Lady Ramsden’s return to Manistee

Continuing with last week’s article about the exploits of former Manistee resident, Margaret Enid Withey, we find that after she left Manistee she enrolled in two different State Normal schools and later married West Point graduate George Farwell who was occupation was that of a civil engineer.

A photograph of Margaret Enid Ramsdell taken in 1926. (Photograph courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery)

A photograph of Margaret Enid Ramsden taken in 1926. (Photograph courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery)

The couple settled in California where Margaret eventually graduated from the University of Southern California medical school where she was the only female in a class of 29 men.

In 1918, George went off to fight in the Great War in France and Margaret quickly followed by offering her skills to the Red Cross. George passed away while fighting in France and after the war Margaret found herself in Romania where she met Eugene Ramsden, a society man from Great Britain who had been appointed to the Order of the British Empire in 1919. That same year the two were married with Margaret moving to the Ramsden family estate located about 15 miles outside Leeds.

Ramsden eventually won the seat of Bradford North in the House of Commons in 1924 but was defeated in 1929. 1931 saw him getting his seat back and on January 1, 1933, he was knighted by King George V. A few years later, now going under the name Lady Ramsden, the former Manistee girl was present for the coronation of King George VI in May, 1937.

In October of 1937, Lady Ramsden not only returned to the United States to visit her mother in California, but she also came back to Manistee to visit friends and family as well as give several presentations about life in England and the coronation of King George VI. Details on her arrival were published in several articles in the Manistee News Advocate over three days with the first being printed on Oct. 25, 1937. Portions of that original article follow:

“Manisteeans will be given the opportunity of hearing about the coronation of Great Britain’s King George VI from an eye witness of the ceremony at the Congregational Church Wednesday evening at 8 o’clock when The Pilgrim Guild will present Lady Enid Withey Ramsden, formerly of Manistee, whose present home is near Leeds, England.

“Lady Ramsden has been in this country to visit her mother, who lives at Alhambra, California. Mrs. Withey is the sister of Mrs. Thomas Smurthwaite, formerly of Manistee, and is an honorary member of the Lakeside Club. It is rumored that the speaker will wear the gown she wore at the royal ceremony, which she will describe.

“The public is invited to hear Lady Ramsden’s talk. A nominal admittance fee will be charged.

“In addition to several old friends who are expected to be on hand to greet Lady Ramsden will be Mrs. Les Catlow, a former British subject, who had the pleasure of meeting her during her residence in England. Arriving tonight from Detroit, where she has been visiting her cousin, Mrs. Horace Bigelow, the former Ethel Smurthwaite of Manistee, Lady Ramsden will be the houseguest of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Larsen, 502 Fourth St., until Thursday.

“She is scheduled to talk at a general assembly at the high school tomorrow.”

In addition to her lecturs, a party was also given for Lady Ramsden at the Larsen’s home. A brief summary of the party was published in the News Advocate on Oct. 27, 1937:

“Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence A. Larsen entertained informally last night at an ‘open house’ honoring their guest, Lady Enid Withey Ramsden of Leeds, England. Old friends and new, numbering about 60 in all, came in at intervals during the evening to greet Lady Ramsden who lived in Manistee as a girl.

“Mrs. Catherine McCaffery presided at the silver coffee service at one end of the attractively appointed buffet table, which was adorned with a bowl of colorful fruits, lavender bebe chrysanthemums and tall tapers in silver candelabra.”

Finally on the evening of Oct. 27, 1937, Lady Ramsden spoke before a crowd of 200 people in the Sunday School auditorium of the First Congregational Church. While she mainly spoke about the coronation of King George VI, she also broached other topics such as world peace and life in England. A lengthy article was published in the Manistee News Advocate on Oct. 28, 1938. Portions of the original article follow:

“Lady Enid Withey Ramsden supplemented her interesting account with a warning of the peril of war, which she said, is brought ever closer by the growing forces of Fascism, Bolshevism and Communism, which in reality are becoming far more powerful than most Americans are inclined to believe. In conclusion, Lady Ramsden stated her belief that the gigantic job and sacred responsibility of keeping and insuring peace would be assumed by the great English speaking nations of the world, which, with preparedness their watchword, will strive never to lose sight of their objective, and enduring peace.

“Introduced by her girlhood friend and present hostess, Mrs. Lawrence A. Larsen, Lady Ramsden was presented as a former Manistee girl, Miss Enid Withey,

“The audience, it was apparent, was genuinely impressed with Lady Ramsden’s simple, direct and altogether American manner and her charming voice, which seemed entirely devoid of any acquired English accent. A spontaneous burst of applause greeted her statement that during her 18 years of residence in England she never had noticed anything but affection for the United States and its people, who, she said, are greatly admired but not always understood by the English.

“Preliminary to her vivid and graphic account of the coronation, Lady Ramsden briefly sketched home life in England, which, she said, is similar to rural existence in this country, except that almost without exception the people are divided into two groups – those who work strenuously for churches or chapels and those to whom politics is a chief concern and all encompassing job, leaving time only for church on Sunday.”

“Reviewing coronation preparations for which regulations were extremely cut and dried and adhered strictly to the precedent of the last coronation which had taken place 27 years before, Lady Ramsden said that the careful attention to the minutest of details was successful in eliminating subsequent confusion. Commanded by the crown to go the coronation, she and Sir Ramsden were fortunate, she said, in being two of the 620 persons among the capacity number of about 7,500 seated in Westminster Abbey, who had a clear view of the ceremony.

“She told of the comforts and services provided for the waiting multitudes who sat on the pavements (sidewalks) from 12 o’clock Tuesday until 4 p.m. Wednesday and her picture of the dancing, eating and revelry which went on in the streets about the packed circle of Buckingham Palace was particularly interesting.

“Describing the ceremony of the coronation from a human as well as a spectacular standpoint, Lady Ramsden spoke of the stately appearance of the Dowager Queen Mary, who appeared sad rather than happy and told of the entrance to the Abbey of the two little princesses, Elizabeth, in all her dignity, and Margaret Rose, who, she said, displayed no dignity at all as she peeked under the rail and waved excitedly at friends she recognized.

“She described the queen’s procession, which entered first, presenting a glorious spectacle of scarlet, gold and blue against the grey pillars of the Abbey, which was decorated in blue and gold. After the service in the Abbey, the king and queen and the royal family toured the trades districts and afterward appeared with the princesses on the balcony of Buckingham palace.

“At the close of her talk, in which numerous interesting details and several humorous incidents were included, Lady Ramsden was called back to give an account of the coronation ball she and Sir Ramsden attended.”

Lady Ramsden returned to England later that year where she and her husband, Sir Eugene Ramsden continued to live out their days. Sir Ramsden passed away in 1955 and his wife, Lady Ramsden, the Manistee-raised woman who went by a lot of names (Margaret, Enid, Mrs. Farwell, Doctor Farwell, and Lady Ramsden) lived until 1965.

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Posted by Mark Fedder

Mark Fedder is the executive director of the Manistee County Historical Musuem. He can be reached at (231) 723-5531 ormanisteemuseum@yahoo.com.

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