Visitors to the fossil collection

methodist-college-bala
Methodist College, Bala

Thomas’ diligent and painstaking collection of Bala fossils and his careful and accurate labelling and display were beginning to bring interested visitors to his door on a regular basis.  Thomas was obviously able to converse with local worthies as an equal, and was seen as an authority on his chosen subject.  Mr Dean, brother-in-law of Thomas’ employer Henry Robertson had obviously recovered from his severe illness of the spring of that year.  It would seem that the Robertson family were very happy to allow Thomas to show visitors his collections.  Although, sadly, he almost never mentions the Palé gardens in his journals, his work must have been satisfactory to the family as they allowed, even encouraged his geological and other activities.

[1880] July has been very remarkable for fearful and frequent thunderstorms, heavy rains and high floods.

During the month my collections were visited by the Revds. Ellis Edwards, Professor at the Methodist College Bala, and Ogwen Jones of Rhyl.   Mr. Dean brought Mr. Edmund Aitken, surgeon of London, to see them, also the Revd. Wynn Williams, and his son, from Fronheulog, to whom I gave a collection of Bala fossils.

It is interesting that so many clergy came to view and discuss the fossils.  The hostility of the church to Darwin’s ideas, and the clash of views over the dating of fossils vis à vis the Biblical view of the date and process of creation led to much discussion during the second half of the nineteenth century.  By the time of Darwin’s death in 1882, the Church of England was ready to give him a state funeral and burial in Westminster Abbey.  This article details the growing reception of the ideas of the formation, dating and geology of the earth by the Church of England over the 23 years between he publication of The Origin of Species and Darwin’s death.  For the clerical visitors to the very ancient Silurian and Ordovician fossils, the questions raised must have ben theological as well as scientific.

See here for details of Methodist College.

220px-theodore_martin_-_project_gutenberg_etext_17293  Sir Theodore Martin, via Wikipedia

A distinguished visitor to Palé who chatted to the Head Gardener was Sir Theodore Martin, with his wife, a noted actress.  Like Henry Robertson, Theodore Martin, was born in Scotland, and had moved to nearby Bryntysilio Hall.  He had been chosen by Queen Victoria to write the biography of Prince Albert; this had been finished, and Martin knighted in 1880.  A Biographical note is here.

His wife, born Helena Faucit [written Fawcett by Thomas] had been a noted Shakespearean actress.  She had appeared as Beatrice, on the opening of the Shakespeare Memorial at Stratford-on-Avon on 23 April 1879.  For a portrait of Lady Martin see here and a biography here.

Sept 7th Tuesday I had a long chat with Sir Theodore Martin of Bryntisilio near Llangollen; he was very chatty and pleasant to talk to.  In asking me the name of a plant I gave him the only one I had: Salpiglossus; he said it would take a lifetime to remember such a name. A great author like him to say that. His lady was with him here on a visit. She is no beauty, and she has a peculiar unhappy like expression.  Lady Martin was well known as the famous actress Miss Helen Fawcett.

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