Wednesday the 19th April I received a copy of Bye-Gones 1891-1892 in one volume from Mr Woodall the proprietor. It is a valuable and handsome present and contains contributions from myself.
Occasionally Thomas makes reference to something that reveals more about his activities beyond his employment as Head Gardener at Palé. With the growing addition of archive material online, it is often possible to follow up and view the originals. Similarly with the National Newspaper Archive, it is possible to see reports of events referred to in the Journal.
Copies of Bye-Gones are available online via the National Library of Wales. It seems that Thomas contributed regular weather notes (reproducing those in the journal) and occasional nature notes, also featuring items from the journal.
Sir Henry Beyer Robertson and his wife do not seem to have entertained guests to Palé as frequently as did his father. Suggestions are that income was not as generous as in former days; Thomas had to decrease his garden staff immediately after Henry Robertson’s death in 1888. H. B. Robertson was not involved in national political life as his father had been, and the arrival of two young daughters in a family which would eventually expand to six children kept Lady Roberson busy. However, some guests did arrive, and didn’t escape Thomas’ critical and sometimes judgmental eye.
Saturday the 25th [March] Mr Justice Williams, his wife and daughter came to stay at Palé for the Assizes at Dolgelly in the beginning of the week. Sir Henry as High Sheriff invited them to be his guests.
Sunday the 26th Sir Henry had the Judge and party about with him. The Judge is an elderly gentleman of dark complexion; his wife and daughter much resembled him; being of a gypsy cast of countenance. The lady employed at most of her time this day in winding worsted, knitting, and washing socks or stockings. In the evening Sir H with the Judge, the Sheriff Chaplain and the Judge’s secretary amused themselves by playing billiards until very late. The Rev Dan Edwards (late of Bala) now of [space not filled -ed.] Is the chaplain.
There was no private religious service, nor did any of them go to the church. Rather strange way of spending a Sabbath. It was a very miserable day to go anywhere, for much snow fell during the night with sleet showers all day, which made the roads deep in snow sludge. But such people might have spent Sunday differently.
The images in this post are taken from a report in the Wrexham newspaper The Leader, on 13th February 2019 by Jamie Bowman. No copyright infringement is intended.
Thomas’ employer Henry Breyer Robertson owned or part owned a number of industrial, mining and rail enterprises over a wide area. Thomas’ sons Thomas Alexander and William were given clerical employment in the Plas Power works. H. B. Robertson’s uncle, Mr Dean, obviously had influence in the Minera Lime works, in the same area. In 1892 Mr Dean invited Thomas to view a newly discovered cave at the works.
Wednesday the 27th I left here by the first train for Minera. On arriving at Plas Power station I first went to see Tom who was in bed with the measles since Saturday. Mr Dean kindly had his trap in waiting for me to take me to Minera. He asked me to go to see the recently discovered cave there, from which he sent me the stalagmites. He said he would send the trap to meet me. I was sorry Tom was laid up, and he was very sorry too, for he would have liked to help me in any way. I was much interested in what I observed all the way to Minera. I passed near a coal pit, and the village. I saw Minera Church; a nice one it is. Minera Hall was close to the roadside; a moderate sized place.
I got to the Lime Works at twenty minutes to eleven o’clock. On getting to the Office, Mr. Lewis the Secretary, and his clerk, Mr. Wilkins got ready to go over the works with me. They first took me to the stone crushing mill: here the limestone is prepared for road metalling and for glass works. It was a noisy and dusty place, but of much interest. I next inspected the lime kilns: there are two large buildings on the Hoffmann principle. The buildings are in the form of a long square with the circular ends. The chambers in which the limestone is burned, are arched over all round the sides of the buildings and the doors are bricked up until the operation is over. The fire never dies out but it keeps travelling from one chamber to another all the year round; small coal (slack) is introduced into the chambers by means of iron tubes so as to feed the fire. There is a huge chimney to one of the kilns; it is 225 feet in height, by 15 feet in diameter. The kilns cost the company £20,000 to construct, but they can turn out an unlimited quantity of burnt lime.
Our next move was to the cave; it was not very inviting, but like an man of science, I wished to explore it. Mr Lewis got me leggings to cover my legs, and coat to cover my body, so as to keep me clean. I doffed my own coat, and with a lighted candle, I followed Mr Mr Lewis and Mister Wilkins into the cave. I had to lie on my right side and drag myself down slope, with scarcely enough room for me to wriggle through. After a few yards of this, I got to a wide passage where I could stand nearly upright. I was then conducted into a large chamber, long and wide and with a lofty roof. Numerous stalactites were hanging from the roof; they were long tubes of transparent calcite. Pillars of stalagmites word dotting the floor, and most of the floor was covered with thick stalagmitic crust. The floor was uneven and slippery, being here and there composed of soft red earth.
I was next taken to another large chamber, but to get to it I had to clamber on my hands and knees over the wet clay floor. In addition to the usual stalactites and stalagmites, the walls of this chamber one much encrusted with stalactites which oozed from the rock. We returned to the entrance to the first chamber and turned to the right where we got to a large chamber by again crawling over the wet rough floor. This was very uneven, the floor sloped much, and was nearly all covered with a thick stalagmitic crust. From this we went up an narrow flue-like passage on hands and knees into a large space with very lofty roof and the floor much encumbered with fragments of rock. There were a good pillars of stalagmites, and a tiny stream flowed over a gravelly bed on one side. The cylindrical tubes of calcite fell from the roof in hundreds in each of the chambers and got firmly fixed in the stalagmitic floor. It was a rough place to explore and our heads received many hard knocks, but the air was nice and cool. There is a great depth of stalagmite and clay all over the floor of the cave, and the whole bears the impress of great antiquity so that if properly explored, important scientific results might be attained. The entrance is too difficult at present, and it would be expensive to widen it. It was quite accidentally discovered when some rock was taken away.
The Minera site is now owned by the North Wales Wildlife Trust to be used as a nature reserve.
When I first looked through the chest containing the stored papers of the Ruddy and Pamplin families, I found a small packet of letters, photographs and press cuttings labelled ‘Winchester Pamplins’. After reconstructing the huge family tree compiled by Thomas Ruddy’s elder son by his second marriage, the Revd. Henry Ruddy, I was able to see the relationship between the Winchester Pamplins and Thomas’ second wife, Frances Harriet Williams. Frances Harriet was a second cousin of Ellen Pamplin, whose portrait is shown above. They shared a common great grandfather -William Pamplin of Halstead Essex, born in 1740, a nurseryman.
Frances Harriet’s grandfather, another William, became a nurseryman first in Chelsea and later Lavender Hill, continued in the nursery trade. His beautiful business card was among the contents of the family papers. I was delighted to donate it to the Garden Museum in London, where it is now on display.
William of Halstead’s younger son James, b. 1785, was also a nurseryman, trading in Walthamstow, whilst his son, another James became a bookseller and set up a family business in Winchester. He chose one of the most famous houses on Winchester’s main Street as his shop and home – God Begot House, which after many uses and transformations is now an Italian restaurant, still boasting the wonderful oak beams in the ground floor room, formerly the bookshop, and the upper restaurant, once the living rooms of James and later Ellen Pamplin.
I had often wondered whether these Pamplin families ever met up in Thomas and Frances Harriet’s time. They certainly did when their son Henry began to piece together his huge family tree. Then, transcribing the year 1892 in Thomas’ journal, I found my answer.
Monday the 18th [July 1892] Miss Ellen Pamplin of Winchester (cousin to my wife) and her friend Miss Ord of London arrived here by the 4.06 train from Llandudno where they have been staying for over a week. We had them in here to tea and supper and escorted them to their lodgings at the Derfel after. After tea, Frances and Miss Pamplin went to see Mr Pamplin and Francie and I took Miss Ord for a walk round the old bridge, Calethor.
Tuesday the 19th.Rainy all day, but cleared off enough in the evening to allow Francis to go to Balawith Miss Pamplin and Miss Ord. It was very gloomy, that we went to the Lake on the way to the old station, and along Cae Mawr to road at Eryl Aran. Both were very pleased with their visit to Bala. They had supper here and I went over to the Derfel [hotel] with them after.
Wednesday the 20th Miss Pamplin and Miss Ord left for Winchester. They were highly pleased with their visit; and we were glad to have them with us. Both were free and good-natured.
Did they ever meet again? Four volumes of the journal still remain untranscribed – a thought which leaves me praying for long life! It remains to be seen.
Ellen became a well-known and respected figure in Winchester. The report of her funeral in the Cathedral in 1937 shows her as a supporter of the Cathedral’s work and having a very wide circle of friends and admirers. Passenger lists show her a regular visitor to New York, her brother Ernest having emigrated to the USA with his family.
One pleasurable outcome of researching the Ruddy/Pamplin papers over the last 15 years has been recently to send the ‘Winchester Pamplins’ papers to one of Ernest’s descendants, David Pamplin, a firefighter in Colorado, met on Facebook.
Among them is this photograph of David’s great uncle, Ellen Pamplin’s brother Herbert, who became a Yeoman of the Guard. Some family!
By 1892 all three of Thomas’ older children were at work, and living away from home, placing less pressure on Thomas’ family with his second wife Frances Harriet.
Tom, now 23, was progressing in his work in the office of the Robertson’s Plus Power coal mine in Wrexham. He was trusted to visit other offices to audit their books: Saturday the 3rd October 1891 Tom came home in the evening to be ready to go to Dolgelly on Monday, to check the books of the coal agent there. We were all very pleased to see him; the little ones being very excited. Tom appeared at home several times each year in order to go to the Dolgelly office.
Tom was also involved in military interests: Saturday the 8th. August 1891 Tom arrived here at 8 o’clock in the morning. He took us all by surprise. He had been with his Company of Volunteers camping out for a week on Conway Marsh, and he thought he would come and have Sunday at home. He left at 4 o’clock in the morning and came by Ffestiniog here. We were all very pleased to see him and the children as excited as usual. Henry much interested in the rifle.
Mary Emily, 18, having finished her education at a small private residential school in Chester, began her working life in May 1891: May 4th (Monday) Frances went with Mary Emily to Corwen to get her into lodgings with Mr and Mrs Owen, so that she might begin an apprenticeship with Mr Davies, draper etc at dressmaking and the millinery for two years. We trust that she may get on, and we have been fortunate to get her into a nice shop and lodgings.
The very next month William, (Willie) aged 19 departed for work: Monday the 29th (June) Willie off to Brymbo Steel Works by the 9.39 train. Sir Henry kindly got him a situation there for which I am most thankful, and hope it may be for you is good. Tom was to meet him at Wrexham and go with him to the works. He is to be at a weighing machine for the present. He was very pleased to go, for he has been studying hard to prepare himself for such an opening–I mean office clerk. Tom has got on well and is very steady and good.
In May 1892 Thomas and Frances had one of those family crises in which both the older generation and the children need assistance ad care. The death of Frances Harriet’s Mother, also Frances (above) gave Thomas an opportunity to describe in detail a typical Victorian funeral.
Monday the 30th. May 1892. Frances and I had a telegram from her brother to say that her Mother died at 2:50 o’clock a.m. It was sad news for us although we were not unprepared for the news. We had letters from the brother to say that Mother was not well during the week, but it was only on Saturday that is the news was anything alarming. Frances wrote yesterday to say she was anxious to go at once, but it was too late.
Both of us very sorry, Frances of course very much so, for she has lost a good and kind mother; and to me in the loss is quite as great, for she has at all times being kind and most straightforward to me; indeed nobody could have acted in kinder to me when she became aware of the intentions of her daughter and myself. And during our married life, now about 10 ½ years, she has been most kind in every way.
Mrs Williams was a lady of good principles, strictly religious, and had as her brother Mr. Pamplin said to me ’good judgement’. Frances and I have often said that we were glad her mother lived to see our children; and much pleasure it gave her to see them. She has been able to come to see us every summer since our marriage, and Frances has always returned the visit. It was a very great pleasure to us to see her come to us, and the visit was always looked forward to with much excitement by the children. The dear old lady has now gone to her rest at the ripe age of nearly 84 years. She has lived happily during her 25 years of widowhood with her two children; and has been spared to see five grandchildren born to her.
Tuesday the 31st Frances left this morning by the 11.22 train for London. It will be a sorrowful meeting between herself and her good brother, and a strange visit for her this time. But she has had many a happy one.
As so often in family life, one crisis is followed by another: so it was for Thomas and Frances. Thursday the 2nd [June] I am sorry to say that Carrie, then Henry, and now Francie have had to go to bed with the measles. It is very unfortunate when their mother is absent, and I also have to London. But we are fortunate in having a good and steady nurse for them in Mrs Davies who will be with them night and day.
Thomas set out for London on June 2nd. l was quite fresh on my arrival at Paddington when my brother in law met me. We at once got into a hansom and was at 25 Kennington Park Road by 6.30. After tea I went to get a silk hat; Frances with me to show me the way.
Friday the 3rd We were up early to get all ready for the funeral. The mourners arrived at 12 o’clock and after I light luncheon, we left for Walthamstow in Essex, about 9 miles distant at 1:10 o’clock. The coffin was of polished elm with massive brass fittings; the shield also of brass with the inscription–
“Frances Williams, Died May 30th 1892,
Aged 83 years”
The coffin was placed in a covered hearse drawn by four jet black entire Flemish horses. These horses are truly beautiful; having arched necks, long manes, and tails and go at a half trot all the way if desired. The horses were covered with velvets and pages with truncheons in their hands walked by their sides for about half a mile at starting and about the same again at Walthamstow; the rest of the way through the city and suburbs at half trot.
We went over London Bridge, up King William Street, then Gracechurch Street then Bishopsgate to Shoreditch and turned it down Hackney Road and on through some small streets until we went through London Fields and Clapton. We crossed the river Lea at Lea Bridge Road and got to the church gate, Walthamstow at the time appointed, 2.40.
Four pages carried the coffin on their shoulders to the church and from the church to the grave. The service was very impressively read by the Vicar, the Rev W.H. Langhorne; and the service at the grave was just ending when the church clock struck three. Dear Mother was buried in the grave where her husband was buried 25 years ago (1866) After the funeral we looked at the graves of the Pamplins; there are several generations of Pamplins buried in the churchyard.
Fortunately, on returning home Thomas found the children recovering well. Frances stayed on in London for some days to assist her brother.
The consistent themes running through Thomas’ journals through the years as Head Gardener at Palé are his own family’s events, the developments in the Robertson family, his employers at Palé and, like a golden thread running through it all, his passionate interest in geology.
Geology had, for a few years in the late 1880s and early 1890s, become less featured in the journal’s pages. I suggest that was for reasons related to all three themes suggested above; his growing family of young children with Frances, together with the older family of his first wife Mary, who were starting out in the world of work, demanded his attention; the death of Henry Robertson, and the succession, marriage and knighthood of his still relatively young son Sir Henry Beyer Robertson needed his attention at Palé. 1889 saw the momentous visit of Queen Victoria, requiring intensive preparations and recovery.
The late 1880s also saw the end of sustained interest from Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes. The Bala region and its key importance in defining the detail and sequence of Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian had been thoroughly researched, with much practical help from Thomas. Hughes had interests to pursue with his Cambridge Professorship, the ongoing project to fund and build the Sedgwick Museum, and his international contacts resolving ongoing geological questions. The geologists of the Chester Society for Natural Science had been conducted by Ruddy over the key sites, as had members of several other Scientific Societies. In May they again visited, and Professor Hughes (‘the President’) was in the party.
Wednesday the 25th I went by the first train to Chirk to meet a Chester party for whom I promised to act as one of their guides for the day. On arriving at share I met my party. The President, Mr. Walker, the Vice President, Mr. Shepheard, and the Hon. Secretary, Mr G.R. Griffith were there with about 30 members, including a good sprinkling of ladies. The above gentlemen were very pleased to see me, as they were in a fix, the other Guides having failed to come with the train. There were open tram cars ready to take us on the tramway to the New Inn at Glyn Ceiriog.
On arriving at the New Inn, we were met by the vicar of the parish, the Rev R Jennings, and Mr Rooper. The latter owns a large slate quarry and a stone quarry short distance from theNew Inn. All of us went with Mr Rooper to see his slate quarry. He very kindly acted as our guide over the works and explain the working of the elaborate machinery erected for sawing and dressing the slates, and for other useful purposes. I found some specimens of the Graptolithes priodon, but nothing else.
After leaving the slate quarry, I acted the Guide and conducted most of the members over the Bala beds on the famous Myndd Ffronfrys. We found some good corals and brachiopods, one or two univalves, and some fragments of trilobites.
In 1892 there is evidence of Thomas Ruddy’s continuing interest in geology, and his flexibility in relating to others as mentor and tutor, as assisting colleague, and as a student ever pressing on in his geological understanding.
Thomas was always eager to pass on his knowledge to others, and particularly in the context of practical geology. A notable feature of his mentoring skills was his readiness and enthusiasm for helping women students. This was in some contrast to the exclusively masculine ranks of the Chester Society for Natural Science at the time. Thomas had given attention to the adult daughters of his employer Henry Robertson, see 1887-8 The Fossil years
Geologists late 19th century. Note two women at the front, one of whom may be Mary Caroline Hughes. Prof. Hughes at the far right.
Thomas mentions the lady geologists who were present on his expeditions with the various Scientific Associations for whom he acted as guide, often commenting on their interest and expertise in geology, and giving them help and advice.
In August 1892 a mother and her two daughters, Mrs. Nevins and the Misses Frances and Lettice Nevins came to lodge in Llandderfel village for most of the month. At the end of their visit writes a little about them. The two young ladies were serious geologists, and the family was acquainted with a very famous geologist, Murchison.
Mrs Nevins told us she was an Irish lady, and her husband had some knowledge of geology, and was acquainted with Sir R. Murchison. They are certainly well bred ladies. They went on Monday to see Chester and went to the Grosvenor Museum. I gave them a letter of introduction to Mr Newstead the curator. They said he acted most kindly to them. Last Friday the three of them went to the top of the Arenig.
They relied heavily on Thomas’ advice and guidance throughout their stay: Wednesday the 3rd (August). Mrs Nevins and her two daughters Miss Francis M and Miss Lettice came heree with Mr Thomas of the shop, with whom they lodge. They asked to see my fossils, and as Miss Frances had been studying geology, she took particular interest in them. Miss Nevins also wished me to mark fossil localities on the Ordnance map for her.
Saturday the 20th. Frances, Henry and I went with the Misses Nevins to Bala by the 2.25 train. From the station we went to the lake at the lower end, and from there on to Gelli Grin. I found the impression of Bellerophon on a heap of shingle at the lake.
I showed the Misses Nevins the glacial markings at Penygarth in the strophomena expansa zone and also at Gelli Grin. Indeed we were very successful at the latter place. I got a well preserved eye of an Asaphus [trilobite – Ed.] And what very much resembles Cythere aldensis. We all enjoyed the ramble and the Misses Nevins were highly pleased with their fossils, and the scenery.
The 22nd The Misses Nevins here in the evening to have their fossils named.
Tuesday the 30th Mrs. and the Misses Nevins here. They brought back some books I lent then, and were much obliged to me for all my kindness to them. They were very refined and good-natured ladies, and highly intelligent, and eager to learn anything I could tell them. Miss Nevins told me I was the best tutor she had had to teach her practical geology.
On the 7th -8th September 1892 a fellow geologist with whom Thomas had been corresponding visited.
Wednesday the 7th my correspondent, Mr A.C. Nicholson of Bronderw, Oswestry came to see me. He arrived by the 4.20 fast train. He had tea with us here and then I took him to the fruit room to see the fossils. Although he knew about them by report, he was very much surprised when he saw them spread out.
On the 8th September, Thomas joined Nicholson for part of a lengthy walk and they returned to Thomas’ home. After tea we packed his specimens I gave him, also fragments of fossiliferous Silurian rocks which he found in the glacial deposit with marine shells at Gloppa, Oswestry, and which he sent to me some time ago to name for him.
More of Mr. Nicholson in a later post. He had just published an article on the rocks around Gloppa in the February 1892 Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society.
Perhaps the most important record, late in 1892 was evidence that Thomas himself was embarking on a new phase of geological research, documented in the journal and in a smalltattered notebook found amongst the trunk’s contents.
“Boulder and Glacial Drift Dispersion Written by Thomas Ruddy of Llandderfel”
The death of Henry Robertson in 1888 heralded a time of many changes for the Robertson family. Only the next year, in 1889 Queen Victoria’s visit with members of her family and a huge retinue brought excitement, hard work and nervous times to Henry Beyer Robertson, who had inherited the estate aged only 27, and his staff.
Sadly, only in July 1889, just a month before the Queen’s visit, Henry’s sister Annie, already widowed at 26, died aged 35. A memorial window was erected to Annie and her husband in Llandderfel church.
The success of the Queen’s visit brought a knighthood for Henry Beyer in 1890. Thomas writes: The Queen conferred the honour of Knighthood upon Mr Robertson at Windsor Castle, and Sir Henry had the additional honour of dining with her Majesty in the evening and staying in the Castle all night. The knighthood was given on 24th May, the Queen’s birthday, but as her Majesty has been in Scotland, it was not conferred until now 30th June (Monday)
He adds rather sourly: Tuesday 8th. Sir Henry returned from London. There was no reception or elevation awaiting him; it would have been otherwise if the late Mr Robertson had been Knighted.
The year continued well for Sir Henry, with his marriage in November. November 1890 Thursday the 20th This is the wedding day of Sir Henry Beyer Robertson, my employer, to Miss Keates (Florence Mary) of Llantysilio Hall, Llangollen. Sir Henry got acquainted with the family in the Spring of last year. The young ladies(there are two sisters) were with him when coracle fishing, and also when otter hunting. They were here after the Queen left here, that Sir Henry was only publicly engaged to her before he left for Windsor to be knighted on the 30thof last June. I left here by the 9.37 for Llangollen.
I walked along the canal side to Llantysilio church. We witnessed the friends of the bride and bridegroom enter the church and as I had a ticket for the church, I went in to see the marriage ceremony. The service commenced with the hymn, “Thine for ever, God of love” the bride wished to have this hymn. The service was conducted by the Rev. Herbert A. Keates B.A. brother of the bride.
I was the first to give the happy pair a shower of rice as they were going out the church porch. Several cannon were fired after the service was over, flags were displayed, and there were three evergreen arches. Sir Henry paid on the railway fares of his work people and provided a luncheon for them at the Hand Hotel, Llangollen.
The couple’s first child, evidently a ‘honeymoon baby’ arrived next August:
Sunday the 16th. Lady Robertson safely delivered of a baby girl at 7:40 am. Dr here all night, and the nurse since 5.30 yesterday evening. The baby is the first born in the hall, and it is the firstborn to any of the children of the late Mr Robertson, for although two sisters of Sir Henry married, neither have children.
Sadly, only next month came the news of the death of Sir Henry’s brother-in-law, Colonel George Wilson, husband of his sister Elizabeth. Wednesday, the 2nd September  . News came here this afternoon that Col Wilson aged 47, died on board the Teutonic, 20 hours sail outside Queenstown when returning from New York, where he had gone for the sake of a sea voyage. He died last Monday (31st) and his body taken to Liverpool.
Col Wilson lived in boyhood with his aunt at Tyddynllan near Llandrillo, one of them was the wife of the Revd John Wynne, for many years Vicar of Llandrillo Church. He entered the army, and was for some years with his Regiment (The 26th Lanarkshire or Cameronians ) in India.
Some time after returning home, he married Lily, the eldest daughter of the late Mr Robertson, sister to the present proprietor of Palé, Sir H. B. Robertson. [Note: the eldest Robertson daughter was named Elizabeth, confirmed by her baptism, marriage and census records. Lily must have been a family pet name)
The sad death of Col Wilson left the other of Sir Henry’s sisters as a young widow, Elizabeth’s younger sister Annie, Mrs Sherriff, having lost her husband Alexander in 1880, when she was 26, and she herself had died in 1889.
The new baby at the Hall was not christened until 12 days after her uncle’s funeral: Tuesday the 15th the baby of Sir Henry and Lady Robertson was christened at the church here (Llanderfel) by Mr Morgan. The baby received the name of Jean an old-fashioned Scotch name. it is frequently used in Scottish song, but a rather uncommon English name. The Bala Registrar told me that he never had to enter the name of Jean in his books before the Palé baby. The Christening was a very quiet affair.
1892 began, and within a few days, another bereavement came for the Robertson family:
Tuesday the 12th January Mrs. Robertson of Palé died at a quarter past three o’clock this morning. She has been an invalid for many years, and quite helpless for a year or two, so that it is a happy release to her.
Friday the 15th The funeral took place this morning at 10 o’clock at Llandderfel churchyard. The grave lies between that of her husband on the right of her, and that of her daughter Mrs Sherriff on her left near the west end of the church. The coffin was of polished oak with a heavy brass mountings, and the plate bore the following inscription.
Elizabeth Robertson Died January 12th, 1892 Aged 68
I acted as one of the 12 bearers. It was a fearfully cold, the ground being deeply covered with snow and an intense frost; 18 ½° in the morning whichkept on with thick hoar. My whiskers were covered with hoar frost when returning home. There were no friends from a distance, but a number of people came from the neighbourhood. There were several wreaths, and her son Sir Henry, and nephew, Mr John Dean were the chief mourners.
By August, the news in the Palé household had improved: Tuesday 9th August:Lady Robertson had a little baby (a daughter) at 12:20 o’clock mid day. Day changeable with 3 ½ hours sunshine. The daughter was named Mary Florence.
Within five years Sir Henry had experienced the deaths of his father, mother, sister and brother in law. He had been knighted, married and had two children. He had also experienced he visit of the Queen, three other members of the Royal Family and a huge retinue. He was still only 30 years old. Such a switchback of joyful and sad experiences must have been disturbing not only for his household, but for the whole staff. He must have been grateful for the loyalty of some of the long-standing members of his staff, not least the Ruddy family at the Garden House.
Throughout Thomas’ journal there are frequent references to Sir Henry and Thomas sharing love of nature, and drawing one another’s attention to natural occurrences in the Palé grounds and around the surrounding countryside. Only a short time before the birth of his second daughter, Sir Henry spotted something of interest: Tuesday the 2nd July: Sir H. B. Robertson called my attention to a pied wagtail feeding a young cuckoo on the lawn here. We watched it for some time and were much interested. The wagtail fed it as often as it could find any food for it, and the Cuckoo simply took it easy and only opened its mouth, into which the wagtail put the food.
By November 1892 Lady Robertson was seeking the company of Frances Harriet Ruddy so that the toddler Miss Jean Robertson could play with Frances’ fifth child Alfred, 18 moths older. Frances Harriet had herself lost her own mother earlier that year. Wednesday the 23rd Lady Robertson brought Miss Jean to play with Alfred, he was rather shy, but Miss Jean tried to make friends with him. Lady Robertson remarked that all the advancement was on the lady’s side.
It is to be hoped that the young family now in charge of the Palé estate found support and encouragement from their mature and loyal Head Gardener and his family.
It is difficult to pin down the exact details of Thomas’ early education after his family reached Scotland from famine-haunted County Mayo. It would seem that his family were living in a rural area in the parish of Bedrule, his parents working on the land, as evidenced by the Scottish census returns. Where did he go to school, and who was the schoolmaster or schoolmistress who noticed and fostered his eagerness to learn? He was able and apt to take on the study of French, Latin and Geometry in the garden bothy at Minto House when he commenced his apprenticeship there aged 16. His brother James, it would seem, did not benefit from much education, since he witnessed his father’s death certificate with a cross rather than a signature.
Bedrule parish, however, had a long tradition of passion for education. Jedburgh Grammar School was probably founded by William Turnbull (died 1454) a politician and bishop. He served as the Bishop of Glasgow from 1448 to 1454 and was the first Chancellor of Glasgow University. Bedrule was the seat of the Turnbull clan, and William, friend of King James II of Scotland one of its grandest luminaries.
With such a tradition of education over so many years, it is likely that the village school or schools of the Bedrule area were of a good standard. Jedburgh at this time was a particular centre of scientific and cultural endeavour. Did Thomas attend Jedburgh Grammar School? Although this is a pleasing idea: he did not begin his apprenticeship until he was 16, and does not mention any other work before that, but I feel it is unlikely. The School was at that time situated in the crypt of the Abbey, and I find it hard to imagine that Thomas would not mention such a prestigious place of learning, or such impressive and historic surroundings in the journal.
He does, however, mention an important figure who guided him into his interest in Geology. Adam Mathieson was a millwright; one might assume that the need to source and inspect rocks for fashioning into millstones led him into an interest in geology. He was not the first Jedburgh man to have such an interest.
Thomas writes of Mathieson that he was, at the time, curator of the Jedburgh Museum. This cannot be the present museum situated in the Castle, as at the time, the Castle was still the town’s jail. Was it perhaps the house now known as Mary Queen of Scots House? Mathieson lived only a few yards from this building.
Thomas writes retrospectively of 1861:
On the first of January I went to Jedburgh. When there I visited the museum, where I got acquainted with the custodian, Adam Matheson. This man was a good geologist, and seeing me take an interest in fossils, he wished me to study geology which had been a wish of my own for some time. I had already PAGIS Text book [Planning and Geographic Information Systems], so from that day I went in strongly for geology, and from that day, Mr Matheson became my friend.
My search in Jedburgh for Adam Mathieson and the memorial window dedicated to him (above) was initially fruitless. The curator of the Castle Museum was uncertain, and could only direct me to a church recently made redundant in the centre of the town – which I was unsuccessful in locating. It was a grey drizzly day, and we returned disconsolately to our apartment.
Unwilling to be defeated, I set out to the large Victorian Parish church prominently located near the river and on the main road into town. On trying the main door, I found it, unsurprisingly, locked. A look round the back found another locked door, but finally a lighted window, and a door which proved to be open. I rather surprised the two mature ladies who were practising the organ.
They kindly switched on the main lights, and as I progressed round the church, there before me in the south aisle, was the window. It has clearly been re-sited from the older church, and stands a little proud of the plain glass window behind it ( see picture above). The two ladies showed great interest in my tale of Thomas and his friend and mentor Adam.
There is a final episode linked to this event. A few weeks after my visit a parcel addressed to me arrived at the home of the local vicar. When I picked it up, I found it contained a small framed postcard of the Adam Mathieson window. It had been sent to me by one of the ladies I met in the church. She had used all the clues she had to find me. Such kindness, linking people caring for one another across the ages, beginning with Adam’s mentoring of the young Thomas.
It is not possible to be certain exactly when and under what circumstances Thomas’ family left Ireland, although letters between Thomas’ daughter Caroline – ‘Carrie’ and a Ruddy relative still living in Westport Co. Mayo in 1916/17 confirm that the potato famine was the cause of their emigration. This retrospective reflection is prompted by my first visit to the Jedburgh recently. I thought I might have found Thomas’ childhood home ( picture above) but close examination of the census shows that a further visit will be necessary.
We pick them up again in the 1861 census, living in Bedrule. There are Thomas senior and his wife Mary, and Thomas junior’s siblings James and Annie. The youngest son John had died the previous year, aged 12, and our Thomas was already working as an apprentice at a Minto house. We find him there on the 1861 census, the only time he states Ireland as his place of birth on a census.
The census above details the family as living in Newton, part of the central hamlet at the centre of a larger parish area of the same name but to the north of the main hamlet.
Bedrule is a tiny village four miles from Jedburgh, but it has a proud and interesting history. Thomas senior and his son James are recorded as labourers. Several children from the census, including Annie Ruddy are recorded as scholars. Where did they go to school? For it was surely there that Thomas received the quality of education that prepared him to study confidently French, Latin and Geometry while living in the garden bothy at Minto House.
It also laid down the sophisticated writing style which characterises his journal, as in this reflection on his Bedrule childhood:
By this time we were living at Menslaws by the side of the Rule, a little above where it enters the Teviot, and in sight of Minto, a famous garden of the seat of the Earl of Minto. It was on a pleasant May evening that I went with my father and Robert Daniel to see Mr. Williamson the gardener of Minto. He received us very kindly, took us through the garden, and explained everything. I looked on the inside of this grand garden with awe, I admired in silence; the feather-likeAsparagus astonished me – I was so pleased with everything, that I thought it must be very pleasant to be a gardener; and then there was Mr Williamson going about “dressed like a gentleman”, and the young gardeners looked so very neat and smart that I formed a high opinion of the whole.