Cyril St Clair Cameron


A parade through the streets of Hobart during the South African War, 1899 (AOT, PH30/1/5668)

Cyril St Clair Cameron (18571941) was born and died at Fordon, Nile. Joining the British army in 1877 he served as an officer in the Afghan War (Bronze Star), marching with Roberts from Kabul to Kandahar. He served in India and Britain, being promoted captain in 1887. He returned to Fordon with his wife in 1894.

Cameron commanded Tasmania's first South African War contingent of eighty soldiers in 18991900. Briefly a prisoner-of-war, and twice wounded, he was feted as a hero on his return home. Major Cameron was soon elected to the first Senate as a Protectionist. A poor attendance record ('I have other things to attend to'), and an aversion to politics, helped bring about his defeat in 1903. Despite this, he contested the 1906 Senate election as an Anti-Socialist, but was no happier in his second term (190612), participating but little in Parliament except in relation to defence questions. Cameron regretted the emergence of strong parties. His refusal to accept party discipline saw him fail to receive Liberal pre-selection and suffer a severe defeat in 1912. He returned to farming at Fordon.

Cameron remained closely involved in military matters. He commanded the Australian contingent at the 1902 Coronation, he served in Somaliland in 1904 and he was ADC to Governor-General Northcote. In 1915 Cameron served briefly at Gallipoli, being soon evacuated through ill-health; a son died at Neuve Chapelle in the same year. A newspaper noted that, although a failure as a politician, 'as a brave man he will live in history'.

Further reading: ABD 7; S Bennett, 'Cyril St Clair Cameron', THRAPP 47/4, 2000, 'Tasmania's Response to the Boer War', THRAPP, 48/2, 2001; A Millar (ed), Biographical dictionary of the Australian Senate 1, Melbourne, 2000.

Scott Bennett