Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Cameron, Ewen Wallace (1816–1876)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

Ewen Wallace Cameron (1816-1876), businessman, was born on 26 July 1816 in France, the eldest surviving son of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Cameron and his second wife Luduvina Rosa Da Silva. He arrived in Sydney with his parents in 1822 and apparently went with them to Van Diemen's Land in 1823. Back in Sydney he attended William Thomas Cape's school. He then entered the Commissariat Department and later became a clerk in the office of Aspinall, Browne & Co. In 1838 with his brother-in-law, William Dutton, and others he formed one of the first overlanding parties to South Australia; with a life-long friend, John Bell, he later took up several runs in the New England and Darling Downs districts, but the ventures were unsuccessful. He then made an unprofitable trip to the Californian diggings and on his return entered the employment of Thomas Mort, with whom he had first associated in 1848 as coassignee of a Queensland sheep station. He soon became financial manager and in 1856 as a partner, when the firm of T. S. Mort & Co. was created, took charge of wool consignments, squatting accounts and pastoral finance. Cameron's ability and services were greatly appreciated by Mort, who from the beginning had allowed him a share of four-fifteenths in the profits in the older company in addition to his dividends from T. S. Mort & Co. In 1857-59 when Mort was in England Cameron acted as Mort's attorney, representative and head of both firms. In 1858 Cameron quarrelled with O. B. Ebsworth, Mort's wool expert and dismissed him abruptly, but quickly revoked the dismissal when he realized that heavy compensation was involved. The quarrel flared up again in 1859 and Ebsworth left the firm. Cameron's partnership with Mort was dissolved in 1866 and on his retirement Cameron visited Europe.

In 1859 Cameron had been persuaded to stand for the Glebe electorate for the Legislative Assembly. With some limitations he favoured free selection, the education system proposed by the Wesleyan Board and state aid for religion only in scattered rural areas. He polled well in the Balmain subdivision, but was narrowly defeated by John Campbell, so ending what was to be his only bid to enter parliament.

Like his friend Mort and others of the mercantile class Cameron believed that affluence brought obligations as well as rights and social position and he adopted a patriarchal attitude towards the labouring classes. He was actively interested in charitable institutions, such as the Sydney Hospital, the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary, the Sailors' Home, Bethel Union, Female Refuge Society and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. From 1868 he was president of the Balmain Working Men's Association for some years. Prompted by unrest in the metal trades in 1868 he wrote censoriously to the Sydney Morning Herald, 22 May, addressing 'the thinking part of the Trades Unions': 'Let labour and capital work together; do away at once, and for ever, with combinations that attempt to put things in a false position. Let everything be competitive on the same fair principles, the deserving and industrious artisan take his labour to the best market, the worthless must amend or suffer'.

Apart from acting as auditor of the Peak Downs Copper Mining Co. for a few years, Cameron took little part in company management. Most of his public activities were confined to voluntary organizations and the Church of England. In April 1861 he joined the volunteer Balmain Rifles, was appointed lieutenant in March 1862 and captain in October 1868, holding that position until 1876; in 1869-70 he was captain and adjutant of the Sydney Battalion. He was churchwarden of St Mary's, Balmain, a member of synod and lay canon of St Andrew's Cathedral; he also gave long support to the Auxiliary Bible Society, the Religious Tract and Book Society and the Church Society of the diocese of Sydney. In 1872 he was elected a fellow of St Paul's College within the University of Sydney. He was an original member of the Union Club in 1857 and of the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in 1862; in August 1875 he was elected a member of the Royal Society of New South Wales.

On 7 October 1852 at St Mary's, Balmain, Cameron had married Sophia Usher (1838-1878), eldest daughter of the merchant George Nail (d.1848); they had twelve children. He died at his home, Ewenton, Darling Street, Balmain, on 25 May 1876 and was buried in the Balmain cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Barnard, Visions and Profits (Melb, 1961)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 Oct 1852, 7, 10, 14, 15 June 1859, 26 May 1876
  • Town and Country Journal, 3 June 1876.

Additional Resources

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Cameron, Ewen Wallace (1816–1876)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cameron-ewen-wallace-3150/text4701, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 21 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

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