Obituary: Iain Cameron, headmaster who fought for his country and served the cause of rugby by championing league system

Iain Cameron receives the Legion d'Honneur in 2016
Iain Cameron receives the Legion d'Honneur in 2016
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Iain Cameron, headmaster, rugby administrator and member of the Legion d’Honneur. Born: 12 January, 1925 in Glasgow. Died: 31 May, 2019 in Glasgow, aged 94

WITHIN Scottish Rugby, Iain Cameron, who has died aged 94, was “the unlauded Cameron.” Younger brothers Angus, a Scotland captain and vice-captain of the 1955 British and Irish Lions in South Africa, and Donald, were both capped. Iain, by all accounts every bit as good as his younger brothers, played for unfashionable Jordanhill School FP and never got the call from the SRU selectors.

However, posterity will demonstrate, he made the more-lasting impression on the game, since he is credited with pushing through the Scottish Rugby Union Leagues. Iain believed that to improve internationally, Scotland required a merit-based league system to replace the unofficial “newspaper” championship, so he made that suggestion to the SRU.

Being the SRU, the Murrayfield “bufties” did what they always did – they said no. So, Iain tried again; this time, they thought about it, but still said no. So, off he went, refined his presentation, gathered greater support and, at his third time of asking, the “bufties” agreed and Scotland led the world in having official, competitive leagues, which began in 1973.

Perhaps the SRU under-estimated the calibre of the man with the big idea. The fourth of eight children, seven of whom survived past infancy, Iain Cameron was raised in a happy family. His father ran a successful licensed grocer’s business in Dumbarton Road and, following his early death, Iain’s formidable mother took charge, to such success that, while Iain and the other five older siblings had to settle for the still-excellent education offered at Jordanhill College School, close to family home in Abbey Drive. By the time Angus and Donald came along, Mrs Cameron could afford to send them to the fee-paying High School of Glasgow.

Iain played rugby for his school, before, in 1942, going to Glasgow University to read Scottish History. However, at the end of his first year, he received his call-up and, after training he was posted to the Royal West Surrey Regiment, part of the legendary Desert Rats, the Seventh Armoured Division.

His regiment landed at Arromanche on 12 June and were soon involved in the brutal Battle of Normandy, in which Iain was wounded in the attack on Lisieux. Initially listed as: “missing in action,” he was sent back to the UK to recover and was able to rejoin his regiment for the push into Belgium.

Iain was one of the Normandy veterans who, in 2016, was invested with membership of the Legion d’Honneur, receiving his award from the French Consul in Glasgow.

However, the West Surreys had been all but obliterated in the fighting, so he joined the Queen’s Royal Regiment, fighting his way through the Low Countries before a second wound, in the attack on Eindhoven, saw him again back in Blighty. Again he recovered but saw out the war in a desk job.

Back in Glasgow, he returned to Gilmorehill, captained the University XV, got his degree and in 1950 joined the Longman’s publishing house, where he rose to become sales manager, Ireland and Scotland.

In 1952, he married Marie who, during her husband’s extensive business trips across his vast patch, found herself having to virtually bring-up their four children on her own. Iain continued to play rugby for Jordanhill FP and, on business trips to London, he seldom missed an opportunity to turn out for various London Scottish teams.

At Richmond Athletic Ground, they recognised Iain as a very good player who, had he chosen to forsake his beloved Jordanhill, could well have emulated his younger brothers and played for Scotland.

Retiring from playing saw him become, if anything, more-involved with his club, representing them at the Glasgow District Union and playing a major role in securing and developing the Kilmardinny ground for the club.

Later, he played a big part in the amalgamation of Jordanhill School FP and Jordanhill College, to form Jordanhill RFC, before becoming vice president of the new club when Jordanhill underwent a second amalgamation, with Hillhead High School FP, to form Hillhead-Jordanhill.

With the publishing world also changing, forming bigger groupings, 40-year-old Iain Cameron underwent his own career change, returning to the Jordanhill campus, to the teacher training college, to become a primary school teacher.

His business career and experience saw the newly-qualified teacher quickly promoted, to deputy head at Milngavie PS, then his first headmastership at Westerton PS, before his final job, as head teacher at John Logie Baird PS in Helensburgh.

He golfed – at his best a seven-handicapper – at Buchanan Castle, where he was a stalwart of the various club teams for many years. Indeed, his only hole-in-one came in a seniors team competition at Beith GC. He was also a country member at Carradale GC, a course he loved.

He also formed and administered the Buchanan Castle Golf Club Thursday Senior Walking Group, a collective of reprobates whose dauners took them to awe the airts o’ Scotland. The banter in this group was off the scale, and mostly recorded in secretary Cameron’s very-funny newsletters. More-seriously, they raised a lot of money for the various charities they championed.

Iain was a committed Christian, for over 30-years an elder at Bearsden South Parish Church.

Marie survives him, with their four children, Alison, Shelagh, Iain Junior and Rhona, and their nine grand-children. Iain was also survived by elder brother Willie, but, Willie passed away, aged 95, 17 days after his younger brother, leaving 92-year-old Ann as the last surviving Cameron sibling.

MATT VALLANCE