He was the son of John Ramsden, a schoolmaster who moved to Halifax in 1832, where he joined his brother's corn-marketing business and became one of the original trustees of New Hanover Street MNC chapel. Alfred, after 16 years as a druggist, joined the Halifax Courier as a reporter in 1857, becoming editor and joint-proprietor in 1882. Prominent in local Liberal politics, he became a town councillor in 1876, alderman in 1880, mayor in 1883-4 and in 1886 became the first provincial newspaper editor to be appointed a magistrate. He taught a large adult class at the Hanover Street Sunday School for nearly 20 years and for 15 years was local preacher's secretary. He was secretary of four MNC Conferences between 1869 and 1889.