Feature: The Makers of the Villa - No.2 George Ramsay
Mr George B Ramsay and Aston Villa are almost synonymous terms.
He was there from the beginning of the club, was almost certainly one it principal makers in its earliest days, and is still, after 40 years of good weather and bad, one of the chief pillars of its organisation.
The history of Aston Villa is permeated with George B Ramsay; one doubts if the club would ever have been as strong and virile as it is without his enthusiasm and the hearty regard for the comrades he made when the game of football was not by any means so heartily welcomed and appreciated as it has been in England for a quarter of a century.
When the history of Aston Villa comes to be written - and Mr Ramsay himself has threatened to do this for a long, long time - his name must necessarily play a large part in the story; and there is no man alive today who knows so well the real annals of an organisation that has played so prominent a part in the world of sport for four decades, and whose records teem with so many remembered deeds of prowess and success.
The story of how he joined the club may be told by himself one of these days, and I have no wish to spoil his coming book; but he will hardly be able to tell what a fine and healthy influence his advent had on the fame and fortune, not only of his particular organisation, but on the great national game itself, for the rise of Aston Villa and kindred clubs within the various shires of Lancashire, Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire - for London and the South generally were a long way behind the real pioneers of football except from a theoretical point of view - was the genesis of the popularity of leather-chasing as we know it today, and the man who has wielded the secretarial pen for the Villa for 25 years had no small hand [to say nothing of his feet] in the uprising of a sport that has brought delight to millions of people within these islands.
It is no exaggeration to say that when George B Ramsay came amongst Midlanders as a footballer he was a revelation as an exponent of the game; he was one of the robust school of dribblers; his feet used to twinkle; when he went along the wing he was like a will-o-the-wisp - he came and went like a flash, and opponents scarcely knew from whence he had come or whither he had gone. He was a radiant player, and knew no fear. His style was copied, and football improved.
And this was not by any means all that he did for the Villa, for he had the proselytising gift, and enlisted members for the club who afterwards became internationals, and whose names are still a household word in football circles, and will be for many a year to come.
I have no room to tell of his exploits in this connection, either in the ancient or medieval times of the club [by George! what a tale of adventure he could tell about those Scottish trips in the late eighties and early nineties!] but I can assure readers that he did yeoman service in this connection, and it was through his influence that the Queen's Park - then unquestionably the champion football club of the world - visited Perry Barr for the first time in 1881, and won a first-rate game by 4-1.
Although the Villa had done some notable things prior to that date, they were mostly of a local kind, and this put the seal on their grant for permission to participate in first-class company.
One is inclined to expatiate on the events of this romantic period of Aston Villa history, but it must not be; so it must be suffice to say that Mr Ramsay, after several years of ardent and enthusiastic help, became secretary of the club in 1884, and has been in that honourable position ever since, sharing the good fortune and misfortunes of the Villa with a never-failing serene faith in its ultimate success, and sharing in all the many triumphs of its striking and adventurous career.
He did not have an easy task at the commencement, for he took over the reins of office after a period of looseness consequent on the careless and rather reckless conduct of secretaries who had gone before, and for a time, and with the valuable assistance of such men as the late William McGregor and Fergus Johnstone, he had to pull together the lines of management and establish the stability of the club in various ways.
The subsequent history of the Villa proves the value of his work, and the credit that is due to him and his fellow workers.
Writing from memory, I should say that George B Ramsay's record as the secretary of a first-class football club is a unique one, and I do not remember so long and brilliant a service.
If he has any critics it may be supposed that they have not seen eye-to-eye with him at all times; neither, as an old friend, have I; but I have always admired about him is his intense regard and radiant enthusiasm for the Villa he did so much to build up and furnish with first-rate tenants.
In season and out of season, through fair weather and foul, when the club was soaring into such success as winning the League, or carrying off trophies galore; or, on the other hand, when ill-fortune and indifferent play had tumbled them down the ladder till they nearly bumped the bottom, and goblets were disappearing swiftly from the club's sideboard, when good players were going and others were hard to find, when critics were severe and not always fair, when rivals jeered and fair-weather friends grew cold - under all circumstances, happy and unhappy, George B Ramsay looked serenely into the future, retained his confident belief in Aston Villa, and knew that if there were "downs" there were "ups" and stuck to his job and his optimism.
From now onward the Villa obtains a new lease of life; they start, so to speak on a fresh voyage. May fortune favour and the good breeziness of first-rate play waft them along into the sea of success; and may George B Ramsay be with them for many a year. It is true he is not so young as he used to be; but his heart is in the right place, and he possesses a great storehouse of experience.
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