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Cameron, Ewen Wallace (1816–1876)

from Australian Town and Country Journal

Ewan Cameron, n.d.

Ewan Cameron, n.d.

from Australian Town and Country Journal, 3 June 1876, p 893

A citizen, who was widely and deservedly respected in the colony, passed away last week from the midst of us. And many of our readers will, doubtless, be interested in some account of his career.

Ewen Wallace Cameron was the second son of Colonel Cameron, of H. M. Third Buffs. Colonel Cameron was descended from the Lochiel Camerons of Scotland. He served in the British Army twenty-five years, of which twenty-one were passed in active war on the continent. In different engagements he received no less than five wounds. His family now hold high letters of commendation which he received from H.R.H. the Duke of York, Sir John Byng, Lord Fitzroy Somerset, and others. He married a Portuguese lady, Ludovina Sosa de Silva, by whom he had three sons, including the subject of this sketch, and three daughters.

E. W. Cameron was born on the 26th July, 1816, in France. At the age of eight years, in 1824, he came out to this colony with his father, who brought out a part of the Third Buffs. He was educated at Mr. W. T. Cape's school, King street, where several of our public men were his schoolfellows. Among his most intimate companions at that time was Mr. John Bell, who was one year before him in age and in coming to the colony, was frequently associated with him in the course of his life, and was present with him during the last scene of his earthly career.

When he left school he entered the commissariat department; and after his father and the Regiment had left the colony, his trustees sent him to the office of Messrs. Aspinall, Browne, and Co., merchants, as clerk. He afterwards entered upon pastoral enterprise, and with his brother-in-law, Mr. Dutton, and others formed one of the first parties of overlanders who took sheep from the stations of New South Wales to the Adelaide country.

Returning from a successful trip to Adelaide, in which he and his companions, endured great hardship and perils, he took up several runs in the Northern country in partnership with his friend, Mr. John Bell. They formed stations on the Macdonald River, New England, and on Darling Downs; but were not so successful in sheep and cattle farming as to be above the temptation to seek a change; and when the ambition of the young men of this colony was aroused by the report of the gold discoveries in California, it was agreed between them that Cameron should go in search of gold, and send for his friend Bell as soon as his labours began to be crowned with success. That kind of success, however, was not in his path; and, after two years of fruitless efforts, he returned to New South Wales, a wiser though not a richer man. He worked his way back as mate of the vessel, and navigated the ship so well that the owners asked him to take the command.

Soon after his return to this country, he entered the establishment of T. S. Mort and Co., in Pitt street, and after serving that house for three years was taken into partnership. He remained in that position for nearly twenty years, and retired at the time of the change in the business of the firm, in order to visit Europe.

In the year 1852 Mr. Cameron married Sophia, daughter of Mr. George Nail, merchant, formerly Private Secretary to Lord Minto. They have had twelve children, of whom eleven are now living at the family residence, Ewenton, Balmain.

In the year 1859 Mr. Cameron came forward in the arena of politics as a candidate for the Electorate of the Glebe (including Balmain). This was the first general election under the present Electoral Act; and the large extension of the suffrage, then unprecedented within the British Empire, together with the introduction of the ballot, gave an unusual interest to the struggle. Mr. (now the Hon.) John Campbell had before represented the Sydney Hamlets; so that he had some political connexion with the newly-formed Electorate of the Glebe, which was one of the divisions made out of that constituency. He had therefore an advantage as a candidate. But a requisition was got up in Balmain to Mr. Cameron, who was already much respected there for his social virtues and public spirit. Captain Rountree headed the requisition, which was signed in one evening by over 200 electors, and Mr. Cameron consented to come forward. The late Mr. N. D. Stenhouse took a leading part in the canvass for Mr. Cameron. At one of his meetings held in the Glebe, after he had explained his views, and a motion had been proposed that Mr. Cameron was a fit and proper person to represent the constituency, an amendment was submitted by Mr. Geoffrey Eagar, and seconded by Mr. G. E. Dibbs, to the effect that Mr. John Campbell was a fit and proper person. In spite of the ardent eloquence of these two aspirants to political fame, the amendment was lost, as in a meeting called for the purpose of advancing Mr. Cameron's cause they probably expected.

The contest in this and all the electorates turned to a great extent on the confidence placed in the Cowper Ministry, who had introduced and carried the Electoral Act, and had promised a Bill to open the land for freehold settlement, the abolition of State aid to religion and other liberal measures. Mr. John Campbell came forward as a thorough believer in the Cowper administration, of which his brother, the honorable Robert Campbell, one of the most deservedly popular statesmen of New South Wales, then lately deceased, had been the Treasurer. Mr. Cameron, without opposing Mr. Cowper, held himself free to support him or not as he might see fit on any question that arose. Many of the electors were inclined to give the Cowper Ministry a more unhesitating support. Mr. Cameron, in his published address and speeches treated chiefly of three subjects,—the Administration of the Lands, State Aid to Religion, and Education. He avowed himself in favour of selection at £1 an acre—over the settled districts only; he maintained that the runs should be assessed anew, as soon as the leases expired, and a larger revenue derived from the land held by the squatters. He was in favour of the gradual abolition of State aid to religion, after making Provision for the thinly-peopled districts, and spoke strongly against the idea of a "Dominant! state Church." For the promotion of primary education, he advocated the principles then lately put forward by the Wesleyan Conference,— in favour of a general system requiring a standard of secular competency in the school teacher, tested by certifícate of examination, and efficient public periodical examination of all schools receiving public support,—leaving religious instruction to the zeal and fidelity of the respective churches." It is evident from these words that Mr. Cameron, in joining the Education League recently formed in Sydney, was acting in conformity with the views he put forward in 1859. The nomination took place on the 13th June, 1859. Mr. Stenhouse, in proposing Mr. Cameron, spoke of him in words which will now be acknowledged by all who knew Mr. Cameron to be entirely free from that exaggeration which is sometimes supposed to be inseparable from election speeches, but which the sincerity of Mr. Stenhouse would not have allowed him to use. He said of him "He is a man whose ear is never deaf to the claims of the friendless or the poor." And as to his intellectual qualifications, he said "Mr. Cameron has achieved the high position he holds in the community by his own integrity and talents. He has no rich friends, no rich brothers or other relatives. He has struggled on with nothing to help him but the consciousness of integrity; a clear head and an indomitable will. He can think for himself, and give reasons for his opinions. And he has strength of resolution to follow out what he proposes to do."

This view of Mr. Cameron's qualifications was endorsed by 424 electors at the ballot on the following day but Mr. John Campbell had 475 votes recorded in his favour. And Mr. Cameron, after being thus excluded from the Legislature, never again offered his services to his country in that way. He was probably right in concluding that he might serve his generation better outside the Parliament than within. And this disappointment did not abate his zeal for the public welfare, which found scope in other ways.

On the first formation of the Volunteer Force Mr. Cameron joined it, and was the first ensign of the Balmain Company. He was afterwards promoted to the position of lieutenant; and on the promotion of Captain Jaques to the rank of major, in 1868, he was made captain, and held that commission to the day of his death. He was much esteemed by every member of the company.

He was also an active member of the Church of England, and was chosen churchwarden of St. Mary's, Balmain, year after year, for many years. He was appointed a lay canon of St. Andrew's Cathedral on the formation of the chapter; and his name will now be the first inscribed on the tablets in the cathedral sacred to the memory of the canons. He was a Fellow of St. Paul's College. And he represented the congregation to which he belonged in the Diocesan Svnod.

He was also president of the Balmain Working Men's Institute, and a vice-president of the Sydney Infirmary; and while holding these offices of trust in the church and in philanthropic institutions he very liberally contributed to the advancement of these and other schemes for the good of his fellow men. One of his most intimate friends says of him:—"His munificence and open handed generous gifts were so numerous, it might of him be truly said—His pity gave ere charity began." Among the memorials of his association with such works are the silver trowels he received on occasion of laying the foundation stone of St. Mary's parsonage, and that of the Oddfellows hall, Balmain.

About ten years ago, after leaving the firm of T. S. Mort and Co., Mr. Cameron went to England, and spent two years in visiting different parts of the mother country, and most of the cities and remarkable places on the Continent of Europe.

His name has been before the public lately in connection with two movements for the advancement of education; the League for the establishment of a system national, free, secular, and compulsory, and the Bible Combination. Understanding by "secular" non-sectarian, and earnestly desirous that the privilege of primary education might be extended to every child in the colony, he went into the work of the League heartily. And when recently a combination was formed for securing the use of the Bible in all State schools, he approved the design,—as consistent with the principles of non-sectarian education and promised to preside at the first public meeting of the combination. To the regret of those whom he had thus engaged to help in this movement, he was too ill to come to the meeting; and never recovered sufficiently to take an active part in this last undertaking of a public kind upon which he entered.

Mr. Cameron had the happiness in his latter days of being still associated, in private and public affairs, with friends of many years standing. His early associate in enterprise, Mr. John Bell, as above mentioned, was with him at the last. Mr. T. J. Jaques, late Registrar-General, brother-in-law of Mr. Cape, under whom he received his education, was for many years associated with him in Balmain as co-churchwarden. They were also in the same company of Volunteer Rifles. And now Mr. Jaques is legal adviser of the family, and co-trustee with Mr. T. S. Mort of the will of Mr. Cameron.

After several weeks' illness, Mr. Cameron departed this life on Thursday, the 25th May, at his residence, Ewenton, Balmain. He was within two months of the completion of his 60th year.

The funeral took place on Friday the 20th. The service at St. Mary's Church was conducted by the incumbent, Rev. T. B. Tress. The Rev. H. A. Langloy, former incumbent of St. Mary's, officiated at the grave in Balmain Cemetery, and the Bishop of Sydney pronounced the benediction, The four elder sons of Mr. Cameron, attended by Mr. T. S. Mort, Mr. Alex. Buchanan, and Captain Rountree as chief mourners placed crosses of roses and camellias on the bier. Among the friends who followed the funeral were Mr. John Bell, Mr. F. Harper, Rev. Mr. Forest, Rev. Mr. Unwin, Mr. G. O. Allen, Mr. J. Adam, Mr. Gadden, Mr. Ormiston, the Hon. Thomas Holt, Mr. H. Mort, Colonel Richardson (commandant), J. H. Goodlet (lieutenant-colonel), Christie, Baynes, and Jaques (majors) Captain Hixon, Captain Campbell, and many other officers and members of the Volunteer Force; Dr. G. A. Elliott, and Dr. O. S. Evans.

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'Cameron, Ewen Wallace (1816–1876)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/cameron-ewen-wallace-3150/text25934, accessed 25 November 2017.

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