Colonel Sir Donald Hamish Cameron of Lochiel, K.T. XXVI Chief of Clan
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
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
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.