Alexander Ramsay

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.' (6)
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)


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. Monthly Magazine vol.22 (1806) p.513
  4. Blackwoods vol.19 (1826) p.765
  5. Mary Congalton's Will, National Archives of Scotland SC70/4/8/915
  6. 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
  7. '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.
  8. William Hunter, Imperial Gazetteer of India vol.13, p.124.
  9. 'Journal, May 1801', in Lachlan and Elizabeth MacQuarie Archive (online, accessed 10 November 2011)
  10. 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.

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