By Sally McGlew
SWAN View resident Ian Cameron has been volunteering at the WA museum for more than 50 years.
He was one of six volunteers in the 166 recognised by the State Government for giving more than 50 years of service to their chosen group.
His area of work is horticulture and he has travelled to the WA Museum Boola Bardip for pruning and harvesting work for 52 years for two specific vines which he looks upon like children.
More recently with the new building at the museum, Mr Cameron had to work closely with the engineers at the Boola Bardip site, to ensure his beloved vines had enough light to survive after being re-located to a new space.
Mr Cameron, 77, was the state’s viticultural officer at the Department of Agriculture in 1969 when he first started pruning the vines.
The two grapevines – which were planted more than 150 years ago – have thrived under his care and now produce up to 100 bunches of muscat table grapes per year.
Mr Cameron retired 12 years ago but continues his passion for grapevines through his volunteer gardening work.
“The grapevines at the museum are probably as big and as healthy as any muscat grapevine anywhere in the world,” he said.
This is highly unusual for such an old vine.
“They are at least 150 years old, maybe older and most vines last about 80 to 90 years on a vineyard before they are pulled out.”
The particular grape variety that Mr Cameron has looked after is called the Muscat of Alexandria.
He said it is considered to be an “ancient vine” and is one of the oldest genetically unmodified variety’s still in use today.
In an article Mr Cameron wrote for the wine industry journal, The Vine in 2005, he suggested that the two Muscat of Alexandria vines at the Perth Museum may be the oldest living vines in Australia.
“The variety originated in northern Africa,” he said.
“It is a multipurpose variety being used commercially for the production of table grapes, dried fruit and wine.
“It’s main use is in the production of sweet, fortified wines and raisins.”
Mr Cameron said his work as a volunteer will continue as he prepares a manual to assist future volunteers to manage the vines.
“I won’t live forever and the way I prune these vines has changed with their re-location to the new area at the museum so I’m taking notes to help anyone who follows in my footsteps,” he said.