In December, we shared the story of Year 9 pupil Lara discovering an old book awarded to Mr John Ramsay (OE1900-05) as a school prize, which she stumbled upon in a charity shop.

At the time, we did not know the fate of John Ramsay, other than that he had been a very academic pupil who won a host of school prizes and returned to perform in OE concerts after leaving school. Read the original story here.

In the past, OE Mr Stuart Cameron-Waller has helped with many of our research enquiries (we usually save the brain busters for him) and after reading this particular story he decided to conduct his own investigations into Mr Ramsay. Stuart is always up for a research challenge 100+ years in the making, and he uncovered the following about John Ramsay and his daughter.

John Ramsay was born at Knightsbridge on 28th January 1887, the son of George and Catherine Ramsay. George was described as a retired baker in the 1911 census when the family were living at 14 Honeywell Road, Wandsworth but when John married Ethel Curtis at St Mary, Balham the following year he described his father’s occupation simply as ‘gentleman’.

John Ramsay's book discovered by Lara (Year 9) in a charity shop

After graduating from London University with a degree in Economics, John found employment as a clerk with the London County Council. It is not clear what became of him in the intervening years but in 1939 he and Ethel were living with their daughter, Eileen Dorothy Ramsay, at Old Well Cottage, Kidmore Lane, Henley. His occupation was then recorded as ‘retired boot trade ’. Further research confirms his career was as an accountant. Sadly Ethel passed away in 1940 aged 55.

John seems to have later moved to Hampshire where he passed away on 20th March 1971 at 28 River Green, Hamble.

The Hamble connection is hugely important in that we know much more about John and Ethel’s only child Eileen, who also lived there and experienced something of a ground-breaking career. Listed as a secretary in the 1939 register, in reality Eileen began a career in 1937 as a 22 year-old receptionist to the Reading-based Royal photographer Marcus Adams. During WWII Adams was about to be called up to help record the impending conflict against Germany, and rather than close down his studio, gave each of his staff a camera and told them to go out and take some interesting pictures. Eileen’s work proved to be the best and she was given the job of running the business during the war. This led to an outstanding career during which she became known as the ‘Queen of yachting photography’. In 1955 she moved to live in Hamble, the centre of yachting on the South Coast, with her partner George Spiers. George died in 1971 – the same year as John Ramsay – and it would appear she then moved to Droxford where she lived until her death at the age of 101 in 2017.

Tony Jones (Senior Librarian and Archivist)