On 20 October, 2023, Donald Angus Cameron, 27th Chief of Clan Cameron, passed away peacefully in his sleep at Achnacarry. He was 77 years of age, and had a happy week with family nearby. He will be sorely missed by family, friends and clansfolk across the world who met him when in Scotland. Farewell and rest in peace, Lochiel, and thank you for everything that you did for our clan.
Donald Angus Cameron of Lochiel was born in 1946 and studied at Harrow and Christ Church, Oxford University college.
Lochiel served as second lieutenant in the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders from 1966 to 1968. An accountant by training, he was a director of the Schroders Group from 1984 to 1999. Donald was also the president of the Highland Society of London from 1994 to 1997. From 2002, he was a justice of the peace of the Highlands. Deputy Lord Lieutenant from 1986 to 2002, and Lochiel was Lord Lieutenant of Inverness from 2002 to 2022, that is, the British monarch’s representative for the county. In 2017, Lochiel was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II, Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.
Donald was married to Cecil Kerr, of the Kerr clan, with whom he founded the Clan Cameron Museum at Achnacarry in 1989.
Cecil and Donald had four children: Catherine Mary Cameron (b. 1975), Donald Andrew Cameron (b. 1976), Lucy Margot Cameron (b. 1980) and Emily Francis Cameron (b. 1986).
We are hugely grateful to see so many people here today, many of whom have come so far, to say their farewells.
Words cannot express how much solace that brings, as we mourn Dad’s passing.
His death was unexpected and the shock of it, combined with a sense that it came too early, has made it harder to bear. He was happy and well, and had lots of plans for the future. As one of his friends put it: “He was alive and vivid in this world”.
After he died, we wondered if he had left any instructions for his funeral. Catherine and I searched high and low looking for a letter or an envelope with a detailed list of requirements, favourite hymns, readings etc.
There was of course, nothing.
This was a man who loved life, and never wanted to think about the end of it, let alone make plans.
If Margi and others will forgive me, I think the only eyebrow he might have raised about his funeral arrangements, would be the number of Campbells involved in the service.
But here we are. I would like to start by taking the opportunity, on behalf of our family, to thank all those people who played a part in caring for our father. There are too many to mention by name. But you know who you are, and we know who you are. And our gratitude to you for looking after him so well is immense.
People loved Dad and he loved them back.
Above all, he loved his family, his friends, his clan, and his community.
Dad’s family was everything to him. First and foremost, Mum. Their 49 year marriage was deep and loving and spirited, and full of understanding and compassion towards each other. Together, they provided the warmest of homes and safest of havens for Catherine, Lucy, Emily, and me.
As a father, he gave the four of us his love, unconditionally. But he went beyond that. He never had any expectations or placed any demands on his children. There was never any pressure. He let us be. We knew he had our back, and his relentless optimism and wise counsel kept us going through the ups and downs of life.
Later on, he absolutely loved his grandchildren who brought him so much happiness – from high fives with the toddlers, to competitive games of backgammon, and illicit toast and golden syrup with the teenagers.
Dad’s wider family meant the world to him too. He had a happy, idyllic childhood with his sisters Anne and Caroline, and brother Johnny.
As a clan chief, my father was very proud of his role and greatly enjoyed doing it. In his younger years, he had great fun traveling the world and meeting Cameron clans-folk in North America, Australia and New Zealand.
And as chief, Dad would always love welcoming people to Achnacarry, realising that for clan members it was their home as much as ours. He would show people round and usually end the visit with an instruction to go and spend as much money as possible in the clan museum.
If anyone’s heart was in the Highlands, it was his. Dad was blissful at Achnacarry and was proud of it too. Catherine recalls being in a car with him on the way to the church for her wedding, expecting sound advice and reassurance from Dad, but he was far more interested in commenting on how glorious Achnacarry looked in the sunshine.
He was happiest there, in his own home, in his own country.
And in dying peacefully at Achnacarry, we are comforted that he was in the place he loved more than anywhere else.
When he turned 70 he held a birthday party there and I recall him saying how much pleasure he took from simply being with his local friends who came from all walks of life across Lochaber. His deep fondness for the community around him was self-evident.
With Dad, there was always a solution to any problem. And that was true throughout his life, even after his diagnosis with MS. Nothing was insurmountable.
I don’t want to dwell on his MS because Dad didn’t dwell on it.
But I do want to pay tribute to the bravery he showed in facing it and the example he set in enduring it.
He was neither defeated nor defined by his condition. And he didn’t let us, as a family, be defined by it either. It faded into the background.
He never complained. In fact, he never even wanted to talk about it, always turning the conversation back on whoever was with him, wanting to talk about their life and how they were.
For someone who became less physically strong over time, he had an incredible inner strength. And if, at times, he became tired, he never tired of being positive. This was someone for whom the expression “glass half full” was their guiding principle.
It’s also important to remember him at all times of his life, not just his later years.
The keen sportsman who excelled in football and rugby at school and loved fishing and shooting at home. One stalker said he was so “fleet-footed” on the hill, a natural rifle shot who knew exactly where to lie and shoot from.
One friend talked of the “dashing Donald”, the elegant Highland dancer who would be the prize catch at reeling parties. Driving about in a TR6 in his twenties, he was a glamorous figure whose chat-up lines would invariably involve a reference to how he looked like Steve McQueen. He loved music too, especially singing. He always said he had a terrible voice but it never stopped him.
Donald Andrew, Donald Angus, Cecil Cameron and former Australian and NZ Commissioners at the International Gathering of the Clans in Edinburgh, 2009
Fun and laughter were never far away. He would laugh at jokes with tears running down his cheeks and clutching his chest in hysterics.
He was the master at putting people at ease with a warm smile and a little joke of his own. His cheeky sense of humour and friendly nature sometimes went too far for us children – Emily recalls her embarrassment at one start of term at her convent school, when he insisted on kissing every nun “hello”, and even took the deputy head for a ride on his mobility scooter.
He was genuinely interested in people and inquisitive about their lives. He would happily approach anyone, and was at ease with everyone, endlessly showing kindness to all, especially to people he had only just met.
Lucy says that when she thinks of him, it is with his arms wide open to us all. Whether it was at home, or in a crowded room, he was always there, arms spread open to everyone he cared for. And if we could wish for anything, it would be that is how he was greeted by God, arms wide open in love.
To bring this to a close, let me just say this.
Dad achieved so much in his life.
But he also understood there is a difference between achievement and fulfilment.
And he was fulfilled.
What lessons he taught us.
How you can strengthen others, but do so gently.
How you can inspire others, but do so quietly.
And how you can show courage to all, but do so softly.
The Bengali poet, Tagore, wrote that “Death is not extinguishing the light, it is putting out the lamp, because the dawn has come.”
And as this dawn breaks, we say farewell.
Farewell to the kindest of friends.
Farewell to a lion-hearted father.
And, as so many have said, farewell to another gentle, gentle Lochiel.