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James Ramsay MacDonald

In the north aisle of the nave of Westminster Abbey is a memorial stone to Prime Minister James Ramsay MacDonald, P.C., FRS. This was unveiled on 12th March 1968 by Lord Citrine and the stone was designed by Alister MacDonald. Burial in the Abbey had been offered but the family declined and he is buried with his wife near Lossiemouth in Scotland. The inscription reads:

JAMES RAMSAY MacDONALD 1866 1937 FIRST LABOUR PRIME MINISTER OF GREAT BRITAIN AND THREE TIMES PRIME MINISTER

He was born in a small cottage at Lossiemouth, the illegitimate son of Anne Ramsay and John MacDonald. He was educated locally and did not follow his parents into farm work but eventually moved to find work in London, continuing his studies in his spare time. In 1888 he was appointed a private secretary to a Liberal party candidate. In 1896 he married Margaret Gladstone and they had six children - their son John Malcolm also became a politician and high commissioner. He joined the newly formed Labour Party, becoming secretary, Member of Parliament for Leicester and Leader of the Parliamentary Party 1911-1914. He opposed Britain's entry into the First World War. In 1924 he became the country's first Socialist Prime Minister, serving again from 1929-1931 and in the Coalition Government 1931-1935. He died of heart failure on 9th November 1937 and his funeral was held in the Abbey on 26th November.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

Born

12th October 1866

Died

9th November 1937

Field

Politician; statesman

Location

Nave

Memorial Type

Stone

James Ramsay MacDonald
James Ramsay MacDonald

[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

James Ramsay MacDonald
James Ramsay MacDonald memorial

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2019 Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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I’ve worked here for over thirty years and have seen many of the major services - it’s strange to realise that you are in a small way part of history.

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