James Ramsay Esquire
A member of the extensive Baxter family through his marriage, James Ramsay became a well known merchant and citizen in both Dundee and Perth. Having been in business for 45 years, he spent his retirement supporting the works of his church.
Subscription value in 1863:
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Relative to income compared to 2021:
Personal details and history
Date of birth
Place of birth
Name of spouse
Euphemia Wilson Baxter
Euphemia Eleanor (1852): James (1854): Gertrude Jane (c1856): Jane Elizabeth (1857): Mary Eliza (1859): Eleanor Baxter (1863): Edward Baxter (1865): Edith Agnes (1867): Alexander (1869): Constance Maud (1870):
Greenfield House, 156 Perth Road, Dundee
Terrace, Nethergate, Dundee
Whiteleys (1852-55), Dundee
Balgay House (1856-58), Dundee
Eden Grove, (1858-68), Ferry Road, Dundee
Dunmore (1869-79), Perth Road, Dundee
6 Norwood Terrace, Westpark, Dundee
Hillgarden House (c1887-90), Coupar Angus
Balhousie Castle (1891-1907), Perth
Age at death:
Place of death:
Balhousie Castle, Perth
Date of death:
Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers
Clubs / societies
Subscriber 4 – George Armitstead – husband of Jane Elizabeth Baxter, sister of Euphemia Baxter, wife of James Ramsay
Subscriber 7 – Patrick Anderson – son of Patrick Anderson and Christian Blair, aunt of James Ramsay and therefore, his cousin
Subscriber 11 – G L Alison – brother in law of James Ramsay, married to his sister Jane Ramsay
Subscriber 18 – Edward Baxter – father in law of James Ramsay
Subscriber 23 – Eleanor Baxter – aunt of Euphemia Baxter, wife of James Ramsay
Subscriber 24 – Mary Ann Baxter – aunt of Euphemia Baxter, wife of James Ramsay
Subscriber 35 – W E Baxter – brother of Euphemia Baxter, wife of James Ramsay
Subscriber 29 – Sir David Baxter – uncle of Euphemia Baxter, wife of James Ramsay
Subscriber 153 – Robert Mackenzie – former business partner of James Ramsay and brother in law of the wife of W E Baxter
Career and worklife
Place of work
Career to date:
Having completed his education at Edinburgh University, James Ramsay, on his return to Dundee, entered the office of Edward Baxter (later to become his father in law in 1851), export merchant, in 1845. He would only have reached 19 years of age at this point and yet, 4 years later, a young man in his early 20s, he entered into a co-partnery with Robert Mackenzie, to form 'Mackenzie, Ramsay & Co,' as commission merchants and exporters, in October/November of 1849. Their partnership was short-lived however, becoming bankrupt by the close of 1857. James Ramsay thereafter embarked on the set up of a similar business on his own account, which continued until a further sequestration in 1879.
James Ramsay was born to Alexander Ramsay, physician and his wife, Jean Blair, in 1826.
His father, Dr Alexander Ramsay, a native of Dunfermline, whose own father was Rector of the Grammar School there, arrived in Dundee in 1805, in order to practise as a physician. He later became the physician of Dundee Lunatic Asylum when it was opened in 1829. Interestingly, his Will indicated that he was due £75 salary by the Lunatic Asylum, at the time of his death. It was claimed that he also ‘officiated as physician to the Dundee Royal Infirmary without any salary whatsoever.’ He gained quite a reputation as a man of principle and that:
‘His loss will be severely felt by the labouring classes to whom he was always ready to impart professional advice without fee or reward. We have heard of his having been consulted in 1500 cases, for which he received no other remuneration but the approbation of his own conscience.‘
It seems ironic that he was unable to intervene to good effect in the labours of his wife, who died in childbirth when her son, James, was merely 5 years of age.
By the age of 9 years, James Ramsay’s parents had both died, his mother in 1831 and his father, just a few years later, in 1835. From that point, James and his younger sister, Euphemia, were raised by their uncle, James Ramsay (after whom, James was named), a wine and spirit merchant, and spinster aunts, Agnes and Catharine Ramsay. Of his older brothers, David died in 1838 and Alexander, became a Captain of the 42nd Foot (Royal Highlanders) and lived out his life in Ireland. His older sister, Jane, became the wife of George Lloyd Alison, also a subscriber to the Abert Institute, in 1844. His remaining sister, Euphemia, having married Karl Götze, a merchant in Leipsic, Saxony, died at the house she shared with her uncle and aunts in 1857.
By 1845, it was reported that James Ramsay was taken into the employ of Edward Baxter. After a further 4 years, James entered into a partnership with Robert Mackenzie on 30 October/1 November 1849, trading as ‘Mackenzie, Ramsay & Co.’ Mackenzie, brother in law to the wife of W E Baxter, had left his position on ‘The Northern Warder,’ to act as a merchant on his own account, having ‘exported goods both on my own account and on account of others.‘
James Ramsay, at this point in his working life, became known as James Ramsay Jnr in order to distinguish him from his uncle, James Ramsay, wine and spirit merchant, his tutor and curator, as named under the terms of his father’s will. James Jnr had been fortunate in a fiscal respect, having become a beneficiary from the estates of his father and also his grand aunt, Elizabeth Meldrum, and was in a sound financial position to pursue a business venture.
Ramsay later reported:
‘By the contract I engaged to put in £6,500 of capital and Mr Mackenzie, £1,000. I was bound to put in my share within 3 months and Mr Mackenzie had 12 months to put in his share. That indulgence was given to Mr Mackenzie from the consideration that time was required to wind up his own business.’
‘Although I contributed the capital principally, and was not allowed interest, yet I considered it an equitable arrangement that Mr Mackenzie and I should have equal shares in the business, from Mr Mackenzie having business connections which I considered valuable.’
Their business began as Commission Merchants and Exporters of goods on their own account. The following year (1850-51) saw the business change in character to some extent, by manufacturing goods for export instead of purchasing them. By 1851-52, the firm of ‘Mackenzie, Ramsay & Co.’ had also added a bleachfield to their interests. (see entry for Robert Mackenzie)
The firm of ‘Mackenzie & Ramsay’ finally foundered and was stopped on 9 November 1857.
‘The ultimate cause of our stoppage was a general survey of our affairs – nothing more immediate; but from that, we saw that we could not go on.’ It was reported that: ‘One element which led to their sequestration was the state of commercial matters, both in America and in this country. They would have had remittances from America by this time had it not been for the panic there.’
There were a host of additional reasons caused by the actions of both partners, not least their being guilty of somewhat dubious trading and the reliance of gaining credit through ‘accommodation bills.’ Perhaps the partners relied on their links to the influential Baxters?
The ignominy of having to place advertisements for the sale of the contents of his then residence, Balgay House, did not deter James Ramsay Jnr from continuing in business.
By 1858, both Robert Mackenzie and James Ramsay Jnr had set up further businesses as merchants on their own individual accounts. Once again, James Ramsay Jnr became a beneficiary, this time from the estate of his uncle, James, who died in 1859.
For the following 20 years, Ramsay conducted his business, riding the booms and busts in trade throughout the 1860s, and 70s, although finally succumbing to failure in 1879. For a second time, advertisements appeared proclaiming the sale of the contents from his residence, ‘Dunmore,’ on Perth Road. This time, James Ramsay failed to appear at the hearing for his creditors, having ‘absconded.’
It would appear that, according to reports, James Ramsay absconded no further than Coupar Angus, taking up residence at Hillgarden House there, while conducting business with his son, James, in Dundee.
Towards the close of the 1880s, James Ramsay retired from trading, having spent 45 years within the business. Having retired, he and his wife, Euphemia Wilson Baxter, took a let for Balhousie Castle in Perth.
While residing in Perth, James Ramsay busied himself in the affairs of the Parish Council, the School Board, the Boys’ Brigade, the Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor in Perth and in advocating the benefits of Temperance.
Predeceased by his wife who died in 1897, James Ramsay had to endure being sued by his son, Edward Baxter Ramsay, by then, a book-keeper in Chicago, for a share in his mother’s sizeable estate. It was found that he did not have a claim.
James Ramsay himself died on 9 April 1907, at his residence in Perth. He had been able to spend almost 20 years of retirement heavily involved in the civic life of Perth.
- Old Parish Registers. Dundee. Births. (1826). 282/ 160 321. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Old Parish Registers. Liff, Benvie & Invergowrie. Marriages. (1851). 301/ 40 355. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Census Returns. Dundee. (1841). 282/ 28 19. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1850. p.124. National Library of Scotland website.
- Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser. 22 December 1857. p.3. British Newspaper Archive website.
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- Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser. 19 March 1858. p.2. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1858-59. p.176. National Library Library of Scotland website.
- Census Returns. Dundee. (1861). 282/1 32/ 29. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1869-70. p.195. National Library of Scotland website.
- Dundee Courier. 17 May 1879. p.1. British Newspaper Archive website.
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- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1884-85. p.281. National Library of Scotland website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1888-89. p.306. National Library of Scotland website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1889-90. National Library of Scotland website.
- Statutory Registers. Perth. Deaths. (1907). 387/ 195. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Dundee Courier. 13 April 1888. p.2. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Courier. 1 May 1907. p.5. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Courier. 4 December 1869. p.1. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Courier. 29 May 1866. p.2. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Scottish Post office Directory. Dundee, 1861-62. pp.12 & 35. National Library of Scotland website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1864-65. p.32. National Library of Scotland website.
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- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1861-62. pp.94 & 240. National Library of Scotland website.
- Scottish Post Office Directories. Dundee, 1864-65. p.173. National Library of Scotland website.
- Dundee Courier. 10 April 1907. p.5. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Perthshire Courier. 5 March 1835. p.2. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Legal Records. Wills and Testaments. Dundee Sheriff Court. (1836). SC45/ 31/ 3. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Perthshire Courier. 17 November 1831. p.2. British newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Howff Burial Records. Friends of Dundee City Archives website.
- Dundee Courier. 19 July 1886. p.4. British newspaper Archive website.
- Aberdeen Press & Journal. 6 November 1844. p.3. British newspaper Archive website.
- Statutory Registers. Dundee. Deaths. (1857). 282/2 805. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Caledonian Mercury. 17 December 1857. p.3. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Legal Records. Wills and Testaments. Cupar Sheriff Court. (1835). SC20/ 50/ 8. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Statutory Registers. Dundee. Deaths. (1859). 282/2 925. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Dundee Courier. 3 January 1879. p.4. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Courier. 23 December 1904. p.4. British Newspaper Archive website.
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