Birdman, inventor and artist;
Born: December 4, 1925; Died: September 4, 2013.
John Cameron, who has died aged 87, was a well-known Glasgow inventor, artist and entrepreneur who became famous for developing techniques to prevent starlings from landing on the window sills of Glasgow's city centre buildings - a talent which won him a mention in Edwin Morgan's poem The Starlings In George Square. His way of thinking and his gung-ho approach to life marked him out from an early age as someone who was always going to be out of the ordinary.
From an impoverished upbringing in a Maryhill tenement with his brother and three sisters, he blossomed as a serial inventor, innovator and entrepreneur of note. His ability to go his own way may have been shaped by his wartime exploits in the merchant navy, which he signed up for at the age of 15 (he lied about how old he was). His time on the Atlantic convoys was something he would never forget.
The fact he was able to account for driving a car down a flight of steps in Malta in 1944 was early testament to his burgeoning creativity. At the end of the war he decided to check out the United States with a view to bringing his new bride, Peggy Ferguson, over to join him. However, before she could get the call he was banished from the US for overstaying his welcome - immigration caught up with him in a New York hospital while he was recovering from a fall from a tenement sustained while cleaning windows. He was briefly detained on Ellis Island - at the same time as mafia boss Lucky Luciano - before being put on a ship for Britain.
Being asked to leave America seems to have been character-building. On his return to Glasgow, infected with enthusiasm for American ways, he opened American Eats, Maryhill's first Yankee-style diner. Unfortunately the establishment succumbed to fire after a few months and had to close.
In 1958 Cameron took his talents to South Africa. While there, he staged a cross-border raid into what was then Southern Rhodesia, selling TV aerials in a country that didn't yet have a TV service. Ultimately, Africa didn't fully appreciate his talents, and after three years he and his growing family were on their way home.
Following his second return to Glasgow, his entrepreneurship and inventiveness came to the fore and he built a highly profitable business sandblasting some of Glasgow's grimy public buildings - one of the first such operations in Scotland - with his Cameron's Commandos crew and their distinctive camouflage-striped vans.
His next big venture was the one that made his name - and led to him being called Birdman in the press, a name that stuck. He developed bird beads, designed to prevent starlings from landing on the window sills of Glasgow's city-centre buildings and depositing their droppings. The system won him a silver medal at an inventors exhibition in Brussels. He also received a mention in The Starlings In George Square for his campaign to rid Glasgow of the curse of the birds, with high-pitched noise and searchlights.
However, just prior to this it was the establishment he upset rather than the birds when he opened Glasgow's first sex shop at St George's Cross - a place incredibly tame by current standards. It did very well with its half-price-for-pensioners offers, but ultimately had to close its doors due to the large number of protesters blocking the entrance.
By 1980, Cameron was increasingly well-known as a serial inventor, with a string of patented items displayed at exhibitions in Britain and abroad and several further awards for his inventions. These ranged from safety gates to roadwork signs that wouldn't blow over, and from an anti-rust beeswax-based coating for North Sea oil rigs to innovative techniques for power drain cleaning.
The final chapter in a highly colourful career saw him building a reputation as an artist. His distinctive abstracts - with paint applied not just by brushes but by lawn mowers and garden rakes as well, and given some sparkle by the addition of crystals and gem stones - attracted a lot of interest. His works were shown at several exhibitions in and around Glasgow. Never the most modest of men, he gifted some of his works to celebrities such as Barbra Streisand.
In recent years, his health was poor, but his humour and enthusiasm for life never left him. He suffered a stroke on August 30 - the same day his grand-daughter Sarah died - and passed away five days later in the Victoria Infirmary.
He is survived by his son John, daughters Jaqueline and Margaret, grandchildren Daniel and Laura and four great-grandchildren.
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