On 3 March a large congregation, including members of her family, her church and her former colleagues, gathered at St Paul’s and St George’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh to celebrate the life of Monica Cameron, who was the Principal of St Margaret’s School, Edinburgh, from 1984 to 1992.
After graduating in history at Oxford University Monica married Donald Cameron, a fellow Scot who was serving with the Cameronians. So she began her married life living in the different parts of the world where he was serving, bringing up their four children. When he retired from the army and went into the ministry as a clergyman in the Church of England, Monica obtained a certificate in teacher training, and began her career at Kelvin Hall School in Hull. It was not long before she was appointed Deputy Head at Northallerton.
After Donald became rector at Balerno Episcopal Church, Monica taught at Broxburn, then as Deputy Head at Firhill Secondary School. Shortly thereafter she was appointed Principal of St Margaret’s.
Monica was at heart an academic. She believed that every girl should be encouraged to achieve her personal best. When she arrived at St Margaret’s there was already a programme of learning support for those who needed it. Monica promoted the setting-up of a programme for senior girls who aspired to go to Oxford or Cambridge.
Thanks entirely to her efforts, eminent speakers gave lectures as the school celebrated its centenary. She also understood the importance of other qualities essential to an all-round education. She felt it was vital that girls were encouraged in every aspect of healthy living and well-being, and strove to ensure that education at St Margaret’s was first and foremost in a happy, caring community. This was the hallmark of St Margaret’s and many parents chose the school for their daughters for that very reason.
A keen interest in history was always part of Monica’s life, and she took great pleasure in showing friends around any historical place of interest wherever she happened to be.
She was also an enthusiastic walker and explorer. Each year the girls from senior 2 class set off for a week of outdoor activities in Perthshire, where she joined staff and girls on their climb up a chosen Munro. Many girls who perhaps had little experience of the outdoors can look back to their achievement in this activity.
Monica was a member of the National Trust for Scotland, as was the school, and she enjoyed accompanying a group of girls on an annual visit to Culross and Falkland Palace.
Monica took a practical and straightforward approach to issues in her work. She said: “If you see that there is a problem, you want to get on and sort it out”. In the years leading up to her retirement there were many changes in education. Sometimes it was necessary for her to make decisions which were hard and not always popular.
Running a small day school with boarders was challenging. Nevertheless, Monica never shied from making these decisions and was trusted and respected. She was uniformly fair and just, and showed a great deal of humanity. Authority came naturally to her, a quality essential in the smooth running of a school.
In retirement, Donald and Monica moved to East Lothian where they enjoyed every aspect of life in a rural community. She was never happier than when she was out and about with a much-loved dog, as she was until the day of her sudden death.
She joined in many local activities, including being a volunteer guide at Preston Mill for the National Trust for Scotland. She maintained her support for her church in Edinburgh. Monica’s strong Christian belief underpinned a truly fulfilled life.