‘Science under difficulties’ was the name given by Thomas to an expedition he undertook with his son Henry on the evening of the 30th September 1893. Henry was then 10 years and 11 months old. It was past mid afternoon before the pair set out, and they returned just before 8.00 pm, soaked through, and in the dark. It was a journey of, in my estimation, at least ten miles.
Saturday the 30th Henry and I left home at a 3:45 o’clock for Cae Howel lane. We had heavy showers on the way, but went on to the gate leading to Maeshir at Bwlch y Fenni. It cleared off when there and had every appearance of keeping fine and as I wished to hunt for boulders on the Aberhirnant side, we pushed on along the mountain road leading to Llangynog over Trwmysarn. I imagine Thomas’ main purpose was his new research on Glacial Drift.
Thomas describes the journey: We found one Arenig boulder near Cae Howel at an altitude above the sea of 1200 feet and again a boulder of the Aran ash where the road gets close to the brook of Nant-cwm-hesgen. That was all the boulders we found in our ramble. There were none in the bed of the upper part of the Brook all along the roadside all the way to the county boundary at Trwn-y-sarn.
It got almost dark at the county boundary and rained cruelly with a breeze of wind. We crossed themoorland on the south side of the hill called Moel-cwm-sarn-llwyd. It was a rough and tumble walk all the way to the Berwyn Road from Bala to Llangynog. We had to pick our way over bogs, through wet heather or rushes in semi- darkness until we got down to Palé Mountain stables, and most thankful we were to reach them in safety. It rained heavily all the way.
When we got to the road we were drenched from the knees downwards and our boots full of water. It didn’t rain much all the way home, but it was weary journey. It was science under difficulties. Henry followed without a murmur all through the worst part of it, and was glad he was with me. We got home a few minutes before 8 o’clock, and after a change of clothes and a wash we felt quite comfortable and enjoyed our supper. Neither of us will forget our experience over the rough bit of mountain between the two roads. Luckily we had waterproof coats.
Thomas instructed the children of his second family well in natural history. He probably had more leisure to do this with the five children born to Frances Harriet, and she too, encouraged by her expert botanist uncle, William Pamplin, was enthusiastic about outdoor pursuits. Only two of their children, the second family, married, and only Henry Ernest had a single child, a son Denys, the inheritor of Thomas’ journals before me.
Henry Ernest, a clergyman, inherited his father’s love of natural science, concentrating on astronomy, an interest which he passed on to Denys. Here they are in about 1940 in the garden of Braunston Rectory with their very impressive telescope.
By the spring of 1892 Thomas was the father of eight children; by his first marriage Tom (23) William (20) Mary Emily (19) all at work and living away from home; by his second marriage Henry (10) Frances H ‘Francie’ (8) Caroline E ‘Carrie’ (7) Amelia A ‘Millie’ (5) and Alfred (2).
A significant new element in the journal is the number and frequency of walks recorded, which match the diminution of the expeditions with various natural history societies by Thomas alone. On almost all, Thomas records finding plants, birds, trees and other natural phenomena. It must have been a pleasant and instructive pastime for the children to have such a rich source of tutoring in natural history.
A charming aspect of these recorded walks is that they are undertaken by different combinations of companions. Sometimes Thomas walks just with his wife, occasionally the whole younger family is involved, often Thomas walks with just one of his young children and when the older siblings come home, they are involved as well. This suggests that the children were allowed to choose whether to go on the expeditions, concentrated as they are at the weekends, rather than being made to participate. The opportunity to do this, leaving some young children at home, was possible as the Ruddy family always had a live in general servant. Here is a selection from 1892-3
Sunday the 10th Henry and I went along the railway to rock opposite Crogen. (Tanycraig) and returned home by Caepant. We had a pleasant walk. Thursday the 14th Tom came home for his holidays. Little ones much excited over his coming. Good Friday. Tom and I went for a ramble round Fronheulog in the evening.
Sunday, May 1st Francis and I took the children to about half a mile beyond Brynmelyn. It was very pleasant. Saturday the 7th Carrie and I had a ramble over Palé Hill, and went as far as Brynselwrn Ffrith. Sunday the 8th Francie and I went along the railway to Tanygraig rock. We flushed corncrake twice on the way, and found a kestrel’s nest with four eggs, and a wood pigeon’s nest on the ground on a ledge of rock under the shelter of the tree root. It was built in the usual way. We saw a water hen’s nest with five eggs and a newly hatched chicken in the nest. Francie very pleased to see the little bird. I observed the tree pipit for the first time. We returned home by the village. Francie much pleased with her walk.
Saturday the 23rd Frances and I took Francie and Carrie by the 4 o’clock train to Llandrillo. On our arrival there, we walked along the railway to a plantation about 2 miles away. I picked up the Medicago luplulina on the way, and so a few other things of interest. On getting to the plantation, which is on the side of the line, Francis and little ones rested until I went to examine two or three specimens of the noble Silver Fir, which Sir Henry wished me to examine. From the plantation we went up and narrow lane to the road, and got out about halfway between Plasynfardre and Hendor bridge. We had a pleasant walk to the village and from there to the station. We met Mr and Mrs Vernon on our way to the station. We had a pleasant ramble, and the girls were pleased to go.
Sunday the fourth. Tom, Francie, Carrie Millie, and I went as far as Glandwynant, and then up through the wood to Bwlch Hannerob, and home by the path passing the old quarry. It was a pleasant little ramble.
Saturday the 11th Francis and I went after tea to near Ty Tanygraig at the western outlet of the tunnel. We much enjoyed the walk, and it was a change to be able to get a walk. Sunday the 19th. Francie and I went after tea as far as Tydyninco; we had to return home as it came on to rain rather heavily.
Sunday the 19th Carrie and I went along the Bala road after tea to Bodwenni and returned by Bodwenni pillar and Earlswood, getting down by Fronheulog. We had a pleasant ramble. We could see the tops of Aran and Arenig covered with great stripes of snow.
Thomas and Carrie’s walk
Sunday the 26th [March] after tea we took the children along with the Bala Road as far as the little roadside pool beyond Bodweni. On arriving there we crossed a little meadow to the riverside where the children ran about for a short time, much to their delight. Two herons flew over us, on screaming several times. Both birds went eastwards, presumably to Rûg near Corwen where there is a heronry. We had it chilly coming home.
April 1893. Sunday the 9th Francie, Milly and I went past Brynmeredeth and over the hill by Fedwfoullan home. A Very nice walk. Saturday the 22nd Frances, Francie and I went after tea to Sarnau bog. It was very fine and we enjoyed the walk. We heard the sedge warbler. Sunday the 23rd We all went in the evening to near the tunneland sat in a field overlooking the bog near the railway. It was very pleasant. Observed a whitethroat. Friday the 28th Frances and I went by the riverside near Tyndol to see a swan sitting and home by roads. Found a tree creepers nest with six eggs. Saturday the 29th Henry and I went as far as Crogen. Found several nests. We thought of meeting Tom coming on his bicycle. Saturday, 6 May. Francis and I took Henry and Millie with us by the 4 o’clock train to Llandrillo we walked back past Llanwercillan and got into the old lane near Llechwercilan where we had a pleasant walk to Tynyfach and Tynycoed. We did not see any interesting bird, but I got a good fossil (Orthoceras vagans) at Tynycoed quarry. We returned by train from Llandrillo. It was a pleasant outing. Observed many black-headed gulls from the train.
Sunday the seventh. Very fine; 12 hours sunshine. I got Henry and Francie to go with me in the evening along the railway and that past Llanerch Sirior, etc. We found a stockdove’s nest and several other nests; the whitethroat, chiffchaff etc. We also found a blackbird’s nest made on the ground in the wood. It was placed on fragments of stone without any protection at the foot of an naked hazel bush and the bird sitting on four eggs.
Whit Sunday. Tom, Francie and I walked to Bala in the evening and came home by the mail train. It was pleasant to walk. Willy went on the hill with the others.
By 1893 Alfred aged 3 was able to walk a fair distance. Tuesday 30th May Francis & I took Alfred with us past Tydninco and round by the riverside home. Alfred to did enjoy his outing and was very amusing. Tydyninco was a small propert owned by Sir H.B. Robertson. Its gardens were looked after by staff originally from Palé, and directed in their work by Thomas.
Sunday the 11th Francie and I went past Brynmelyn into the Meadows and got to the yellow waterlily pool, where the Nuphar advena [yellow pond lilly – ed.] grows. We found the nest of the water hen with 7 eggs, saw the Lily in flower. We came home along the riverside all the way; saw shelves in the river, the limpet and Linnaea. It was a pleasant walk, for it was cool by the river.
Bicycle! While the rest of the family were still on foot, Tom had acquired a fashionable new possession -a bicycle. Perhaps the model was the 1886 Swift Safety Bicycle
Tom arrived by bicycle on Saturday 17th Monday the 19th Tom up, and had breakfast at 3am, and started off by 3.30 it was a beautiful morning, the birds singing and pleasant for travelling; he left in fine spirits.
Tuesday the 20th had a letter from Tom to say he was going through Llandrilloas the church clock struck 4 , and through Corwen as the clock  chimed 4.30; and got to Llangollen by .10.30, Ruabon by 6.20, and arrived at Southsea by 7 o’clock. He had a pleasant journey, the air being sweet with the honeysuckle in the hedges in many places. It was rather with warm between Llangollen and Ruabon as there is a stiff pull up their part of the way.
And finally, an expedition for the whole family, at the end of June 1893. Sunday the 25th. After tea, we all went on to the Bala road and along the riverside opposite Palé until we got onto the Bala road again near Pantyffynon. The children did enjoy sitting on a prostrate tree by the river. We picked up the Linnaea I observed in the river at Dolygadfa, also the freshwater limpet and the cockle, (Spaerium lacustre). We saw several of the little bearded fish called the loach in Scotland.  It is of the genus Cobites and a few of the fish called miller’s thumb. Alfred had walked all the way there and back. He soon fell asleep when put to bed.
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 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.
This year Thomas was 48, he had been Head Gardener at Palé for 21 years, and the last of his eight children was born. Alfred Williams Ruddy was born on the 10th February 1890, so was able to be included in the 1891 Wales census
Of the eldest three children, born to Thomas and his first wife Mary, Thomas Alexander, now 21, was working as a Colliery Clerk at Brymbo, owned by the Robertson family of Palé. Thomas junior was lodging at Thomas Street, Brymbo.
Aged 19, William Pamplin Ruddy was living at home, and working as Monitor at the school in Llandderfel as evidenced by the 1891 census above. https://www.britannica.com/topic/monitorial-system. Later in 1891 Willie took up a clerk’s post at Brymbo Steel Works, alongside his elder brother, with the assistance of its owner, Sir Henry Robertson.
Mary Emily, aged 17, was away at school in Chester during the census period. It shows her as a scholar at Bridgegate House School in the centre of the town: . At that time, the demand for secondary education in Chester was still largely being satisfied by private schools: in 1871 there were at least 40 private schools in Chester, 30 of them for girls. Several of the larger and longer established boys’ schools in the 1870s occupied such notable buildings as the old Albion Hotel and Bridge House (“Bridge House School”, run by a Mrs Keats and known for its gardens at the rear) in Lower Bridge Street, ‘Derby House’ (Stanley Palace) in Watergate Street, and Forest House in Foregate Street, though Gamul House had closed as a boarding school in the 1860s. (From Chester Wiki)It seems that the Ruddy family were able to pay for their daughter’s education.
We now move to consider the five children of Thomas and Frances Harriet, his second wife in 1890. Henry Ernest, 7, and Frances Harriett, ‘Francie’ 5 were at the school in Llandderfel. Caroline Elizabeth, ‘Carrie’ was 4 and may not have started school. Then came Amelia Agnes, ‘Millie’ 2 and the baby, newborn in 1990, Alfred Williams, ‘Alfie’. So over the course of 21 years Thomas had become father to eight children, six of whom were living at home in 1990.
Llandderfel School in the mid 1890’s. ‘Millie’ A.A.R, and ‘Carrie’ C.E.R. As marked by Thomas, their father. Their similarity as sisters very marked. Do enjoy the hand weights brandished by the front row and the pipe band in the back row!