John Ramsay of Ochtertyre

John Ramsay of Ochtertyre FRSE FSAScot (1736–1814) was a Scottish writer. A renowned letter-writer even in his own lifetime, most of his extensive correspondence has since been lost. His home is sometimes referred to as Oughtertyre or (more erroneously) Auchtertyre. It is not to be confused by the larger Ochtertyre estate in Perthshire, owned by the Murray family.


He was born at Ochtertyre House in Stirlingshire on 26 August 1736 the son of Anne Dundas, daughter of Ralph Dundas of Manor,[1] and her husband, James Ramsay WS (d.1748), a lawyer. Ochtertyre house lay between Blair Drummond House and Bridge of Allan.[2]

Ramsay succeeded to his father’s lairdship at the age of 12, in 1748. He was educated at Dalkeith Grammar School under Mt Barclay then studied classics at the University of Edinburgh.[3]

Ramsay then trained at his late father’s law firm until he was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates, however he never practised.

He instead retired to the family estate at Ochtertyre House, near Blair Drummond, in the parish of Kincardine-in-Menteith, west of Stirling, on the banks of the River Teith.[4] Here “he lived a life of elegant ease, like a classical Roman in his villa, looking after his estate, observing life, reading and writing notes on 18th-century Scotland which eventually filled 10 folio volumes”.[5]

In 1785 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were John Walker, James Hutton and Joseph Black.[6]

He was visited by Robert Burns in 1787, during Burns' visit to Harviestoun near Dollar, and visited by Walter Scott in 1793. Scott's character, Jonathan Oldbuck in "The Antiquary" was based partly on Ramsay.[7] He was also a friend of Lord Kames.

He died on 2 March 1814 and is buried in the parish churchyard of Kincardine-in-Menteith slightly west of Ochtertyre House.


  • Highland Vocal Airs (1784)
  • Scotland and Scotsmen in the Eighteenth Century, 18 volumes
  • Letters of John Ramsay of Ochtertyre, 1799-1812
  • An account of the game of Curling, with Songs for the Canonmills curling club
  • Lord Byron and his Times


  1. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: John Ramsay of Ochtertyre
  2. "Old maps of Britain and Europe from A Vision of Britain Through Time". Retrieved 2019-07-07.
  5. Bruce, George; Henderson Scott, Paul (2002). A Scottish Postbag: Eight Centuries of Scottish Letters. Saltire Society.
  6. Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.