Alexander Cameron Story
About Alexander Cameron (1810-1881)
Alexander ‘King’ Cameron, the founder of Penola, S.A., was an overlander and pastoralist. Born on 18 August 1810 in Lochaber, Inverness-shire, he attended school near Ben Nevis and worked as a shepherd before obtaining an assisted passage on the Boyne to Sydney, arriving in January 1839.
He immediately embarked on an epic clan trek, droving sheep to Port Phillip. After marrying Margaret MacKillop in 1843, Cameron continued to overland his sheep westwards to new pastures in South Australia, where he was the first to apply for the 48-square-mile Occupation licences surrounding the future site of Penola.
Having built the original Royal Oak Hotel by 1848, Cameron encouraged his station tradesmen to establish their own independent businesses by purchasing 80 freehold acres in April 1850, which he subdivided to found the private township of Penola.
Cameron initiated the renowned Penola races in 1852. Handsome and commanding in stature, but with a curiously falsetto voice and a strong Highland accent, he was remembered as ‘a sterling fellow . . . like the Highland chief both in person and hospitality.’
The Camerons’ 18-year-old niece, Mary MacKillop, joined the family as governess in 1860, and soon met the charismatic local scientist and priest, Julian Tenison Woods, with whom she founded the Sisters of St. Joseph.
In 1863, Cameron’s wife Margaret died, as did his eldest daughter and first grandson. Selling Penola Station the following year, he expanded his pastoral holdings on Mt. Sturgeon Plains and at Avoca Forest near St. Arnaud.
Cameron married Ellen Keogh in 1867, and they lived at Moreland Hall, Coburg, until his death in 1881 at age 71. He is commemorated in a life-sized bronze statue by sculptor John Dowie, erected beside the Royal Oak Hotel.