Kenelm Mackenzie "Mac" Ramsay
- 303Wallaby Number
‘Mac’ Ramsay was an accomplished and highly talented forward who thrived at lock or in the back-row yet was a good and versatile enough player to start at prop in a Test against New Zealand. His play drew comparisons to the great Waratah No.8 Jack Ford, particularly in the way that he breached the line, and there were few higher compliments for a loose forward of that era. Blessed with an imposing physique, Ramsay was a force to be reckoned with both in tight quarters and as a splendid lineout exponent however he, like many of his contemporaries, had their rugby careers, and in Ramsay’s case his life, stolen by World War II.
Born in Quirindi, Ramsay learned his rugby basics at Tamworth High School and at the Hawkesbury Agricultural College, where he also represented at athletics and rifle shooting.
Ramsay made his first grade debut for Drummoyne in 1935 and so impressive were his initial performances that he was selected for his first state game, against Victoria, and later in the year in the match with the touring Maori. It was said that Ramsay used his 14 stone frame ‘as if he hated the world’ and his play combined both ‘coolness and violence’. It was said that ‘his physique, his terrific use of it, and his rapid development in the finer points of the game, have proved that he can be a great forward.’ Ramsay switched to Randwick at the start of the 1936 season where he went on to be an integral member of their 1938 and 1940 grand final winning sides.
He broke through to national level in 1936 when selected for the Wallaby tour to New Zealand. While Aub Hodgson, Russ Kelly and Owen Bridle were the back-row for the two Tests, Ramsay - although he did not know it at the time - played against the Maori at Palmerston North in a game that some half a century later was elevated to international status by the ARU. A year later he ‘debuted’ against South Africa in Sydney and in 1938 took on the tourists from New Zealand. The following year Ramsay was chosen for the Second Wallabies tour to the U.K. but no sooner had the team reached Britain than war was declared.
Upon his return home Mack Ramsay enlisted alongside many of his teammates, joined the 1st Independent Commando Company and attained the rank of Corporal. His unit was posted to Kavieng, New Ireland. When under attack from the Japanese, Ramsay escaped on a small steam ship only to be captured by an enemy destroyer. Taken prisoner by the near Rabaul, he was one of 1,053 Australians that set out on the Montevideo Maru, a Japanese POW ship on route to the coal mines of Hainan Island. The ship, which sailed without markings, was torpedoed by the USS Sturgeon, an American submarine off Luzon in the Philippines on July 1, 1942. There were no survivors in what was the greatest single maritime disaster in Australian history.
‘Mac’ Ramsay played four Tests for Australia in a three-year international career.
Ramsay won his first Test cap at flanker in combination with Aub Hodgson and Russ Kelly in the 31-6 victory over the New Zealand Maori at Showgrounds Oval. In that match he became the 26th Wallaby to score a Test try on debut.
Ramsay started at No.8 in the 1st Test, 5-9 loss to South Africa at the S.C.G. Not so accustomed to the peculiarities of the No.8 position at international level, Ramsay made way for the returning Hodgson in second Test.
He won two caps in the home series against New Zealand. Ramsay overcame rib soreness to play prop in the 1st Test, 9-24 loss in Sydney. The Wallaby selectors made seven changes for the second Test in Brisbane and Ramsay made way for Victoria’s Cliff Lang. When Kelly withdrew with a thigh injury at Thursday training ahead of the third Test, Ramsay was called up to start at lock with Frank Hutchinson in what was Australia’s final international for eight years.