1876 Geology to the fore!

Tomen y Bala © John Darch via Geograph http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2134566
Tomen y Bala © John Darch via Geograph

By 1876, seven years after coming to Palé, Thomas was becoming widely known as a serious and respected amateur geologist.  It is not clear how he had achieved this position of respect and trust, but there must have been hours of patient study and days of fieldwork in order to reach this status.  Particularly important is his connection with the Woodwardian Professor of Geology at Cambridge, Thomas McKenny Hughes, who had been elected to the Chair in 1873, in succession to Adam Sedgwick.  Through this connection with Professor Hughes, who by the middle of 1876 Thomas R is calling ‘my friend’, TR is connected to the brightest stars of the beginnings of modern geology, Sedgwick and Charles Lyell and through Lyell, to Darwin himself, who did not die until 1882.

The following extract is a continuous transcription of the 1876 journal with no omissions.  Geology is to the forefront, there is no mention of the family, the Robertsons and Palé or even of Thomas’ greatest friend, William Pamplin.

July 20th Thursday The members of the Geologists Association and friends to the number of 34 came to Llandderfel station where there were seven conveyances waiting for them to take them to Llangynog. I had an invitation to go with them, so that I got ready. Mr. Davies acted as guide, so that he brought them to see my collection of fossils. I was glad to get introduced to some leading geologists such as Professor McKenny Hughes of Cambridge, Prof. John Morris, London University, Dr. Hicks of London, Mr. Hopkinson and other minor stars.

There were several ladies in the party. I gave them some refreshments, showed them my fossils which highly interested them, and took them afterwards to Brynselwrn quarry to get some graptolites. We next went up the Berwyns to the phosphate mine which was examined with interest and then to Llangynog where there was an excellent lunch ready for us at the expense of Mr. Doveston of ‘The Nursery’ near Oswestry whose two daughters were with us.

All were happy and enjoyed the lunch. I had to carve ducks, which I managed very well. Several amusing speeches were made after dinner. We also had Geological addresses outside in the evening. The day was very warm. The party proceeded to Oswestry in conveyances from there and I came home by those returning to Bala. I felt very much pleased to be with such high geologists. See paper for report of it [Paper not found – ed.] I may add that I had with me Mr. Barrois of Lille, France, Mr. & Mrs. Barbec of Pinner, Watford.

July 31st Monday. I went to Bala to act as guide for the members of the Chester Society of Natural Science. The morning was wet, but we faced the hill by Wenalt [SH927340], then to Brynbedog [SH931 330], lunched and went on to Bryn–y-Gwyn [SH934330], where many fossils were got. From there to Gelli Grin [SH936331], and back to Bala where a first-rate tea was ready. I made the acquaintance of several new geologists, amongst which was Mr. Shone of Chester, and my old friends Mr. Shrubsole and Professor Hughes. All the party enjoyed themselves very much.

Sept 11 Monday I had a visit of Mr. More of Dublin, Miss More his sister from Malvern and Dr. Stanley Haynes of Malvern also Mr. Shrubsole and his two boys. Mr. Shrubsole spent a happy day with me after we got quit of the others.

Oct 13 Friday The Revds. John Peter of Bala and Wynne Williams from Fronhenlog paid me a visit to see my collections. Mr. Williams said he could sit with me for hours and he was highly interested in the statuette from Wroxeter.

Nov 16th Thursday I went to Bala to advise the Local Board members about Tomen-y-Bala [A Norman motte, ed.]  My friend Dr. Hughes gave me dinner, and took me afterwards to see Fronderw quarry.

Nov 21st I went geologizing to Cynwyd and found three or four perfect Calymenei – the first I got perfect of the trilobiltes.  See here.

By Dwergenpaartje - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17289888
By Dwergenpaartje – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17289888

It happened that Thomas had brought his interest in geology to just the right part of the country and just the right time in history to play a significant part in the exploration of the geology of his local area.  In 1879 with the encouragement and mentoring Professor Hughes, Thomas published an article On the Upper Part of the Cambrian (Sedgwick) and the Base of the Silurian in North Wales in the foremost academic geological journal, the journal of the Geological Society of London.  This was a monumental achievement for a self taught geologist who left school at 14.


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