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For many years it’s been said that people are Lochaber’s greatest
Emeritus Professor Maisie Earle OBE was one of those remarkable exports who achieved a great deal in her long life, yet never forgot her humble roots here in Lochaber and still spoke with a West Highland lilt in her voice.
Maisie Davidson Cameron was born in October 1929 to Mary and Ronald Cameron at the Station House in Banavie. Her father was the Station Master at Upper Banavie Station.
On leaving secondary school, Maisie went on to study applied chemistry at The Royal Technical College – now known as Strathclyde University. From there she would go on to Glasgow University to gain a BSc in 1951 and PhD in food science in 1956.
It was whilst studying at Glasgow that she met her future husband, New Zealander Dick Earle, who was also studying for a PhD in food engineering. The couple married and moved to new Zealand in 1961.
Maisie worked at the Meat Industry Research Institute in Hamilton, New Zealand, for four years. This would have been at time when female scientists were quite the exception in a predominantly male domain.
From there Maisie and Dick moved on to work at Massey University in Palmerston North within the Faculty of Technology. Here Maisie was instrumental in setting up the first product development course in New Zealand.
Maisie quietly cited her three proudest moments as being when her peers elected her as an Honorary Fellow of the institute of Professional Engineers and the New Zealand Institute of Food Science and Technology; the creation of a personal chair at Massey
University and, in 1993, when she was awarded the Suffragette Centennial Medal in recognition of her work as a pioneering woman.
In the late 1990s, she was instrumental in setting up a youth exchange between young Camerons in New Zealand and Lochaber, developing the participant’s professional interests and making cultural connections between both countries. As New Zealand would see the first light of the millennium in 2000, this scheme was named the Clan Cameron First Light exchange and would see exchanges take place on alternate years from New Zealand and Scotland.
A cultural bridge was established between the Cameron diaspora across New Zealand
and here in Scotland. The scheme has proved to be very successful on both sides of the world.
Maisie passed away peacefully, aged 91, on April 19 with her husband by her side.
Her well-attended funeral was held at St Andrews Church in Turakina, where she was laid to rest alongside many other early Scottish settlers within the Turakina Cemetery. As part of the funeral service, a relative of Maisie’s, Bruce Cameron from Rangitikei, played Flowers of the Forest on a set of reel pipes that came out on the ship ‘Blenheim’ more than 180 years ago with Cameron settlers from Lochaber.
Coinciding with the funeral service in New Zealand, flowers were laid on the Cameron family grave in Glen Nevis Cemetery by Inverlochy man Bill Cameron, a former participant of the First Light Exchange in memory of Maisie Earle, nee Cameron, formerly of the Station House, Banavie.