Obituary: Major Allan Cameron MBE - Highlander who serve his country and community with pride and passion

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Born: 25 March, 1917, in Achnacarry Castle, Fort William. Died: 4 December, 2011, in Invergordon, aged 94

MAJOR Allan Cameron’s devotion to duty more than fulfilled his family regiment’s ancient motto: For King And Country. As a member of one of Scotland’s proudest clans, he maintained a centuries’ old tradition of fighting heroically for his country and went on to serve his own Highland community in local government for 40 years.

Twice captured during the Second World War, he spent six weeks on the run in Italy, jauntily describing his exploits as he dodged the enemy by trekking along the Appenines as “a glorious hike”.

Born in the ancestral home of Achnacarry Castle – later to become known as Commando Castle, the wartime training base for the Green Berets – he was the son of Col Sir Donald Walter Cameron, the 25th Cameron of Locheil, chief of Clan Cameron whose ancestors fought alongside Bonnie Prince Charlie at Culloden.

Following family tradition, he was educated at Harrow and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst before joining the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders in 1936. He served in India after being commissioned and was then stationed in Egypt, becoming a general’s aide de camp.

He was among the thousands of British troops captured when Tobruk fell to Rommel in June 1942. Some of the Cameron Highlanders fought on for a further 24 hours after their commanders capitulated and reportedly marched into captivity to the skirl of the pipes.

Cameron was sent to a prisoner of war camp near Parma in northern Italy, but escaped when the Italians surrendered the following year. Then his dangerous tramp through the backbone of Italy began.

He decided to travel wearing army uniform, fearing that if he sported civilian clothes, he might have been picked up as a spy. Along the way he was helped by a number of courageous Italians, who risked being shot if they were caught giving shelter to a POW. These Italians were marvellous, he said, and he later returned with his wife to visit some of those who had come to his aid.

Despite making it across 250 miles of mountainous terrain, he was re-captured close to German lines near Ancona on the Adriatic coast and was sent to Germany. The worst part of his war, he said, was being in a cattle truck in Vienna, on the way north, being bombed by the United States Air Force.

He was eventually freed from a German prisoner of war camp by the Americans and returned home after an absence of seven years.

During the war he had been corresponding with a young artist from Kincardine O’Neil on Deeside, Elizabeth Vaughan-Lee, and within weeks of his return they were married. After a short honeymoon on the west coast, Cameron was put on Royal guard duty at Balmoral – where the king had specifically requested former POWs for the job.

From there, he moved to the army training school at Eaton Hall in Cheshire before retiring from the forces with the rank of major in 1947. By this time he and his wife had bought a farm on the Black Isle at Allangrange, where they settled and raised their family of three sons and two daughters. Tragically, their son Allan drowned while fishing in the River Lochy in 1965, just a week before his 20th birthday.

While her husband farmed, Elizabeth started a frozen food business which then became a combined effort, employing a couple-of- dozen local workers. She sourced scampi, lobsters and mussels to freeze, long before frozen food was fashionable, and invented boil-in-the-bag porridge.

Meanwhile, in 1955 Cameron had embarked on a career in local politics, following in the footsteps of his grandfather who had been the first convenor of Inverness-shire County Council in 1890.

Cameron sat on Ross and Cromarty County Council for 20 years and was chairman of its education committee from 1962-75. He then served Ross and Cromarty District Council and was its convenor for several years from 1991. He had been made an MBE in 1988 and on his 79th birthday in 1996 he received a further honour when he was awarded the freedom of Ross and Cromarty, in recognition of his public service – only the third time the honour had been bestowed.

Aside from his prominence in local politics, he was also well known in curling circles. He took up the sport in the 1950s and became president of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club in 1963. He took a team to Orebro in Sweden the following year where they won the Swedish Cup and, as the sport began to become much more international, he helped to found the International Curling Federation of which he became the first president, serving from 1965-69. He also took on other roles as commissioner of both the Red Deer and Countryside Commissions and was a member of the BBC Council for Scotland.

At Allangrange he and his wife, a botanical artist, cultivated a glorious garden that they opened to the public and which attracted visitors from ships that came into berth at Invergordon.

The couple would also go on horticultural tours to the Himalayas, Australia and to New Zealand where one of the local Munlochy lads who used to help with their garden became a head gardener in Dunedin.

Though he had travelled widely, Cameron was always at his happiest in Scotland, where his family had been rooted for centuries, and was intensely proud of his lineage – of being Allan Cameron of Locheil.

Widowed in 2008, he is survived by his children, Kirstie, Ewen, Archie and Bridie. ALISON SHAW