John Ramsay Grocer

the case, used this proof as misdirection, to cover the move necessary to the trick he was performing.

A typical example was the way he used the ^11 known ploy of concealing a small object in e empty space of a half open matchbox. As he closed the box he would subtly create the impression that he had loaded something into his left hand, which was kept partly closed as he put the box into his right coat pocket. Looking directly at the spectators, he would slowly open his left hand which was seen to be empty. When they realised that they had been caught they would instinctively look up and see John smiling at them. At this precise moment his hand would be leaving his pocket with the object they had thought he was stealing from the matchbox palmed in his right hand. Such was the manner in which John Ramsay deceived the minds of his brother conjurers and became the famous magician's magician he was.

It was not only on the magical scene John Ramsay earned respect both for his ability and as a person as can be seen in the following extract from the 'Comment' column of the Ayr Advertiser of August 14th 1975, fifteen years after he had passed on.

The name of John Ramsay was one to conjure with in Ayr 25 years ago. The late, great magician was so well loved by the town of Ayr that a memorial garden on the upstream side of Ayr Auld Brig was created to perpetuate the memory of a remarkable citizen of the town.

The twinkling eye of the grey-haired little grocer magician concealed a sharp brain which mastered the highest skills in the techniques of legerdemain. Johnny Ramsay was a wizard among his peers in the Magic Circle and as he displayed his skill at magician's conventions in Amsterdam, Paris, Switzerland and Barcelona in the post war years he drew the plaudits of the best in the world at the magician's craft.

Johnny Ramsay is a name which thousands of people will continue to revere for many years to come as they remember the sparkling little conjurer who enthralled generation after generation with his gift of prestidigitation'.

In conclusion I would like to thank the editor of the Ayr Advertiser for giving permission to reprint the above extract, Mrs. French for her hospitality and loan of photographs, and Andy Galloway whose considerable assistance made this issue possible.

Fred Robinson

John Ramsay Ayr Grocer 1900


This was a favourite lecture item of John Ramsay's. It was presented as a lesson in the use of the thumb tip, using the classic torn and restored strip of paper as an example. The typical Ramsay twist at the end never failed to get a gasp of surprise and a laugh from his audience. At first glance it may look like a 'sucker gag' for magicians, but with careful study it will be seen to be much more.


Two identical strips of dark blue tissue paper and a thumb tip are required. Each strip of paper should be approximately fourteen inches long and one and a half inches wide.

Paste small pieces of dark blue tissue paper similar to that used for the strips over the outer surface of the thumb tip covering it completely. One of the strips is accordian pleated in the usual manner, and jammed into the tip, so that when the thumb is removed the paper will stay put. John kept the thumb tip and the other strip of paper in one of his right waistcoat pockets.


He would put his right thumb and forefinger into the pocket, the thumb going into the tip and the finger pressing one end of the paper strip against the tip. The strip was removed from the pocket and held hanging vertically with the thumb tip concealed behind, out of view of the audience. The left thumb and forefinger stroked down the paper with a straightening action, finally taking the end held by the right thumb and forefinger and at the same time stealing the thumb tip which was held concealed behind the strip with the left thumb (1). The right thumb and forefinger stroked down the strip and off the end. During the transfer of the strip from the right hand to the left the thumb tip was hidden from the spectarors' view.

Ramsay would now explain how the thumb tip should be well made and as near flesh colour as possible, also it must be pointed towards the audience at all times. During this discourse he would do just that with the right hand. The spectators would assume that he was wearing the tip on his right thumb, unaware that it was in fact hidden behind the strip held in the left hand. The right hand then moved to the end of the strip held in the left hand, its thumb going into the tip. The right thumb (wearing tip) and forefinger was then slid halfway down the paper and the left thumb and forefinger moved next to them. The strip of paper was now held in a horizontal position and torn in half (2). The right hand half was put on the piece, the left thumb again clipping the thumb tip against the left forefinger. The right thumb again slides out of the thumb tip and strokes the pieces of paper.

John would once again repeat his advice about keeping the thumb pointed towards ones audience, and demonstrate with his right thumb. The right thumb was again inserted into the tip and the right hand moved halfway down the pieces as before and another tear made. The right pieces were placed on the left, but this time the right hand kept hold of them leaving the left hand free to square up the pieces. When this was done the left thumb and forefinger once again took the ends of the pieces and the tip while the right hand stroked the strips. This time Ramsay would show the right hand briefly, almost as an afterthought, along with a look as if to say, 'Now don't forget what I told you'. The thumb was again put into the tip and the pieces torn in half again, and the right hand pieces again placed on top of those in the left hand. The pieces were now folded into a compact parcel, and the usual switch executed, the whole piece being removed and the torn pieces going inside, followed by the right thumb.

The whole strip was now slowly unfolded and allowed to hang down from the right thumb and forefinger vertically, showing the restoration.

John would now casually ask if anyone would like to see the thumb tip he used and without waiting for a reply would separate his right thumb and forefinger allowing the paper to fall, revealing the blue thumb tip in all its splendour. Although they may not have realised it, not only did John Ramsay fool his audience with this routine, he really did give them a lesson in the use of a thumb tip.

forefinger. The right thumb again slides out of the thumb tip and strokes the pieces of paper.

John Ramsay MagicianJohn Ramsay Conjuror Ayr

John Ramsay worked out a number of tricks and stunts solely to baffle and amuse the customers who came into his grocers shop. The routine about to be described was one of these, which I also saw him do in a close-up show at an I.B.M. convention where it was well received.

John used an old penny and a two pound jam jar, but as both are now in short supply a tenpenny piece and a wide mouthed tumbler could be substituted.

Briefly, the effect is that a coin passes through the bottom of the jar from the outside to the inside twice. The third time the coin is thrown into the jar and appears to penetrate the base.


The jar is on the table, mouth up, and the coin is shown in the right hand. Transfer the coin to the fingers and thumb of the palm up left hand which displays it for a moment. Bring the right hand over the thumb going behind and the fingers in front covering the coin. The left thumb releases its hold on the coin letting it fall to the base of the left middle finger. The right hand then closes as if taking the coin and moves away to the right. This move is commonly known as the 'Pinch' and was one of Ramsay's favourites. The left hand picks up the jar by putting the fingers inside the mouth and the thumb outside. The coin is held by the curled fingers which keep it clear of the jar. The knuckles of the right hand now tap the bottom of the jar a couple of times, the third time the hand opens and the palm strikes the base quite forcibly. This action has the effect of shooting the coin out of the left fingers and onto the bottom of the jar, giving a convincing illusion of the coin penetrating the bottom. To get the best effect hold the coin fairly loosely in the left fingers.

Take the jar with the right hand and shake it causing the coin inside to rattle. Transfer the jar to the left hand which tips the coin into the right hand and then put the jar onto the table mouth upwards. The coin is now displayed at the right finger tips for a few seconds before the left hand apparently takes it. Actually the 'Pinch' is executed again, and as the closed left hand moves away the right hand picks up the jar by the mouth. The penetration effect is repeated as already described the only difference being that you have used opposite hands.

This time the left hand takes the jar and shakes the coin inside, tips it into the right hand, and puts the jar on the table mouth downwards.

The right hand now shows the coin and seemingly drops it into the left. The coin is actually retained in the right hand in the finger palm position, but do not make a production out of this move, just try and make it look natural. Now grip the bottom of the jar between the thumb and forefinger of the right hand. Turn it mouth upwards and bring the closed left hand over the mouth of the jar. Pause for a second, then slap the left hand flat onto the mouth of the jar driving the base out of the grip of the right thumb and forefinger into the hand where it strikes the edge of the finger palmed coin, knocking it out of the left hand onto the table. The noise made by this action heightens the effect of the illusion of the coin penetrating the jar.

If you are not happy with the 'pinch' move, any other sleight may be used which gets you into the right position, providing it is not too elaborate.

Continue reading here: Coin Vanish In The

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