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  • Clan Ramsay History
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  • Dalhousie Castle

    The ancient family of Ramsay is of Anglo-Norman origin. Simundus de Ramesia was the first of the name to appear on record in Scotland. Originally from Huntingdonshire in England, he received lands in Lothian from David I and in 1140 witnessed a charter to the monks at Holyrood. He was founder of the main line and the first Ramsay to acquire land at Dawolsey.

    There are several Ramsays on record who witnessed Lothian charters in the 13th century. William de Ramsay was witness to the Coldinghame Charter in 1198 and to another in 1236. His cousin, sir Nessus de Ramsay, affixed his seal to a charter by Alexander II in 1217. Nicholas de Ramsay was witness to a charter between 1250 and 1270. William's son, also William de Ramsay, was a member of the Council of Magnates of the Realm in 1255 and in 1260. He too witnessed a charter. His son, Sir William Ramsay de Dalwolsey, signed the Ragman Roll in 1296, and joined the forces of Sir Robert Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. He signed the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 asserting the independence of Scotland to the Pope.

    Sir William's two sons include Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie and Sir William Ramsay of Inverieth. Sir Alexander, the elder son, was Warden of the Middle Marshes, in command of men of Lothian, and one of the Regent's chief commanders at Borough Muir, where England's ally, the Flemish Army, was defeated. He was present at the capture of Leuchars Castle, at St Andrews in 1335, and in June of 1338 he relieved Dunbar Castle and assisted the Countess of Dunbar in her struggle to maintain the stronghold against the English. His tragic story begins when he and his party of men recaptured Roxburgh Castle from the English in 1342. The titular constable of the Castle, Sir William Douglas, had several times tried unsuccessfully to retake it. For his brave and heroic feat, Sir Alexander was appointed constable of Roxburgh and Sheriff of Teviotdale. Sir William Douglas was so outraged by the appointments, that he sought revenge by capturing Sir Alexander and imprisoning him in the dungeon of Hermitage Castle where he was left to starve. Legend has it that he survived for seventeen days by eating small quantities of grain that fell through the cracks in the floor of the castle granary above the dungeon. His brother, Sir William Ramsay of Inverleith succeeded Sir Alexander at Dalhousie in 1342 and was famous for his raid around Norham Castle at the battle of Nesbitt Moor in 1355.

    The family was then passed on through Sir Patrick Ramsay, Alexander Ramsay of Carnock, and his son Sir Alexander of Dalhousie who in 1400 successfully withheld a six month siege by English forces under Henry IV at Dalhousie Castle. Sir Alexander was killed two years later at Hamildon Hill and his great great grandson, Alexander was killed at Floddenin 1513. In August 1618, the family received Royal recognition when Sir George Ramsay was created a Lord of Parliament by the title of Lord Ramsay of Melrose, which he later had changed to Lord Ramsay of Dalhousie. Sir George's son, William, was created Earl of Dalhousie and Lord Ramsay of Keringtoun in June 1633. The earldom of Dalhousie was passed on to another George, 2nd Earl, then William, 3rd Earl, and to George, 4th Earl.

    William Ramsay, 5th Earl of Dalhousie, was a military officer with the rank of Brigadier General and was sent to the assistance of Archduke Charles in the struggle for the crown of Spain in 1705. The Dalhousie line survived through William, 6th Earl, and Charles' brother, George, 8th Earl. As a result of the death of his maternal uncle, Earl of Panmure, George acquired the bulk of Maule estates with the remainder steeled upon his second son, William. In 1782 William assumed the name and arms Maule and was created Baron Panmure of Brechin and Navar.

    The 9th Earl of Dalhousie, George Ramsay, was Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia and Governor of Canada from 1819 to 1828. The 9th Earl was created Baron Ramsay in 1815. He established Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. George's youngest son, James was appointed President of the Board of Trade at age 33. Three years later he became the youngest ever Governor-General of India. Unfortunately, tragedy took its toll on theMarguess. In 1853 his wife became severely ill while living in India. She died at sea on the return voyage to Scotland at the age of 38. This left James broken in spirit and in 1860 he died at the age of 48 without a male heir.

    The title of Earl of Dalhousie was conferred upon the Marquess' cousin, Fox Maule. Fox, the 11th Earl, was the son of the 1st Baron Panmure and succeeded his father in 1852. Fox Maule assumed the name Maule Ramsay in 1861. In 1874, he died without issue whereby the Barony of Panmure became extinct. Fox Maule Ramsay was succeeded by his cousin George Ramsay, the 12th Earl of Dalhousie. His son, John William Ramsay, became the 13th Earl. John was Lord-in-Waiting in Ordinary to Queen Victoria from 1880 to 1885. After a prolonged tour through the United States, the Earl tragically died within twenty-four hours of his wife's death in 1887. The title passed to his nine-year-old son, Arthur George Maule Ramsay, the 14th Earl.

    In 1928, John Gilbert Ramsay inherited the title of 15th Earl of Dalhousie. He died unmarried in 1950 and was succeeded by his brother, Simon Ramsay the 16th Earl of Dalhousie. He was Governor-General of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland from 1957 until 1963. He became Lord Chamberlain to the Queen Mother in 1965. In 1967, he became a Justice of the Peace and Lord Lieutenant of Angus, serving until 1989. He was a Lieutenant of the Royal Company of Archers (the Queen's bodyguard in Scotland) and was made a Knight of the Thistle by the Queen in 1971. From 1977 until 1992 he was Chancellor of Dundee University and in 1979 was appointed GCVO. He retired in 1992. He died July 15, 1999 and was succeeded by his son, James Ramsay, the 17th Earl of Dalhousie. The 17th Earl of Dalhousie is the Chief of the Clan Ramsay.

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    The Ramsays have not only contributed to the glories of Scotland, but many members of the family emigrated to North America where they and their heirs played prominent roles in establishing the United States and Canada.

    One of the earliest known family members on record in America is Alexander Ramsay. Alexander settled on the Tugaloo River of South Carolina in about 1730. Today, many of his descendents are still living in that area.

    In 1735, the name Capt. James Ramsay appeared on a record in Baltimore, Maryland. It is believed that his line of the family extends back to a Scottish Sir James de Ramsay of Dalhousie. The city of Alexandria, Virginia was founded by a Scottish merchant named William Ramsay in 1749. He belonged to the ancient house of Dalhousie and many of his descendents still live in Alexandria.

    Both sons of James and Jane Montgomery Ramsay of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, proved to be exceptional men of character. Nathaniel, born in 1741, was an army officer and a Continental congressman from Maryland. He served at the Battle of Long Island in 1776 and at the Battle of Manmouth in 1778. His brother, David, born in 1749, was a Continental Congressman, physician and historian from South Carolina. David was later a member of the South Carolina Senate for three terms.

    In the Clerk's office in Norfolk, Virginia there is recorded a will of Dr. George Ramsay dated June 22, 1756. The will contains a seal with the arms of Ramsay along with the family motto, "Ora et Labora." The name of William Gouverneur Ramsay appeared in Wilmington, Delaware in the later half of the 18th century. Major James Ramsey, an ancestor of President Harrison, owned the land where the town of Ligonier, Pennsylvania is now located. His son, John Ramsey, laid out the town in the late 1700's.

    The 9th Earl of Dalhousie, General George Ramsay, played a prominent role in Canada in the early 19th century. He established Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia and also founded the City of Ottawa.

    Many members of the family were active during the War Between the States. Thomas Ramsay was a Union soldier from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Robert, another Thomas, and Charles Ramsey were all Confederate brothers from New Hanover County, North Carolina.

    In July 1964, Dr. Carl C. Bailey, Jr., visited the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and inquired as to the location of the Clan Ramsay tent. There was no Clan Ramsay tent and the Council of Scottish Clans determined that there was no Ramsay organization in existence. In 1975, 1976, and 1977, the Bailey family returned to the Highland Games and rented a tent individually that was labeled Clan Ramsay. During these years, contacts were made with the Earl of Dalhousie, who authorized Dr. Bailey to become Convener of Clan Ramsay who then proceeded with the organization of Clan Ramsay in North America. In the spring of 1978, correspondence between Dr. Bailey, John Odgers, and Maryel Battin resulted in the decision to organize Clan Ramsay of North America at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in July. This was accomplished with three members of the initial organization. Clan Ramsay now has about 200 members with representatives in many states and Canada.

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    The seat of the Ramsays is Dalhousie Castle in Midlothian. The Ramsays have retained possession of Dalhousie Castle longer than any family has retained possession of a castle in Scotland. The castle is located about eight miles south of Edinburgh on A7 at Bonnyrigg. The setting is a picturesque wooded area along the South Esk River in the parish of Cockpen. The original structure was built in the 13th century and the main parts of the present baronial mansion were constructed in 1450. The castle is of pink sandstone quarried from the opposite bank of the river and its roof is of solid lead. Dalhousie Castle, with its 15th century drum tower, closely resembled Direlton Castle, which is now in ruins.

    Above the entrance to the castle, the Ramsay Coat of Arms is carved in stone. At one time, there was a drawbridge spanning a dry moat. Its mechanical counterbalance and defensive machicolation, opening used to pour molten lead or burning oil upon enemies below, are still visible above the door. Inside the castle, there are 56 main rooms. The entrance hall supports an elaborate ceiling detailed with plaster and wood. The grand foyer contains two Gothic arches of glass ornately adorned with plaster medallions of unicorns alternated with flowers. A divided staircase with brass railings leads off the main hall.

    Two white marble fireplaces grace each end of the banquet hall. Over each mantlepiece there is a mirror which reaches upwards to the lavishly decorated ceiling. There is a mural staircase leading down from the banquet to the dungeon. From what was at one time the first floor keep, a spiral staircase leads down to the top of the dungeon. Prisoners were lowered into the dungeon by rope and the score marks of the ropes are still visible in the stonework. In the basement there is a secret staircase that was at one time blocked off. No one knows where it leads.

    Everywhere in the castle, fascinating rooms are found. The interior of the library is of rich wood paneling. Behind one section of the shelving there is a secret room. The breakfast room is fifty feet long and in the tower there is a round trophy room with its curved doors and trophy cases.

    Upstairs are grand bedrooms. One of the grandest has an exquisite ceiling inspired by the Marquess of Dalhousie who wanted an elegant ceiling to gaze upon from his bed. The chamber contains a ceiling high mirror inlaid with gold. Queen Victoria once stayed at Dalhousie Castle and in honor of her visit, the view of the surrounding estate from one of the bedrooms is called the "Queen's View." Edward I spent a night at Dalhousie before going on the defeat William Wallace at Falkirk. Oliver Cromwell spent some time at the castle in October 1648. The Ramsays have reason to be proud of their historic eight hundred year old clan seat. For only the Ramsays of Dalhousie may boast about possession of the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland.

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    Submitted by Nancy Miller, Clan Genealogist

    Thanks to Alice Ramsay for providing several images for this page. If you have any additions for this page, please contact Alice.


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