Homecoming to a tragedy, 1898

Few photographs exist of Frances Harriet Ruddy, neé Williams. This is apparently taken when she was a young woman.

As mentioned in my previous post, Thomas had hardly ever, perhaps never been away overnight from his family since his marriage to Frances Harriet. The events that were to unfold on his return were therefore particularly shocking.

I got home here to find poor Frances looking quite ill with what we thought was severe bilious attack.  She was very sorry to be ill on my arrival home, for she would have liked to hear all about my visit if well enough.

Tuesday the 26th.  I got the doctor (Mr Williams) to come and see Frances. He said she had a chill and inflammation, so she had better keep to bed for a day or two, and that she would be alright in a few days.

Wednesday the 27th. Francis fairly well. I at Pen. [Home of Mr Pamplin, Frances’uncle]  Frances weak on Thursday. 

Friday. Henry had his report to say he had passed in the first division the Matriculation Exam of the University of Wales.  His mother was much pleased and complimented him. Willie came in the evening for his holidays; he had a week, most of which he spent in the Isle of Man.

Saturday the 30th. Francis apparently better. Dr here every day at my wish, because it is more satisfactory.

The 31st. Dear Frances pretty well until the evening when she became delirious. She had great thirst the previous night; I gave her milk and soda water frequently, and champagne occasionally.

Monday, August 1. Dear Frances delirious all night, and dreadfully exhausted in the morning. When the doctor came he discovered that there was an internal rupture of the stomach; this was terribly sad news for me, for he held out no hope of recovery. It was a fearful shock to all of us, and God took her from us at a 12:45 o’clock midday. She was quite unconscious, and died with the bright smile on her face. Mrs Cleveley the Coachman’s wife and Mrs Davies who washes for us were with her all the morning until she died. We were all suddenly plunged in deep sorrow, a sorrow which never can be forgotten. My dear wife was a most devoted mother to her children and a wife who could scarcely be equalled in her sphere of life. She is well and truthfully described in Proverbs, chapter 31 , verses 27 and 28.

Frances sang as part of her Uncle William Pamplin’s choir ‘Sacred Melodies’. She is probably standing extreme right (unconfirmed)

Willie returned to his work in the evening. Mrs Cleveley kindly made room for the two boys, Henry and Alfred to sleep at her house, and I slept or tried to sleep in their room. We had a sad house.

So, with terrible suddenness, Thomas became a widower for a second time, leaving the children of their marriage: Henry, 16, Frances Harriet (Francie) 14, Caroline Elizabeth (Carrie) 13, Amelia Agnes (Millie) 11 and Alfred Williams (Alfie) 8.

A new Interest with an old Friend 1898

Thomas Mellard Reade Liverpool University Library.
No copyright infringement intended

Thomas was always keen to engage with a new interest, often when encouraged by a friend who was researching a different area of geology or topography from Thomas’ own Silurian interest. In 1892 he had assisted A.C. Nicholson of Oswestry, Shropshire, in details of Nicholson’s paper on glacial deposits, thus moving on many millions of years in geological time. Now, in 1898 a new interest appears, spurred by his friend Mellard Reade -the research of hilltop perhistoric fortifications, a topic that would continue to absorb Ruddy for several years following.

Saturday the 23rd [July]  I left for Bala at 2.10 where I was met by my friend Mr Mellard Reade and his stepdaughter, Miss Taylor to take me to Cerrig-y-Druidion to be their guest until Monday afternoon.On arrival at Penybryn, their lodgings, we had a comfortable tea, which I much enjoyed.  Penybryn is situated on the bank a short way from the Saracens Head inn. There is a Methodist chapel and a few houses between Penybryn and the Saracen with the brook which falls into the Ceirw river. After tea Mr Reade and I went to see the ancient encampment of Penygaer, locally called Penymount.

After some research, I estimate this to be the encampment now known as Caer Caeadog, SH967478.

Caer Caradog, photographed by Eirian Evans, via Geograph

 Thomas gives a detailed description: The camp is of nearly circular form; about three and a half acres in extent and is surrounded by a deep trench, 6 feet in depth; the excavated shale and earth thrown up to make an embankment on the inner edge of the trench.  The solid shale 7 yards wide is left to form an entrance over the trench on the east side; another entrance being left on the west side.  The ground slopes moderately steep on the south east to west; there is but little slope from the north west to the east Mr Reade stepped the ground and I measured it with my yardstick; we made it 178 yards east to west by 143 yards north to south. The surface is glassy and moderately even. I could not see any water near. Part of the trench is through shale rock. I think there must have been a wall round it.  There is now a stone wall through the middle of it north to south and walls are everywhere near it. It overlooks an old road, 150 yards off.

We had supper on our return and spent the rest of the evening happily together. I went to sleep at the Saracens Head because there was no room for me at the farmhouse of Penybryn.

The Saracen’s Head, now closed.

The following day, Sunday the 24th, Ruddy and Reade went for a walk on the hill of Rhos Gwern Nannau.  It was a little cooler on the top, but the sun was very trying and I felt very thirsty. We had an extensive views from the top; West of us were Aran and the Areigs, North the Snowdonian mountains.  There were interesting glacial terraces on the side of the hill one above another with great depth of drift. The boulders were of the Arenig type.  

After tea they walked through the village, making geological and botanical observations as they went.. The road we followed was evidently the one used before the Holyhead road was made,  all along the road in the wall and on the roadside were large and small boulders of conglomerate which puzzled us much; I have never seen such course conglomerate anywhere else in Wales. I first thought it might be a nodular ash rock which Ramsey describes in Vol III Geological Survey Page 93; but the boulders of the conglomerate were too plentiful to be from inconsiderable patches of ash rock, and they varied in composition from rather fine water worn pebbles to pebbles the size of eggs

I found the Teesdalia plentifully on a wall beyond the village on the Denbigh road, and the birdsfoot (Ornithopus) in several placesLipidium Smithii crow-wheat Hypericum humifusa, and Bog Asphodel on the way. After supper, we had much to talk about until bedtime. The walk was very enjoyable.

On Monday the 25th the two men continued their expeditions in the local area, taking note of the geology at every turn. Just on the south side of the stream there is gravel mound of much interest; this is Mr Reade wished me to see.  It is composed of layers of fine sand and gravel of glacial origin.  The top of the mound is 900 feet above sea level, and the mound is 35 feet in height. There are several others of the same sort, and one at Tynyfelin on the Glasfryn side.  I found the water-worn pebbles large and small of Bala shale, Arenig ashes conglomerate etc. There were several large Arenig ash boulders on the side of the road crossing the Meadows.  

We returned to be in time for dinner, and after dinner we all left in the trap for Corwen.  We had a very pleasant drive of 10 miles along the Holyhead Road all the way and got to Corwen at 4 o’clock; then had tea and after some shopping I was driven to the station in time for the 5 o’clock train where my kind friends took leave of me and returned to Cerrig y Druidion.

Arenig Ash rock, photo Earthwise, British Geological Survey. No copyright infringement intended.

Thomas rarely, if ever, left his family home overnight. This short trip with a trusted geological friend was a rare opportunity for such enjoyment. Little did he know the tragedy that he would find infolding at home.