National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937)

Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937)

Prime Minister, 1924 and 1929-1935

Ramsay MacDonald worked as a pupil teacher and founded the Lossiemouth Field Club before leaving for London in 1886 where he studied the sciences and became involved in politics. In 1896 he married Margaret Ethel Gladstone. He was a leading figure in the newly-founded Labour Party and was elected as an MP in 1906. He succeeded Keir Hardie as Labour's parliamentary leader in 1911 but resigned in 1914 due to his pacifist beliefs. He was re-elected in 1922 and became the first Labour Prime Minister, serving in 1924 and again between 1929 and 1931. His cabinet split over the way to tackle economic hardship brought about by the Great Depression. He resigned but was asked to lead a National Government through to 1935. He retired from government in 1937 and died later that year. His funeral was held at Westminster Abbey and he was buried at Spynie in Morayshire alongside his wife.

Birth in 1866

James McDonald Ramsay was born on 12 October 1866, the son of Anne Ramsay, domestic servant. The entry in the statutory register of births for Drainie in Morayshire gives the place of birth as Lossiemouth.

Birth entry for Ramsay MacDonald

Birth entry for Ramsay MacDonald (24 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1866/130/131

1871 and 1881 censuses

In 1871 James McDonald aged four was enumerated at Barclay's Buildings in the village of Seatown with his grandmother, Isabella Ramsay, 60 and his mother Annie aged 22 years. The census record for the district of Drainie gives their occupations as dressmakers and shows they had a boarder, Isabella Rhind, 10, a scholar.

1871 census record for Ramsay MacDonald

1871 census record for Ramsay MacDonald (20 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1871/130/3, page 1

In 1881 James McDonald, 14, scholar, was enumerated with his mother and grandmother at Allan Lane in Lossiemouth. The census record for the district of Drainie records his grandmother's occupation as blacksmith's widow.

1881 census record for Ramsay MacDonald

1881 census record for Ramsay MacDonald (18 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1881/130/2, page 22

Death in 1937

James Ramsay MacDonald MP died on 9 November 1937 aboard the "Reina del Pacifico". His death was reported to the Registrar-General of Shipping and Seamen under the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894. The entry in the Marine Returns (MR), part of the Minor Records, gives his age at death (71), occupation (author), nationality and place of birth (British, Lossiemouth) and last place of abode (Upper Frognal Lodge, Hampstead, London NW3). It also provides the ship's number, the latitude and longitude of his place of death and the cause of death as well as confirming that he was a passenger.

Death entry for Ramsay MacDonald

Detail from death entry for Ramsay MacDonald (9 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1937/031/MR, page 56