The Cameron Trust and the history of a local family brewery

Residents of Laurencekirk will be aware of the recent legal case involving the misappropriation of funds from The Cameron Trust. However, very few of today’s generation will know anything about the Cameron family and their place in the community.

Brewing has a very long history in Scotland, beer being an ancient drink enjoyed by the Scots for centuries when most communities would have had their local source of beer and sma’ beer for all the family.

In the 1860s John Nelson of Laurencekirk installed a patent pressing machine in his brewery in Laurencekirk and when John died Nelson & Co was sold to local banker and man of business Patrick Dickson, who subsequently let the brewery to Donald, Cameron & Co. for an initial period of 10 years. When John Donald died, David Cameron, who also farmed Waterside of Thornton, took over the business as David Cameron Ltd. David Cameron Jnr. succeeded his father and he died on July 15th 1944.

One of the last brewers was Mr Eaton who recalled that the product of the brewery was delivered as far south as the Finavon Hotel with their own horse drawn transport driven by Tam Carnie. The business was acquired by McLennan & Urquhart of Dalkeith in 1945 and when I remember the brewery in the 1950s it had been reduced to a depot for Ushers Ales. Mr Martin, who lived in Gardenston Street drove the brewery lorry.

Mr Cameron’s widow, Christina, known to us as Mama Cameron and her daughter Lizzie continued living in the Brewery House and as children we used to be invited round to see one of the first televisions in the town. I remember programmes like “On Safari with Armand and Michaela Dennis”. The Camerons were very hospitable and as well as discovering Rolos (sweet rationing had just been withdrawn) we were allowed to help Mrs Cameron tend to her bantam hens, kept at the foot of the garden. Part of the garden now accommodates the fire station. On at least one occasion we were taken for a picnic in their classy limousine with its large head lamps and running boards – I think it was a convertible.

As we grew up we enjoyed sledging with the other children in Cameron’s Parkie – now the site of Doug Mitchell’s house and haulage business, but then the site of the Royal Observer Core station and named after its role as the field where the brewery horses grazed.

By the early 1960s both mother and daughter had passed away but the Camerons left a legacy, a trust fund for the poor of Laurencekirk. This fund was managed by the local lawyer, the headmaster and the parish minister and only the interest from the fund was distributed each year leaving the capital intact.

What happened to the fund has not been fully explained but we hope that its transfer to Aberdeenshire Council by the Charities Commission may allow a fuller explanation in due course.

Mike Robson, Howe o’ the Mearns Heritage Club Sep 2017


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