The Adventure of Thomas Alexander 1897

Thomas Alexander,
probably about the time he began work at Plas Power

In 1897 Thomas Alexander, Thomas Ruddy’s elder son by his first marriage, was 28 years old. Since the age of 17 he had been working as a clerk in the Plas Power Colliery, near Wrexham, owned by his father’s employers the Robertson family. His work caused him to travel locally on business from time to time, when he would sometimes call in on the Ruddy family at Palé. he would also spend at least part of his holidays and Christmases there.

Events changed dramatically when in April 1894 he married Elizabeth Ann Roberts, which Thomas in his journal records tersely as ‘against our will‘. The reason for this rupture in family life is lost in the mists of time, but no mention is made in the journal of the couple in the two succeeding years. This is particularly saddening as in March 1895 a son, named after his father, Thomas Alexander was born and died on the same day. His father makes no mention of this, nor of the birth and immediate death of a second son, Francis Herbert (note the similarity of his names to those of his stepmother, Frances Harriet. Of course the lack of mention in the journal does not automatically preclude there being family contact and support at the time.

A new event in Thomas Alexander’s life is announced on 14th April 1897 when Tom came alone to spend two days with his family. However, no mention is made of the fact that two months previously Elizabeth had given birth to her third, and first surviving son, Edgar Wilfred, Thomas Ruddy’s first surviving grandchild.

Wednesday the 14th.[April 1897] Tom here in the evening. He has obtained an appointment under the Monserrat Limejuice company in the West Indies.

A few days later, Thomas gives more detail about his progress:

Tom went to London on the 20th; stayed with Francis’s brother and left by train for Southampton next morning to sail on the Royal Mail steamship Oronoco for the West Indies.  The ship sailed in the afternoon. May the first– The Orinoco arrived at Barbados at 8am.  Here Tom would have to go in another steamer to his destination, the island of Monserrat.  He will have the management of stores, the payment of those on the estate, and keep all accounts etc.   Mr Sturge the secretary of the  Plas Power Coal Coy. got  him the appointment; he being a director of the Limejuice company.

Sadly, Thomas makes no mention of his daughter in law and very young grandson Edgar, then about two months old.

Nothing further is heard about Tom until the beginning of the next year, 1898. Thomas Alexander seems to have coped with his father’s reservations and sent a gift, which was well received.

Friday the 28th [January] Received two boxes from Tom from Monsarrat, West Indies. They contained limes, very large shaddock oranges spices, arrowroot, etc and beautiful specimens of white coral come like madrepore coral. The coral is pure white and branching with pore faces all over it.  The ship Netherton of Caernarfon then was at Monsarrat for lime juice in the middle of December,  so he took the opportunity to send the boxes with it to Liverpool. There was also a Quassia cup which gives a strong bitter taste to water when poured into it. This water is a very good tonic. The wood seems to retain the bitter taste indefinitely. There is no news given of the family.

Another gift was received in February 1899: Friday the 10th. We had a box from Monserrat, per King Arthur ship to Liverpool. It contained two bottles of tamarind syrup for drinks, oranges, limes, one shaddock orange, arrowroot and the complete jaws and the fin of a shark. The shark’s teeth are ivory white 5 to 6 rows all round; that one row lying flat; the edges are sharp and serrated. The fin (pectoral) is strong and ribbed, 17 inches in length by 12 inches and of the triangular shape. Tom sent off the box from Monserrat on the 19th of last month. Tom obviously took trouble to include in his gifts things that would interest his father, such as the corals and shark jaws and fin.

Further gifts arrived in May, which Thomas was no doubt proud to share:Tuesday the 30th.  We had some (a dozen) pineapples from Montserrat per my brother-in-law from London.  They are very good this dry weather. I sent one to Uncle, 2 to Lady Robertson, and one to Mr Cleveley and one to Mr Armstrong.

Troubles In Montserrat

Although not mentioned in the journal, Thomas Alexander and Elizabeth were to lose another baby in Montserrat in 1899, a son named Norman Frederick. Then in 1899 several disasters hit Plymouth, Montserrat, an earthquake, hurricane and fire. See here:

By April 1900 Tom and family had returned. Again Thomas mentions only Tom. Monday the 16th[April].  Tom here for the day.  He and Willie left in the evening. Tom was obliged to leave Montserrat as the great hurricane destroyed most of the estate of the Company.  He came home by New York, where he stayed for a few days.  He has got back to his old office at Plas Power again.

Thomas does not mention that Tom and his wife were again expecting a child at this time, Reginald Harold Ruddy, born on July 6th 1900 in Southsea near Wrexham, a fact not mentioned in the journal. Reginald survived and lived until 1975, marrying and having a daughter. I have been in touch with members of this family. They think there were letters kept from Tom while he was in Montserrat, but unfortunately they can’t now be traced.

Thomas Alexander only visited his father for a day April, but by June he was back to stay over a couple of nights, and obviously bonded well with his step siblings.

Friday 22nd [June] Tom came to stay a day or two. Saturday the 23rd. Tom, Henry and Millie over Crogen hill. Monday the 28th Tom left by the first train.

A reminder that Tom went on to lead a fulfilling and respected life in his local community.

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