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Obituary: Cam Matheson (1942-2017)

Cam Matheson (right) with Ian Wilson (ENGG 1970)

The first Mandela Scholarship Fund Trustees meeting, circa 1985 (third from left)

A recent photo of Cam at the East London Community Recycling Partnership depot. Image: Terry O'Neill.

Cam (Campbell) Matheson (SOC 1972), University of Sussex Student's Union President 19973-74.

25 October 1942 - 18 December 2017

Cam Matheson was born in Penicuik in Scotland. He left school at 15 and, after an apprenticeship as a butcher, became a miner. After the colliery’s closure he became an ironmongery chargehand in Loanhead, where he led a well-known strike. Moving to London he subsequently became one of the founders of the Bush Theatre and at 29 entered the University of Sussex to study politics. After graduating, Cam joined the trade union ASTMS in their research department. He later founded and ran an award-winning recycling community company, was an active councillor in Hackney and a popular DJ.

Cam touched the lives of so many people with his profound sense of humanity and social justice, and his commitment to campaigning to help others. He was an internationalist who could not sit by and accept injustice. Cam Matheson personified the word ‘solidarity’.

Cam established the Mandela Scholarship at Sussex when he was Student’s Union President. The ground-breaking scheme enabled South African students who had been denied education during the apartheid years to study at the University and inspired many other universities to campaign against apartheid and racism.

One of Cam‘s proudest moments was when he was made a Patron of the Scheme and returned to Sussex to meet the then President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki, a fellow Sussex alum. The Mandela Scholarship Fund continues today as a charitable trust, now with a wider remit (inspired by Cam and also Bernice Ryan) to recruit and support students from Southern Africa committed to educational, social, cultural and economic development.

A few years later I followed Cam as President of the Sussex University Student’s Union. He left a legendary tradition of activism, campaigning and progress which was the bar by which future activity was frequently judged. One of his many achievements as Union President was establishing the nursery for the children of students living on campus.

Despite our Sussex connection, however, it was not at Sussex that I met Cam but over a shared interest in human and trade union rights in Turkey. Following a request from a mutual Sussex friend, Cam embarked on decades of campaigning to support peace activists, trade unionists and democrats in Turkey who had suffered the consequences of military rule. He was later made Honorary President of Halkevi – the Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre.

Cam is survived by his wife Julia, daughter Clare and son Davi.

Adam Gaines

By: Tom Furnival-Adams
Last updated: Tuesday, 15 May 2018