A page from Thomas Ruddy’s Commonplace book – from the handwriting written after his retirement
One of the reasons I have been able to continue transcribing and editing Thomas Ruddy’s journals for over 12 years, is the quality of his extended writing, as well as the liveliness of his intellect and curiosity. As well as the attention to the natural world around him, and to family events and the life of the family and visitors at Palé Hall, he shows a keen interest in the people living around him, sometimes painting vivid pen portraits of his neighbours. This often occurs when they die. A particularly noteworthy example is his portrait of the tombstone engraver Robert Edwards known as ‘The Derfel’ – a significant nickname as the village name, Llandderfel springs from its patron saint, St. Derfel (see here)
‘The Derfel’ was one of three elderly men to die:
Friday the 18th. three of our oldest inhabitants have died within the last fortnight, namely Thomas Hughes of Pantyffynon, aged 74, John Williams the oldest tailor in the village aged 74 and Robert Edwards (The Derfel) a tombstone engraver of the village, aged 76. The Derfel has been quite an eccentric character; he passed off as a poet, painter, political writer and an engraver, the engraving was his strength, for he could claim that little merit in the other three. As a tombstone engraver, he is well known all over Merioneth, Denbigh, and Carnarvonshire, for like old mortality he seldom stayed long anywhere, he was ever on the move, and when at work his usual haunts were among the dead. He was very irregular in his working habits, for he would idle sometimes for days, or spend his time writing letters to the newspapers published in Welsh, and at other times he would work from daylight too dark at the tombstones. People had great difficulty to get him to engrave for them, for he was of a very independent mind; a relative or peers told me he would rather half starve than ask people for his money; he would, when straightened for food, go to some of the neighbouring farmers for a meal, Brynmelyn being always a house of refuge.
The Derfel married when about 30 years of age, his wife did not live long, and he had no children, so he has lived a widower ever since, and seldom had a woman to do for him; when at home he did all for himself, and in a very eccentric fashion; if he put the kettle on to boil, he could not stay in the house until it boiled, that would walk to the river bridge and back, a distance of half a mile each way. He has kept the file of the Banner Welsh newspaper for over 40 years, but his household goods would be the better of a good dusting. As he was seldom at home, his house was mostly locked up with newspaper in the window as blind. He had a considerable share of self esteem, so that his neighbours seldom got on well with him, he thought all should acknowledge his superior judgement.
In religion, he belonged to the Independent, or Congregational body but owing to something  which displeased him at the Village Chapel, he very rarely went to it, he would rather go to distant chapels on the Sunday. The Derfel has one brother living in the village, and who has been the Parish Clerk for some years, and is by trade shoemaker; his name is David Edwards. The wife of David is living, and he has two sons grown-
The page from Thomas’ Commonplace Book, shown above, indicates his wide-ranging literary knowledge and tastes. The fact that some quotations are given page numbers suggests that Thomas himself owned the books from which the quotations are taken. Thomas seems to enjoy the work of Coleridge and Southey from among the Romantic poets. In browsing the Commonplace book I have come across little Wordsworth, but his witty, insightful and sympathetic portrait of The Derfel has something in common with Wordsworth’s Old Cumberland Beggar:
....... Many, I believe, there are Who live a life of virtuous decency, Men who can hear the Decalogue and feel No self-reproach; who of the moral law Established in the land where they abide Are strict observers; and not negligent In acts of love to those with whom they dwell, Their kindred, and the children of their blood. Praise be to such, and to their slumbers peace! --But of the poor man ask, the abject poor; Go, and demand of him, if there be here In this cold abstinence from evil deeds, And these inevitable charities, Wherewith to satisfy the human soul? No--man is dear to man; the poorest poor Long for some moments in a weary life When they can know and feel that they have been, Themselves, the fathers and the dealers-out Of some small blessings; have been kind to such As needed kindness, for this single cause, That we have all of us one human heart. ...................
Part of Llandderfel village photographed by John Thomas
Despite living in a relatively remote area, Thomas was able to share his geological expertise with a range of people not only from Britain, but from across much of the northern hemisphere, thanks to the Chester Society for Natural Science, and its President Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes of Cambridge. The growth and efficiency of the railways expedited this intellectual exchange. Thomas also had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time.
After the close of the fourth International Geological Congress, held in London, delegates visited a number of areas of particular interest to geologists of the time, including North Wales. This led to a fortuitous opportunity for Thomas:
Saturday the 22nd[September 1888] I have been asked by the committee of the Chichester Society of Natural Science to meet the members of the International Geological Congress at the Conversazione in the Town Hall, Chester, on the 24thinst. The International Congress met in London this year and as the members were to make an excursion into North Wales, passing through Chester en route. The Chester Society’s Conversazione was fixed so as to suit the visit of the foreigners. As I was asked to take as many specimens of my Bala fossils as possible, I have been busy all week in arranging a selection from my collection.
Thomas travelled to Chester with his wife Frances, taking the opportunity of meeting his elder son Thomas ‘Tommy’ en route at Wrexham station. They were to stay at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Shrubsole, Mr. Shrubsole being an official of the Chester Society.
During the afternoon Mr Shrubsole went to the Town Hall with Frances and myself, and after a look over the room, I began to unpack. Francis helped me and I met my old friend Mr Williams of Blaenau Ffestiniog in the hall and he kindly assisted me. I found my specimens in fine order, just as I packed them. This space allotted to me was close to the seats set apart for the foreigners in the Assembly Room. After arranging my collection, I went to see the collection of Llandeilo fossils which Mr Williams brought; it was upstairs in the Ante Room. I met in with several of my old friends in the room set apart for the microscopes such as Mr. Siddall, Mr Shepheard, Mister G R Griffith and others all of whom I introduced to Frances.
We had tea at Mr Shrubsole’s, and then got ready for the Conversazione. We found the room very full of people, ladies and gentlemen. We went to look at the microscopic objects, many of their most beautiful and curious. There were rock sections, diatoms, fresh water Polyzoa, the Cristatella and Plumatella being especially beautiful. We saw a beautiful rotifer too, and cilia vibrating round the mouth, gave the object the appearance of having wheels rotating round the mouth.
Thomas and Frances looked closely various exhibits of insects, stuffed birds, etc. and Thomas introduced his wife to a number of his friends and acquaintances from the Society. Soon the main events of the evening commenced.
We next went to the Assembly Room, and got near my fossils during the speeches by the Chairman Mr Walker and others. The mayor in his robes was on the platform, accompanied by some of the foreigners the Countess Grosvenor and her husband, Mr Wyndham, Secretary to Mr Balfour, the chief secretary of Ireland. Some of the foreigners spoke a little in English. Prof Capellini, rector of Bologna University was the first, and was followed by Dr Hicks, then Prof Szabo, Buda Pesth (sic) spoke, and prof Lapparent of Paris gave an address in French. Mr C. D. Walcott F.G.S. from Washington gave a short address, and then prof D.K. Von Zittel of Munich gave us a short address in which he praised English hospitality. The Bishop, Dr Stubbs, gave a short but amusing address, in which he said he was an old fossil, he hoped the impression he would leave on the coal measures would be a pleasant one.
Among the international geologists whom Thomas met that night, undoubtably the most interesting and significant was Charles Doolittle Walcott (1850 – 1927) Walcott was in 1888 a member of the US Geological Survey. He was to become its director in 1894, President of the Geological Society of America in 1901 and Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1910. Walcott’s primary interest was in the fossils of the Cambrian era (immediately underlying the eras of Ruddy’s main interest).
After the speeches, Mr Griffiths bought Mr Walcott and introduced him to me, and several of the foreigners were examining my fossils. Dr. Frech of Halle University was highly interested and told me my collection was beautiful and interesting. Mr Walcott and he said they never saw such a series of the Orthisena. In the midst of our examination the lights were turned down for a magic lantern exhibit of photographic scenes. This is stopped further examination. Dr F and Mr W wished they could come here and go over my collection quietly, for it was so crowded in the room that it was impossible to do much. Mr Walcott knew my American friend Prof. Brownell of Syracuse, New York State.
Walcott’s most significant discovery came in 1909 -1910 when he discovered the fossils of the Burgess Shale in British Columbia, Canada. He continued examining this area until his death in 1927. The fossils preserved here are some of the oldest examples of the the preservation of soft parts of organisms, whose full significance was only realised long after Walcott’s death.
We return to the year before the visit of Queen Victoria, and the months following the unexpected and regretted death of Thomas’ employer Henry Robertson. Fortunately, his son, Henry Beyer Robertson and his sisters were happy to follow their father’s precedent of encouraging Thomas in his geology and botany, and so in June 1888 Thomas fulfilled his promise to the Severn Valley Field Club to lead an expedition in the Dolgelly area. Unusually for his expeditions, there was bad weather to contend with, but Thomas and his group of amateur natural scientists managed to enjoy a successful, if curtailed expedition over two days.
Thomas was initially to meet his contact from the Society, Mr. Wanstall in Barmouth, and so took advantage of spending the first part of his day there with his wife and daughter.
Tuesday the twenty sixth [June 1888]. Francis and I went by the first train to Barmouth for the day. Some time ago I promised to Mr Wanstall, vicar of Condover, and secretary to the Severn Valley Field Club, that I would act as the guide to the members during a three days visit to the neighbourhood of Dolgelly; and as the members were to visit Barmouth first on this day, I promised to meet them there. I thought as I had to go that I might as well get Frances with me for an outing, and we took Francie with us to be a little companion.
I left my luggage at the Royal Ship Hotel at Dolgelly when passing in the morning. The tide was low when going, so that I could see the salt marshes covered with sea pink and other plants. I also saw the sea aster, and there were flocks of ducks very like teal ducks swimming on the estuary. I also saw the greater black backed gull, several curlews, the Shieldrake and other birds.
Frances and I went to the station to meet the 12.30 train, by which the Severn Valley people were to arrive. My friend Mr. Wanstall was very pleased to see me on the platform and then introduced me to the principal members of the club. I first met Mr. Wanstall at Dolgelly three years ago, when I acted as guide to the members of the Caradoc Field Club and Mr. Wanstall was one of the party. The most scientific members could not get to Barmouth but were to be at Dolgelly in the evening, so Mr Wanstall said the best thing I could do would it be to collect the interesting plants of Barmouth for the evening.
I parted with Francis and Francie at Dolgelly, they came home and I stayed with my friends at the hotel. We all dined together, and I was introduced to those who stayed at Dolgelly, namely Dr Callaway, the President, and the Reverend J A Panter, Vice President. I was very kindly treated by all of them, and we spent a very pleasant evening together. I had to name all the plants collected at Barmouth and also a few collected by Mr Panter at a Dolgelly. Mr Panter and the ladies tried to puzzle me with the flower of a potato which I named solanum tuberosum, which puzzled them in turn, for they did not know scientific name.
I was very pleased to have Mr Panther with me, for he was the best botanist I had the pleasure of guiding for some years. Dr Calloway has been devoting most of his time for a few years to the Precambrian rocks. I was very much delighted to be in his company, and he gave us a short address on the geology of the Wrekin and Cader Idris. Mr Hodgson Is also a geologist and FGS. We had five parsons with us namely Mr RC Wanstall, Rural Dean and Vicar of Condover, Mr. John Arthur Panter, Vicar of Saint Georges near Wellington, Mr Thomas Owen, vicar of Christ Church Wellington, Mr John Hodgson, rector of Kinver, Stourbridge, Mr R. Woods, Victor of Malinslee Shropshire. Dr Calloway has his title from Dr of science. Dr Calloway is so short stature (about 5 foot seven), sallow complexion, Dark hair, thoughtful, but has much quiet humour. Mr Wanstall, about same height, but full of talk and fun. Mr Owen, same height, full of wit and talk.  Mr Panter is about 5ft 9inches, very pleasant, amiable and a devoted botanist. Mr Hodgson, about same height, evidently a forcible character, and energetic. Mr Wood (the brother-in-law of Mr Wanstall) about 5‘8“ dark complexion, quiet and thoughtful. Mrs Wood, amiable and witty. Mr Knowles, very highly respected solicitor of Wellington, tall five ft 9 inches, bulky quiet but shrewd.
Wednesday the 27th The programme for this day was to go to the Torrent Walk, then onto Minfford, from here some of the ladies and gentlemen were to ascend Cader Idris under my guidance, those who did not wish to do mountaineering, were to go on to Talyllyn, and return the same way. But rain and mist stopped the Cader part of the programme. I got up early and went for a ramble up the lane leading to the abbey, and passing at the back of the mansion Hengwrt, but I only went to the top of the hill. It was a beautiful sunny morning, very warm and liked it to be fine, but appearances in the weather are deceptive.
Indeed, Thomas’ day was to be very much curtailed by rain, and although those of his party who wished to ascend Cader Idris were still hopeful of doing so, but Thomas had to dissuade them for safety reasons, and plan an alternative visit on lower ground.
It was about 10 o’clock before we started in two brakes. I sat on the box with Mr Wanstall on the first brake, and the others followed. We entered the Torrent Walk near Dolserau, and followed the stream, plant hunting and admiring the cascades and gorges till we arrived at the top; here it unfortunately began to rain, which rather upset our plans, but we pushed on to the Cross Foxes, and got out and had our luncheon there, so as to wait to see if the rain would ease. The rain kept on, and great masses of mist shrouded the tops and flanks of the mountains. There was a little sunshine, and as the rain got lighter, we again pushed on towards Talyllyn. It was pleasure hunting under difficulties, but we kept going. On passing the lake of the three pebbles, I pointed out the pebbles, which the Giant Idris cast from his shoes. The said pebbles are large angular fragments which had fallen from the neighbouring rocks, or else pushed down with the ice in early times.
The pass called Bwlch Llyn Bach is shut in on both sides with great bosses of rock, those on the south side being overhanging, and broken up into pinnacles and pillars. The rock is composed of columnar feldspathic ash, some of the overhanging masses seem to be almost detached. Going to the rain there were several pretty cascades gliding down the rocky masses and the rocks and Cader being partly shrouded in moving mist, had a curious weird-like appearance.
On arriving at Minfford, Those who were to ascend a Cader alighted and took bearings but I strongly stood out against the attempt, for it would have been madness, and indeed highly dangerous. I could never keep them together in the thick mist, and someone might fall over the rocks, and there would be no view from any part. The botanists were much disappointed, especially Mr Panter. There was nothing for it but to go on to the hotel at the outset of the lake of Talyllyn, so we went in the rain, skirting in the south margin of the lake until we got to Tyn-y-Cornel hotel. This is snuggly situated a short distance from the outlet, and at the base of a steep green sloping hill called Craig Coch. It is a plain rambling building, very much frequented by anglers, for whom every preparation is made. I saw five boats there, and there are long shelves in the room on which the rods, full mounted can be placed.
Thomas then explored Tallyllyn Church and churchyard, and as usual, found items of interest there.
Tallyllyn Church is just opposite Penybont, the stream dividing the hotel and church. The church is very plain, built of local shale, rock and the weather has eaten out all the mortar in the west end which allowed ferns and cotyledon to find root hold in the spaces between the stone courses. The Cotyledon was in flower, and nearly covered the end. There are two very curious Lytch gates covered over as usual, and having seats fixed on each side. The houses are few and far between in the district, but the churchyard is choked full of tombstones, which seems strange.
I copied the following from a memorial cross over the grave – “I will never leave nor forsake thee” Jenny Jones, born in Scotland, June 17 89, died Talyllyn April 11, 1884.She was with her husband of the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers at the Battle of Waterloo, and was on the field three days. Jenny Jones must have travelled much and must have witnessed many harrowing scenes; after all hardships and dangers go to her eternal rest quiet out of the way place like Talyllyn. There are slate slabs left into the churchyard wall in two places to form steps, so that access can be gained to it without unlocking gates.
After an exploration of a small part of the lake, the party headed for the warmth and dry of the Ship Hotel, where they spent a convivial evening.
Therain scarcely ever ceased, so we started for Dolgelly between three and 4 o’clock. It rained most of the way, so that we were glad to get to the hotel. We were rather wet, but after a change we sat down to an excellent dinner, which comforted us very much. Two English South Africans had dinner with us, and talked much about gold mining. They knew much about it, and were going to visit Mount Morgan or the Gwynfynedd mine on the following day. Both had gold bearing rock on their estates in the Transvaal, and as they were in England, on business, they wished to see the much talked about Mount Morgan mine.
After dinner all the Severn Valley folks returned to the drawing room, and were tolerably comfortable with a fire. Dr Calloway gave us an interesting Address on the geology of the Wrekin and Cader Idris, some business was transacted, and a vote of thanks giving to their late President who had resigned through illness. Dr Calloway very kindly referred to the valuable assistance I gave them. We spent a most agreeable and instructive evening together, and then retired to rest.
Thursday the 28th. I got up early as usual, found the South Africans at breakfast, so as to make an early start for the gold mines. It was after 8:30 before we had breakfast, and as the weather was still dull and threatening, we were slow and undecided about starting for the waterfalls and gold mine, this being our programme. I was asked by Mr Wanstall to have a look out and to decide about going. I concluded that the day would be tolerable, so the brakes were got ready and we started off at 10 o’clock.
We soon got up our spirits, the weather clearing up as we went on. We first pay it paid a visit to Cymmer Abbey as the Caradoc party did three years ago. ……..From the abbey we went straight to Tyn y Groes Inn. Some of us got out at Tyn y Groes and walked on, Mr Hodgson and Mr Panter walked on with me to Rhaiadr Ddu, got some plants on the way and saw the cascades. We got into the brakes again and went on to Pont yr Eden, here we all had to get out and walk to the gold mine and waterfalls. The distance is about 2 miles, but the route is so beautiful and interesting that we did not think the way long. We got to the gold mine at midday, or rather the gold mill; this is situated on the corner between the junction of the rivers Mawddach and Cain.
When I was there three years ago, the old crushing and washing works were all in ruins, now all was bustle, and there was going a large waterwheel, and all the machinery for crushing and washing the gold bearing rock. Perhaps the present buildings and machinery may be all in ruins in three years after this again. Such is the usual rise and fall of Welsh gold mining. We examined the machinery with a much interest, but we only saw three or four specks of gold, although we examined much quartz. The specks we saw were on a show block at the office door. We asked the men if they could show us any gold in courts; they said they never saw any, and one man said he thought Mr Prichard Morgan must be ‘salting’ the rock with foreign ore, for they could see none in the rock.
I next conducted the party to the foot of the beautiful cascade of Pistyll y Cain. The previous day’s rain made the Cascade much more beautiful than I ever saw it before. All of the members were delighted with it, and watched the foaming waters fall from the heights above into the deep dark pool at the bottom, and then rush on between walls of rock in an narrow passage until they united with the Mawddach. We next examined the Mawddach fall; this is not of much height, but there is usually a large volume of water, and there is a very deep and wide circular pool at the foot of the fall.
We next visited the hill where the gold quartz is found; here some levels are driven into the hillside, and the quartz is taken nearly a mile in trucks to tramway to the crushing mill, where it is crushed and washed. There were heaps of quartz about which we examined with much care, but we could only see a little lead and blende ore, and some iron pyrites, the latter was shining like gold, and would easily deceive any bad experts. We soon came to the conclusion that all was not gold that glittered. The mine has been so puffed in the principal London newspapers, and other journals, that it has quite set in a gold fever as it did some years ago, which many have rued, and no doubt many will rue investing in the present Gwynfynydd or Mount Morgan mine.
A mining “Captain” said to me once, there is gold in North Wales, just sufficient to tempt people to spend capital in working it, it will take 25 shillings to extract 20 shillings from the rocks. This is quite true. *(added later by TR) The late Sir W.W .Wynne said the same to the Rev CH Drinkwater of Shrewsbury as he told me, May 20, 1908
We had a pleasant drive all the way back to Dolgelly where we had a good luncheon, I had a chat with the South Africans in the hotel. They were pleased to see them mine, and said they went into the underground workings where they saw wonderfully rich gold, but still they had no great faith in the affair
.After luncheon, I assisted Mr Wanstall in preparing a report of the excursion for the Wellington Journal, and after that I arranged with him to send him some notes for a report for the Shrewsbury Chronicle. I dined with the members, and then prepared for returning home. One and all of them were most amiable and kind to me, and I felt quite at home with all of them. Mr Wanstall did everything he could for my comfort and hoped I did not find any of the party “starchy”.
I got home here safely and found all well, I had much pleasure from my outing. Mr Robertson and his sisters made many enquiries about my outing, and wished to know if I enjoyed myself. Indeed they were very kind to me over it all. I was indifferent about going until they strongly urged me to go, saying that as I seldom met educated people in this part, I ought to go as it would be a nice change for me.
Insights are interesting and sometimes amusing – the Queen’s preference for whisky rather than wine with meals; the request of the Indian servants for flowers in their railway carriage, somewhat contributing to the suggestion that other members of the Household thought that they gave themselves undue airs and were over indulged by the Queen. Also the picture of Thomas being allowed by the head housemaid Miss Reynolds to sit in the Queen’s chair.
At the end of the volume of Thomas’ journal he has pasted newspaper reports concerning some of the people he had met during the visit.
It must be acknowledged that the Queen worked hard while at Palé, for she was out to somewhere every day. I learned that her Majesty keeps very regular hours; she get up at 8 am, has breakfast at 10, but takes a cup of tea when she gets up. The Queen gets through a good deal of business before 10 o’clock. The Queen is fond fruit and has usually a plate of fruit on her breakfast table; she is more fond of peaches than grapes. If the weather is at all favourable, her Majesty is very fond of having her breakfast in a tent on the lawn; the weather was unsettled for that here. Luncheon time is at 1 o’clock,, and dinner at 9 o’clock, rather a late hour. Her Majesty’s usual dinner beverage is whisky, either in seltzer or Lithia water, she never drinks beer and seldom wine.
Her Majesty usually sat up writing until one or 2 o’clock in the morning. When her Majesty dined upstairs, she always had the Princess Alix with her, sometimes Lady Churchill, sometimes the Hon. Harriet Phipps, at other times Sir John McNeil, Sir H. Ponsonby, or any other to make up a party of four with her, including Prince and Princess Henry of Battenberg, making five with the Queen. The chief Indian helped the Queen down the stairs, the Queen taking hold of his arm, and holding onto a thick cord put up for the purpose with the right-hand. Her Majesty had to be carried upstairs, an Indian and a Highlander always carried her Majesty upstairs on a chair kept for the purpose; whichever of them went before her Majesty, had to walk backwards. The Queen’s maids are called “dressers” and not ladies’ maids. When they retire from the Queen, they bow to her Majesty by bending the right knee and wheel around and away. When Lady Churchill all the Hon. H Phipps retired, they bent the knee and made a graceful bow. When Mr. Robertson was presented by Mr Raikes to her Majesty, he went down on his right knee and kissed Her Majesty’s hand. I was told that the Queen asked Mr Thompson, her page, at a dinner where the fruit for her table was from, because she remarked that it was very beautiful fruit. Indeed her Majesty is in the habit of making enquiries into things, and takes much notice of the servants of her household.
There was a master cook (Mr Feltham), a meat cook,(Mr Tustan) a pastry cook (Mon. Ferry), and a roasting cook (Mr. Goring). There was a kitchen maid with the Queen, Miss Lamond, a Balmoral Lassie, and a head housemaid, a native of Suffolk, named Miss Reynolds. Mr. Bishop was the Queens upholsterer. Then there was a tapissier, a cellar man, several tall strong looking footmen, 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 have fowls while they were here. The chief Indian came with the one Mr Clark introduced to me, 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” live 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 – “Mūnshi 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 and Arabian horse.
Mr. Schoberth acts as a factotum in looking after indoor supplies, and general management. He is shrewd German. The dressers were elderly ladies; they did not go out with the Queen to any place while here. They dined with the upper servants. The Queen brought a couch and an easy chair with her, both were upholstered in figured damask. There were two little pillows on the couch, one at each end. The chair was a low, very comfortable one to sitting, for I sat in it ( by the request of Miss Reynolds) and looked nice in its crimson and gold damask. The Queen always takes a bedstead and bedding with her wherever she goes. It is her travelling bed. It was a plain half tester mahogany with curtains of figured white muslin, and green satin hangings. The counterpane was a beautiful work of art; it had figures of squirrels, butterflies, foliage and fruit worked all over it in raised work, and most beautifully done. The material of it was all fine soft satin. The Queen also brought an inkstand with her it is made from the hoof of the favourite horse, which Prince Albert used to ride out on, and on which Her Majesty used to ride too. The hoof was gold mounted and had an inscription on it to say it was the hoof of Prince Albert’s horse.
The Queen brought a large quantity of massive silver plate to Palé; the articles were heavy. The glass was also very good cut glass ornamented with the crown. Her Majesty had peas, French beans, cauliflower, etc. from the garden. I had plenty of vegetable marrows but her Majesty is not fond of them. Prints and Princess Henry of Battenberg are fond of fruit, the Prince is fond of white grapes. I had the pleasure of packing the Queens fruit box, the one she takes with her when travelling. It is a moderate size square silver box, about 10 inches long seven wide and four deep I put a good little bunch of grapes into it, two peaches, and two pears I had from Mon. Ferry. The Queen was to take it with her for use on the way to Scotland.
Wednesday 28th The Queen’s horses, carriages, stablemen, police, pages and Mr and Mrs Manning left at 10 o’clock forenoon in a special train for Windsor and London. The Queen had 15 horses, and 10 men in the stables; in fact I may say we had all the Queen’s horses and all the Queens men to put Humpty Dumpty up again. The carriages were travelling carriages, and the horses were useful roadsters, but nothing much to look at. The pony for the garden chair was 26 years old, strong and bulky. The little carriage was very comfortable one on four wheels. The men in the stables cooked their own food in the saddle room. Carriages were plain but comfortable. The men were very civil and allowed me to take any friends through the stables to see the horses, and to look at the carriages.
Many people called here during the day to see Palé and the grounds. I went through with the Fronderw family, Mrs Jones and young ladies. Mr and Mrs Edwards of Liverpool were here also, and had tea with us.
Thursday the 29th. Many people here today and again to see through the house and grounds. The Queen’s Cooks left for Windsor. I brought out all of my plants and vases again for fear of getting injured.
Both Highlanders at Palé, Hugh Brown and Francis Clark were related to John Brown.
‘I never expected to have the great pleasure of talking quietly with her face to face, and to have the pleasure of showing my collection to our beloved Queen was quite beyond all expectation.‘ This unusually lengthy passage details a moment which was certainly the highlight of the Queen’s visit for Thomas, and probably the highlight of his entire life.
After planting a tree in the garden, the Queen and Princess Alix proceed to the fruit room where encouraged by Dr. Reid the Queen makes a detailed and close examination of his fossil and mineral collections. Her question about the age of a bronze age axe has to bee seen in the light of the Darwinian controversy earlier in her reign, and the tension between church and science about the age of the Earth. The Queen’s question has to be seen as forensic, and Thomas’ reply as diplomatic! Her question about his origins in Scotland show that his accent even after so many years away from Jedburgh had remained Scottish. He certainly wasn’t going to divulge his Irish roots.
The Queen’s Journal mentions to inspection of the fossils only briefly. Since we are reading Princess Beatrice’s redaction of the original Journal it is not possible to say whether she mentioned Thomas. Beatrice was known to excise mention of the servants from her version of the Journal, thus diplomatically excising mentions of John Brown or the Munshi Abdul Hafiz.
Sir Theodore Martin called at Palé during the morning, and returned to Berwyn before luncheon. Colonel Wilson and Mr. Darby came from Brymbo accompanied by the heads of various departments at the steel works, exhibited specimens of ornamental steel to Her Majesty, and had specimens to illustrate the process of steel manufacture. Mr. Robertson went with them. Mr. Edwards of Trevor showed Her Majesty specimens of his TerraCotta (sic) Several others exhibited various articles.
The queen next wished to plant a tree in the grounds in memory of her visit; everything was ready and Her Majesty planted a Turkey Oak a little beyond the end of the lawn tennis ground. Her Majesty took one of the garden steel spades in her hand and with the help of Mr. Clark her Highland attendant put some fine earth on the root of the tree, and said ‘Shall I put a little more on it’. Her majesty was accompanied by the Princess Alix of Hesse (The Queen’s granddaughter ), Lady Churchill, Mr. Robertson and the aboveMr. Francis Clark. Mr. Cameron and I were present to see the ceremony, which was performed at quarter to twelve noon.
After the ceremony was over, the Queen asked which way she was to go next, so Mr. Robertson asked her if she would like to see the cromlech, the Queen said ‘Yes’ and added, ‘Anywhere.’ Mr Clark then led the pony ( the Queen had entered her pony carriage) along the lower walk under the Cromlech wood; the Queen walked from her little carriage to see the cromlech, and after the Queen was seated again, Mr. Robertson guided her to the end of the long walk, from which they then returned by the upper walk and crossed the lawn again as when going to the front of the Hall. From there, they came by the front, passing the gun room, until they arrived sat the little iron gate leading to the Lower, or fruit garden. Here the Queen got out to walk round the lower garden.
During the time the Queen was along the long walk, or “Queen’s Walk” as it ought to be called now, I went to get in the fruit for luncheon. I was coming from the upper or Kitchen garden when I was met by Mr. Francis Clark whotold me that I must come at once to go with the Queen around the garden. I followed Mr. Clark, and as the Queen by this time had got to the end of the walk leading to the conservatory. Mr. Clark and I went round the west end of the garden and past the conservatory to the store door; here Mr. Clark told me to stay until I was called; the Queen continued her walk until she got to the fruit room steps; here a halt was made as the Queen expressed a wish to go up into the fruit room to see my fossils etc. Dr Reid was in possession of it with the door open [TR’s footnote: I used to leave the key of the fruit-room on a nail for Dr. Reid to see the fossils at his leisure]; the doctor was near the door, examining the fossils, he told the Queen he was much interested in the fossils, and Her Majesty said ‘I fear you are more interested in the fruit than in the fossils.’ – This caused a laugh at the Doctor’s expense. The Doctor then came out and told the Queen it wasvery interesting up there – meaning the fruit- room. The Queen was then helped up the stone steps and Mr. Clark was at once sent back for me to go to explain the collection to Her Majesty.
On entering the fruit room, I found the Queen with her head down looking over the fossils; Mr Robertson was standing on the left by the door, Mr. Francis Clark on the right near the door, Lady Churchill in the north passage of the fruit room, and the Princess Alix standing at the end next the door of the south passage. The Princess looked straight at me, and as the Queen was stooping over the fossils, I bowed to the Princess, who nodded back. On the Queen raising her head, she looked at me, Mr. Robertson said, “This is the gardener,”and when I bowed the Queen nodded, and then said “These are very wonderful and must be very interesting,” and added, “Did you get these yourself?” I answered Her Majesty that I collected and arranged them all myself, then Her Majesty said, “Very nice” and continued examining the specimens. I pointed out to the Queen the arrangement of the various groups and their peculiarities, the Queen remarking as I went on “Yes, yes.”
I took up one of the tablets [TR’s footnote Echinospherites balticus]and showed the Queen the label on the back of it, which gives particulars of the locality where the fossil was found and other information. Her Majesty read the label slowly and carefully, and then said “Very nice”. When Her Majesty looked at my specimens of univalves or fossil snailshells, she remarked, “Wonderful, so natural”. Then Her Majesty asked me, “Are these from near here?” I told Her Majesty that they were to be found in various locations between Corwen and Bala, and that Bala was the typical district for Bala fossils, but they were also to be found near Llangollen. Her Majesty then said “This part must be rich in these”, and after a prolonged examination Her Majesty said “Very nice”.
The Princess [TR’s footnote Now Empress of Russia –Nov 1894] took up the tablet on which the gold quartz from Gwynfynydd or the Morgan minewas fixed, I told the Princess to take it to the door where the light was best, and then the Princess examined it carefully as I pointed out where the visible gold was to be seen. The Queen was much interested in it, and when I told Her Majesty that it was from the Morgan mine near Dolgelly, Her Majesty gave me a nod and smiled very knowingly, as much as to say plainly “All that glisters is not gold.” In fact the mine has been so puffed that people are distrustful of it. [TR’s footnote (it was a failure afterwards)]
The Princess Alix then called the attention of Her Majesty to my flint flakes, stone hatchets bronze hatchets, etc. Her Majesty took up the bronze hatchet or Celt in her hand, examined it, read the label on it, and asked me if it was found near here, I said it had been found on the estate, then Her Majesty took it between her fingers, and looking at me closely and straight in the face said “Can you tell me the age of this?” I at once answered “I think that is beyond man’s knowledge, Your Majesty,” and as I said this I looked full into Her Majesty’s face, which was only half a yard from mine; Her Majesty still looking into my face said, “Well, I suppose it is.”
After that the Queen seemed to have finished her inspection of the fossils,and as she was standing looking round at the room, Lady Churchill told her Mr. Robertson wished her to have a peach; Her Majesty said “Not now” [TR’s footnote; When the queen was inspecting the fossils and chatting, she was at her natural ease, but stood dignified when talking ofthe fruit.] and then added “You have very fine peaches and grapes here,indeed, very fine fruit.”
When the Queen prepared to go down the steps again, her pug dog went to get down, but seemed afraid to go, and stood whining on the top step. Her Majesty then said to Mr. Clark the Highland attendant “Carry him down carefully,” and then smiling and looking at all of us said, “He has the rheumatism and cannot well go down.” Then when Her Majesty was being helped down the steps, Mr. Robert son told me to go before and open the hot house doors for Her Majesty. The Queen looked into the forcing houses but was afraid to go through for the heat, then she walked slowly and stiffly along the back of the forcing houses until she got to the end of the peach house, here she stopped to admire a beautiful border of penstemons in full bloom; then she walked slowly after me through the peach-house, remarking to the Princess when she saw the peaches caught in nets, “That is very nice”, then through the conservatory, and on getting into the vinery, Her Majesty looked at me in the face and said, “I suppose this is a good country for fruit and flowers.” I said it was very fair.
We got out at the west door of the vinery, and then past the flower border in which grew Love-in-a-mist, Victoria asters,salpiglotis, gladioli, Rockets, Dahlias, and sunflowers next the wall. Then past the narrow flower border, in which grew dwarf chrysanthemum, asters, peony asters and African marigolds. Her Majesty admired the flowers, and stopped when she got near the west entrance gate to admire the iron palisade which was almost hidden with flowers, consisting of clematis, scarlet and yellow nasturtiums, the yellow creeper Tropaeolum Canariense, and the Tropaeolum Speciosum. The whole had a striking and beautiful effect, and as Her Majesty looked at it, she called the attention of the Princess Alix to it and said, “Isn’t that beautiful,” and then said as she pointed to the Tropaeolum Speciosum “That is a pretty little red plant.”
When Her Majesty got seated in her pony carriage, she turned to me and said “What part of Scotland do you come from?” I said “From Jedburgh,Your Majesty,” at which the Queen remarked to Lady Churchill, “That is near Floors” (Floors Castle, Kelso), Lady Churchill said “It is”, then the Queen said looking at me again “I have been there”, and I said “And to Jedburgh too Your Majesty”, the Queen at that nodded to me and said “Yes”. Then she said “I do not wish to get out again”.
Mr. Robertson then told me to go on before and tell the stable keepers to open the stable doors so that the Queen could look in. When the pony carriage was led past the doors, Her Majesty said “I see they are very nice.” After that the Queen continued her out past my house, and went down the road to see the laundry, and the other houses there, and returned up the drive to the Hall. I left at the gate here as I wished to finish getting the fruit. Mr. Robertson signalled to me the time to leave. I left my hat near the outside of the fruit room door when I entered, and went afterwards round with the Queen without it. Mr Robertson did the same.
When I went to the Queen in the fruit room, I felt nervous, but Her Majesty’s very pleasant way of speaking to me, and her kind manner eased me very much. Indeed, her manner was simplicity itself. Her way of speaking was in short sentences, and like stout people with a little difficulty. The queen evidently wished me to feel at ease, for she looked pleasantly at me and spoke very kindly to me.
Before Her Majesty came to Palé I was wondering if it would be possible for me to get a good look at her, but I never expected to have the great pleasure of talking quietly with her face to face, and to have the pleasure of showing my collection to our beloved Queen was quite beyond all expectation. To me certainly it was a Red Letter Day, and I fully appreciated Her Majesty’s kindness in honouring my collection with a visit.
The Queen is under middle height, has a very full round face very stout, and hair grey. She wore a dress having black and grey stripes, a black mantle with a fringe to it. Her hat was large, of boat shape, with white flowers in front. When walking she took short steps and walked stiffly, from the effects of her rheumatism, I expect. I was pleased to see the great interest Her Majesty took in everything.
When I went back to the fruit room for my hat, I found Dr. Reid inspecting my collection again, as soon as he got Her Majesty away he went back again, and there I left him as I wanted something to eat. Mr. Minshall of the Oswestry Advertiser was in my house waiting for me to get particulars of my interview with the Queen, but I declined to say more than that her Majesty inspected my collection with much interest.
After the Queen had luncheon, Mr. Evan Morris, Mayor of Wrexham, arrived at Palé and was knighted by Her Majesty. Sir John McNeill handed his sword to Her Majesty, and as Mr. Morris knelt on his right knee, Her Majesty touched him on both shoulders with the sword, and addressing him as Sir Evan Morris, commanded him to rise. Sir John Puleston also came to Palé and was presented to the Queen by Mr. Raikes. Mr. Raikes left during the afternoon. I only saw Mr. Raikes when he was with the Queen at the dog trials; he was very tall, stout and full-faced.
The fruits produced in the hothouses of Palé Hall were obviously popular, not only with Queen Victoria who was presented with them for her breakfast, but also with her household, several of whom found Thomas in the garden asking for a peach. When Sir John McNeill found Thomas with fruit in mind, the two amateur antiquarians got into conversation, with interesting details revealed about a Viking burial on a Scottish island.
Tuesday August the 27th I sent in fruit for the Queen’s breakfast and saw to various things, and at 9 o’clock Sir John McNeill hunted me up in the garden to get a peach from me. When we were talking about antiquities, Sir John told me that stone hatchets were frequently to be found in the Western Highlands, and on his estate in the Isle of Colonsay he lately discovered the remains of a Viking, and with the remains there were armour, enamelled ornaments, bronze scales and other curious things. Sir John told me he put the bones of the Viking and various other articles in a velvet lined box and sent the whole to the museum Edinburgh on loan, and that they were there now. Sir John also added that a Swede who had read about the find was so interested in one of the articles found that he came over to Edinburgh to see it, and on getting to Edinburgh he found the precious relic had been lentto a gentleman in the West of Scotland, so thither the Swede went to see it, – so anxious was he to examine it. I was much pleased with the manner of Sir John.
Prince and Princess Henry of Battenburg left here by the Royal Train for Barmouth to lay the foundation stone of the Barmouth new Church. The Hon. Harriet Phipps and Major Bigge went with them to be in attendance. The Royal train arrived at Barmouth at 12.50. The greater part of the county Magistrates and several ladies were at Barmouth to receive the Prince and Princess.
Barmouth was gaily decorated and an immense number of people were in the town. There was a procession from the station to the site of the church, a short way off. The Bishop of the Diocese (Bishop of Bangor) and the Bishop of London (The latter was staying at the time at Dolgelly) were there, and many clergymen. The Princess received a silver trowel and laid the stone in the presence of a large assembly of people. The church is to cost £20,000, and of this sum, Mrs Dyson Perrins and her family give three fourths, and £3,500 has been subscribed by others. Mrs. Perrins lives in a large house near Barmouth, on the way to Llanaber. Mrs. Perrins is of the sauce makers of the firm Lea and Perrins.
After the stone was laid, the Marchioness of Londonderry from Plas Machynlleth gave a luncheon at the Corsygedol (note – a Barmouth Hotel) to the Prince & Princess, the bishops, Lord H. Vane Tempest, Lord and Lady Harlech, Mr.W.R.M. Wynne of Peniarth, Mrs. Dyson Perrins and members of her family from Brynmymach, Barmouth and a fewothers. Lady Londonderry was the principal in getting the Princess to lay the stone.
The Lord Lieutenant of the County, Mr. R.D. Pryce of Cyfronyd, gave a luncheon in the Masonic Hall to the county magistrates and others. After luncheon, the Prince and Princess, with the Marchioness of Londonderry drove to Aberamffra harbour and back on to the esplanade; they were loudly cheered on the way and were everywhere well received.
At 4.10 they left in a Cambrian saloon for Minfford junction where they got into a train of the Toy or Festiniog Railway on their way to Plas Tanybwlch and had tea with Mr. Oakley, the owner of the Plas and the large estate around. Mr. Oakley afterwards drove the Royal party to Maentwrog Road station, from there they came home by the Royal train a little after 7 o’clock.
Once again Thomas and his family get a close up view of the Queen and her retinue as she sets out to visit Llangollen, first using the royal Train and then setting out in a carriage to visit Sir Theodore Martin at his home, Bryntisilio Hall nearby.
26th August, the birthday of the late Prince Albert, was a fitting day to visit the man whom Victoria had chosen to write her husband’s biography.
Further information about Sir Theodore below. I suspect that some of the description of the Queen’s afternoon was copied from a local or national newspaper, as this technique was used in other places in the journal by Thomas.
At half past three o’ clock we all went to the stand at the station again to see the Queen and her attendants go by the Royal Train to Llangollen. There were a great number of people to see the train leave, and all were very orderly. We had a very near and good view of the Royal party. The Prince and Princesses went with the Queen. The afternoon was sunny and fine, and added much to the pleasant scene. when the Queen got out of the carriage, she walked alone to the train. The people cheered long and loud when the Queen was going to the station and when the train was leaving.
After I got back here, I had the flower vases to fill for the dining table, because the Queen was to have guests and dine downstairs in the usual dining room. There were to be eleven to dinner including the Queen; there were eleven on Saturday too, and four upstairs. The Queen returned at 7 o’clock, bringing many bouquets with her.
The Queen arrived at Llangollen at two minutes past 4 o’clock, there were hundreds of people there to see the Royal party, who had a very loyal reception. The Queen walked to her carriage (the carriage left here for Llangollen in the morning) with the aid of the Llanderfel stick. The two scarlet liveried servants mounted on grey horses preceded the Queen’s carriage; the carriage was drawn by four horses (greys), the near horses being mounted by postillions in blue and gold. The Gillies were seated behind the carriage, and following the carriage were Colonel Cornwallis West M.P. on horseback, the equerries and two outriders. The second carriage contained Sir H. Ponsonby and Mr. Raikes MP in private clothes, with them were Lady Churchill and Hon Harriet Phipps. The road was lined with people in various places along the route, many being on the slope of the open hillside On approaching Bryntisilio. The Queen, the Prince and Princesses were loudly and loyally cheered all the way, the Royal party acknowledged the reception by bowing and smiling. The Indians followed in a closed carriage.
It is a beautiful and pleasing route all the way from Llangollen to Bryntysilio; the north side of the road slopes up into the hills, the north side slopes down to the canal and river, and the south side of the river slopes up into hills again. Pretty villas enliven the scene, and the whole is beautifully wooded, and at the present time the trees are changing into their autumn tints. At Pentrefelin, the Queen had a view up the vale of Valle Crucis, but could not see the Abbey ruins.
Bryntysilio, the seat of Sir Theodore Martin is on rising ground overlooking the vale of Llangollen and the vale past Llantysilio, for some distance. This is certainly beautifully situated, and although of no great size, it has a good effect. It was in one of the rooms looking up the vale, immediately overlooking the church of Llantysilio, and on the first floor that Sir Theodore wrote the life of Prince Albert; the Queen wished to see this room. The Queen had tea with Sir Theodore and Lady Martin, and Miss Alice Helps, daughter of Sir Arthur Helps. During Her Majesty’s stay there was some singing by 20 of the Llangollen Choral Society.
Like Henry Robertson, Sir Theodore Martin was an Edinburgh Scot who later settled in Wales. Wikipedia article
On returning to Llangollen, the Queen halted for a minute or two to receive an address of welcome from the inhabitants, and then went on the Holyhead road to Corwen. The Queen made a halt at Glyndyfrchwy to accept a bouquet from Miss Tottenham, shook hands with Major and Mrs. Tottenham and said they lived in a beautiful country. The Queen arrived at Corwen at 7 o’clock, left Llangollen about 5.45. The Royal Carriage came to a standstill in the middle of the square at Corwen, here the Queen received an address of welcome, and then drove on to the station where the Queenentered the saloon of her Royal train and made the rest of the journey by rail. The Queen had a loyal and hearty reception all along the route, sothat she was much pleased with her visit. And as the whole route is through a beautiful part of the country, and the day was fine, Her Majesty could not help being pleased with the people and the country.
In the evening, the Lord Lieutenant of Merioneth (Captain Pryce), the Lord Lieutenant of Denbighshire (Col. Cornwallis West MP) and Sir Watkin and Lady Williams Wynn hadthe honour of dining with the Queen. After dinner the members of the Llanderfel choir again sang a selection of music in
Welsh. The Queen gave the conductor, Mr. W. T. Jones of Brynmelyn a silver mounted ivory baton as a memento of her visit.
There are a number of interesting illustrations and commentary on Queen Victoria’s visit at the Wrexham History site