Author: Admin

Only one nation in the world can celebrate the New Year or Hogmanay with such revelry and passion – the Scots!

It is believed that many of the traditional Hogmanay celebrations were originally brought to Scotland by the invading Vikings in the early 8th and 9th centuries. These Norsemen, or men from an even more northerly latitude than Scotland, paid particular attention to the arrival of the Winter Solstice or the shortest day, and fully intended to celebrate its passing with some serious partying.

In Shetland, where the Viking influence remains strongest, New Year is still called Yules, deriving from the Scandinavian word for the midwinter festival of Yule.

It may surprise many people to note that Christmas was not celebrated as a festival and virtually banned in Scotland for around 400 years, from the end of the 17th century to the 1950s. The reason for this dates back to the years of Protestant Reformation, when the straight-laced Kirk proclaimed Christmas as a Popish or Catholic feast, and as such needed banning.

And so it was, right up until the 1950s that many Scots worked over Christmas and celebrated their winter solstice holiday at New Year when family and friends would gather for a party and to exchange presents which came to be known as hogmanays.

There are several traditions and superstitions that should be taken care of before midnight on the 31st December: these include cleaning the house and taking out the ashes from the fire, there is also the requirement to clear all your debts before “the bells” sound midnight, the underlying message being to clear out the remains of the old year, have a clean break and welcome in a young, New Year on a happy note.

Immediately after midnight it is traditional to sing Robert Burns “Auld Lang Syne”. Burns published his version of this popular little ditty in 1788, although the tune was in print over 80 years before this.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot and auld lang syne
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup o kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”

An integral part of the Hogmanay party, which is continued with equal enthusiasm today, is to welcome friends and strangers with warm hospitality and of course lots of enforced kissing for all.

“First footing” (or the “first foot” in the house after midnight) is still common across Scotland. To ensure good luck for the house the first foot should be a dark-haired male, and he should bring with him symbolic pieces of coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and a wee dram of whisky. The dark-haired male bit is believed to be a throwback to the Viking days, when a big blonde stranger arriving on your door step with a big axe meant big trouble, and probably not a very happy New Year!

The firework displays and torchlight processions now enjoyed throughout many cities in Scotland are reminders of the ancient pagan parties from those Viking days of long ago.

The traditional New Year ceremony would involve people dressing up in the hides of cattle and running around the village whilst being hit by sticks. The festivities would also include the lighting of bonfires and tossing torches. Animal hide wrapped around sticks and ignited produced a smoke that was believed to be very effective in warding off evil spirits: this smoking stick was also known as a Hogmanay.

Many of these customs continue today, especially in the older communities of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. On the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, the young men and boys form themselves into opposing bands; the leader of each wears a sheep skin, while another member carries a sack. The bands move through the village from house to house reciting a Gaelic rhyme. The boys are given bannocks (fruit buns) for their sack before moving on to the next house.

One of the most spectacular fire ceremonies takes place in Stonehaven, south of Aberdeen on the north east coast. Giant fireballs are swung around on long metal poles each requiring many men to carry them as they are paraded up and down the High Street. Again the origin is believed to be linked to the Winter Solstice with the swinging fireballs signifying the power of the sun, purifying the world by consuming evil spirits.

For visitors to Scotland it is worth remembering that January 2nd is also a national holiday in Scotland, this extra day being barely enough time to recover from a week of intense revelry and merry-making. All of which helps to form part of Scotland’s cultural legacy of ancient customs and traditions that surround the pagan festival of Hogmanay.

by Ben Johnson


I would like to wish all clansfolk a very happy Christmas and I hope that 2020 brings you all health and happiness.

We, the family, are all well although, very sadly, my lovely sister Caroline passed away in October after a massive stroke which was heartbreaking as she was a shining beacon in all our lives.

On a brighter note, my youngest daughter Emily got married to a lovely man, Simon Williams, in September. They had a wonderful wedding in London which everyone much enjoyed.

We are in the middle of planning the clan gathering which will take place at the end of July next year and I hope very much that some of you will be able to attend as it should be an interesting and happy few days.

The Estate is, I think, in good shape with the hydro schemes enabling us to make plans for the future. We are involved in all sorts of activities such as forestry, tourism, holiday apartments, fish farming, stalking and quarrying.

Achnacarry is still being renovated and we hope to have it finished within the next three months. It is, I think, looking lovely.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who help to keep the spirit of the clan alive and I realise that many of you spend a lot of time and trouble on matters relating to the clan for which I am very, very grateful.

With very best wishes to you all,

Donald Cameron of Lochiel

Ruthven barracks sits upon the site of an earlier medieval castle.

Ruthven Barracks was one of four facilities built to control a key route through the Cairngorms and to provide forward basing of troops near potentially troublesome Highland clans. Its garrison was withdrawn at the start of the 1745 rebellion to augment the main army. After Culloden the shattered Jacobite army mustered at the site before being disbanded.

Perched on a natural mound, the first recorded reference was made in 1229 when it was owned by the Comyn family. Their dispute with Robert the Bruce – culminating in the murder of John Comyn at Dumfries at the start of the 1306 rebellion – led to the confiscation of the castle in the early fourteenth century. By 1451 it was in the hands of Alexander Gordon, Earl of Huntly at which time it was attacked and burnt by the Black Douglases led by John MacDonald, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles. The castle was rebuilt in 1459 and was still in use in 1689 when the first Jacobite rebellion ignited.


Ruthven Barracks were built between 1719 and 1721 on top of the mound of the original medieval fortification. The structure consisted of two three-storey barrack buildings each capable of accommodating 60 soldiers (each block had two rooms on each floor poses. The two square turrets forming part of this curtain wall doubled as the Officer accommodation and provided space for logistic functions (including bakehouse and brewhouse). The barracks were designed for an infantry garrison but, following the appointment of General George Wade as Commander-in-Chief of North Britain, he favoured the use of dragoons (mounted infantry) in outposts such as Ruthven as they could be used as a rapid response force along the newly built military roads. Accordingly a stable block was added to Ruthven in 1734.

The final Jacobite rebellion, the 1745 uprising led by Prince Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie), commenced in July 1745. The bulk of the garrison of Ruthven was withdrawn at this time – marching to Inverness to join the army of General Cope that had been tasked with neutralising the Jacobite threat. With the bulk of Governmental forces gone the Jacobites attempted to gain control of Ruthven in August 1745 but, without artillery, were unable to dislodge the skeleton garrison (led by a Sergeant Molloy and 14 men). By early 1746 the rebels were in a stronger position having defeated Government forces at the Battle of Falkirk (17 January 1746) during which they captured heavy ordnance. This was brought to bear at Ruthven in February 1746 prompting the garrison to surrender after a short siege. Now in Jacobite hands the facility was burnt but was later used as a rally point for the shattered Jacobite forces after their defeat at the battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746. Lord George Murray marshalled the surviving forces ready for the next stage of the campaign but it was to no avail; Prince Charles was broken and on 20 April his forces at Ruthven received his order “Let every man seek his own safety in the best way he can“. So ended the last Jacobite rebellion and Ruthven barracks was never rebuilt.

Ruthven Barracks are visible from the A9 near Kingussie and accessible via a minor road that runs past the railway station. A dedicated car park serves the site.

If travelling the A9 highway between Inverness and Pitlochry, as this writer intends doing after the 2020 Achnacarry Clan Gathering, you’ll come across ruined stone walls on a hill overlooking the River Spey. These stoic stone walls are all that remain of the Ruthven Barracks.



A number of members of Clan Cameron NSW were fortunate to witness the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo held at the Sydney stadium this October.

While not as intimate as that held in Edinburgh Castle it was certainly a spectacular event.

Some 1500 cast members were involved from across Europe and the Asia Pacific region as well as our local Australasian contingent. Over 14 nations were represented.

Set against a full-size replica of Edinburgh Castle, the iconic Scottish spectacular featured 33 musical, cultural and military groups, including:

  • 15 files of traditional Pipers and Drummers,
  • 11 Military Bands,
  • 40 amazingly deft Precision Marchers,
  • 40 Fiddlers,
  • 7 Pacific Nations sharing their culture through performance,
  • 40 Maori Kapa Haka performers,
  • 100 Highland Dancers,
  • 40 of the Australian Defence Forces’ finest musicians making up the House Band,
  • 40 singers representing Gondwana Choirs,
  • Australia’s Federation Guard featuring 100 celebrated serving personnel, and
  • Australian Indigenous Song Men and dancers.

    Massed Pipes and Drums

    Highland Dancers

    Highland Dancers in action


Chris Cameron, Val Smith and Commissioner James Cameron

Members of Clan Cameron NSW together with Commissioner James Cameron attended the Canberra Highland Gathering on Saturday 12 October.

The weather was overcast and cool with a fresh highland breeze enhancing the Scottish atmosphere. We were appreciative of being invited to share the Clan Lindsay tent with Susan Cooke, Commissioner of Clan Lindsay, and fellow Lindsay Clan members.

One highlight was that Val Smith attended, who was Clan Cameron NSW President for eight years prior to James Cameron, from 2001 to 2009.  It was terrific to catch up with Val who is very knowledgeable on Scottish and clan matters and is very engaging to talk to.  She was also the President of the Scottish Australian Heritage Council for a number of years, and was successful in bringing quite a number chiefs to Australia for Scottish week.

Speaking of which, there two Clan chiefs in attendance – Donald MacLaren and Geoffrey Buchanan, the newly appointed chief of that clan, the first for around 300 years.

The gathering was well attended and Clan Cameron NSW was enriched with the enrolment of a new member. Welcome!

The Tartan Warriors lifting the Stones is always an exciting and challenging event.

Wonderful Highland Dancing on display.

A successful Caber Toss was on show.

The pipe bands are the key to any Scottish gathering.

The 42nd Royal Highland Regiment (ex Black Watch) were on display, and survived the day.


Only around one-third of Culloden Battlefield is held by National Trust for Scotland with plans now emerging to buy out the remaining land to protect it from development

The Scotsman, Sept 2019 reports that Culloden Battlefield could be under threat from “runaway” development after a precedent of building homes on the historic site was set, it has been claimed.

Following is a summary with further reading at

The claim comes after a luxury home was approved on land at Culchunaig, which sits just to the south of the part of the battlefield owned by National Trust for Scotland and a few hundred yards from the visitor centre.

The development at Culchunaig, which includes a hot tub, zen garden, fire pit, studio, gaming and chill out zone, was passed essentially as a 19th-century farm cottage had earlier stood on the land.

Councillor Andrew Jarvie (Conservative), of Inverness South, said he was concerned future development in the Culchunaig area will be very difficult to stop due to the precedent set at last week’s planning meeting.

He said: “I could not have been any more disappointed that it was in effect, impossible to do anything to stop this development which was right on the boundary fence of the battlefield and only a few hundred metres from the visitor centre itself.”

The Culchunaig plans were originally approved in 2015, just before the Culloden Muir Conservation Area was drawn up to protect the sensitive area around the battlefield.

The application dealt with last week was a revision of the original application.

Meanwhile, Historic Environment Scotland is “redrawing” its battlefield inventory of Culloden amid the planning controversies.

HES said the inventory would include new historical and archaeological research for Culloden.

Historians and academics are due to gather at Culloden next month to study the new improved inventory.

A spokesman for HES said: “The Battlefield Inventory was launched in 2011 and was designed to highlight Scotland’s most important battlefields”.

However, it is not clear how effective a new inventory could be in influencing the planning process.

National Trust for Scotland owns just a third of the land on which the battle was fought, leaving the remainder open to private development.

Dr Christopher Duffy, of the Historians Council said a new Culloden conservation group planned to focus on the acquisition of other parts of the battlefield in order to protect them from development.

Joanne Cameron, Co-administrator Clan Cameron YDNA Project

Our Clan is a rich tapestry of people, history and traditions. From our Chief Lochiel, the cadets which are represented in our Clan crest to the various septs which are also associated with the Clan, we are a confederation of people with huge pride in who we are and where we come from. This is well reflected in the Y DNA results to date.

The aim of our project is to explore the origins of the surname Cameron. In doing so we are finding that our Clan is made up of many different paternal lines and Haplogroups who are united alongside our main paternal Cameron line. The Cameron Clan is not necessarily defined by who is and who isn’t related to the main Paternal Cameron lineage.

When surnames were adopted in Scotland, around the 12th century for the upper echelons of Scottish society and the 18th for ordinary people, not every man who pledged allegiance to a Clan Chief would have been a descendant of the same patrilineal ancestor.

There can be a misconception that anyone bearing a clan surname is automatically descended from a clan chief, but this isn’t always the case. They instead could have been related through adoption, marriage or even by proximity.

The ability of a clan to defend its territory from other clans depended greatly on attracting as many followers as possible. Being a member of a large and powerful clan became a distinct advantage in the lawless Highlands, and followers might adopt the clan name to curry favour with the Laird, to show solidarity, for basic protection, or maybe because their lands were taken by a more powerful neighbour and they had little option!

We currently have sitting in our Group A, men who descend from our paternal Cameron SNP R-A6138, 21 testers who break off into 5 different branches. Two branches are identified by family research to be MacGillonie and Clunes. By far the largest sub-clade off of R-A6138 is a branch yet to be identified. There is much potential for R-A6138 to have many different branches or as we call them sub-clades beneath it.

There are about 50 YSTR testers who would most likely turn out to be in our Group A if they upgraded to the Big Y 700 test.

The vast majority, over 100 YSTR Cameron surname testers in the Project, are not descended from R-A6138. They come from mainly the haplogroup R1b but a good number are from the I1 haplogroup with some also from haplogroup R1a, J and E.

We also have 31 Cameron men who have only tested 12 YSTR markers which is insufficient to determine where they sit in our Project. A bare minimum test of 37 YSTR’s are needed for placement in the Project.

There are two new Big Y 700 tests currently in progress and six new upgrades to the new Big Y 700 from the Big Y 500. The SNP above R-A6138, or as we call it the Grandfather of A6138, is the SNP R-A7298 which at current estimates indicate was born about the year 1042AD. A7298 is the common shared ancestor of Clans Cameron, Macnab and McPhee.

In my next article I hope to bring news of the McMartin Camerons which may make us look at their history a bit closer!

Twenty members of Clan Cameron NSW enjoyed a delightful lunch at the Boiler House Restaurant, part of The Hydro Majestic hotel.

A number of Clan members also enjoyed a tour of the Hydro Majestic which revealed an amazing History Tour The tour will took in history of the Casino lobby with its iconic domed roof, the magnificent Salon Due Thé and Cat’s Alley, the elegant Majestic Ballroom, concluding in the Hydro Majestic Pavilion which showcased vibrant displays of Hydro’s historical past along with boutique and regional food and wine from the Blue Mountains and its regions.

Dr Ian Cameron

Members were entertained both before and following the lunch by a wonderful rendition by piper Dr Ian Cameron. We were blessed with glorious weather and great company and we look forward to our next Clan Cameron function.

Clan Cameron NSW was well represented at the 2019 Aberdeen Highland Games held Saturday 6 July.

The Clan participated in the Opening Ceremony alongside other Scottish Clans together with the pipe bands.  We were delighted to share our clan heritage with the many visitors and dignitaries who visited the Clan Cameron NSW tent and display and we were also delighted to welcome five new members and their families to our association.

We all enjoyed the games immensely, the highlights of which were the pipe bands and the kilted warriors. The novelty events  were also a great hit with the children.

The pipe bands are what make a Scottish event so special.

Each band performed multiple routines on the day competing for The McMullin Shield for the most outstanding band, the Scottish Australian Heritage Council Trophy, the Celtic Warriors Ceremonial Sword, and the Aberdeen Highland Games President’s Perpetual Trophy.

Under the direction of the Drum Major of the Day, the bands came together as one at the opening and closing ceremonies, creating a mass band of hundreds of pipers and drummers in what was a truly impressive spectacle.

The Kilted Warriors was a great part of the Aberdeen Highland Games, with athletes competing in a traditional Celtic strongman competition. Four athletes competed in three traditional events; Stones, Sheaf and Caber Toss.

Stones is a traditional test of pure strength. The athletes competed against the clock to determine who can lift five stones of increasing weights off the ground and onto barrels. With the stones weighing between 100 and 165kg this was not an event for the average person, but it was great to watch.

Sheaf Toss This traditional Scottish agricultural sport involves using a pitchfork to hurl a burlap bag stuffed with straw over a horizontal bar above the competitor’s head. The bag typical weights about 7kg.

Caber Toss This traditional Scottish athletic event is said to have developed from the need to toss logs across narrow chasms to cross them. A perfect throw ends with the ‘top’ end nearest to the thrower and the ‘bottom’ end pointing exactly away. This is an impressive feat when the caber is typically 5.94m long and weighs 79kg, with one athlete achieving a good effort at tossing the caber, albeit not in a direct line.

The Tug O War was hotly contested over a number of events with numerous teams testing their strength on the day.

We are looking forward to next year’s highland games, with the Clan Cameron NSW tent next appearing at the Bundanoon Highland Gathering, Saturday 4 April 2020.

Genetic Genealogy is one of the newest, fastest changing and most widely publicized innovations in family history research. We inherit DNA from both of our parents so we each have as a result a unique DNA fingerprint which we can use in combination with traditional genealogical and historical records to document a family tree.

The Clan Cameron DNA Project has been working for some years, becoming more active over the past year with increasing technology and, more importantly, increasing numbers of Cameron participants. The administrators for the project are in North America and New Zealand and generously give their time voluntarily.

The project uses an American company, Family Tree DNA, which offers three tests to consider:


This records your direct paternal lineage and follows your father’s paternal ancestry. This line consists entirely of men and is the test used to follow our surname Cameron back to its origins in Scotland and to confirm that presumed known Cameron cousins do in fact stem from the same line. Y DNA is the main focus of the Clan Cameron DNA Project.

Many of those bearing the Cameron surname come in some way from the original Lochiel line, the MacGillonies, MacMartins or MacSorlies. Others will have taken the name for various reasons, and at various times in history. Most families in Australia have a tradition of descent from the Lochiel line through one of the cadet branches and this may by proven correct. Some will be reluctant to find these families stories proven wrong – and of course at any level other irregularities may become apparent. If this might be a worry to yourself, or to your close relatives, it may be better not to join the testing project.

We recommend starting with an initial Y37 STR test, to clarify which group you belong to, once those results are in the project admins will provide you with a review and explanation of your results, and options for further testing. For all testers who fall within the Lochiel group, BigY testing will be strongly recommended.

For more details and prices see the FTDNA website – and watch out for the frequent price reductions in sales, usually in April, August and December.

Autosomal DNA

FamilyFinder focuses on autosomal DNA, which is inherited from both your mother and your father, your four grandparents, etc. This test is designed to find living relatives in all of your ancestral lines within the last five generations and can also give you a breakdown of your ethnic makeup by percentage.

This is the cheapest and currently most widely advertised test. It can certainly be interesting, but often frustrating trying to work out which potential cousins to follow up. It can also be extremely useful when uncertainly related (on paper) fourth cousins turn out to be true relatives on DNA testing, confirming years of work. The American administrators have done a lot of complex work with these results and we can expect more information in the future.

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)

Traces the direct maternal line (mother’s mother’s mother, etc). While this can often be of personal interest, it is of little practical help in the search for Cameron ancestry