By Tony Attwood
The result on 1 March 1924 was Arsenal 3 Liverpool 1. And it was very important since it ended a sequence of six straight defeats.
The result lifted Arsenal to 20th, with just Chelsea and Middlesbrough below them. The clubs in 21st and 22nd position would be relegated, which might well have put Herbert Chapman off coming to the Arsenal for the start of next season.
It was also the debut of James Ramsay. Having joined Arsenal from Kilmarnock he went on to play 11 games in the remainder of the season.
Now although there are lists of all the players who have played for Arsenal’s first team over the years the Arsenal player James Howie Ramsay 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 incidentally being yet another example of a transfer over £1000 during the era when manager Leslie Knighton said (in his autobiography) that he was never allowed to spend more than £1000 on a player because of the rules laid down by Sir Henry Norris.
He was born on 7 August 1898 in Clydebank. 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 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.
Ramsey played in the first match under Chapman on 29 August 1925 – the home defeat to Tottenham, but was injured. He 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.
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 1934 to 1936 was have “Jack Ramsay” as manager.
And that was all we knew until, after an article appeared in the AISA Arsenal History Society blog, on the subject of Jack Ramsey we received this note from Ian Ramsey, grandson of our player.
“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.”
For thoughts on Arsenal today please see Untold Arsenal
100 Years in the First Division: the absolute complete story of Arsenal’s promotion in 1919.
Henry Norris at the Arsenal: There is a full index to the series here.
Arsenal in the 1930s: The most comprehensive series on the decade ever
Arsenal in the 1970s: Every match and every intrigue reviewed in detail.