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‘Today would have been their 70th anniversary’: Son’s tribute to Fraserburgh headmaster Jim Cameron and wife Ethel

The couple, both teachers, were at the heart of the Broch for more than half a century.

Former Fraserburgh headmaster Jim Cameron and his wife Ethel.
Former Fraserburgh headmaster Jim Cameron and his wife Ethel.

On what would have been his parents’ 70th anniversary Angus Cameron pays tribute to his dad Jim, former headmaster of Arnage and Fraserburgh North schools, and remembers his mum Ethel.

Jim, well known in Fraserburgh where he lived and worked, passed away earlier this year.

Farmer’s son

James McKilligan Cameron – better known as Jim – was born at home to Jeannie and Charles Cameron of Rivehill on January 24 1924. The family moved to the Hill of Menie in the early 1930s so his father could help run his parents’ farm. In years to come they would move to their own farm, Westfield, also at Menie.

From an early age Jim expressed a desire to be a country schoolmaster. Although they didn’t have much money, Jim’s parents placed huge importance on education, sending Jim and his sister Anna to Robert Gordon’s College.

A young Jim Cameron, who studied in Aberdeen.

While showing academic promise from a young age Jim was, like his dad, a farmer at heart.  Able to master 60 different manual and machine farming tasks he often reflected that had things been different he would have been a fine farmer.

Bombs and the ‘bonus’ years

When war broke out Jim joined up, despite being in a protected profession. Before leaving for the RAF he remembered his dad’s parting words: “Look after yersel Jimmy, you mother wid be affa upset if onything happened to you.”

Despite experiencing acute air and sea sickness, Jim excelled in the RAF, along with lifelong pal Bill Griffin. He had vivid memories of being ill for six weeks on the way to South Africa for final navigator training.

From there the plan was for Jim to serve as a sergeant flight navigator on what would almost certainly have been fatal bombing raids to Japan. When the atomic bomb was dropped he was spared this fate and considered the subsequent seven decades of his life “a bonus.”

In the immediate aftermath of the war, Jim trained paratroopers, marines, and others in parachute jumping. He also taught PE to new recruits, sometimes more than 400 participants at once.

A trip to happiness

When he eventually returned home he began studying for his Masters at Aberdeen University. Juggling farm duties while aspiring to teach was a chapter of his life that he found hugely significant.

During this time he met a young Ethel Glennie, during a geography field trip.

Young love: Jim Cameron, and his wife Ethel.

With an exchange of date sandwiches, the pair formed a bond that would span 70 years.

The young couple married on April 1 1954 at Kings College Chapel, Aberdeen.

Time of his life

While Ethel taught at Middlefield Primary in Aberdeen Jim found a position at Powis – now St Machar Academy – supporting boys with profound learning difficulties. A stressful role, it led to weight loss, before the position of headteacher at Arnage Primary School became available.

A departure from secondary education, supported by his wife, Jim was able to finish at one school on Friday and begin his new job the very next Monday.

Teachers Anna and Jim Cameron.

The years to come would be what Jim considered the very best of his life, for Ethel also secured a teaching job at the same school. The only two teachers there, she taught primaries one to three while Jim looked after classes four to seven as “teaching head”.

Move to the Broch

During their time at Arnage the couple grew their family, welcoming daughter Ann and son Angus. Conscious of ever being a provider for his family it was with a heavy heart, when he sensed impending closure, that Jim accepted a non-teaching promotion to become head of Fraserburgh North Primary School.

Unlike many of his headmaster peers, however, Jim spent most of his week teaching, supporting staff, doing admin tasks, and proving his dedication as a teacher at every stage of his career.

The Cameron family: Ann and Angus with their parents Ethel and Jim Cameron.

Jim’s colleague Alison Paterson recalled her time at Fraserburgh North under the leadership of “Mr Cameron.”

She said: “As a young, newly-trained primary teacher, I was fortunate to be welcomed not only to Fraserburgh North but to the lovely Cameron family household.

“Mr Cameron – his title never changed over all those years –  provided excellent leadership and encouragement. I’ve always maintained that my teaching career had the best possible start.

“I think he was secretly pleased when I would remind him of this fact.”

Renowned for their generosity

She also paid tribute to the hospitality offered by Jim and Ethel.

“We would often return to the classroom of an evening to continue our prep for the following day.

“Always the gentleman, Mr Cameron would round up any staff members living away from home and transport us to King Edward Street where Mrs Cameron would have an evening snack prepared for us.”

Proud teacher Jim Cameron, back left, with his primary class at Arnage.

Over the years Alison and her mentor kept in touch. Not only did Jim take credit for introducing Alison to her husband – even speaking at their anniversary celebrations – they had regular weekly phone calls.

Losing Ethel

Recollecting his childhood farming days and telling tales of his RAF comrades and maneuvers, Jim and Ethel loved to reminisce about their lives. They were faithful attendees at West Parish Church where Jim was an elder for half a century.

After a protracted period of pain due to osteoporosis, Ethel suddenly passed away on July 15 2012. She managed to stay at their beloved King Edward Street home despite her health challenges but in 2016, after her death, Jim decided to move to Kintore.

Mr and Mrs Ethel and Jim Cameron.

In later years Jim remained especially proud of his garden produce, specifically his tomatoes. He loved to watch quiz shows, football matches and had a particular love of Take the Floor with Doric Doyen, the late Robbie Shepherd.

Deserving of tributes

Jim passed away on January 4 just 18 days before his 100th birthday.

He is survived by his children Ann and Angus, son-in-law of Ian and daughter-in-law Paula, and his grandchildren, Cathy, Mark, and Emma.

A moment captured: Jim and Ethel Cameron.

Angus added: “It’s a wonderful opportunity to pay tribute to my father, and my mother, on what would have been their 70th wedding anniversary. They married on April 1 which I think appealed to my dad’s cheeky sense of humour.

“As a family, we felt very lucky to have Jim and Ethel as our parents. I know their grandchildren miss them, especially, in recent years, due to dad’s sense of humour and pride in his grandson and granddaughters.

“I’m sure lots of people will remember him.”