A FAMILY CHRONICLE
The Ramsay’s in Finland 1577 – 1945
By Issabella Penttila, nee Ramsay
Written in 1977 to celebrate the Ramsay family’s arrival in Finland in 1577
English Translation by Jean Ramsay
Let us look back and then try to place ourselves in the political situation 400 years ago in the two countries that are of interest to us: Scotland and Sweden-
What did the Scots understand of the quarrelling of the Vasas! Their leader let himself be misguided by the persuasive powers of the Frenchman Charles de Mornay and was thus involved in the so called 'de Mornay conspiracy' to free Erik XIV from prison. The air was filled with plot and rumour. It was decided to send the ferocious Scots to Livonia (an area comprising the modem states of Estonia and Latvia, under Swedish rule 1621-
He accustomed himself well to the new settings. Jakob de la Gardie writes that "the noble and well-
Hans Ramsay gave up his duties due to old age in 1644, and died in 1649 and was buried at the Somero churchyard. He was a typical example of a 16th and 17th century soldier, who fought where fighting was called for, and was awarded land in a country that he'd never heard spoken of, but who nevertheless set his roots down there. A few days ago, in Hufvudstadsbladet (=the main Swedish language daily newspaper in Finland) we were presented with a good explanation to why Hans Ramsay never left Finland: in the winters it was all but impossible, and the summers were too beautiful to even think of leaving. 1 want to quote another explanation, which 1 found in the biography of the Nobel prize winner Sir William Ramsay: the Scots were more concerned with their immediate homes rather than if they belonged to Sweden or Russia (this was written in 1907), and this is why they stayed and kept on living according to their old traditions.
Home was from the 17th century onwards firmly grounded in Finnish soil -
When war burned at the corners of Sweden and Finland during the first decades of the 18th century, the whole family was on the move. The Johan of the Nynds branch of the family followed Armfelt to Palkiine and Isokyrd and was present in the campaign in Norway. Anders Erik and his 1300 men stopped 400 Russians on the border at Koporje. His son Johan Karl was present at Poltava and was captured at the Dnjepr, and returned home after the peace of 1721. His brother Alexander Vilhehn was present at Narva, fought under his father in Koporje and Vyborg, and accompanied ArmfeIt's troops at Palkilne and Isokyr& He was captured in Tornio, but soon escaped and still found titne to freeze three of his toes in the campaign in Norway before peace finally came in 1721.
The fighting was over, at least for now. In the wasted land that was Sweden, a process of rebuilding began. What was needed was men that could speak out for the country: the general and the governor, commander of the great cross of the Order of the sword, Anders Henrik makes his entrance. His earliest years were very much in line with the family tradition: as a 11 -
Anders Henrik saw where the party quarrelling would lead the country, and he couldn't stand the Hat party, and he stood up unequivocally as a royalist. When Gustav III assembled his royalist men for the coup d'etat 1772, it was certainly comforting to have someone known for his strength by your side, and there we find Anders Henrik by the king's side. The flags were waving and the sun was shining as the Gustavian epoch begun. In 1775 Anders Henrik Ramsay was host to his king in Esbo manor. The cornerstones were laid for the mill and the bridge, which still stand to this day, the bridge being an inconvenience for the stressed passengers in cars who are totally oblivious to the fact that they are driving over the oldest stone bridge still in use in Finland.
When Napoleon's cannons are thundering throughout Europe Finland's fate is cast. The Russian army crossed the border at Kyrnmene river in 1808. Anders Henrik's only surviving child, Sofia Lovisa, who was married to her cousin the governor Otto Wilhelm Ramsay received sad news from the battlefields home at Esbo manor: her sons Anders Wilhelm and Carl Gustav had been killed. The older brother was 30 and the younger 25 years of age when the war started. Anders Wilhelm was Vegesak's aide-
"A story is still told at Lemu manor, that the Swedish high command were enjoying a break there -
We have once anchored at Korpo Berghainn with my farther's yacht "Regina" and been taken to see the Officer’s" grave by the locals. The last resting place of the brothers was relocated to the family grave in Porvoo after the war.
The new ruler Alexander I of Russia stayed once at Esbo manor to offer recompensation for the old lady for the damages done to her manor during the war. But even the emperor couldn't recompense the only loss that really mattered. So the emperor travelled on. Sofia Lovisa decided to move to Sweden with her one surviving son. It is from him our Swedish relations descend, some of whom are present here today.
I shall briefly return to the 18th century. On a summer's day in 1775, the colonel-
Their son Carl August, the governor of Vyborg, married his cousin, a Peterson again, and founded the large family of Bjorkboda and Daisbruk, a family that would play an important role in the economic life of first the autonomous, then independent Finland. From this family come Wolter, Honorary Mining Councillor at Hogfors and Tammerfors; August, the Councillor of the State, mathematician, banker, insurance man, who ended up as a historian and owner of Esbo manor; and Wilhelm, professor of geology and mineralogy at the University of Helsinki.
Anders Johan's and Johanna Barbara's second son Gustav Adolf began his niffitary career in Sweden and partook in the great battle of Leipzig, the fight of the nations against Napoleon in 1813, with Bernadotte's army. He subsequently entered the Russian army, serving partly in Finland, partly in Russia, and was governor in the Kuopio province. His sons were the four generals with names starting with A: Artur, Allan, Adolf and Archibald, martial gentlemen in the emperor's army, but held in strict order in Helsinki by their mother Vendla von Essen, who lived so long that she saw the 20th century.
Anders Johan's and Johanna Barbara's third son, Anders Edvard, made himself an successful career in Russia after having been loyal to Nikolai I during the decabrist rebellion in St. Petersburg and the uproar in Poland 1830. During the Crimean war he led the defence line between Turku and Helsinki. Later he became leader of the Russian troops in Poland. He was awarded with the title of baron and was one of the few Finns who were decorated with the highest Russian order, the Great Cross of the Order of Andreas. His son Georg received a golden sword for his bravery in the Turkish war 1877-
In the beginning of the 20th century a completely unexpected contact with Scotland emerges. Sir Williarn Ramsay came to Stockholm in 1904 to receive the Nobel prize in the field of chemistry. He was walking through the streets of Stockholm, stopped at a window of a bookstore, and the name Ramsay caught his eye : "Fran barnaar till silverhar" (From childhood years to silver hairs) by Anders Ramsay. He wrote to the author, and subsequently visited Helsinki with his wife in August 1907. The description of the visit, which can be found in the biography of William Ramsay by Sir William. Tilden, cannot be ignored. The Ramsay family mobilised all of its hospitability, August Ramsay organised it all. A member of the Swedish family stood waiting in Stockholm, and from that point onwards, Tilden writes, the plans to see a lot of Finland were instantaneously transformed into plans to see a bit of Helsinki and a lot of the Ramsay family. A room had been reserved, but Sir William, and his wife only had time to sleep and eat breakfast there. The Finnish Ramsay’s were at their summer houses, and the days passed travelling from one to another. A particular impression was made by the general at Munksnas and his English wife, when the generals children and grandchildren presented themselves "all equally kind and ready to welcome their cousin". And when William departed, 17 Ramsay’s stood on the docks waving. Doesdt this seem somehow familiar?
The thing that William noticed in particular during his trip was his aged travelling companion, the writer Anders Ramsay's apparent inability to deal with money, even to the point where the coach was paid for by stretching out a handful of coins to the driver and letting him have his pick. Could anything describe uncle Anders better? He had been unsuccessful at mostly everything, life had presented him with many changes, in the most cases for the worse, and this he admits in all earnestness in his memoirs. When he at the age of 24 inherited Bjorkboda, he had, as he said, occupied himself with the lightest of the era's literature, and knew mostly nothing about farming, in governing he was perhaps even less versed, and of economics he didn’t have a faintest idea. He started building and planting but the iron-
Towards the end of the 1800's Anders had resigned to the red sofa of the Pension Central on Alexandersgatan in Helsinki, where Gebhardt has painted him with the palm tree in the background. He had always been a good storyteller and now he became a writer, he portrayed people and events as he had seen them, and as he remembered them. "Fran barnaar till silverhar" became a bookseller, and it was translated into Finnish and uncle Anders learnt a new word, "hopeahapsi" ( Finnish for "silver hair"). He had succeeded at last, and his books have stood the test of time.
He presents us with a lively picture of 19th century Helsinki, still read in Finland.
The history teacher's most difficult lessons are those that deal with the times she has witnessed herself. What we see as "the here and the now' is perhaps for the younger generation veiled in the darkness of history. When I was assembling material for this chronicle, it hit me that it is now 40-
Commerce follows the flag. During the commercial negotiations with England 1921-
The trade relations with England had made Henrik Ramsay a Knight of the British Empire, and he was known for his anglophile sympathies. When the Linkornies government was formed in 1943 with the sole aim to steer Finland out of the war, Sir Henrik Ramsay became Foreign Minister. To work for his native country was always his first concern, even when it led to accusations and prison. The sentence, which was passed by the Tribunal of War Indemnity and Guilt through a retroactive newly appointed law, meant two and a half years imprisonment, but the accusations couldn’t be proven. He lived at the Esbo manor, and spent the summers on his yacht Regina. The Nordenskiold society and the committee of Foreign Trade kept him as chairman up to his death during a sailing trip in Visby in 1951.
I notice that my family chronicle is dominated by the men of the family. Let us constantly remember the women by their side. They had to keep the daily things in order, raise the children, look after the manors and take care of the supplies to the Crown, while living in constant anguish over whether the husband or son would return from war or imprisonment. I'm thinking of great grandmother Beata Helena von Morian, who received word that her husband, Johan Henrik Hastesko had been executed, the only Anjalamen (the Anjalamen, who took part in an uprising for peace and partly for the separation of Finland from Sweden) not to be acquitted. For 51 years, from 1790 to 1841 she lived in Malkila, dressed in her black clothes of mourning. I also remember Emmy Beata Tham, our "old Granny". As a child, she had been present at the funeral of Karl XIV Johan in Stockholm. In the 1920's she lived in the east wing of Esbo manor, back straight, over 90 years old, with a white cap on her head and Luther's bible on the table, surrounded by pictures of her eleven children and their children, and grand children.
Dear friends. My chronicle is not a result of a historian's objective research, but rather consists of the subjective choices of a family member. I know that many others could have been mentioned. Four hundred years isin’t a long time from a historical perspective, but long enough that certain conclusions can be drawn. It can be said that Hans Ramsay's family has managed quite well. It has stuck together, that can be seen today. They are ready to wish good luck to anyone wishing to go out and seek their fortune as our ancestors waved farewell to Alexander Ramsay as he rode out of Dalhousie. They are happy to welcome the riders home upon their return. When trouble comes knocking on our door, we only need to look into history and see that worse things have happened and yet life has gone on.
During the centuries that have passed after Hans Ramsay built his manor at Ihamaki, have passing generations with both sword and pen been ready to defend, rebuild and develop the land where fate had landed them some 400 years ago. Henrik Ramsay says in his defence speech in front of the Tribunal of War Indemnity and Guilt in December 1945: " I accepted the heavy burden of duty that were laid on my shoulders. 1 have never gone searching for gain, whether personal or for some political party. My only goal during these hard and strenuous years has been, with all my strength and capacity, to lead through the hardship and danger of war my country and people that 1 have as a Finnish man promised to serve."
Similar words could have been said by any member in any generation of the family I think they are fitting closing words for this chronicle.