The burial site is not easy to find for those who are neither Camerons nor locals. It is hidden a few hundred yards behind Achnacarry castle. Nothing indicates where these iron gates lead to, no sign at all to what seems just an overgrown path heading gently uphill. Obviously, not many people come here.
Catriona, kind curator of the Clan Cameron Museum, gave me directions, otherwise I would not have found it. After all, this is not a tourist attraction but the private burial site where the Cameron Chiefs are traditionally laid to rest.
the origin of the Clan Cameron
There are various theories about the beginning of this clan. One says the Camerons, and the Clan Chattan shared a common origin, another, the Camerons came out of the Macgillonies. There’s also the belief, that the Camerons are descendants of the royal Danish line, since a Danish prince they called Cameron (apparently a Gaelic patronym for “the knight with the crooked nose”) helped in the making of Scottish King Fergus II in the late 8th century. The deformed nose was acquired in a fight. Afterwards, this warrior, endowed with almost superhuman strength, was called Cameron.
„Our hero was now arrived at the 35th year of his age, and had given many signal proofs of his valour, so that his name became terrible all over the country. But having little or no paternal estate, he began to think it highly necessary for him to join himself to some great and powerful family, the better to enable him to dis- tinguish himself more eminently, than it was possible for him to do as a single man, without friends or relations, or at least such as were of little or no account. He had spent his life in the shire of Dumbarton ; but as he had no family or inheritance to encumber him, he resolved to try his fortune in the world, and to go in search of a wife. He set out accordingly, and happened to light on that part of the country where Lochiel’s estate now lies. Here he informed himself of the character and circumstances of the chief who resided there, and understood that he was a man of a large estate, had a great number of friends and dependents, and withal had a fair and excellent young lady to his daughter. This was a foundation sufficient for our wry-nose knight to build his hopes and future expectations upon.“
Life of Dr. Archibald Cameron : London, 1753
This Cameron married the daughter of the laird, fought successfully for his father-in-law against the MacDonalds of Glengarry and received land of the latter as a peace offering ending the differences between them.
the history of the Clan Cameron
Whatever story about their origin is true, the Camerons fought on the side of King Robert the Bruce and came to power in Lochaber in the 15th century.
They took part in the devastating Battle of Flodden. Chief then was Ewan Cameron who, together with some of his men, was one of the few survivors. His King James IV was not so lucky. Ewan Cameron’s sovereign was killed in battle.
The Camerons supported the Stuart cause in both Jacobite Risings and fought on the front line at the Battle of Culloden. After the defeat, the old Achnacarry castle was burnt down by the victorious Hanoverian forces who were eliminating any trace of the rebellious Scots they could find. It cost a fortune in fees to re-build a castle on Cameron ground afterwards.
Clan Cameron today
The Camerons were distinguished military commanders for generations.
Today, there are many Camerons throughout the world. A result of the early 19th century Clearances under a trust acting for the Donald Cameron 22nd of Lochiel while still a minor and later by Donald Cameron himself. Most crofts were cleared in 1802.
During both World Wars Cameron Highlanders fought in large numbers. Both the 25th and the 16th Chief were knights of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle. Achnacarry was a WW2 training center for Commandos.
The Cameron Highlanders were also known as “ladies from hell” because they were the last soldiers wearing kilt in action.
This is where they are laid to rest – the chiefs of the Clan Cameron. Men that helped shape the history not just of Lochaber but of Scotland.
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Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years.
Her main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel.This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share the author’s passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.
The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.