The 9th of August, 1975 is a day long to be remembered by those fortunate enough to attend the Clan Cameron Rally held at Achnacarry Castle in Lochaber, near Spean Bridge and Fort William. It was a beautiful drive from Spean Bridge, over narrow winding roads until finally reaching the gates of Lochiel's estate. Thereafter, for a considerable distance, at least one or two miles, it is a private road with forests, hills or meadows on either side. Eventually we reached a huge meadow with a number of large trees; which normally is the pasture for many cattle. On this day it was a parking lot for the hundreds of cars of visitors, and it adjoins the field used for the games and other events.
In the distance, situated on top of a knoll and surrounded by gardens, is Achnacarry Castle. It is a huge structure built of granite, completed in 1802 (in actuality the construction began in 1802 and concluded years later), and truly is most impressive.
A thousand or more persons were in attendance, many of them relatives of our Chief, Sir Donald H. Cameron of Lochiel. Others came from far distant points to attend the Rally, including Australia, New Zealand, Fiji Islands, Rhodesia, South Africa, Ireland, Canada and the U.S.A. Our Grandfather Mountain Branch had the largest number of non-European residents in attendance, numbering 24.
It took fully 45 minutes for the Cameron of Lochiel family to greet their visitors, shake hands and sign the visitor's book. During this ceremony at the castle door, the Lochaber Junior Pipe Band gave selections and the Molly Cameron Dancers performed on the lawn.
Many of us had met and became friends with Lochiel and his wife when they were Guests of Honor at Grandfather Mountain in July, 1972, but most of us had not met any others of the family. We were most gratified to note the admiration, love and respect shown to Sir Donald and Lady Cameron, not only by their immediate family, but by their friends and neighbors. The genuine friendship, hospitality, courtesy and feeling of kinship conveyed to the overseas visitors elicited much praise.
Lochiel and Lady Cameron were piped to the platform by Pipe Major Macrae, who played "The Gathering." Then came a march past of all the clansmen, an impressive sight with each group being heralded by a name board in Olympic Games style. We were particularly honored that our President, Dan R. Cameron, was asked to sit on the platform with Sir Donald and his family. Lochiel called on him for a brief talk and Dan acquitted himself creditably. Sir Donald made a very gracious and cordial speech of welcome to friends and visitors from far and wide.
Usually the Clan Rally is held at ten year intervals, the most recent being in 1967. However, two very important events led Sir Donald to calling a Rally for 1975. The first is that Donald, Lochiel the Younger and his wife, Lady Cecil, became parents of a lovely daughter, Catherine Mary, last spring. The second is that his young son, John (known as Johnny), became 21 years of age this year. Lochiel said of Johnny, "He has now reached the age of 21 and so, in the future, is responsible for his own debts and ready to fight his own battles, which I am sure he will do with great verve and courage." On the occasion of his coming of age, Johnny was presented a silver mounted sporran and a pair of binoculars by clansmen at home and overseas; which he acknowledged most graciously. Baby Catherine was also presented gifts from clansmen at home and overseas.
Sir Donald said he believed the clan spirit was in some ways stronger than ever, although in a very different form to the more warlike days of old.
Overseas in particular he found a very enthusiastic desire among clansfolk to remember past affiliations, to find out more about their ancestors, to join together with other members of the clan on social occasions, and a sincere wish to strengthen the links which bound all of them together' "that is, all of us who bear the name Cameron or that of any of the septs of the clan, and including those who are proud to belong to the clan for more remote reasons."
Then Lochiel turned to a more somber note; "In these days when old traditions are being attacked on every side, when taxations of various kinds are going to make it so difficult for my son and his family to hold on to the clan lands and even to our home, when much of what we value and revere is being scorned and discarded, it is reassuring to find that so many Camerons all over the world still remember the good things of the past and the essential unity of the clan, so that together we can still face the future with optimism and hope." He said that he is doing everything possible to preserve Achnacarry Castle and at least part of the estate for Lochiel the Younger and future generations.
The games included tug o' war, clay pigeon shooting, a sheep dog demonstration and shinty, a game somewhat like hockey but new to most of us from North America. Later, everyone was invited to visit the first floor of the castle; including the entry hall, drawing room, dining room, library, etc.
The Ceilidh was most enjoyable with good singing and Highland dancing. A brief, but well worded address was made by Lochiel the Younger. After the Ceilidh, our Grandfather Mountain group adjourned to the Spean Bridge Hotel, where we were invited to use a large private room. There, all of us had a grand visit with singing, conversation and a dram or two. It was a delightful aftermath to a wonderful day, enlivened by playing of the pipes by Dr. Harold Cameron's son Doug, and Charles Cameron of the Fiji Islands. While accompanied by her husband's playing of the pipes, Mary Cameron (of Fiji) taught a few of our members a Scottish Reel. Many thanks to both of them for adding to the enjoyment of our evening.
Also present at the gathering was Major John Stewart of Ardvorlich, whose wife is a sister of Sir Donald. It was an honor to have him present and autograph his book, a monumental work of art, entitled "The Camerons, A History of Clan Cameron." An idea as to the amount of study and research necessary can be realized when you learn that it includes names and all available information (still very scanty) about ten unauthenticated chiefs prior to 1400 A.D. and sixteen thereafter, up to and including our present chief.
Lochiel was appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) by the Queen in 1970, and in 1974 Queen Elizabeth made him a Knight of the Thistle. Many of us had the privilege of visiting St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh where the installation ceremony had been performed. In the Cathedral is a chapel which has a throne for the Queen at one end of the room. On each side are eight chairs, similar to stalls and each is used only by the current Knight of the Thistle. It is interesting to note that there have never been more than sixteen holders of this high honor and only the death of one of these permits the appointment of another of the Order of the Thistle. Lochiel's father, the late Sir Donald Walter Cameron, also was a Knight of the Thistle. Qualifications for this, the highest honor the Queen can bestow upon a Scotsman, are that he be a man of unimpeachable honor and be widely known for his efforts on behalf of his fellow Scotsmen and his endeavor to make Scotland a better place in which to live.