Arsenal’s first Ramsay

By Tony Attwood

The Arsenal player James Howie Ramsay has proved to be a surprisingly hard player to track, and most of the normal sources seem to have little or nothing about him.

We know that he joined Arsenal from Kilmarnock (with whom he had won the Scottish cup) in February 1924 for £1775 – this being yet another example of a transfer over £1000 during the era when manager Leslie Knighton said that he was never allowed to spend more than £1000 on a player – under rules laid down by Sir Henry Norris.

But even though he is a mystery, we have some basic facts.  He was born on 7 August 1898 in Clydebank, and died on 26 January 1969 – recently enough for there to be many people around who can still remember him, and knew of his footballing past.  I do hope someone contacts us with more information.

His clubs are listed as Moor Park, Arthurlie, Renfrew Victoria, Kilmarnock, Arsenal, Kilmarnock, Galston.  Now I believe Moor Park is in Clydebank, so that was presumably a local team.  The Arthurlie still exists in East Renfrewshire.

His early life was however interrupted by the war, and after service as an engineering apprentice, the advent of the compulsory call up meant he joined the 6th Seaforth Highlanders in 1917 and served his country in France during the first world war.

Moving on to the Arsenal days James Howie Ramsay played 75 games (69 of which were league games) for Arsenal and scored 11 league goals.   He made his debut in a 3-1 win over Liverpool on 1 March 1924 at Highbury.

1924/5 was his best season – he started in the first game, and went on to play in every match until the 0-2 away defeat to Tottenham on 28 February 1925.  He scored in the first match and got two on 15 November 1924 in the 2-3 away win at Everton.

But the defeat to Tottenham was seen as a disaster for Arsenal for it was the sixth defeat in a row for the club and wholesale changes were made to the team.  Only six of the previous starting 11 played in the next game and only two of those six were in the same position as for the Tottenham game!  Amazingly on 7 March 1925 Arsenal ended the long run of defeats and beat Bolton 1-0 at Highbury in front of 35,000.

Ramsay didn’t make it back into the team that season however.  Here’s his league record year by year.

Season League games Goals
1923/4 11 3
1924/5 30 6
1925/6 16 0
1926/7 12 2


He played in the first match under Chapman on 29 August 1925 – the home defeat to Tottenham, but was then immediately dropped (or perhaps injured)but did come back to play the last 15 games of the season.

He started the first match in the following season, but was in and out of the side until playing his last game on 27 December 1926 away to Cardiff – a 0-2 defeat.

He left Arsenal immediately after that match to return to Kilmarnock in December 1926.

Now it is reported that he later became manager of Margate FC – the club that was run as Arsenal’s nursery club.  And indeed on the list of Margate managers from from 1934 to 1936 was have “Jack Ramsay” as manager.

And that’s all I have.  I really would like to know more – not least about how he moved into management at Margate and if he was a manager anywhere else.  If you can help, please do write in.

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3 Replies to “Arsenal’s first Ramsay”

  1. Jack ‘Jock’ Ramsay was my great great grandfather I believe (my grandfathers dad) and played for Woolwich before it became Arsenal. Not quite sure how much info is about amongst the family. It was nice to read up on the info you have though

  2. My name is Ian Ramsay. James Howie Ramsay was my grandfather. As far as I can tell your record of his football life is correct with Arsenal and other teams. His son, my father, Mitchell Ramsay is still alive at 94 and he lives in Escondido California. My twin brother Andrew and I live in Salt Lake City, Utah in the U.S.A. The last time I saw my grandfather was in the summer of 1967 in Sidcup, Kent where he lived all of his life after managing in Margate and in Kilmarnock. He did die in 1969. His daughter Beth Allison is alive and lives in Runcorn. She was married to my Uncle Malcolm Allison… also a well known football player, manager and TV personality. Thank you for remembering my grandfather Mr. Attwood.

  3. Ian, I must thank you for taking the time to write in. It is really great to have your confirmation – and indeed the connection with Malcolk Allison. What a football family!!! Again thank you.

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