Homecoming to a tragedy, 1898

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new Interest with an old Friend 1898

Thomas Mellard Reade Liverpool University Library.
No copyright infringement intended

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

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

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

Caer Caradog, photographed by Eirian Evans, via Geograph

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

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

The Saracen’s Head, now closed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Patriotic Victorian Evening 1898

Llandderfel school in the early 1890’s AAR – Millie; CAR – Carrie

The last decade of the nineteenth century saw a large number of home- grown entertainments, concerts, musical and dramatic evenings becoming increasingly popular, and members of the Ruddy family both attending and taking part. Thomas’ account from April 1898 gives a very clear idea of one such entertainment. the patriotic nature of the event seems characteristic of the times.

Easter Monday the 11th. We had ‘Living Pictures’ in the village school in the evening. Alfred represented the “Young Britain” with a supposed old soldier. His best was as “Bubbles”. He was in costume of black velveteen edged with lace and frills and a pipe for the soap bubbles. He looked exactly like the picture called Bubbles. His beautiful curly hair and costume coming out well. He sat perfectly still.

Carrie acted in the picture of ‘Don’t Move” with Mr Armstrong as a soldier. She had to kiss him under the mistletoe. She did it well in primrose frock and tan stockings. The best picture of the evening was the “United Kingdom”. Francie represented England in a white long frock, a haymaker’s hat trimmed with pink Roses and carrying a basket of pink roses (artificial); Carrie represented Scotland in tartan frock and shoulder sash, tam-o’-shanter cap with our real dried fish sauce in it from my collection and a globe artichoke head (old one) with leaves as a thistle in her hand. Millie was in green frock and hood with the garlands of large artificial shamrocks to represent Ireland. Gladys Williams, a little girl represented Wales. Each appeared in turn first, then all together with a garland flowers entwining them. The girls looked splendid and stood perfectly still each time.

The musical party from Liverpool who usually come here at Easter sang Rule Britannia when the picture was on view. The school room was crammed full of people. There was not a hitch in the whole affair. It was a very wet day and evening for it too. We had to provide the costumes for all of ours.

Such patriotic occasions lasted well into the 20th century. This photograph from the 1920s demonstrates several of the costumes described by Thomas in the journal.

1895: Day trippers

Bridge at Bettws y Coed by Ray Jones (Creative Commons)

As the 1890’s continued, there is an increasing reference in Thomas’ journal to days out, some organised by the family, others part of an organised group. Transport was made easily available and destinations, such as the attractive village of Bettws y Coed, still magnet for modern day tourists, geared up to receive visitors and receive their money. In August 1895, Frances Harriet’s brother William Williams and his wife were visiting the Ruddy family, and they set out for a day’s enjoyment.

Wednesday the 28th. We were all up early to get ready to go to Bettws-y-Coed with Mr and Mrs W.   We left here by the 9.10 train, and had a wagonette and pair of horses waiting for us at Bala station. We left the station at 9.40 and got to Bettws -y-Coed at 12.30.  We follow the road to Ffestiniog until we got to Frongoch, here we turned to the right by the side of the stream called Monachdwr and passed the vicarage. We passed a few houses and the chapel at Glanrafrn in Cumtir Mynach. After passing Pont Monachdwr, we saw the clay works of Mr Price at Rhiwlas.  

We got into Denbighshire when we crossed a small brook which skirts the road for a short distance and then goes towards Llangwm.  We got onto the Holyhead Road at Pont Arddwyfaen, about a couple of miles south of Cerrig-y-Druidion.  It is a dreary and an interesting road from Frongoch to the Holyhead road.

A short halt was made at the roadside hotel called the Saracen’s Head near Cerrig-y-Druidion. (Below – now houses?)

Thomas continues with a blow by blow commentary on the journey. It seems their route was already well favoured by tourists.

Pentre Voelas Hotel, image by Nigel Gallaghan under Creative Commons.

Pentre Voelas Hotel seems to be a comfortable place; it is in a hollow sheltered by trees and has nice gardens.  There were many people about it– tourists and bicyclists.

  The scenery is very pleasing all the way to Betws y Coed; the Conway runs in a continual torrent the walls of rock; it makes a short detour westward where it receives the river Machno, and shortly afterwards the united streams for over a rocky slope called the Conway Falls. The river now runs in a deep dingle with the rocky slopes on each side, and the whole is well clothed with trees. The road is high above the river on the rocky slope, the rock is composed of the usual felstone ash rock, so common in North Wales.

Afon Conwy by John Firth Creative Commons

 We got to the Waterloo Hotel, which is a short distance from the bridge, and about a quarter of a mile from the station and church at 12:30 o’clock. We returned over the Waterloo Bridge, which is an iron structure of one span, built in the year 1815. It carries the Holyhead Road over the Conway. It is very beautiful here; the views up and  down the river being very pleasing.  There is a broad meadow in front of the hotel on the north side of the river, and rugged rocky heights rise up from the river on either side; the whole covered with trees. We followed of the road leading to Ffestiniog along the side of the river to the stone bridge called the Beaver Pool Bridge, which we crossed, and finding a quiet rocky ledge near the end of it, we sat there under a projecting rock and had our luncheon.

The Fairy Glen Hotel – still a popular tourist destination. Image Dot Potter via Geograph, Creative Commons

We next returned and recrossed the Stone bridge and entered by a turnstile and old road leading to the Fairy Glen, at quarter of a mile distant.  We paid 2d each, half price for the children to see the Glen. The Fairy Glen is a wild bit of river scenery where the Conway runs in a torrent between upright walls of rock for a short distance and then widens into a raging pool hemmed in by rock on either side, and then it rushes onward between rough ledges and masses of rock to join the Lledr.    There is a rough pathway to the river where there is a view up the gorge.  There were many people there at the time, and indeed the roads were swarming with people wherever we went between Conway Falls and Swallow Falls, everywhere while we were at Bettws, some on coaches, and many as we were, walking.  

Image by Eirian Evans via Geograph, Creative Commons

We next walked back, re-crossed the Waterloo Bridge and went straight to the railway station of the London and North Western.  Here we got a coach to the Swallow Falls. It was a very pleasant drive; the village consists of the hotels and lodging houses, the houses being built around the base of the rugged rocky slopes.  We passed the end of the bridge over the Llungwy, called Pont y Pair where there is a pretty view up the river, which runs over a rocky bed with a rocky wall on one side.  The falls are close to the road where we entered by a little gate without payment. We had to go down by rough steps to the riverbed to see the Falls and a rough dangerous place it is, but it is carefully and strongly fenced on one side where there was a much danger. There are two falls each 20 feet by about 30 feet wide.

Swallow Falls, upper fall. Image by Christine Matthews, via Geograph, Creative Commons

The lower fall also glides down the rocks over a smooth surface; each fall ends in a deep boiling pool; the lower fall issues from the pool at the bottom of the first one. From the lower pool the waters run in a torrent over a wide rocky bed with walls of rock on either side,  and the rocks rise perpendicularly over the falls on the north side to a great height, and there are the remains of an old tower on the top of the precipice. The Swallow Falls are well worth seeing, and after the rains as we saw them, they were wild and foaming.  The river scenery all the way from the falls to Pont y Pain is pleasing; it is beautifully wooded, being closed with young plantations of Larch, self sown and planted oaks, and the rocks rise into rounded masses high above the river of the north side.

 On our return to the Village, we had a hurried tea, and started for home at 5.10. We got to Pentre Voelas at 6, Cerrig y Druidion at 6:30, and Bala at 8:15, just as the train got into the station. The road was steeper on the return than when going, but the horses were good, and the driver was steady and careful. 

It is interesting to see that visitor attractions still very popular today were attracting large crowds in the 1890s. Although visitors now pay to view the Swallow Falls, the 2 pence per person to view the Fairy Glen in 1895 seems steeper than today’s price!

1895 Of This and That

Thomas in later life from his newspaper obituary

I have now been transcribing and researching Thomas’ journals for more than 15 years. It has been possible to keep going because of the sheer variety and interest that his jottings present. I usually concentrate these posts on a single issue, but perhaps it is time to record some edited extracts from a six month period to demonstrate the range of interests and events he chose to record.

NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST Friday, March 1. Mr Woodall very kindly sent me gratis a volume of Bye-Gones for the years 1893–4. He has now sent me three volumes, representing six years. All my own contributions to the Oswestry Advertiser are reprinted in Bye-Gones. I am very pleased to have the copies.

                           

WEATHER REPORTER March Wednesday the sixth. The ice still unbroken on Bala Lake and the reservoir. The snow is now confined to hollows, sides of roads and fences where it is of great depth in many places. Saturday the 16th. We walked to Bodwenni Gate. It was very pleasant, very clear road almost all the way and the birds singing. Great snow wreaths in many places.

FATHER Palm Sunday (the seventh)  Henry, Carrie and little Alfred with me over Palé hill.  It was fine and sunny. Alfred walked well and was pleased to go. Saw the Ring Ouzel. Good Friday. The whole family of us over Palé hill, and very enjoyable it was. Great snow wreaths on the hills, and a yard deep at the little farm of Bwlchysafen at an altitude of 1054 feet.

GEOLOGIST On Wednesday the 17th. I had a visit from Mr Lake of Cambridge University and his friend Mr Groom from Herefordshire. They had luncheon and tea with us and spent most of the time inspecting my fossils.  Both are keen geologists and we had a pleasant time together. They enjoyed the visit and left by the 4.6 train.

Fossil material collected by Thomas from the collection in the Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge.

FRIEND Thomas had befriended Thomas Mellard Reade as a fellow geologist, (see previous post) but in bereavement Reade chose to stay near to his friend Ruddy. Monday the 29th Frances and I met my friend Mr. Mellard Reade and his stepdaughter, Miss Taylor at the station.  They came to spend a week at the Derfel to recruit their health, because Mrs Reade died the previous week. They were pleased to see us and we walked with them as far as the village. Wednesday, 1 May. I went over Palé hill with Mr Reade. We had an interesting ramble. Thursday the second. Mr Reade, Miss Taylor and I went to Sarnau, then on to Caeranucha and home by Bethel lane. It was very fine all the way. Saturday the 4th. I went to Sirior with Mr Reade. We examined some rather interesting glacial deposits and boulders. I had tea him at the Derfel where he lodges. Monday the 6th. Mr Reade and Miss Taylor returned home.  They had very fine weather and much enjoyed their visit.

EMPLOYEE Monday the sixth [May]. Lady Robertson was safely delivered of her fourth daughter at 7:30 am.  Both going on well.

Monday the 20th. Sir Henry and Col Burton [ Sir Henry’s brother in law] wished to see my collection of birds’ eggs.  Col Burton knows much about them. He said my collection is very good and of much interest.

The Staircase Hall, Palé

NEIGHBOUR. Saturday the 25th. I went after tea as far as Garnedd to see the old farmer. I found him in a very weak state and not likely to live long. He was very pleased to see me, and I was very sorry to see him in such a weak state. We have been dealing in potatoes now for over 20 years.

LOCAL EVENTS Tuesday the 28th Frances and I at Corwen where we spent most of the day after sale of furniture at Colomendy where the late Dowager Mrs Price of Rhiwlas lived for over 20 years. The articles were rather ancient, for the old lady was very saving body.  Colomendy is a curious old place and house and gardens are much out of repair. It was very warm. I bid for a carpet and got it, and finished with that. Mr Owen of the White Lion Hotel kindly left it at Bryntirion here for me. We came home by the last train.

HUSBAND From their Geologically themed honeymoon onwards Frances Harriet seems to have been content to share her husband’s hobbies. Saturday the eighth.  Frances and I went to Bala in the afternoon.  We went along the side of the lake to Fachdeiliog boathouse.  I searched for a sedge warbler’s nest there, but only found an empty whitethroat’s.  I picked up two or three flint flakes by the lake on my return.

GUIDE. Thomas was always willing to act as guide to anyone who sought his instruction. Wednesday the 12th The Revd James Gracie came here on his bicycle from Bala College in the afternoon.  I took him around the gardens, and after tea I guided him onto the top of Palé hill. The mountains were very clear, so I was able to show him Snowdon, Moelwyn, etc. I also showed him Moel Fammau.  He was much pleased with the views, for he never saw Snowdon before.  After supper he returned on his bicycle at 9 o’clock.

EXPERT Thomas was widely consulted as a horticultural expert. Thursday the 13th. I went by request to Bala College to see the grounds and give advice about the trees and shrubs. Principal Edwards, Prof Williams, and Mr Gracie went around with me. The Principal and Mr Williams were very nice and chatty all the time.  Mr. Gracie came to the station to see me off.

PARENT Francis took the children in the evening to Bala to be photographed in a group.

CHESTER SOCIETY FOR NATURAL SCIENCE Wednesday the 26th. Frances and Henry went to Arenig station to see Mrs Evans Jones. I was to have gone too, to act as one of the leaders to the members of the Chester Society of Natural Science, but as the excavation was a failure, I stayed at home.  It was hot and hazy all day with thunder far away; not a good day for top of Arenig.

ORNITHOLOGIST Saturday the 29th.[June] Henry and I went to see the young cuckoo for the last time; it was almost ready to fly. Sunday the 30th. Henry and I along the railway as far as Garth Goch.  We found the nest of a shrike with three eggs and a whinchats with five eggs, all fresh.

Sunday the seventh. We all went in the evening to see the swans and their cygnet on the river near Dolygadfa.  The cygnet is much grown. It got onto its mother’s back for a time.  We came home by the village.

POLITICAL COMMENTATOR. The General Election is now over,  and the result has been a surprise to all concerned. The Conservatives have made a clean sweep of the Liberals, for they got into power with a majority of 152. There has not been such an election for many years. Many of the Liberal leaders have been defeated; even Sir W Harcourt, Mr Morley, Mr Shaw  Lefevre, etc.  The Welsh Radicals are quite dejected over it.  They thought to disestablish the Church in Wales, but now it seems afar.

GEOLOGICAL RESEARCH. Monday the fifth. Bank holiday. My old friend Mr A.C.Nicholson of Oswestry and his brother paid us visit.  We had them to luncheon and tea etc.  I have been for some time arranging and naming parcels of fossil material from Gloppa, Old Oswestry and Sweeny for him and also for him and Mr. Cobbold of Church Stretton.  The Church Stretton material consists of fossil Beds 1 to 2 inches each in thickness which have been found in an igneous rock; this igneous rock has been for a time passed off as Precambrian by two or three geologists. I find the fossils to belong to the base of the Caradoc series and the igneous rock to be a vassicular ash.  I have named the fossils and made a report of the whole.

The Nicholsons and I spent most of our time in the fruit room packing the specimens to take home and examining and discussing my fossils.  We spent a very interesting afternoon together.  The fossils from Sweeny near Oswestry are from Boulder Clay; the fossils being of Llandeilo age. They occur in a black shale, rather soft and I found the Lingulella lepis common in it.  This fossil has not been found south of the Berwyns, so that it is of  much interest. My friends left by the 8.30

A page from Thomas’ Commonplace book – from the handwriting, written in older age.

Ice on Bala Lake

Thames Frost Fair early 19th Century

Thomas kept precise and unfailing records of the weather, but in February 1895 there was much to report. His temperature records are, of course in Fahrenheit.

Friday the 22nd some severe frost during the week–20° on the 18th, 11° on the 19th, 13° on the 20th, 15° on the 21st, 19 ½° on this the 22nd.  Frances, the children and myself have had colds for three weeks; they have left us now. We have not been at church for several Sundays.

Saturday the 23rd. Frances, Francie, Carrie, Millie, and myself went to Bala by the 3.16 train to see the lake frozen over.  It was a strange sight to see such an extent of water frozen over– say between three and 4 miles in length, and three quarters of a mile in width.  We stood for a few minutes on the bank at the North East end of it to view the scene. There were many people on it some skating, some walking about, and a large party playing at hockey on skates.  The snow covered the slopes of the surrounding hills, which  made it look very wintry. But at the time it was rather pleasant, for there was a slight thaw. The scene reminded one of a fair or suchlike. It was so very strange to see the smooth expanse of level ground where I have often seen wild waves rolling along before the winds.  We met Henry on the ice and we all walked about for about an hour. The little ones were sliding part of the time. The ice seems to be very solid and quite strong enough for any ordinary weight. I found a hole broken through it in one place and the ice was about 4 inches in thickness. It averages six or 9 inches over most of it. It is a rough ice, much spotted with white specks and has huge cracks all over it.  There were fewer people there today than usual owing to it being market day at Bala.  I met several people I knew such as Mr Evans, Master of the Grammar School, Mr. Gracie, Mr Owen of the White Lion Hotel etc. and Mr Owen told me he drove over the lower end of the lake on Thursday in his dogcart and a tandem. He zigzagged it afterwards towards Eryl Aran and back again to the lower end.  He, the tandem and people were photographed on the ice. 

This is quite extraordinary as there had been a fatality on the frozen lake on February 19th, reported in at least one newspaper. From the Montgomeryshire Express, Tuesday 19th February 1895:

 Nevertheless, the local population, including the Ruddy Family, seemed undaunted: Several people have skated and walked all the way to the upper end of the lake, and bicycles are frequently running over the ice. There was much of the lake frozen over in January 1881, and in the winter of 18 60–61 too, that there has not been such ice on it as it presents since the winter of 1854–55.  That was the time of the Crimean war. I am told by Mr Peter Jones of Bryntirion that he was taken across the lake that Winter from near Llangower to Bala.  There was a very deep snow that winter and it covered the ground for weeks.

There is not much ice on the Dee, but the river Tryweryn was frozen over from near Rhiwlas to the junction.

We were all very pleased to be on the ice for we may never see such a scene again. We were about three quarters of a mile from the east shore of it.  I never saw such an extent of ice before; and Frances has hardly ever been on any frozen water.

Henry went right across it twice and back on Wednesday afternoon.

Despite Thomas’ report that photographs were taken, I have been unable to find one online. Instead I give you one of my favourite pictures!

Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Lock by Sir Henry Raeburn (about 1784)

Raeburn painted his Skating Minister 100 years before the Bala skaters had fun on the ice.

1894 Walking with the children

The children circa 1895: top l-r Millie (Amelia), Henry, Francie (Frances) bottom l-r Carrie (Caroline) Alfie (Alfred)

In 1894 the five children of Thomas and Frances were aged between 12 and 4 years. Thomas, sometimes joined by Frances, enjoyed taking them walking, choosing the expeditions according to the abilities of the children. Each walk gave him opportunity to teach them about the sights and sounds of the countryside. His journal entries suggest that in some of the walks the children were able to decide for themselves whether to join in the walks, as varying numbers and combinations join different expeditions. Over the mid and late 1890s, Henry, the eldest, seems to have been Thomas’ most constant companion, followed by Millie (Amelia). The two elder girls, Francie (Frances) and Carrie (Caroline) were less likely to join in, perhaps being expected to help in household tasks. At this point Henry was 12, Francie 10, Carrie 9, Millie 7 and Alfred 4.

July 21st 1894, Henry and his father made a lengthy expedition too strenuous for the younger siblings. Henry and I went by train to Llandrillo and from there we walked to the top of Cader Fronwen.  [Cadair Bronwen on OS maps] We went over the village bridge, then followed a lane until we got to nice upland pastures, across which we walked until we got to the circle upright stones on Moel ty Ucha.

We next got to a splendid spring of pure water on the top of the ridge where the road turns towards Clochnant at the base of Cadair Fronwen (now Cader Bronwen).  [SJ077 346]. The well has rough slates replaced as a square and is well known from time immemorial as ‘ffynon Maen Milgi” the Greyhound’s stone well.  Some are inclined to think that it is a Roman well from the name Greyhound because it is believed the Romans brought this dog from Italy. We left the road at the well and took to the mountainside until we got to the top of Cader [294] Fronwen by 3.35.  We found the cloudberry or Berwyn raspberry on the way up, but there were neither flowers nor fruit. It had evidently been injured by the frost in May.

On the ridge near the upright stone there is a mound of earth, mostly peaty with a few stones in it.  It is certainly artificial and marks a sepuchral place. From here we went up a steep slope to the top of Craig Berwyn. On top we found many plants of the raspberry in boggy ground.  On our return we followed the same road all the way to Llandrillo where we got to the station a few minutes before train time. Observed the kestrel on the very top, but interesting birds were scarce. We were highly pleased with our visit to the mountain, and were in good condition on our return home.

Not all family expeditions were so extensive. Family members walked ‘after tea’ on many days, observing rocks, flowers and trees and birds and their nests. Each month Thomas would faithfully record details of the weather; his reports were published in the Oswestry Advertiser.

Family walks continued throughout the 1890’s joined by elder step brother Willie when he came home from his work in Wrexham. The frequency of his notes of these walks in the journals of these years (journals 4 and 5) show Thomas’ delight in sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm with his children.

Marriages 1894

What happens when a biographer suddenly comes across an event in the life of their subject which they find difficult to understand, and in some senses seems quite shocking? It is impossible to understand the context and circumstances of the event, or to interrogate an objective contemporary bystander. I have been acquainting myself with Thomas Ruddy through his journals since I inherited them in 2005, finding much to admire in his character and endeavours in gardening, geology, and as a family man. I rarely read ahead in the journals; following the ‘story’ being a major factor in keeping on with the task of transcription.

So it was that I came to April 1894, and a grand wedding in the Robertson family, when the youngest daughter of the late Henry Robertson, sometime MP, and the sister of Sir Henry Robertson, Henrietta, married, at the somewhat advanced age of 36, the clergyman Eustace King. There seems to have been much rejoicing in the Ruddy family at this happy event. On Friday the 6th of April, Miss Robertson presented Thomas and Frances with a gift:

Miss Robertson gave me a handsome photo frame for two photos. One has a photo of the Rev. Eustace King (her intended husband) and she is going to send me one of her own soon to put in the empty frame. It was very kind of her to give it and we appreciate her kindness.

A gift was given in return on the 12th April: Presented Miss Robertson with a wool handmade hearthrug as a wedding present. We had it made for her. She was much pleased with it, said it would be a nice remembrance, and that as it would suit the pile carpet that we could not have given her anything more acceptable. She took it away with her.

And then comes the shock: Saturday the 14th Tom (his eldest son) married at Southsea much against our wish.

Seemingly entirely unmoved, Thomas continues to enthuse about the wedding of Miss Robertson: Wednesday the 18th Miss Robertson married with the Rev. Eustace King at the church here. It passed off nicely – see account in Oswestry Advertiser. The report is my composition, but Lady Robertson gave me the list of presents to copy. See above.

Thomas continues: I had plenty of white and other flowers for the occasion. Mr King told me he liked the way I decorated the church. I had a beautiful Spirea as a table plant to put in the Queens silver bowl the cake was decorated with Deutzia.

I have now transcribed as far as the end of 1895, and there is no further mention of Thomas’ eldest son, Thomas Alexander, Tom. This is particularly heartbreaking as records show that in February, Tom’s wife Elizabeth Ann, nee Roberts gave birth to a son who lived just three days. They called him Thomas Alexander.

Despite this family rift, Thomas Alexander did well for himself. My future transcription will show whether the rift was ever healed. Tom and Elizabeth did finally have a son, Reginald Harold, born in 1900 and a daughter Beatrice Rosamund born in 1903. I have been in touch with a descendant of Reginald.

It is tempting to quote L.P. Hartley: ‘The past is another country, they do things differently there.’ However, family feuds and rifts still exist, and how is it possible for an onlooker to understand what happens in the human psyche?

1893 Thomas the Journalist

National Library of Wales

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.

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1893 Judging the Judge

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.

Philippe de Champaigne / public domain