The Earl of Dalhousie’s Thursday, Feb. 1 probably looked slightly different from yours. On the Thursday in question Earl James Ramsay made his monthly trip to Buckingham Palace, where he works as Lord and Steward.
“I do all sorts of bits and pieces for them on State occasions. But that’s quite fun, because whenever there’s a state visit you get to meet the president of the country – so that’s great for me as a job,” he said over the phone from Brechin Castle in Scotland, where he lives.
The Dalhousie name comes from Scotland, as did the 9th Earl of Dalhousie, George Ramsay for whom Dalhousie University is named after. A member of the British Army, Lord Dalhousie was appointed to Governor of Nova Scotia in 1816 before becoming Governor General of British North America years later. It was during this time in Canada that he founded the university with his spoils from the War of 1812. Dalhousie is still a Scottish name, and still has a title for those who carry it.
Ramsay sounds straight out of Downton Abbey, his proper English accent dripping like butterscotch through the phone.
“[Buckingham Palace] is quite grand; it is there to impress. When it was built it was very much about impressing everything. All the parts of Parliament were pretty grand, that’s what they were up to – impressing people,” he said playfully.
Aside from his duties at Buckingham Palace, “I manage to keep reasonably busy,” Ramsay said.
But what does keeping busy as an Earl mean?
“Well, not a great deal,” he said lightheartedly.
While his current title may not offer much in the way of exciting duties, Ramsay’s past endeavours are chock full: in 1966 he worked in a logging camp in British Columbia, before jumping on a Greyhound bus and travelling around the United States.
“[I] ended up in Montreal, came back, and that’s when I joined the army. My father [was] getting old, wasn’t very well – I moved back up to Scotland, and I’ve been here ever since. I used to be in the financial world, now I’m getting a bit old I think,” he said, slowly pacing his words with thought and emphasis.
So what does excite the Earl of Dalhousie at the moment? His grandkids.
“We’ve got three grandchildren in Australia. My son in law’s a farmer in the middle of nowhere in South Wales. My son, who lives about two miles away, he’s just had a child four months ago – five months ago now, I guess. The usual stuff, I guess. We have a dog who I take for walks and things when I’m not working. There is a lot that’s exciting,” he said quickly, with a new lightness to his voice.
In the spirit of grandkids and thinking of the next generation, Ramsay imparted some of his wisdom onto the students of Dalhousie.
“It’s a good thing to travel as much as you can. No doubt they say travel broadens the mind, but it does. We all slightly live in our own little worlds, whether it’s university or whatever. The more you can get out and see other people and enjoy other people’s point of view, the broader your mind becomes and the more receptive you are to other people’s ideas.”