby. The grateful citizens of the day decreed that whenever he or his descendants passed through Glasgow the bells of the Tolbooth should be rung.  "I've had them rung three times for me," laughs Lochiel.

In Australia he attended a family gathering in memory of Alexander Cameron who went over in 1838. He had two wives and twenty children and was known as "King Cameron."  "I was shown a huge chart of his descendants and told that they regularly hold get togethers."

"I think that the clan in a modern concept can do nothing but good," he concludes. "I have Clan Cameron Commissioners for North America, Australia and New Zealand and we correspond regularly. I try always to stress the international aspect of the operation, but also that I am a chief living in the middle of clan country and, further, that the chiefship has been passed down successively from father to son."

"At the moment we are planning to turn the old post office on the estate into a Clan Museum. I'm also launching an appeal for funds to do so and we hope to get various grants from people like the Highlands and Islands Development Board."

Lochiel is not convinced that collective International Gatherings of Clans work well in Scotland, particularly when held in Edinburgh and Glasgow, although he supports the concept overseas.  "Most clan chiefs agree that gatherings are best when held in their own lands. And we're going to have a Clan Cameron Gathering at Achnacarry in 1989. I know it sounds a time off, but it allows clan members overseas time to make arrangements and it will coincide with our Golden Wedding. The last time we had a gathering here we had over 800 people and more than 200 came from abroad."

The tall, distinguished chief of one of Scotland's most noble clans is very much aware of the past and future. When he greets you at his door wearing the red Lochiel kilt, and accompanied by his gentle, dignified wife, you are transported back in time, particularly when you reflect on all the great events of history that this ancient land and stately house have seen.

There is an ancient prophesy which says that the Camerons of Lochiel will hold their lands as long as there is snow on Ben Nevis. Happily there is still plenty of snow to be found on that summit even in the height of summer.