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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Ewan Cameron

Born: 1840; Died: 1896; Married: Annie Smith

Ewan Cameron was born in 1840, one of thirteen children, eight of them having been born in Scotland. His parents, Donald Cameron Snr and Ann McPhey, had arrived on the Boyne from Argyleshire in 1839. Donald, a shepherd, worked for the Campbells at 'Duntroon', and in 1842 took charge of the Duntroon out-stations 'Emu Bank' (to become the site of the Cameron Offices, Belconnen) and 'Goat Station' (near Coppin's Crossing). When Donald died his sons carried on these stations and also leased the Glebe farm at Ginninderra.

At the time of Ewan's birth the Cameron family lived on George Palmer's property, Ginninderra (known at the time as Palmerville) on Ginninderra Creek. It is likely that he received his education at the Palmerville School which operated from 1844 to 1851, but according to family historian Pat Eyeington and other family members he and some of his brothers and sisters also attended St John's School at some time. Ewan was described as a studious boy who was educated to the age of eleven.

Cameron worked at a variety of jobs until 1870, when he was able to select freehold land at Weetangera and build a house for himself and his wife, Annie Smith, the daughter of pioneers Edward and Mary Smith. Edward and Mary had eight children, five of whom became teachers! Eldest son Evan (1868-1956) stayed on the family farm. The Camerons were staunch Methodists, and it was Ewan who was entrusted with the task in the early 1870's of dismantling the unused Wesleyan church at Upper Canberra, conveying, and re-erecting it at Weetangera, where a two acre site had been granted for a church and cemetery. The Weetangera Church was to serve the local community for 85 years.

On his application for a teaching position Cameron stated that he was educated at Ginninderra, Canberra and Queanbeyan. His grand-daughter Heather Shakespeare tells how Ewan continued to educate himself over the years, reading widely and treasuring his own set of William Shakespeare's complete works.

The appointment of Ewan Cameron was confirmed, with Inspector Maynard noting: 'His character is good in all respects. He has a fair education and in time will make a teacher'. The assessment of the Secretary in the Council of Education was more cautious, possibly influenced by the fact that Ewan Cameron was a farmer. 'Mr Cameron appears to be an uncultured, but respectable man. I am of the opinion that the Council may afford him a trial in the school proposed by Mr Maynard'.

[adapted extracts from Margaret Clough, Spilt Milk (2004), p. 5-6]

Ewan Cameron was the first teacher at Weetangera Provisional School, which opened in April 1875. His salary was £5 a month and 6d per week for each child, but there was no guarantee that the weekly fees would be paid.

He was born in Sydney of Scottish parents in 1840 and had lived almost his whole life in Canberra and Ginninderra. Though studious, he had little formal education, leaving school at age ten. To prepare his for the position of teacher he had one month's training at Yass School under teacher Brierley.

Yass was a good school and Mr Brierly had a reputation that extended for many miles. He was known as a harsh, stern disciplinarian, but the teachers of small schools, trained under him, were grateful for the help and advice given them. During their period of training, he gave the trainees a free hand to use corporal punishment within reasonable bounds. This concession assisted them to maintain good discipline. Half of the teachers in the Yass and Queanbeyan districts were trained at Yass under Mr Brierly.

With wide experience in teaching in almost every class of school, I can appreciate my father's difficulties who, almost inexperienced, had to face as many as 38 pupils varying in age from 4 to 18 years. Fortunately, most of the pupils were anxious to learn and some of the older girls assisted with the younger pupils.

Although most of the free selectors took up their land in or about the year 1870, a general exodus began about 1876 as they were able to sell their conditional purchases after five years of occupation In six years, by 1881 this resulted in school attendance being reduced below an average of 20, which meant my father's removal to a better school near Gundaroo (Mugwill School) as he had already gained his 3A Certificate.

[adapted from Cameron, 1957]

1 Dec 1887: Appointed teacher at Weetangera
1 April 1879: Awarded a Certificate of IIIC
4 Aug 1881: Removed from Weetangera to Mugwill
1 Oct 1881: Promoted from IIIC to IIIA (exam)
11 May 1883: Removed from Mugwill to Marengo
30 May 1883: Declined appointment to Marengo
26 June 1884: Instructed to act as Teacher at Nubba
26 June 1893: Failed to obtain promotion at Exam
9 April 1896: Death notified by Inspector Friend

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