William Ramsay (manufacturer)

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William Ramsay
Born6 June 1868 (1868-06-06)
Glasgow, Scotland
Died4 September 1914 (1914-09-05) (aged 46)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
OccupationInventor, manufacturer, businessman
RelativesSir John Ramsay (brother), Hugh Ramsay (brother), Robin Ramsay (grandson)

William Ramsay (6 June 1868 – 4 September 1914) was a Scottish-born Australian shoe polish manufacturer. In 1906, Ramsay developed "Kiwi" brand shoe polish, today one of the most famous shoe polish brands in the world.


Ramsay was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on 6 June 1868 to businessman John Ramsay and his wife, Margaret Thomson. The family migrated to Melbourne in June 1878.[1] The family prospered in Victoria; Ramsay's father, John, was a die-sinker and engraver in Scotland, but became a successful real estate broker in his adopted homeland. After he left school, William Ramsay set up a real estate firm with his father. The business, "John Ramsay & Son", prospered.

After a trip to New Zealand, where he met and married Annie Elizabeth Meek in Oamaru on 2 January 1901, Ramsay established a factory in Carlton in partnership with Hamilton McKellar. From there, Ramsay & McKellar would produce disinfectants, polishes, creams, and a variety of other products.

In 1904 the pair moved the factory to Elizabeth Street, in Melbourne, where, in 1906, they began producing a new shoe polish under the trademark "Kiwi". The polish, which would become phenomenally successful in Australia within a few years, was named in honour of Annie Ramsay's New Zealand heritage. In 1912, after McKellar had left the company, Ramsay's father established a branch of Kiwi Polish Co. in London, in the United Kingdom, and in 1913 William Ramsay himself headed to the region to promote the new brand in Europe.

Ramsay died of cancer in the family home at Essendon, in Melbourne, outlived by his wife and two sons. His father would follow ten years later.

Two of Ramsay's brothers also went on to achieve notability: Sir John Ramsay as a surgeon and cricketer, and Hugh Ramsay as an artist. It was largely William's wealth which helped to fund a huge art bequest created by John's son James.[2][3]


  1. ^ Birchall, Ida (1988). "Ramsay, Sir John (1872–1944)". Australian Dictionary of Biography (Volume 11 ed.). Melbourne University Press. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  2. ^ "The Ramsay's legacy". Philanthropy Australia. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  3. ^ "Remarkable bequest from arts patrons in Adelaide inspired by legendary philanthropy". Philanthropy Australia. 23 November 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2021.