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RAMSAY FAMILY HISTORY

Dr. DAVID RAMSAY

 

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Sarh Ann Lord, wife of Dr David Ramsay

 

David Ramsay was the son of John Ramsay and Elisabeth Pearson. Born on the 16th March 1794, he was brought up in Perth, Scotland, in a wealthy, staunchly Presbyterian household. In October 1817, at the age of 25, David made and wrote a Covenant with God. Later in life he was to encourage Sarah Ann Lord to do the same.

 

His father John Ramsay was a Corn Merchant, and property owner, the rents for which provided a large part of his income. When David left home he did not hesitate to ask his father for monetary assistance, which was given either as a gift or a loan in amounts which these days would be considered extremely generous. David was the 3rd of seven children. Of these three died young. The first-born John died age 21 in 1811. Isabella, born in 1798, died aged 1, and William born in 1803 died in 1806. Davids brother James, two years older, seems to have been one of his closest friends, and he shows a great attachment to his two sisters Eliza and Mary in his letters. These two also died quite young, Eliza aged 33 and Mary aged 30, both unmarried. James married late in life, at aged 49, his wife Jane Livingstone dying shortly after the birth of their daughter, also named Jane. This left David to carry on the Ramsay name, which he did by marrying and fathering eleven children, ten of whom grew to adulthood.

 

John Ramsay was born in Fowlis Wester in Perthshire, his father, also John, was a tenant farmer. The house in which he lived, and where David was born, can still be seen in Methven Street, Perth, Scotland.

 

David studied Medicine in Edinburgh, and graduated in 1817. Documents pertaining to his Medical Degree have been preserved in the Mitchell Library, and include the Diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Diploma of Obstetrics, a General Diploma, a thesis in Latin entitled Angina Pectoris, and the Regulations for Candidates of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh. Several books bearing the inscription D. Ramsay, 40 Nicholson Street, Edinburgh, show his keen interest in Natural history and entomology, which he shared with his father. The voyages subsequently embarked upon afforded him ample opportunity to pursue this interest. In letters to and from James they discuss the condition of his collection, comprising birds and insects collected on his voyages, most of which James was later authorised to donate to the Perth Museum. David also returned with live parrots as presents for family and friends.

 

After completing his Medical Degree, David traveled to London in the Fife packet to seek work. There he found lodgings at 3, Little St.Thomas Apostle, and proceeded to see some of the sights of the city as well as catching up with various Perth friends. The only vacancies in the Medical profession were for those who did not have the training of a medical degree, and David was not inclined to accept a position where his skills were not utilised. He decided on advice to take a position as a ship's surgeon. Here he had the opportunity for trading to supplement his wage. He wrote to James on accepting a position on Marchioness of Exeter: "I have 5 a month, a private cabin, and the Captains table, with liberty to trade a little." David was to get a taste of mercantile life, and seemed not only suited to it but to enjoy it. It was at this time that David wrote to his brother James, giving his plans for trade and requesting a loan of 500 from his father, which John Ramsay later sent as part of Davids portion of his inheritance. He also asked James to send various personal items including clothes and notebooks.

 

This voyage took David to the ports of Madeira Bay, Bencoolen and Padang on the west coast of Sumatra, and Batavia (now Jakarta), Semarang and Surabaya on Java.

 

From Madeira Bay, David wrote of the voyage, an attempt at mutiny by some of the men, and the resultant court martial and flogging, and his first night in the town at the house of a family friend, Mr. Keir. He described the living conditions of the merchants and traders, in stark contrast to those of the natives. From Madeira they sailed to Bencoolen, with the ship being dogged by a privateer, who fortunately decided against attack. After several days in Bencoolen, they made a trip to Padang and then to Batavia after a short return to Bencoolen. David described the heavy traffic in Batavia roads, with ships from around the globe trading in the port. His gruesome details of the crocodiles that fed on dead animals and people alike must have fascinated his family at home. David mentions in this letter they would soon leave port for Samarang and Soura Bay, and then return to Batavia before heading for England, touching at the Cape and St.Helena.

 

On his return to London, David wrote to James of the success of his voyage, having made a profit overall. He made a short visit home, returning to London on the Smack, Perth. David contemplated spending some time at further study in Paris, and setting up practice in Perth, but this was not to be. After visiting the family, David returned to London to seek employment. He finally decided to take up a position on the ship Surry in 1820.

 

On this voyage David sailed to Madeira, Rio de Janeiro, and around the Cape to Fremantle and Hobart. From here they sailed to Sydney, and then on a trading voyage to the Auckland Islands, Valparaiso in Chile, Easter Island, Ducie Island, Pitcairn Island, Otaheite, and back to Sydney. After a short voyage to Macquarie Island, blubber-hunting, the Surry returned to England. Davids letters at this time describe his impressions of the ports of Hobart and Sydney, and the native people of the area.

 

On the return journey to England, the Surry carried Governor Lachlan Macquarie and his wife. Macquarie was renowned for encouraging the emancipists in their business endeavours in the colony, including Simeon Lord, Davids future father-in-law. For a detailed account of this voyage, go to Journeys in Time.

 

This voyage lasted two years, and by the time David returned to London, he had decided to set up in business with the ships Captain, Thomas Raine, and to make a new life for himself in Australia. Together they established the House of Agency to be called Raine and Ramsay.

 

After visiting his family in Perth for a short time,  and a frustrating time in London setting up the business and trying to obtain capital to back the venture, well described in the letters of this time, David again sailed for Sydney, this time on Thalia arriving back in Sydney in 1824.

 

In 1824, an advertisement in the Sydney Gazette refers to Raine and Ramsay at the corner of Bligh and Hunter Streets, ship owners and agents, general merchants and woolbrokers.  The House of Raine and Ramsay flourished early, dealing in pork, tea, sugar, wine and whale oil. However, due to differences in business practices, David felt obliged to sever his business ties with Raine, and the partnership was dissolved in 1827.

 

David did not return to the practice of medicine in the Colony, but after the dissolution of Raine and Ramsay concentrated on his Dobroyde Plant Nursery, his farm and other properties, and the raising of his children.

 

During his time in the Colony, David was active in the erection of Scots Presbyterian Church, being a signatory to the constitution of the Church in 1824, and holding the positions of Treasure in 1823, Mediator between the Synod and Presbytery in 1838, and Trustee for the Congregation in 1841. He was elected a member of the Council of the Australian College, a project of Dr. Dunmore Lang.

 

David had possibly met Sarah Ann Lord on his first visit to Sydney, and lost no time in wooing her on his return to the colony. Simeon Lord wrote out his permission for the two to marry on 28 March 1825, and the wedding took place on the 31st March at St Philips Church of England on Church Hill. 

 

Sarah Ann was the daughter of emancipist merchant Simeon Lord. Reference to his father-in-laws situation was only made in one of the letters home, but by this time David was married and the blessing of the family had been given.

 

Simeon Lord gave the couple the farm Dobroyde as a dowry (with accompanying mortgage!) and it was here that the couple settled. Renovations were done to the house, and David set up an orchard and plant nursery in the grounds. The boundaries of the current Sydney suburb of Haberfield define the boundaries of the farm. The Ramsays added rooms and verandahs to the original Sunning Hill farmhouse, which had been begun by Nicholas Bayley and completed by Simeon Lord.

 

In 1826, David went to Tasmania to conduct some business for Simeon Lord, and left Sarah to the running of the farm, and raising the children. She wrote to him telling of the childrens health, and her problems with the hired staff, one of whom was constantly drunk. Whilst there, David collected seeds and plant stock, including orange trees, for his nursery, and had them sent home.

 

David, although successful in his chosen career in Australia, went through some difficult times as well. The depression of the 1840s was particularly hard, but David along with many others was saved by the gold rush in the early 1850s, when land and property values rose and money began flowing again in the Colony. David relied on convict labour, and in several letters from home introductions were made to him of convicts considered to be worthy of being given a chance at rehabilitation in David's employ. Rarely do we see an acknowledgement, or any referral by David to convict labour. Being married to the daughter of one of the wealthiest emancipists in the country would have made him sympathetic to their plight.

 

Always with an eye to business and investment, towards the end of the 1820s, David had an inn constructed on the Parramatta Road, at its junction with the Liverpool Road. The inn was known officially as Speed the Plough, but was referred to locally as the Plough. The inn remained as a landmark for the next 80 years. In Speed the Plough, Ashfield 1788-1988, S and R Coupe describe it as a substantial two-storey sandstock building with a shingle roof and with a wide verandah on the street abutted at each end by a single-storeyed wing. In front on either side of the pole bearing its sign stand two horse troughs carved out of huge logs. David Ramsay did not run the inn, but leased it firstly to Charles Jordan, then to John Ireland, whose wife took over after his death until 1849. From this time the inn was leased to a variety of proprietors until John Burrage became the last licensee in 1906.

 

David died on 10th June 1860, leaving Sarah to carry out their plans for a School, Church and Private Burial Ground on part of the Dobroyde estate. He was buried on the farm, but his coffin was removed to the family vault after it was completed. Sarah saw to the building of the School and Church, the setting aside of an area for the Graveyard and the construction of the Vault. She died at Dobroyde on the 28th January, 1889, her coffin being placed in the vault beside David.

 

 In March 1831, Dr David Ramsay purchased 85 acres for 314 from John Piper, which had been part of Hugh Pipers grant.  At the same time Piper sold 92 acres of adjoining land to Prosper de Mestre, which he called Helsarmel. The western border of the land lay along the shores of Iron Cove. This land lies in the present day suburb of Leichardt. The adjoining Elswick Estate was subdivided and sold in lots between 1868 and 1874. David Ramsay Jnr purchased 5 blocks over this time, with a total of approximately 63 acres. 

 

David Ramsay had kept the land for cultivation, and it was not subdivided until 1878. The subdivision was carried out by Sarah Ramsay after his death, with 44 allotments.The land was bought by dairymen and a bone boiling works, which operated until the early 1900s. With the closure of the boiling works, and the subsequent removal of its noxious smell, subdivision into residential blocks went ahead. 

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James Ramsay, brother of Dr David Ramsay

THE CHILDREN OF DAVID AND SARAH

 

Sarah Lord and David Ramsay had 11 children, including a son who lived only 4 hours. The remaining 10 children grew to adulthood, and 9 of these were married. 

 

Clicking on a name will take you to more information and pictures of the children of David and Sarah.

 

Mary Louisa married Alexander Learmonth, who was the first superintendent of the Sunday school. On a portion of the Dobroyde estate given to them, they built Yasmar. They had 6 children.

 

 

Sarah Elizabeth married Buchan Thomson. In 1844 Buchan Thomson was managing David Ramsays property Kierstone on the Fish River.  Buchan Thomson was associated with the East India Company and also with the early days of the Australian Jockey Club.  They had 2 children, a son who died as an infant, and a daughter, Sarah.

 

Isabella Helen married John Belisario, a Dental Surgeon who was a pioneer in the use of anaesthetics. They had 7 children.

 

David married Kate Dorothy de Mestre, the daughter of Prosper de Mestre. Much has been written about Prosper de Mestre, and more information can be found on the de Mestre pages of this site, or on Elizabeth Drapers web site.  They had 9 children. David owned property at Yass, Bourke and Cobar. Tindarey Station, near Cobar, once owned by David Ramsay, is now farmed for cotton.

 

Louisa married Alexander Campbell Budge, but died a year later, in childbirth. Alexander Budge later married Elizabeth Armstrong Forde, and had 3 children. Budge was connected with the colonial public service.

 

Margaret was not married.

 

James married Emilie Forde, who was born in Ireland. They had 4 children. One of these, David Bruce, married Helen M A (Birdie) de Mestre, a cousin. James owned a property at Yass called Nanama.

 

Edward Pearson married Ellen Eliza Fox, daughter of marine surveyor Henry Thomas Fox, and Isabella Williamson. Edward was a naturalist, who became director of the Sydney Museum, thus carrying on a family tradition of interest in our natural environment, which was begun by his grandfather John, and encouraged by David, who sent specimens from all over the world to his father in Perth.

 

John Simeon married Madeleine la Barte. They did not have any children.

 

Percy Robert married Emmeline R M Lord, a granddaughter of Simeon Lord, and therefore a cousin. Percy died in Queensland, and Emmeline died at Leura, in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Percy was part owner with Edward Pearson Ramsay and James Ramsay of the sugar plantation Jindah, at Maryborough in Queensland. Percy lived at Jindah, and managed the property.

 

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The Ramsay Graves at Greyfriars, Perth

Dr David Ramsay's father John, (1749-1831) and his wife Elisabeth Pearson, are buried in this grave at Greyfriars Cemetery, Perth. Their children Isabella age 1 in 1799, William age 2 in 1806, John age 21 in 1811, Eliza age 33 in 1829 and Mary age 30 in 1831, are all buried with them. The large monument was erected by James in 1842 in memory of his wife, Jane Livingstone, and is also a memorial to James who died in 1861.

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The home of John Ramsay, 9 Methven St, Perth, where Dr David Ramsay was born.

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Methven Street as it was when Jean Marginson visited in 1967.

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The Plough Inn
Read about David Ramsay  and Thomas Raine on the Australian Dictionary of Biography site.
Eddie Ramsay's web site on the history of the Clan Ramsay, and other  Ramsay families, can be found at
Eddie lives near Dalhousie Castle in Scotland, and runs guided tours in Edinburgh.

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Ramsay and Robertson Family Home Page