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Cam Matheson: Tributes paid to councillor and activist, dead at 75, who ‘never minced words on right and wrong’

PUBLISHED: 16:23 27 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:28 27 December 2017

Cam Matheson. Picture: Nigel Tanburn

Cam Matheson. Picture: Nigel Tanburn

Nigel Tanburn

Former Hackney councillor, activist and “great bloke” Cam Matheson has died at 75.

Cam was elected in 1990 but would end up resigning the Labour whip over the town hall’s failure to tackle the administrative crisis that engulfed it over the following decade.

His friend, Lea Bridge councillor Ian Rathbone (Lab), this week led tributes to a “great community activist” who was “never one to mince his words when it came to politics and what was right and what was wrong”.

“I’m glad we had someone who could speak their mind and the truth,” said Cllr Rathbone. “He wanted society to change and he set about trying to do that, whatever the personal cost.

“He supported the establishment of the Turkish and Kurdish communities in Hackney, being the first president of the Halkevi Centre, and he set Hackney on the road of recycling food at a time when it was not on the agenda. He was a pioneer, and a prophet, and great bloke who will be sadly missed.”

Born in Scotland, Cam worked as an apprentice – first for a butcher, then as a colliery mechanic with the Scottish Coal Board. After finding himself out of work, he hitch-hiked to London in the early 1970s and at first worked as a “chambermaid”. According to long-term partner Julia Lafferty, he told his bemused employment agency that “you don’t need a fanny to make a bed”.

He enrolled at Sussex University as a mature student aged 29 and went on to become union president, overseeing the establishment of the Mandela Scholarship for black South African students denied a university education under Apartheid. But he abandoned his studies after being offered a job with the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs (ASTMS) union.

Friend Tina Walsh, of Clapton, said: “Cam was larger than life and made such a good, true and powerful contribution to Hackney and particularly Clapton. I have great memories of his honesty and strength when speaking up on behalf of everyone. He will be very missed and irreplaceable.”

Cam’s funeral takes place on Friday and all are welcome. Speakers include Mehmet Ali Dikerdem, with whom Cam campaigned for the release of imprisoned members of the Turkish Peace Association in the 1980s.

The ceremony is at 3pm at the City of London Cemetery, Manor Park.

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