top of page

John Cameron & Family pre 1914.
The last pre-war years and how I have a Swiss Grandmother.

The 1911 census for Deshar shows that Gregor Cameron (son of James Cameron& Anne Watson) was head of the household and farmed Chapelton, His older brother John lived with them but unusually, the eldest is not head of the household. At the time Gregor was 58 and John was 78, but had only recently come to live at Chapelton since the 1901 census, presumably not wanting to live alone in his old age. He had never had married but may well have had a long term relationship with the widowed Helen McGilvray at Docharn. This is sheer speculation on my part based on the census returns for Deshar.

In 1881 he is at Chapelton with his parents, Gregor and 3 other of his brothers and sisters. In 1891 he is sharing Docharn Farm House with the widow, her brother and son. Docharn had a number of attached cottages where a mere farm worker would normally have lived. I can not definitely find him in the 1901 census though a shepherd of the correct name, age and parish of birth was living and working at the Home Farm at the Doune.

Gregor had a son Peter born in 1876 who lived with him at Chapelton. Peter's mother, Barbara MacIntosh was living at Docharn as a domestic servant at the time of the 1881 census. Docharn being about a mile up the hill behind Chapelton it is no surprise that she and Gregor became acquainted. The only road to Docharn goes past the front door of Chapelton. Gregor may not have married but was clearly no celibate! After Peter was born I can find no further trace of Barbara, very unusually for the time, Gregor brought their son up, so what happened here I do not know.

1911 Census Deshar

 

Click image to enlarge

1901 Census Deshar

 

Click image to enlarge

1891 Census Deshar

 

Click image to enlarge

1881 Census Deshar

 

Click image to enlarge

Epic Journey

To get back to Chapelton she would have had to travel alone from Switzerland. This would have been a daunting journey for a 24 year old girl on her own at the best of times. However 1915 was not the best of times, by then Europe was being consumed by the First World War. 

 

Having crossed France and the Channel she would still have had the 650 mile journey to Chapelton. As a single girl, with very little English and a strong Swiss / German accent this must have been very hard.  To the average Brit at the time Swiss and German would have been a very fine distinction and Germany was the enemy.

 

The coming of the railways started the opening up of the Scottish Highlands as they became more easily accessible from  the rest of the country.  This was the time when Queen Victoria and Albert became besotted with Scotland and built their Northern HQ at Balmoral.  As the Royals led the way, the Scottish Highlands became the fashionable place in which to spend the summer.

 

Like many other families, Gregor Cameron Elsie and  her son John would move into another small cottage or bothy  on the farm and let their main house to Summer Visitors. For several years a wealthy Swiss family from Lucerne took Chapelton for the summer.  One year John managed to strike up a friendship with a Lady's Maid who travelled with the family. 

 

The  Maid (also Swiss ) was Emilie Alice Collet, After they returned to Switzerland in 1914, Alice (as she was known ) would have discovered that she was pregnant, putting her in a difficult position. As a mere maid her employer would in all probability have given her the push when her pregnancy became obvious. Not waiting for this to happen she somehow made her way alone back to Chapelton, she and John married on 24th March 1915.  To what extent this was pre-planned whilst Alice was in Scotland the previous year I can not say. Understandably this was not something she would have been likely to discuss with her own daughter years later.  

Shortly after marrying Alice John had to march off to the war, leaving this poor Swiss girl on her own with her Mother in Law, at a farm in the North of Scotland, and pregnant.  Even so early in the war, by 1915 they must have known that his chances of ever coming home would have been slim. This must have been a daunting prospect for young Alice.

Remarkably John Cameron did return home and in the aftermath of  the war he started a forestry and timber business  building a small sawmill at Chapelton.  John and Alice’s first child Elsie was born in 1916 (After an embarrassingly short pregnancy !!)whilst John was in the trenches. In 1919 their son George arrived followed by a second daughter Marguerite in 1923.  The forestry business became a successful and profitable business which was taken over by George when John died at just 59.

I think that you probably know the rest.

bottom of page