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E.P. RAMSAY, ORNITHOLOGIST, ZOOLOGIST & SYDNEY MUSEUM CURATOR

Five covers were found on eBay, addressed to three members of the Ramsay Family from 1867 to 1874, and they will be described in dated order. The first was addressed to J.S. Ramsay Esqr., Care of J. McNiven, Cardington, Molong. The blue ‘TWO PENCE’ stamp of New South Wales was cancelled with a duplex D/ DE 24/ 67/ SYDNEY found in an incomplete circle and a 3-ringed oval N.S.W. obliterator. This specific duplex was in use from 1.5.67 until 20.3.68. The addressee was John Simeon Ramsay, the best known son of E.P. Ramsay, the main subject described in this paper (Figure 1).

 

The reverse showed a reception postmark for MOLONG/ 1867/ DE 25/ N.S.W, Type 1A (Hopson & Tobin) with the year date incorrectly placed above the month/day (Figure 2).

The second cover was probably sent to the same person who is now addressed as John Ramsay at his home address of Dobroyd(e), Ashfield. The same blue ‘TWO PENCE’ stamp is postmarked with rays ‘14' of Orange which is confirmed by the ORANGE/ JU 20/ 1870/N.S.W (Figure 3).

The reverse shows transits BATHURST/ JU 21/ 1870/ N.S.W and SYDNEY/ 3/ JU 22/ 1870, as well as an arrival postmark at ASHFIELD/ JU 22/ 1890/ N.S, W (Figure 4).

The third cover was addressed to Miss Ramsay, Nanama, Gundaroo and the same blue ‘TWO PENCE’ stamp is postmarked with rays ‘193' of Ashfield which is confirmed by the ASHFIELD/ AP 8/ 1871/ N.S.W (Figure 5).

The reverse has only one legible postmark of GOULBURN/ AP 8/ 1871, a transit near to Gundaroo as well as an indistinct embossed figure of an unicorn on the flap which appears to be an insignia of some sort with a motto below, and this will be discussed later (Figures 6 & 6A).

The fourth cover was cancelled with a duplex SYDNEY/ A/ JY 23/ 74/ S and the N.S.W obliterator was over the pink ‘ONE PENCE’ stamp. The cover was addressed to E.P. Ramsay Esqre, Dobroyd, Ashfield (Figure 7).

The reverse had a black printed double oval on the flap which had GOODLET & SMITH/ VICTORIA/ SAW/ MILLS/ SYDNEY, as well as a reception ASHFIELD/ JY 23/ (1874) postmark (Figure 8).

The fifth cover had a pair of the green ‘Laureate’ ‘ONE PENNY’ stamp of Victoria cancelled by the duplex MELBOURNE/ 3 H/ SE 12/ 74 with the barred VICTORIA obliterator. It was addressed to Edw Ramsay Esq/ Dobroyde Nursery, Ashfield, near Sydney, and it was signed by the sender Ferdinand von Mueller (Figure 9).

The reverse had 2 superimposed postmarks for both Sydney and Ashfield, September 16 (1874) (Figure 10).

There are additional interesting features to these covers, some of which apply to several of the covers. Those postmarked in the early 1870's have a type known as Type 1A of Hopson & Tobin, and are characterised by no complete circle, a 4-figure year date, and double arcs, as seen in Ashfield, Bathurst, Molong, and Orange; the sender of the fifth cover, Ferdinand von Mueller, was the most famous Australian botanist of his day, who had frequent communications with Edward Pierson Ramsay; two covers include the term Dobroyd in the address; and, the reverse of the third cover had an unique feature that strongly suggests that the letter was sent to a daughter, Miss Ramsay, from a Ramsay family member. The latter feature will be dealt with later after E.P. Ramsay and his father Dr. David Ramsay are discussed.

Edward Pierson Ramsay, ornithologist, zoologist and curator, was born on 3 December 1842 at Dobroyd (Ashfield), N.S.W., son of Dr. David Ramsay and his wife Sarah Ann, daughter of Simeon Lord. Educated at Macquarie Fields, he entered St Paul's College, University of Sydney, in 1863 to study medicine but left in 1865 without a degree. Interested in natural history from boyhood, at 17 he corresponded with Governor Denison on conchology. He had briefly visited New Zealand in 1861 and the next year was founding treasurer of the Entomological Society of New South Wales where he exhibited specimens.

Elected to the local Philosophical Society in 1865, Ramsay devoted himself mainly to bird-collecting. In 1866 he went to the Clarence and Richmond rivers to get specimens of the recently discovered Rufous Scrub-bird. On 20 December he became a corresponding member of the Zoological Society, London, where he began publishing. He was in close contact with prominent European zoologists, including John Gould and Sir Richard Owen. In December 1867 Ramsay opened the Dobroyd New Plant and Seed Nursery on his share of the Dobroyd estate that he had inherited in 1862. Next year he went to Queensland, bought the Lindah sugar plantation in the Maryborough district and worked it for some years with indifferent success.

Ramsay's connection with the Australian Museum had begun in 1860, but Gerard Krefft saw him 'as an enemy of mine of long standing on account of my refusing to purchase the rubbish he used to offer'. In 1874 Ramsay emerged as the trustees' protégé and on 22 September they illegally confirmed his appointment as curator, but his position was not confirmed by the government until 1876. As curator in 1874-94 Ramsay built up the museum's collections, corresponded with many scientists, contributed to taxonomic literature and exhibited his work before the local Linnean Society, of which he had been a founder in 1874. He added some 17,600 bird skins, including the Dobroyd Collection made by the Ramsay brothers. He also built on the foundations of Australian ichthyology laid by W.J. Macleay, and published over thirty ichthyological papers, mostly in the Proceedings of the local Linnean Society. Between 1876 and 1894 his Catalogue of the Australian Birds in the Australian Museum at Sydney appeared in four parts and in March 1890 he began publishing the Records of the Museum.

A trustee of Hyde, Phillip and Cook parks from 1878 and of the Zoological Station, Watsons Bay, from 1879, Ramsay served on the royal commission into the fisheries in 1880 and in 1882 became a member of the fisheries commission. From 1878 he served on exhibition commissions for New South Wales and won repute for his exhibits and photographic arrangements of colonial produce and phenomena. In March 1883 he visited London as official representative for New South Wales and Tasmania at the Great International Fisheries Exhibition and inspected 'the most important of the museums, aquaria and zoological gardens in Great Britain and the Continent'. He learnt new techniques, arranged exchanges and negotiated the purchase of Dr Francis Day's collection of Indian fishes. He visited Naples in 1884 and was made a knight of the Crown of Italy.

A councillor of the local Royal and Linnean societies, Ramsay contributed to botany, herpetology and mammalogy and continued Krefft's and A.M. Thomson’s work of exploring the caves and rivers of New South Wales. He dredged extensively in Port Jackson, sometimes with Nicholas Maclay and published over thirty ichthyological papers, mostly in the Proceedings of the local Linnean Society. Between 1876 and 1894 his Catalogue of the Australian Birds in the Australian Museum at Sydney appeared in four parts and in March 1890 he began publishing the Records of the museum.

A councillor of the local Royal and Linnean societies, Ramsay contributed to botany, herpetology and mammalogy and continued Krefft's and A.M. Thomson’s work of exploring the caves and rivers of New South Wales. He dredged extensively in Port Jackson, sometimes with Nicholas Maclay. For his part in arranging David Berry’s bequest to the University of St Andrew's, he was made LL.D. in 1886. Ramsay was a fellow of the Linnean Society of London, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Geographical Society of London and a member of the Royal Irish Academy. In Melbourne in January 1890 he presided over the Biology Section of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 1893 Ramsay took extended sick leave, visited New Zealand and resigned on 31 December 1894. Companionable and competent, he was consulting ornithologist to the museum till 1909. He died of carcinoma of the stomach at Croydon Park on 16 December 1916 and was buried in the Presbyterian cemetery, Haberfield. He was survived by his wife Ellen Eliza, daughter of Captain H.T. Fox whom he had married at Burwood on 7 November 1876, and by four daughters and two sons, of whom John Simeon Pierson became a well-known ornithologist, specializing in photography. A picture of Edward Pierson Ramsay (also spelt Pearson) is seen in Figure 11.

 
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