Edinburgh Folk

David Ramsay Dec 1905 – Jan 1988

International Photographic Gold Medallist out of 43 Nations


David Ramsay was my father and he was raised in Arthur Street, Edinburgh a slum area for many years. (The original street now demolished and the area rebuilt). He grew up the youngest of five children his mother dying when he was 11yrs old from the flu epidemic in 1916. He attended James Clark School and academically was not expected to make much of himself - he left to take up a 5yr apprenticeship in photography.

After good grounding and proving himself as a talented photographer he was accepted to join “The Scotsman” newspaper when he was in his 20’s. The newspaper was privately owned at the time and run by the Findlay family. David’s father who was a printer (serving 42yrs), and eldest brother a proof reader also worked there.

During the late 1930’s for three consecutive years he entered photographs to exhibit at the Western International Photographic Salon and from 1935 he was a Gold Medallist each year out of 43 Nations.

The 2nd World War came in 1939 and interrupted his glowing career prospects. Forever the journalist at heart he tried to ‘sign up’ but was refused by the war office as all press photographers from 1939 -1942 were classified as being in a reserved occupation. During this time he served with the ‘Home Guard’. Persistent as he was however, he wrote to King George asking him to use his powers to allow him to serve as RAF front-line photographer in the Far East. The reply came in Nov 1941 from Buckingham Palace stating that “His Majesty was unable to intervene in such matters”. However, in July 1942 his wish was granted and he served as a front-line photographer with the RAF in BURMA coming home 3rd March 1946.

After the war he weighed just 7st. suffering from malaria and was in poor general health for some time. He decided to move to hotter climes with my mother and sister in moving in 1947 to Melbourne Australia. They paid their own way, and flew costing £1000 and taking 3 days to get there.

Prior to leaving he returned to James Clark School to donate a selection of his photographs and one of his Gold Medals – from the boy who was not expected to achieve. Attached are copies of 2 letters from my father’s former headmaster Thomas Scott. On arriving in Melbourne he took his glowing credentials with him and continued his photographic journalist career with the “Melbourne Herald”.

The family built a bungalow in Melbourne and I was born there in 1948. Regrettably by this time my mother was ill and very homesick so they returned to live in Edinburgh. They sailed home on the RMS Orontes liner and, ever the journalist; he obtained the original telegram sent to the ship notifying the crew and passengers of the birth of Prince Charles, Nov 1948. (The Orontes was also used as a troop carrier during the war and he had in fact travelled on her at that time).

His work was well recognised within the journalistic world and he became top press photographer for the “The Scotsman “often commanding centre page double features in the paper. He was also responsible for pictures/features within the “Evening Dispatch” and “Weekly Scotsman” being sent all over the world, he also had pictures featured within the “Scotsman Calendar”. His photographs often mentioned in their caption that they had been taken by their “International Gold Medallist - David Ramsay”. Should he need “bodies” my sister and I were often used as foreground figures and were never surprised to see ourselves in the newspapers during the 1950’s.

Latterly in his career he worked within Napier College photographic department and briefly had his own business, but in a cruel twist of fate his sight failed and he was registered blind putting an end to the glowing career of a very talented man, a former James Clark pupil.

Written by his younger daughter, Heather (nee Ramsay) Leuchars now living in Fife, Bonnie Scotland I hope the following copy letters from the Headmaster, James Clark School will be of some interest.
COPY LETTERS FROM HEADMASTER JAMES CLARK SCHOOL ORIGINAL LETTERS TOO FRAIL TO SCAN - written 1938 & 1947

EDINBURGH CORPORATION
David Ramsay, Esq.
Photograph Department
Scotsman Office
North Bridge
Edinburgh
Thomas Scott MA BSc
Headmaster
JAMES CLARK Intermediate School
(Technical & Commercial)
Telephone No 42769
St Leonard’s Lane
EDINBURGH 13th Sept 1938

Dear Mr Ramsay,

I am delighted to have your letter of the 11th inst with the enclosed photograph of the letter from HM Queen Mary. You must feel very elated at her gracious reply and I am sure you will regard it “as a feather in your cap” that Her Majesty accepted the photograph which you sent her. It is indeed a very good effort and you are to be congratulated on the ability which has enabled you to rise to such giddy heights in your profession.

I see that old remark of mine still rankles a little, but you can certainly forget it now as you have proved beyond any doubt that you have achieved in photography is no mean one and I am very proud that you were a pupil of James Clark School and that incidentally a remark of mine was responsible for your determination to succeed in life.

Once more I thank you for the copy of the letter and I shall be pleased to hear of any further successes that come your way.
I am,
Yours faithfully
Thomas Scott
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

EDINBURGH CORPORATION
Mr David Ramsay

(Address withheld)
Thomas Scott MA BSc
Headmaster
JAMES CLARK Intermediate School
(Technical & Commercial)
Telephone No 42769
St Leonard’s Lane
EDINBURGH 16th May 1947



Dear Mr Ramsay,

I still have the medal you presented to me some years ago and three of your photographs of the late King arriving in Edinburgh with two of the present King and Queen arriving on their visit to Edinburgh after their coronation hanging in my room where that have been much admired.

I have mentioned you to one or two of the staff who were in school when you were here and they join with me in wishing you God speed and every success in your future life
Yours sincerely
Thomas Scott
Headmaster

PS I shall be pleased to hear from you when you get settled in Melbourne.

This is a copy of the International Gold Medal certificate for photography.
goldmedalcert
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