Alexander Ramsay rose high in the East India Company service but his origins
and fate were obscure. His wife's legacy to Lady Robert Ker's daughter Amelia,
'the daughter of my loved husband', is suggestive of an intriguing tangle in
Edinburgh high society. David Ramsay also had
Kerr connections, as his father was their factor.
- - before 1833 when his wife made her will
- From 1805-7 he lived at 41 George Street
- According to his wife's will he was 'of West Grange', a mansion just to the south of Edinburgh,
where he was married, but no other record has been found of his living there.
Between 1806 and 1810 the house stood empty, in 1812 it underwent refurbishment,
and it was advertised to let in 1820, 1822 and 1826-7. This all suggests he cannot
have enjoyed a long continuous residence. He did, however, pay Game Duty for the
County of Edinburgh in 1822, suggesting he still resided in the area. (10)
- East India Company Bombay Civil Establishment (3) By
1826 it is implied he is still alive but has left the service (4) He is likely
to have been the Alexander Ramsay encountered by David Price at Surat
around 1793, and living in a house,
situated in a part of town, which from the
number of Jewish families residing hard by, I might call the Jew's quarter, and
the the westward of the Latty water-gate; the mansion near that gate, being then
occupied by Mr Alexander Ramsay, a most intelligent and liberal minded civil
servant; distinguished in that class which has been acknowledged to have
produced as able public functionaries as any in the world. (6)
He was one of a committee appointed to investigate the causes of serious riots
by Muslims against Hindu merchants in Surat in August 1795, which took place
against a background of decline in the traditional Muslim social order and
business interests in the face of competition from an alliance between British
and Bania (Hindu) traders. The Committee put the blame on excessive religious
sensitivities of the crowd, clearing the Nawab of responsibility but
recommending he exert more social control in future: a strategy which appears to
have succeeded, saved the cost of raising military themselves, and cemented the
Bania sense of the benefits of British rule. (7) Soon afterwards the capital was
moved south to Bombay, and in 1800 the whole district was put under British
rule, the Chief Daniel Seton being re-named Lieutenant-Governor, and the chief
officials being a Collector, Edward Galley, and a Judge and Magistrate,
Alexander Ramsay, who also oversaw the local titular Nawabs and small chiefs.
(8) Their installation on 22 May 1800 was watched by Lachlan MacQuarrie, who was
accompanying the Governor of Bombay Jonathan Duncan:
'This Ceremony was conducted with great decorum and
Solemnity; the Troops lining the Streets as the Governor passed to and from the
new Court House' (9).
When David Price returned to Surat in 1803 he found 'the lucrative and
magnificent Chief-ship, had been for some time reduced ... The Government was
invested in Mr Crow, an old and respected civil servant, as chief magistrate;
who resided in the Latty-house; formerly occupied by ... Mr Alexander Ramsay.'
- Chapel connection
- 1806, marriage
- Married on
- 1 November 1806
- Mary Congalton
- Agnes (m.1826 in Paris Henry Harvey Esq of St Audries,
Somerset (4)) His wife left a legacy in her will for 'Left money to Lady Robert
Kerr 'for her sole use and disposal exclusive of the jus mariti of her present
or any future husband', and to Amelia Kerr her daughter 'she being the daughter
of my loved husband' (5)
- Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
- Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
- Monthly Magazine vol.22 (1806) p.513
- Blackwoods vol.19 (1826) p.765
- Mary Congalton's Will, National Archives of Scotland SC70/4/8/915
- David Price, Memoirs of the early life and service of a Field Officer, on the retired list of the Indian Army (W.Allen, London, 1839), pp.329, 470
- 'Capital and Crowd in a declining Asian port city: The Anglo-Bania order and the Surat Riots of 1795', Modern Asian Studies vol.19 no.2 (1985) pp.205-237, p. 236.
- William Hunter, Imperial Gazetteer of India vol.13, p.124.
- 'Journal, May 1801', in Lachlan and Elizabeth MacQuarie Archive (online, accessed 10 November 2011)
- Caledonian Mercury 13 September 1806, 24 September 1808, 19 May 1810, 6 April 1812, 18 March 1820, 28 September 1822, 5 October 1822, 1 July 1826, 7 July 1827.
Back to index