Friday, 8 April 2016

Forgotten Sons: Captain Maule Ramsay and Right Wing Extremism

This is a difficult one.  Some people deserve to be remembered not for their great deeds, fortitude or admirable characteristics, but for the opposite of all these.  Take the man who wrote this verse, someone born into an honourable, upper class family, who lived in a castle and enjoyed every advantage in life, but who lowered himself to this:

 Land of dope and Jewry
Land that once was free
     All the Jew boys praise thee
Whilst they plunder thee
Poorer still and poorer
Grow thy true-born sons
Faster still and faster
            They’re sent to feed the guns.

Land of Jewish finance
Fooled by Jewish lies
            In press and books and movies
   While our birthright dies
Longer still and longer
Is the rope they get
     But – by the God of battles
      ‘Twill  serve to hang them yet.

Written on House of Commons notepaper in 1940 by Member of Parliament for Peebles, Captain Charles Maule Ramsay, the doggerel was sadly indicative of the views of its author.  Until the later 30s this Unionist MP seemed one of many dull but worthy members who restricted their political interests to the sometimes narrow concerns of the rural communities they represented.  But something happened to Ramsay which turned him from this path to a more sinister direction.  He became convinced that the Bolshevik threat from communist Russia posed an imminent threat to Great Britain and indeed the whole of western civilisation.  The only bulwark he imagined that would save the west was Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

   Many thousands of people in Britain similarly feared totalitarian communism and many of these people overlapped with those who did not want the UK involved in another world war.  A darker segment of opinion admired the policies and practices of the fascist states, though some of these fell away when the realities of the brutality of the German regime became clear in the press.  Others still discarded or at least parked their extreme right-wing inclinations when war was actually declared.  Yet still there were self-declared fascists who persisted in actively subverting the war effort after this time, while declaring themselves acting in the patriotic best interests of the nation.  The title of the fairly recent study (1998) of this subject says it all:  Patriotism Perverted, Captain Ramsay, the Right Club and British Anti-Semitism in 1939-40, by Richard Griffiths.

   Ramsay, born in 1894 into an old Angus family, had his home at Kelly Castle, near Arbroath.  This castle stands near the River Elliot in Arbirlot parish.  An alternative name for it was Auchterlony (or Ochterlony) Castle.  Built in the 15th or early 16th century, it was a stronghold of the Mowbray family, but later housed a branch of Ochterlonies, one of whom was said to have been the reforming zealot who burned down Arbroath Abbey. Some of his uncontrolled bigotry perhaps passed down to the later owner of the property. The Irvines and Stewarts later held the house, then it passed to the Ramsay family, Earls of Dalhousie, whose principal seat is Brechin Castle.  John Gilbert Ramsay, 16th Earl of Dalhousie (1904-1950) was a close relative of Captain Ramsay’s.

   Ramsay became convinced that Jews were subverting the capitalism system for their own evil ends, principally through a cabal of rich financiers based in New York.  Correlated with this delusion was the opposing theory that Jews were at the very centre of the Soviet system and were hell bent on destroying British civilisation from the other direction, physically and politically.  The latter belief showed a great fear of being under the godless jackboot of Stalin and his associates; another contradiction given that even the most rabid anti-Semite could not argue that the Jews were godless.

   After being involved in a number of extreme right-wing organisations, Ramsay founded the secret Right Club, consisting of like-minded members of society who were mostly pro-German, anti-Jewish and convinced they were doing the right thing.  In the run up to the war, Ramsay's already inflammatory anti-Jewish rhetoric was fully reported in the local press in Arbroath without a scintilla of censure.  The same was true of his equally rabid wife, Ismay.

   Modern Scotland sometimes harbours the delusion that the extreme right-wing is mostly if not exclusively an English ailment.  But there were plenty in the 1930s, 40s and beyond north of the border who disparaged the foreigner, the Jew in particular, and wanted the latter punished in some way for their apparent apartness. It is a mark of Ramsay's alleged great charm and upper class influence that even the Liberal MP for Montrose Burghs, Lt. Col C. I. Kerr, was influenced by him to some extent.  Kerr expressed some dubious opinions about Jews, but swiftly withdrew his remarks in the press.  Another Angus luminary impressed by Ramsay was the 11th Earl of Southesk, Charles Carnegie (1893-1992), quoted as saying that Ramsay 'was a very loyal, patriotic man'. Carnegie was a member of Ramsay's Right Club.

   The Captain became ever more careless in his crusade as the war went on, linking up with a fascist-inclined official at the American Embassy named Kent and narrowly avoided being charged under the Official Secrets Act.  However, he did fall foul of Defence Regulation 18B and was interned along with other potential traitors like Oswald Mosley.  Ramsay has the distinction of being the only MP to have suffered that ignominy, though the imprisonment did not change his views.  After being released in 1944 he lost the seat he had represented since 1931 in the election of 1945 and published his chilling historical 'Jew wise' historical thesis and personal political justification, The Nameless War, in 1955, the year in which he also died.

   Freedom fighter that he imagined himself to be, he dedicated his book to those who had signed the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Arbroath.

   Gone, but not forgotten.  And God forgive those who condoned him, Angus and national.

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