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The "Basics"of Clan Cameron 

Cameron of Lochiel's Own Website

[The Clan] [Chief] [Surname] [Tartans] [Crest] [Motto] [Our Song]


The Scottish clan of yesteryear was a collection of individuals with a given surname (often related by blood) living somewhat in close proximity to one another, united under a common chief.  Others have defined clans as "those of common stock."  In many instances septs (sometimes described as "broken men" from other clans who sought the protection of another chief) were also considered part of any given clan.  

The Clan Cameron has a recorded history from the fifteenth century, although unsubstantiated histories have its roots reaching back to the supposed first chief, Angus Cameron, living about the year 1000.  They resided in the "Cameron Country" of Lochaber, an area roughly 12 by 16 miles near the present day town of Fort William, in Scotland's West Highlands.  The history of the Camerons, as a Scottish clan, is an extensive and often combative one, for that was how men learned to survive and live another day.   


In each clan there were several "subaltern" tribes (in Clan Cameron's instance these would be the Camerons of Letterfinlay, Glen Nevis, Callart/Lundavra, Erracht and Clunes).  Each tribe "owned" their dependence to their own immediate chieftain, but all agreed in owing allegiance to the Supreme Chief of the Clan.  In ideal circumstances they looked upon it to be their duty to support him in all his endeavors. 

Clan Cameron is fortunate to have a hereditary chief, descended directly from the earliest days of Camerons living in Lochaber.  Since the year 1528 the chief of Clan Cameron have been called "Lochiel."  If you had a Cameron ancestor living in Scotland, odds are they followed an ancestor of the present Lochiel as their chief.  The XXVII hereditary chief of Clan Cameron, who like so many of his ancestors resides at Achnacarry is Donald Cameron of Lochiel.


There are two possible meaning for the surname "Cameron."  Unfortunately, both are no more than theoretical explanations, with the surname's definitive meaning lost somewhere in the distant past.  

1)  Crooked Nose: From the Gaelic "cam," which means "crooked," "bent" or "hook" and "shron," which means "nose."  Together they make up "Camshron," the more accepted/popular meaning behind the Cameron surname.  The "sh" and "o" are for the most part silent when pronounced.

2)  Crooked Hill: From the Gaelic "cam," once again meaning "crooked," "bent" or "hook" and "brun," meaning "hill."  This name, "Cambrun," was popular in Fife, Scotland and if not categorically connected with the Camerons of the Highlands, may be the source of "Lowland" Cameron surname in some instances. 

TARTANS There are four basic tartans which are utilized by the Clan Cameron, each of which is usually found available in "modern" (bright and lively colors), "weathered" (softer hues) and "ancient" (supposedly more authentic colors) variations.
1) Basic Clan Cameron:  This sixteen green squares upon a red background sett, with a bright yellow bordering, is for general use by all members of Clan Cameron.  If one tartan had to be singled out for general use by Camerons worldwide, Basic Clan Cameron would be the one.  As is the case with most clan tartans, this is one from the Vestiarium of Scoticum in 1834, which was accepted by the then Lochiel.  It very much resembles an old red and green square sett in the West Highlands Museum in Fort William, although there are some variations.
2)  Cameron of Lochiel:  This red and blue tartan is similar to that worn by the 18th Chief, Donald "The Gentle Lochiel" Cameron in a portrait hanging at Achnacarry.  It was first illustrated in 1810 in Wilson's Collection.  This is the personal tartan of the Chief and his immediate family; as a rule it should not be worn by clansfolk.
3) Cameron of Erracht:  Said to have been designed by the wife of Donald, 7th of Erracht in 1793 (there are many theories as to its origin, none of which seem entirely satisfactory).  This combination of the Cameron and MacDonald tartans uses a deep red, dark blue, green and a fine gold line.  It was created for the use of the original 79th Regiment, later known as The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, raised in 1793 by their eldest son, General Sir Allan Cameron, K.C.B.  Regardless of its origin, this tartan has been in use by The Cameron Highlanders since their late-eighteenth century inception.  It is often used as a day or "hunting" tartan, because of its "serviceable" colors.  At times it has been strictly reserved for use among the regiment, but is now in wide use among Clan Cameron.  This tartan was not created as a tribal clothing specifically for the Erracht Camerons.  Therefore, if any Cameron ancestors owned this tartan, it does not mean that they were Camerons of Erracht.  Quite the contrary, it probably indicates a regimental affiliation or even a school uniform, as some Highland academic institutions required students to dress in this tartan.
4) Hunting Cameron (of Lochiel):  With its soft shades of green and blue, this tartan is not listed as being restricted in its use.  It was devised because the Basic Clan Cameron tartan was considered too bright for shootings, stalking and hiking.  Designed in 1956, it was based on a description of the tartan worn by the clansmen who fought under Sir Ewen Cameron, 17th Chief, at the battle of Killiecrankie. 


Central to the Clan Cameron crest are five arrows, "united" with one another with a gules ribbon or band.  This crest goes back to before 1745, when it supplemented the old "dexter arm" crest (which was still used interchangeably with the Five Arrows into the mid-twentieth century.  These two crests, and their mottos on the surrounding strap, may be used by clansmen to denote their clan affiliation.

The "Five Arrows" represent the five branches of the clan under the leadership of the Camerons of Lochiel during the early/mid-eighteenth century, namely:

1) MacMartins or Camerons of Letterfinlay
2) Camerons of Glen Nevis
3) Camerons of Callart and Lundavra
4) Camerons of Erracht
5) Camerons of Clunes

A more detailed explanation as to the origin of the "Five Arrows," written by a past Chief of Clan Cameron, may be found by "clicking" on the crest image on the main page of Clan Cameron Online or by visiting the "Five Arrows" page


The present motto of the Clan Cameron is "Aonaibh Ri Chéile," which roughly translated means "Unite" or "Let Us Unite."  This motto is usually used in conjunction with the more accepted "Five Arrows" crest and is also presently used on the Armorial Bearings of Cameron of Lochiel.

In the past, when the old Dexter Arm crest was in wide use, the associated motto was "Pro Rege et Patria," translated as meaning "For King and Country."  The present Lochiel uses both mottos.  


While many songs have been associated with the Cameron Clan throughout the years, one tune stands alone as the most recognized: Mary Maxwell Campbell's 1829 masterpiece "March of the Cameron Men."

Looking for more detailed Cameron information?  Now that you know the basics, the rest of Clan Cameron Online awaits your exploration!