The friends of Dean Ramsay desiring a memorial of his life, his friendly publishers, and his nearest relatives, have asked me to undertake the work, and placed in my hands some materials giving authentic facts and dates, and illustrating the Dean’s own views on the leading events of his life.
I feel myself excluded from dealing with one important part of such a life, for I could not take upon me to speak with confidence or authority upon church doctrines or church government. On the other hand, for the man I have that full sympathy which I suppose ought to exist between the writer and the subject of the biography.
We were very old friends, natives of the same district, bred among a people peculiar in manners and language, a people abounding in a racy humour, differing from what prevails in most parts of Scotland—a peculiarity which it was the joy of the Dean to bring before his countrymen in his Reminiscences; and although he and I were not kindred of blood, his relatives and friends were very much mine, and my uncles and aunts were also his.
Edward Bannerman Burnett, known in after life as Edward Ramsay, and Dean of Edinburgh, was born at Aberdeen on the last day of January 1793. His father, Alexander, second son of Sir Thomas Burnett, Baronet, of Leys, was an advocate, and sheriff of Kincardineshire, where the family estates lay. The sheriff was of delicate constitution, and travelled in the south of Europe for his health, until obliged to fly from the French Revolution; and at Aberdeen, the first place where he and his wife stopped, Edward was born. The Dean’s mother was Elizabeth, the elder daughter of Sir Alexander Bannerman of Elsick, and she and her sister Mary, afterwards Mrs. Russell, were co-heirs of his estates in the pretty valley of the Feugh, including the whole parish of Strachan, of which the southern part, looking over into the How of the Mearns, was Mrs. Burnett’s portion; the northern, with the beautiful bank of Dee where Blackhall stands, falling to Mrs. Russell. Both sisters were eminently handsome. I have a tradition of the young ladies, when they first came from their York school to Edinburgh, being followed and gazed at by passengers in the streets, for their beauty; and there are many still living in Edinburgh who long after gazed with admiration on the fine old lady, the Dean’s mother, bending over her embroidery frame in her window in Darnaway Street.
Alexander Burnett and his wife Elizabeth Bannerman had a large family. Edward, the fourth son, when very young, was taken by his grand-uncle, Sir Alexander Ramsay, and sent to school near his own house at Harlsey in Yorkshire. Edward’s first school, to which he was sent in 1801, made a remarkable impression upon the Dean’s memory. “I believe,” he says, “at that period (the very beginning