I will quote the first thee months of Thomas’ journal in full, giving as they do a broad insight into his various interests and activities, ranging from the success of his crops to the international news of the year:
January 1st 1885 The last year has been a warm and fruitful one; every crop did well in the garden. Our government have sent troops at the Nile to get General Gordon out of Khartoum who is shut up there with Egyptian troops and defending themselves against the Mahdi or False Prophet as he is called at the head of his Sudanese. An American dynamite party has given some trouble in London by attempting to blow up London Bridge and other buildings.
From events on the world stage, Thomas turns to local and more personal news:
Tuesday January 6thToday Mrs Owen of the White Lion Bala died suddenly. She was a very kind friend.
His brother-in-law comes to stay in the Llandderfel cottage rented by the London Pamplin family:
Monday January 19thMr. Williams came here from London for a weeks shooting over Henblas. We were very pleased to see him, but I could not get to the station to meet him as I had an influenza cold.
Saturday the 24thMr Williams returned to London. We were very sorry to see him go. I went to the station with him. This day the House of Commons, Westminster Hall, and the Tower of London were much damaged by dynamite. The dastardly and cowardly explosions have caused great consternation in London and all over the country. Fortunately none were killed but sorry to say five or six were injured. It will take about £20,000 to restore the buildings again as they were.
Geology remains an abiding interest, and his employer Henry Robertson shows an interest and brings his guest to visit the collection
Friday 6th FebruaryMr. Robertson brought his guest Mr Frank Archer to see my collection of Bala fossils. Both gentlemen were here for nearly 2 hours, and both are like were highly pleased with the collection.
SaturdayMr. Robertson and Mr Archer came again for nearly a couple of hours to see the remainder of the collection and my antiquities. Mr Archer is a very good geologist and antiquary. Mr Haywood told me about him some time ago. He is an honorary member of our Chester Society.
Events abroad cause alarm:
Saturday the 7th News arrived today to say the Mahdi captured Khartoum by treachery on the 26th of last month and that General Gordon was killed. Our troops only two days late in reaching Khatoum at least a small party by river. Great sorrow and indignation in the country about it. Gladstone in Office.
Family events are chronicled with pride, and old friends visited:
March 1st This was Henry’s first Sunday at church. He walked nicely and kept very quiet all the time and was much pleased with going.
Saturday the 7thFrances, the little ones, and myself had tea with Mr Pamplin. He and I went for our first 1885 walk as far as Tyrsa (?) It was very pleasant at the lanes and in the fields.
Thomas continued to be in demand for landscaping and horticultural advice. He was friendly with the Principal, a fellow antiquarian.
Friday 13thI went to Bala to look over the C.M. College grounds with the trustees so as to see what could be done in the way of improvements. I was there for two hours. As it was so fine I got Francis to go to Bala with me and she took the two little ones with her. They spent most of their time with Mrs. Evan Jones of Mount Place while I was on duty.
After I got done, Dr. Hughes took me for a drive to Llanwchllyn. Our principal object in going that way was to see a newly discovered inscribed Roman stone. For a description of Thomas’ visit to the stone, just 8 days after it had been found, see here: https://wp.me/P5UaiG-kG
Frances Williams, sister of William Pamplin, and her son William Pamplin Williams had been visitors to Llandderfel since William and Caroline Pamplin had arrived there in 1858 to a house near the church, Ty Cerig, which seems to have been shared between William and Caroline, William’s unmarried sisters Harriet and Sarah and Frances and William Williams, perhaps sharing it as a holiday retreat. In 1863, when William Pamplin’s lease in Chelsea ran out, he and Caroline moved permanently to their own house in Llandderfel, Top y Llan.
By the time Thomas married Frances Harriet, Harriet and Sarah Pamplin had both died and Frances Williams had been widowed in 1866. Her husband William Williams had been Parish Clerk of Newington, and their son William Pamplin Williams succeeded him in the post.
Both Mrs. Williams and her son became even more frequent visitors to Llandderfel after the marriage of Frances Harriett and Thomas, and with the birth of their children. Thomas sometimes mentions William P. Williams taking part in country sports such as shooting during his visits; both were occasionally involved in Thomas’s countryside expeditions, sometimes with the addition of William Pamplin and his second wife Margaret.
In October 1884 both Mrs. Williams and her son had been visiting, and on their return to London Frances Harriet, Henry Ernest and the baby Frances Harriett aged 5 months returned with them, being joined a few days later by Thomas. The couple commences an exhaustive and probably exhausting tour of the sights of London. Thomas devotes many pages to descriptions, particularly the individual rooms of the British Museum, which from the style and content would seem to have been directly copied from guide books.
One significant visit was to the Jermyn Street Museum of Practical Geology, see here
‘I made a very minute inspection of the collection of Bala fossils, Mr Newton opening bookcases for me and assisting me all he could.’
Thomas did not think that the Bala fossils then held in the Jermyn St. museum were a good selection of specimens. At some point in his life he contributed over one thousand specimens, now held at the Natural History Museum. There are also over sixty specimens attributed to Thomas in the Sedgwick Museum, presumably donated via Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes, as Ruddy never personally visited Cambridge, as far as I can tell.
When he married Frances Harriett , Thomas married into a family which was aware of its ancestry, and kept a considerable amount of relevant papers and documents, many of which, registered with the National Archives, are still curated by the author of this blog. Thomas was given an introduction to his wife’s interesting ancestry, which reached back to Halsted, Essex, where the Pamplin family were nurserymen. Her great grandfather William Pamplin, 1740-1805 having moved to a nursery in Walthamstow.
Thursday the Fourth – I went shopping with F. Before dinner. We went up the Causeway, saw new Kent Road, Walworth Road, we went into the churchyard where the church of St Mary Newington stood before it was pulled down. It was gay with chrysanthemums and it is a pretty bit of pleasure ground for the people of the district. I examined the marble tablet which some of the parishioners elected as a token of their esteem to the memory of the Father of Frances.
The inscription on it is: In memory of William Williams, 25 years Clerk of this Parish. Who died on 9 November 1866 aged 59 years. This tablet is erected by several Parishioners in testimony of their esteem and respect.
I also saw the tombstones and graves of the father of the above and other relatives. After dinner Frances and baby, Mr Williams and myself went to Walthamstow.
They looked at the gravestones of the Pamplin family and Thomas copied the inscriptions. They saw the graves of the Dench family and Thomas describes other aspects of Walthamstow.
Thomas, the lad who had spent his earliest years in the Irish village at the centre of the potato famine, and during its most devastating years, had achieved what he had set out to do when he made a deliberate choice of gardening as a career, respectability and a degree of gentrification, through his own efforts and through his marriage into the respectable Pamplin family.
Today visitors to Llandderfel, the nearest village to Palé Hall, will find themselves in a quiet and mainly unfrequented part of the Welsh countryside. However, the situation in the nineteenth century was quite different, due mainly to the burgeoning industrialisation of south Wales and to the work of engineers like Henry Robertson whose efforts were making transport by road and particularly by rail increasingly available and swift. Whilst not situated in a coal mining area, quarries for railway hard core and minerals and mines for phosphate, used as agricultural fertiliser were being actively worked in the area during the second part of the 19th century.
Palé was not the only country house built, inherited or purchased by wealthy man in the area. Robertson’s partner Charles Beyer lived at Llantysilio Hall near Llangollen, leaving it to his godson Henry Beyer Robertson on his death. The largest landowner in the area was Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, descendant of a very old and distinguished family, living at Wynnstay Hall. He too, like Robertson was involved with railways, as Director of the Great Western Railway, and also a Member of Paliament, although as a Conservative, a member of the opposite party. Another branch of the family owned Glanllyn, a small estate on the shores of Bala lake. Thomas was on many occasions invited to view or advise on the gardens of these and other estates.
Another interesting local resident was Sir Theodore Martin, another Scot who settled for some time in Wales, at Bryntysilio Hall. Poet, translator and biographer, Sir Theodore was invited by Queen Victoria to write the opbiography of her late husband Prince Albert. This he produced in five volumes between 1874 and 1880, winning the lifelong friendship of the Queen.
Henry Robertson of Palé Hall, Thomas’ employer served as Liberal MP for Shrewsbury from 1862 to 1865 and from 1874 to 1885. A number of influential visitors made their way to Palé Hall, much assisted by the convenient railway station on Robertson’s line at Llandderfel. Thomas gives an interesting account of the visit in September 1888 of the Postmaster General, Henry Fawcett.
Wednesday the 17th [September] Mr Fawcett the Postmaster General arrived at Palé. Francis and myself went to the station to see him. He is a very remarkable looking man being 6’1″ in height, squarely built and straight. His hair is fair, face roughish, broad brow, but is quite blind, having been accidentally shot. His feet are very long, boots measure 13 inches in length. His manner is most genial and he makes very free with people. He writes a fine bold hand, lines straight, ‘t’s crossed etc. He came to fish grayling, at which he is very good.
Fawcett had been blinded aged 25 being accidentally shot from his father’s gun while the two men were out hunting. It is not clear whether his blindness was total or partial, but it did not prevent his becoming Professor of Political Economy, Cambridge (1863), MP for Brighton (1865) later for Hackney, and marrying the political economist and suffragist Millicent Garrett in 1867. Appointed Postmaster General by Gladstone in 1880, he introduced postal orders, the Post Office Savings Bank and most importantly, parcel post. The contracts for parcel transport by various railway companies would give him a common interest with Henry Robertson, in addition to their Liberal politics and parliamentary status.
Friday 19th I went to Bala to a Liberal Meeting. My object was to hear Mr Fawcett deliver an address on the Franchise Bill. He is a powerful speaker; it rolls out of him in the wavy style. He made several good hits, his sentences causing a sensation among the audience. He spoke for 20 minutes. Mr. Robertson M.P., Mr. Holland M.P., Mr. Gee of Denbigh and Rev. Ellis Edwards of Bala College also spoke, but Mr. Fawcett was the Lion of the evening. I heard Mr. Gladstone speak for two hours in Chester in 1865. But Mr. Fawcett, although powerful is not an orator like Mr. Gladstone.
Gladstone’s Bill only allowed for representation by a distinct group of men. Had we the text of Fawcett’s speech, it would have been interesting to see whether Fawcett made any mention of women’s suffrage, since he was married to the foremost female suffragists, Millicent Fawcett, whose sister, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first woman to qualify in Britain as a physician and surgeon. Fawcett clashed with Gladstone over his refusal to give women the franchise in 1884. Fran Abrahams, author of Freedom’s Cause: Lives of the Suffragettes (2003), writes: “As a member of a government which opposed the measure he could not vote for it; as a keen supporter of reform he could not vote against it. In the end he abstained. The measure was roundly defeated but Gladstone was furious with Henry, and wrote to him saying his action had been tantamount to resignation. Henry was reprieved only because the Prime Minister wanted to avoid the bad publicity which would inevitably accompany a ministerial sacking.”
Thomas contrasts Fawcett’s power as an orator with that of Gladstone. In fact Fawcett’s health and strength had been considerably weakened by diphtheria in the summer of 1882 . He was to die of pleurisy less than two months after his visit to Palé, on 6th November 1884.
As so often when distinguished visitors came to Palé, Thomas was introduced to the visitor, in this case by the son of the family, then aged 22 and having served with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers from 1882-3.
Monday the 22nd Mr H.B. Robertson introduced me to Mr Fawcett in the gun-room. Mr. Fawcett said “Let me shake hands with you Mr. Ruddy.” He then talked to me for some time about the heat, the rainfall, and the weather in general, after which he said on going away as he held out his hand to me again “Good morning Mr Ruddy, I am very glad to have made your acquaintance.”
Had the conversation with Thomas progressed beyond the customary remarks about the weather, they might have found much in common, as Fawcett was an admirer of and correspondent with Charles Darwin, writing an article asserting the logic of Darwin’s theory. Although not being able to see Thomas’ fossils, Fawcett might have been interested to handle and discuss their significance. A paper by Geoffrey Fishburn gives detail.
The final evening of Fawcett’s visit gave the owners and staff of Palé Hall an opportunity to entertain in style, foreshadowing the warm hospitality offered to Queen Victoria a few years later. Thomas found himself among the company, having no doubt provided choice fruit and vegetables for the table and flowers and pot plants for decoration.
In the evening I had a chat with Colonel Evans Lloyd of Moelgarned and Mr. Osborne Morgan M.P. While the guests were dining, the Llandderfel Brass Band played outside the dining room window, and after dinner the Llandderfel Choir sang in the staircase hall for about an hour. The guests were at one and looking on. Frances went with me to see and hear them sing. It was a very interesting sight.
Tuesday the 23rd Mr Fawcett left in company of Mr. O. Morgan and Mrs. Morgan, and Mr Dryhurst Secretary to Mr Fawcett. Mr. Fawcett had a great many letters every morning; his secretary read them to him as they walked about arm in arm, up and down the walks. He was very fond of his pipe, wore tweeds and a straw hat, when fine. During dinner hour he told the guests many very amusing anecdotes, so that all eyes were directed to him. Mr Dryhurst dined with him.
Guests today at Palé Hall Hotel might be amused to imagine these figures from national political life mingling in the staircase hall while the Llandderfel choir sang, as they would do again in 1889 while Queen Victoria herself listened from the landing, tapping her fingers in time on the bannister rail.
As mentioned in my last post, Thomas Ruddy was frequently invited to look at, or sometimes advise on neighbouring estate gardens. At a time of great interest and expenditure on gardens by landowners, and perhaps particularly by newly rich ones, there would have been a degree of one-upmanship involved. Henry Robertson had gone to great lengths to engage a particularly well-equipped Head Gardener in 1869 when he employed Thomas Ruddy. As a person of local consequence, an MP and a Deputy Lieutenant, Robertson had a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Talk of estates, gardens and such currently popular acquisitions as vineries, hot houses etc. must have been among favourite subjects of conversation.
The Plas Power estate, among the largest and longest established, evolved in the early seventeenth century, and eventually comprised lands in Denbighshire, Merionethshire, Flintshire, Cheshire, Montgomeryshire, Shropshire and Lancashire. Its focal point was the area around Wrexham, especially the townships of Bersham, Esclusham and Minera, where there were thriving collieries, quarries and mineral works. Ownership of the estate passed through the hands of several families, none of them holding on to it for more than a few generations. (Information from Archives Network Wales)
It is interesting to note that Mr. Fitz Hugh went to some lengths to welcome his guest, providing transport from Wrexham station, meeting and speaking to him on his arrival and ensuring lunch was provided in the mansion. The day ended with a long talk about the garden with Mr. Fitz Hugh, transport back to the station and expenses of the day paid.
August 27 Wednesday Mr Fitz-Hugh of Plas Power invited me to see his gardens, so I left here by the 929 and got to Wrexham a little after 11. There was a groom with a trap waiting for me. It was a very pleasant drive to the mansion especially at the drive-through the Park. The drive is  1 mile in length from the lodge to the mansion. The Park is said to be the finest in North Wales. There is fine timber in it; fine old Oaks, elms, beaches, Spanish chestnuts et cetera. On arriving at the mansion I had a short talk with Mr Fitz-Hugh in a room, after which he took me through the ground to the Gardener Mr Clarke. Mr Clarke is from near York, is about 45 or so – middle height. We had a look at the peaches on the wall, the melon and strawberry pits, etc.
I had dinner in the mansion at 1 o’clock. After dinner I went round again, saw the vineries, greenhouse et cetera there are two vineries – the vines are in a very exhausted state, so that the grapes were very poor. The houses have been neglected and are very unsatisfactory. There is no peach house because the peaches do very well outside. The trees were in fair condition and had a nice crop. The melons were a failure, having rotted off at the base of the stalks. Chrysanthemums were planted out and were very good. It is a first rate deep loam and the climate is very much drier and warmer than here, so that trees and crops grow rapidly and well. The ornamental grounds are very beautiful, and contain good specimens of conifers in excellent health and branching to the ground.
After seeing the gardens we went to see a very fine section of Offa’s Dyke. There is about a mile of it through the Park, mostly in excellent preservation. It is about 30 feet wide at the top running to a narrow bottom. Depth about 20 feet. The whole of the material excavated is thrown up on the English side of the trench. Section of it [drawn section included on page]
Section labels: No. 1. Welsh side old level of soil. 2. The excavated ditch or trench called the ‘Dyke’. 3 old level of ground on the English side. 4. the excavated material thrown up on one side. Number two is 20 feet deep, number 4, 10 feet above old level of soil. It is supposed that King Offa had it dug to form either a defensive work or boundary between England and Wales. But some consider it to be a Roman work. It begins at the sea in Flintshire and runs to the Severn or the Wye – 100 miles. [added later] Offa’s Dyke is now considered to have been made to stop the Welsh from stealing English cattle. Builder August 28, 1886
From Offa’s Dyke I went up to the west drive to the Minera Road then down to a romantic dingle at a mill. Followed the dingle by a private walk to the South Lodge. The dingle is very pretty, contains some fine old oaks and other trees, is bedecked with ferns and shrubs et cetera. The river runs over sandstone rock into which it has cut deeply in some places. The river has its source in the hills of Cym-y-brain, comes past the mining district of Minera, passes the village of Bersham, and enters the Dee under the name of the Clywedog. It used to be a good trout stream, but it is now so much poisoned with the lead refuse and lime that no trout can live in it. Near the village of Bersham I saw the private little church which Mr Fitz-Hugh had built for his own use, servants, and some of his tenants. It has a groined stone roof, and is elaborately carved in Grecian style.
I saw where Mr John Wilkinson, ironmaster, used to cast cannon about a century ago or so. The works were near the little river, a short distance from the village of Bersham. Mr Wilkinson had the privilegeof coining copper tokens. I have two of them his home was Brymbo Hall a few miles north of Plas Power. I returned through the Park to the mansion where I had tea. It is a very roomy brick mansion with stone quoins. There is a terrace wall half round it and the flower garden; the latter is in the Dutch style and the mansion is roughly Elizabethan. I had a long talk with Mr Fitz-Hugh about his gardens before I left. The day was rather wet but I enjoyed my visit very much. Mr Fitz-Hugh was very kind and free, paid my expenses, and made the groom take me to the station. I returned home by the last train.
This and other visits and encounters throw light on the very delicately nuanced relationship between Head Gardener and gentry at a time of very firm class distinctions. There were a unique set of relationships between trusted and long standing senior staff members of large houses – housekeepers, butlers, gamekeepers, head gardeners and so on which gave them access quite intimately to the private life of the resident family, and by association with other notable families of the area.
Throughout his life Thomas Ruddy found a succession of key people who encouraged him in his lifelong hobby of geology. This must have begun with the schoolmaster in Jedburgh who first encouraged him in literacy and nurtured his wide curiosity, particularly about the wold of nature. Then there was Adam Matheson, curator of the Jedburgh museum, originally a Millwright, found in the Scottish census of 1851 aged 50 with wife and several children living in High St. Jedburgh and at that time still working as a millwright. By the time Thomas Ruddy became acquainted with him about 1861, he may have been full-time curator of the Jedburgh, museum, or simply fulfilling this role in his spare time. It is clear from the transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh for 1844 that Matheson was a considerable amateur geologist:
Thomas’ introduction to Professor McKenny Hughes came in July 1876 by which time Thomas was already central to the expeditions of the Chester Society for Natural Science of which McKenny Hughes was President. Thomas was never a member, despite being a recipient of its foremost medal in due course.
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.
McKenny Hughes must have been delighted to discover an assured and knowledgeable amateur geologist with a large collection of good and accurately identified fossils of the Bala area and a hunger to continue to collect them in the field. Thomas had arrived fully prepared with geological understanding at the centre of one of the areas of greatest interest to geologists of his time.
From this time geologists of note from far and wide began to appear at Ruddy’s door to view his fossils – no doubt at the suggestion of the Professor and his contacts. In 1878:
August 13th Prof Leonhard Törnquist of the town of Geflé in Sweden visited me for local geological information, and to see my fossils. Dr. Hicks of London sent him. I gave him a nice lot of Bala fossils and showed him the local rocks between here and the tunnel. I found him an excellent botanist, a very good geologist and a most intelligent and well-bred person. He took copies of my sections and wrote down anything of interest I told him. He had dinner and tea with us, and could speak good English. He was about 5 feet 8 inches, fair hair and ruddy complexion. He told me over and over again that he was so pleased he found me, and that he was highly delighted with his visit. I got a great deal of geological knowledge from him regarding his own country.
September 10th Prof Tawney of Cambridge University came to me. Mr. Tawney examined my fossils very minutely, and with great interest. He named my minerals for me and I found him to be very nice. Mr. Tawney is very short and deformed.
October 18th Mr. Walter Keeping, the Geologist at the University C of Wales came to me for fossils. We spent a real pleasant evening together examining my fossils. I found him to be a most enthusiastic geologist. He named for me many fossils from the Crag and London Clay. October 19th We went together to Aberhirnant, which pleased him very much and he was much astonished at my familiarity with the rocks. I gave him a nice collection of fossils.
In 1879 a paper ‘On the Upper Part of the Cambrian (Sedgwick) and Base of the Silurian in North Wales’ was published under Ruddy’s name in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society. There is no mention of the paper in Ruddy’s journal, but that may not be surprising as it coincided with the illness and death of Ruddy’s first wife Mary and his being left responsible for three very young children. Whilst it is likely that the paper was ‘tidied up’ and edited by Professor McKenny Hughes, there is little doubt that the basis of the work is Ruddy’s. He was certainly capable of making the stratigraphical sketches included as some are in the original journal. Also the detailed descriptions, some in the first person: ‘Although I have examined the debris at various openings in the interbedded grits and shales above the Graptolite zone, I have only found Encrinite stems and a few fragments of small bivalves.‘ etc. mirror accounts of expeditions in Ruddy’s journal. it is clear that McKenny Hughes certainly did not spend the many hundreds of hours in the area needed to provide the detailed descriptions in Ruddy’s paper.
The paper is based on work presented to the Chester Society for Natural Science in the autumn of 1878:
Oct 3rd  I took my fossils to the annual conversazione of the Chester Society by request of the Committee. I prepared them by the advice of Mr. Shrubsole for the occasion. Both of us my dear wife and myself had a very hard job for a month before going. I for the first time mounted them upon little boards, so that I had to polish the backs of them on a grindstone, my wife put the papers on the boards, and gummed on the labels as I wrote them. We often sat at work till midnight. My collection took the Chester people by surprise, and I got much praise. I was introduced to Mr. McIntosh of the Birkenhead College who had written to me during the summer. Mr. Shrubsole brought the Revd. Mr Symonds of Pendock to me. Mr. Symonds said he wanted to have the pleasure of shaking me by the hand; he made special mention of me after in his address. Prof Hughes introduced me to one of those who conducted the geological survey in North Wales, that is Mr. Aveline. William Talbot Aveline, 1822–1903
The last thing Prof. Hughes said to me when parting was that I must now push on and follow up my good work.
Thomas was to continue his working relationship with Professor McKenny Hughes throughout the nineteenth century, leading many further expeditions and producing a list of fossils of the Bala area. (I am unable at present to date this list, but it is certainly not as early as 1874 as suggested by the photographed cover included in the PDF below). I am inclined to date it from internal evidence to the mid 1880’s. TR mentions seeing Bala fossils in the London geological museum which he did in late 1881.
I have recently discovered that there are 66 examples of Bala fossils collected by Thomas Ruddy in the collection of the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge, no doubt transferred there by McKenny Hughes. These are in addition to over one thousand specimens collected by Ruddy in the Natural History Museum.
In view of the release of the film about Queen Victoria and her Indian Servant Abdul Karim, I am ‘fast forwarding’ to the year 1889, when Queen Victoria made a five day visit to Palé with some members of her family and a large retinue of servants, including Abdul, known to Victoria as the Munshi (see here)
Thomas gives 50 pages of detailed description of the visit, showing his usual curiosity about everything:
Several tall strong-looking footman, some in scarlet and gold liveries, the four Indians being Mahometans, cooked for themselves and would not eat any meat except it had been killed by themselves. They only had fowls while they were here. The Chief Indian came with the one Mr Clark introduced to me [earlier in the visit -Ed.] the evening they were going to leave and wanted a few flowers to put in their carriage when in the Royal train. Both were tall, about 5’10”, lithe and very active men. They were natives of Agra, they were dark brown in colour, but a little man who acted as cook was rather darker in colour.
I got them to give me their names; the chief wrote for both because he was able to write in English and he learned since he came over in the year of the Jubilee. The chief wrote his name as follows “Munshi Hafiz Abdul Karim, Indian Clerk to the Queen Empress”. …. Both were very pleased with me for showing them the flowers and fruit. The chief Indian was belonging to a Lancer regiment when in India, and he often amuses the Queen by going through the tent pegging on an Arabian horse.
Thomas followed the stories of many of the royal retinue from the visit, pasting newspaper clippings in the back of the journal, including this:
I intend next August to post the full account of the Royal visit to Palé on the equivalent dates, and alongside Queen Victoria’s account in her own journal.
Huw Lloyd’s Pulpit, oil on panel by James Stark, 1794-1858 from the collection of the V &A Museum. Visited and climbed by Thomas in June 1883
Thomas Ruddy, at age 41 was very well settled in the Bala area. He was obviously trusted by his employers the Robertson family, was well- known in the area and beyond as a naturalist, geologist, judge of local produce and leader of geological and scientific expeditions. It would seem that by the year 1883 the man and the landscape he inhabited were at one.
He was the father of four children, three by his late first wife Mary, and a new baby son with his second wife Frances Harriet. His friendship with the eminent naturalist and former London bookseller William Pamplin and his second wife Margaret was warm and firmly established. Thomas had in effect become that ‘gentleman’ he dreamed of being when he first chose gardening as his profession.
The Journal entries for the year reflect the settled state of Thomas’ life as he entered his middle years. Even the harsh conditions of the winter and their effect on the garden could not disturb his equilibrium.
April 1st, Sunday. Nothing particular to mention, except the weather so far. It was changeable all January, very fine most of February, but exceedingly cold nearly the whole of March. The wind was piercingly cold, there was a lot of snow, and hard frost –culminating in 19 ½ deg. on Saturday 10th. Nearly 15 inches of snow fell during the month. It was the coldest March I ever remember. A good many things were injured by it in the garden and
As the weather became warmer, geology expeditions continued as usual:
May 22nd I went geologizing to the hills and mountains above Cynwych [SJ 056 411] It was a very warm day so that I was very tired on getting home. I took particular note of the beds on the ridge of the Berwyns between the two roads going over the Berwyns south of Moel Ferna – I brought home some good fossils.
May 30 (Wednesday) I had a short time at my hunting ground near Gelli Grin where I found a starfish, and the first so far perfect I ever found so that I was highly pleased.
Saturday June 2nd I went to Rhosygwaliau, from there to Caerglas, then along the ridge to Cornilau, from there to Brynbedwog, from there to Gelli Grin, and then home. I had a very fine day and found some good fossils, among which was a rolled up Homalonotus
Via Wikipedia Image by smokeyjbj
On a June 5th Mrs Williams, Frances Harriet’s mother arrived to stay for five weeks, in order to make the acquaintance of her new grandson. A number of excursions were undertaken, among them this expedition to Ffestiniog by rail and foot. Once again we see Thomas very accomplished and lively writing style.
In July the family took advantage of the growing availability of photography to record the arrival of the new baby:
Tuesday July 3rd Frances, Mother, baby and I went to Llangollen by the 9.35 train. The principal object in going was to have baby photographed. After he got “taken” we had some refreshments, and after that we set out for the top of Castell Dinas Bran. The donkey boys made several efforts to get us to patronise them, and a ragamuffin of a girl offered to sing us a song either in Welsh or in English for a halfpenny. After that an old lady offered to sell us guide books. It was a very warm day so that we found it no easy climb, but by repeated rests and I carrying baby we got up all right. It was the first time for Mother to be on top, and it was good work for a lady of 75 years of age. The ladies had a good long rest while I explored the hill and the ruins in search of plants, but I got nothing new…
We are left with a charming portrait of a day out for a late Victorian family in Mid Wales, but sadly the baby photograph is not to be found – perhaps edited out by its adult subject during his curating of the family papers in the first part of the 20th century.
Thomas was in demand for judging local horticultural shows, and of course he could always be side-tracked by an object of local history!
Tuesday July 10th Mr. Evans of Rhiwlas and I had a days judging of Cottage Gardens in connection with the Corwen Flower Show. Mr. Bennett of Rug met us at Llandrillo with a trap and drove us about from garden to garden. We went from Llandrillo to Cynwydd, from there over the hill by Caenmawr, Salem Chapel and Pont-pren to Llawerbettws, from there to Rug, from Rug to Llansantffraid. We had tea with Mr. Owen and then crossed by the fine bridge spanning the Dee to the Corwen road, and then on to Corwen.
We had a very good dinner at the Crown and after awarding the prizes we went about the town. I saw the shaft of the ancient cross in the churchyard, which is 8 feet in height. I also saw what is called Owen Glyndwr’s dagger, but it is only a rude cross. The ancient cross seems to be early Christian, 7th – 10th century, I would say. Most of the gardens we inspected were very clean and well-cropped. I was appointed to take notes of them and to draw up a Report of them. The day was very fine, with the exception of a shower between Cynwedd and Salem Chapel.
At the age of 41 Thomas could look back with some satisfaction at his fulfilment of his erly ambition to raise his status and satisfaction in life through the medium of gardening.