William Cameron by Daniel Macnee, around 1850

William Baird and Company were the most powerful ironmasters in Scotland. In the mid- to late-1800s their Gartsherrie Iron Works was the biggest the world by output. These furnaces burned night and day and need large quantities of raw materials, chiefly iron ore and coal.

William Cameron was the company's Underground Manager. He had been in the job since 1816 when the farmer Alexander Baird took out a lease on a coal field and put his sons William and Alexander in charge of the mining operation. By the time of this portrait Cameron was a trusted, and wealthy employee. The fact that he was painted by no less than Daniel Macnee reflects his status.

Cameron is shown with some of the tools of his trade including a theodolite on its tripod and a measuring chain for surveying new mine workings. The blazing furnaces of the Gartsherrie Iron Works and, on the right, Gartsherrie No.1 Pit are visible behind him. A locomotive can be seen pulling wagons towards Glasgow on the Garnkirk and Glasgow Railway. The works are very accurately portrayed as is the town of Coatbridge to the right. However, the hills are exaggerated considerably to create a suitably romantic landscape.

Fun fact: Daniel Macnee who painted this portrait was the great-grandfather of the actor Patrick Macnee, who played Steed in the TV series the Avengers.

Museum reference:
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1860 · subject · Cameron, William · Gartsherrie Road, Coatbridge, Scotland · Underground manager for Bairds since 1816, according to Andrew McGeorge's "The Bairds of Gartsherrie", page 76 (1875).
oil, canvas, wood
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