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Story: Cameron, Andrew

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Cameron, Andrew


Presbyterian minister, educationalist, community leader

This biography, written by David Steedman, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996.

Andrew Cameron was the founder of Knox College, the instigator of the Presbyterian Social Service Association, and influential in the development of the University of Otago. He was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland, on 16 February 1855, the son of Andrew Cameron, a baker, and his wife, Margaret Muir. The Cameron family emigrated to New Zealand when Andrew was eight, arriving at Port Chalmers in the City of Dunedin on 3 September 1863.

The family settled at Sawyers Bay, where Andrew senior set up business assisted by his sons. Young Andrew carried bread to Port Chalmers, the busy entrance to the gold diggings of Central Otago. The family subsequently moved to Port Chalmers. Andrew did not start school until he was 12, and even then worked in the bakery in the afternoons.

Andrew Cameron did not matriculate until he was 20, when he attended the University of Otago to study for the Presbyterian ministry. He was assisted by a church scholarship, and completed his BA in 1879 with a Senior Scholarship in zoology. For 18 months he studied at the Presbyterian Theological College in Dunedin, moving to Scotland to complete his training at the United Presbyterian Church theological college in Edinburgh. He spent his summer vacations studying in Germany. Cameron was a particularly fine student of Hebrew.

Returning to New Zealand, Andrew Cameron was inducted to Andersons Bay Presbyterian Church on 11 December 1884 and remained there for all his ministry. On 18 November 1885 at Invercargill he married Mary Jane McKellar. Cameron saw his work at Andersons Bay as his primary task and sometimes thought of giving up all outside activities. He was not a distinguished preacher but a wise and gracious pastor, remembered for his warmth and his deep concern for young people.

Cameron was a leader and a man of vision in church and community. In the church he was highly regarded as a worker and leader of committees. He filled the highest positions in the church courts: as moderator of the Presbytery of Dunedin (1887), the Synod of Otago and Southland (1905), and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand (1912). He served on the Theological College Committee of his church throughout his ministry. He was behind the founding of Knox College, which opened in 1909 and provided accommodation for the Theological Hall as well as a residential college for students of all denominations.

Cameron's other great passion was the social service work of the church. In 1906 he suggested that a committee should be set up to consider objects and methods by which the Presbyterian church in Dunedin might take up social work. As a result of the committee's report, the Presbyterian Social Service Association was established. Cameron served as the association's first convener in 1906–7, and again from 1909 until his death.

Beyond the church, Cameron's public activities were mainly in the field of education, particularly the university. He was elected to the Otago University council in 1894, and was subsequently vice chancellor (1910–12) and chancellor (1912–25). He also served on the Senate of the University of New Zealand from 1902 until his death. In 1919, on the occasion of Otago University's jubilee, Edinburgh University conferred on him an honorary LLD degree.

Cameron had a gift for persuading people to support the progress of the university, and was instrumental in establishing new schools and scholarships. He was also for many years chairman of the Andersons Bay School Committee, a member of the Otago Boys' and Girls' High Schools Board, and a foundation member of the John McGlashan College board of governors.

Cameron retired from his parish in 1919, but remained active on numerous social service and educational committees. Unassuming in manner, he was nevertheless extremely influential, and accomplished a great deal with quiet determination. He died on 19 May 1925 in Christchurch, where he was attending a meeting of the Senate of the University of New Zealand, and was survived by his wife, three daughters and three sons.

How to cite this page:

David Steedman. 'Cameron, Andrew', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3c2/cameron-andrew (accessed 25 April 2024)