Posts

A photo of Bamff, Perthshire tower house at Bamff.

We all know that people muddle Banff in Scotland with Banff in Canada. But there’s another Banff in Scotland, more normally spelt ‘Bamff’, which is just as we pronounce it round here. This is near Alyth in Perthshire. The Bamff estate there has belonged to the Ramsays since 1232. The first Ramsay was physician to King Alexander II, a later one was physician to King James VI, and in 1662 they became hereditary baronets. They were a clever family, but one generation particularly stands out. Sir James Ramsay, who died in 1925, had two memorable daughters. Agnata, the elder, went to Cambridge, where she studied classics, in those days the most difficult and prestigious of subjects. Then, and much later, women could attend classes and sit the examinations, but were not eligible to be granted the degree. A list would be published saying what class of honours they would have got. That year no male student got a First Class honours in classics, but Miss Agnata Ramsay of Bamff, but not our Banff, would have done. There was a Punch cartoon showing Mr Punch shepherding Miss Ramsay into a First Class train carriage labelled Ladies Only. The next year she married the Master of Trinity, the largest and richest of the Cambridge colleges. Her sister Katharine married the heir to the Duke of Atholl. Before he was Duke, her husband had been an MP, and in 1923 she stood for parliament, and became the first Scottish woman MP, and then the first Conservative woman cabinet minister. She had a mind of her own, and broke with the Conservatives because she disagreed with what she saw as the folly of appeasement towards fascism. There is a strong case for saying she was right. ‘The red Duchess’ as they called her, gamely resigned her seat and fought and lost a by-election. These are two strong women, and works of reference will say their father was Sir James Ramsay of Banff – but it’s not our Banff.