It is eight months since I last published a post here. The sudden arrival of an attack of shingles at the end of January put me out of action for about six weeks, then a slow recovery to full energy took me into the summer, and more outdoor pursuits; recording Thomas’s life is a winter activity.
However, events have moved on over the summer in a most pleasing way. Since my visit to the Sedgwick Museum last year, with an opportunity to see and handle some of the fossils collected by Thomas and deposited in the Museum by his mentor, Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes, the first three of Thomas’ journals have been accepted into the Museum’s collection, with the expectation of the other five joining them there as I complete the transcriptions.
Handling the fossils last year
Handing over the journals involved a trip to the scientific and archives site of the Sedgwick on the outskirts of Cambridge rather than going to the Museum building itself. After the administrative paperwork involved in giving articles to a museum – who has right of access, can images be published, and under what conditions, etc, Sandra, the Archivist, kindly showed me some of the items relating to Thomas’ work. First we looked at some of Sedgwick’s own notebooks. He also used quite a lot of his own shorthand to denote particular geological and paleological terms. His handwriting was tiny and not at all clear, I felt sorry for Sandra and her volunteer assistants as they attempt transcriptions.
Then we moved on to look at Thomas McKenny Hughes’ notebooks – a more easy script to read. It is not clear whether he refers to Thomas in the notebooks, but research of particular dates of expeditions involving them both might reveal some mention. It is a piece of research I might be able to undertake now that I have a formal link with the Sedgwick collections.
McKenny Hughes’ wife, a keen geologist herself, was also a very accomplished watercolour artist, and the collection includes her notebooks from times when she accompanied her husband in Britain and Europe with delightful watercolour landscape sketches.
From a research poster recording 19th century women geologists by the Sedgwick’s Archivist
So, mixed feelings as I returned home on the bus. The overwhelming emotion is relief that the journals are now safely secured in a museum – and not just any museum, but one founded by Thomas’s mentor, McKenny Hughes, and named for Hughes’s predecessor as Woodwardian Professor of Geology at Cambridge. I cannot but think that Thomas Ruddy would be delighted. As far as I am aware, Thomas himself never visited Cambridge. Alongside that, is a small feeling of loss that the journals are now out of my hands and out of my study. The many hours of transcription and the writing of this blog seem all the more important. Thomas has become one of the family.
Thomas was to receive his awarded medal on 3rd October at the Annual Conversazione of the Chester Society for Natural History
Thursday the 3rd Frances and myself left here with the 9.37 train for Chester. I got all my specimens into the box I have for the purpose, and took it with us in the train. On arriving at Chester station, we took a cab and went directly to the Town Hall to leave the box of fossils, and from there to Mr. Shrubsole’s. When leaving the box in the Assembly Room of the Town Hall, I met Mr. Griffith there who said he was very pleased to see me. Mr. and Mrs. Shrubsole were also very pleased to see us. We felt quite at home at once with the latter, and amused ourselves until dinner was ready.
After dinner Francis and I went over to the Town Hall (which is just opposite to Mr. Shrubsole’s) to unpack the fossils. They carried beautifully , and as they were conveniently arranged, we were not very long in displaying them. While we were at them, Professor Hughes and Mrs Hughes came to us and went over the specimens with us, as Prof. Hughes wished to examine them more interesting ones very carefully, I pointed them out. Prof Hughes was very pleased to see the rarities, and after he had examined the whole with care, he said there was not a man in England who could name my collection.
Mr Griffith told me there was a chair or on the platform for me with my name on it, and at 8 o’clock the Chair was taken by Prof Hughes the President of the Society. The people on the platform included in the Countess Grosvenor, and her husband Mr. George Wyndham M.P. for Dover, the Mayor and Mayoress, (Mr. & Mrs. George Dutton) Lady Edmund Talbot, Sir T.G. and Lady Frost, Colonel Scotland ( Secretary to the Duke of Westminster), Archdeacon Barber, Dr. Stolterfoth, etc. Prof. Hughes addressed the people and gave a brief sketch of my work among the fossils, and told them why the medal had been awarded to me, and then called upon the Countess Grosvenor to present the medal to me for “having contributed materially to the promotion and advancement of some branch or department of Natural Science”. The Countess held out her hand to me and when shaking hands with me said “I congratulate you very much Mr. Ruddy” and then handed me the medal in its case. I thanked the Countess and Prof Hughes, and as there was much applause among the general audience, I turned to the people and bowed my thanks.
Thomas and Frances spent the night with his friends George Dickson and family, the Nurseryman and fellow member of the Chester Society.
I arranged to leave my fossil packing until the following morning. We felt at home with the warm welcome we had at Mr Dickson’s, and after supper we chatted for some time, and the medal and pin were critically examined. We had much to talk about the Queen’s visit.
The years 1888 and 1889 had brought both sorrow and honour to the Robertson family of Palé. Henry Robertson whose talents and acumen had brought the family fortune and honour died suddenly in March 1888, and it would seem that the family’s finances were immediately somewhat diminished as Thomas Ruddy reports having to lay off some men from his gardening team. Only just over a later Henry’s second daughter Annie Sherriff, née Robertson had died after a short but distressing illness. The young Henry Beyer Robertson, only 25 at his father’s death, immediately after the death of his sister had shouldered the not inconsiderable task of hosting Queen Victoria and her entourage for a 5 day stay at Palé Hall in August 1889.
Thomas Ruddy played an important role in the visit in a number of ways (see earlier posts) and had been rewarded with the gift of a pearl scarf pin from the Queen. In September 1889, therefore, the Robertson and Ruddy families must have been anticipating a quieter and more settled few months to end the year. However, Thomas was about to receive a shock.
Sunday the 22nd [September]. To my very great surprise, I had a letter on this day from Mr. G. R. Griffith to say that at a meeting last Friday of the committee of the Chester Society of Natural Science, I was awarded the Kingsley Memorial medal, and that he, Mr Griffith as Secretary personally congratulated me. This was an honour I little expected, and although I have done some good work, it has all been done as a labour of love.
It would seem that Thomas initially declined the offer (although he does not state this in the journal) giving as his reason his nervousness at the thought of receiving the medal personally in public, and his concern at leaving Palé during the absence of Mr. H B Robertson, who was to visit the Paris Exhibition at that time – although he might also have scruples at the slight of hand Mr. Griffith proposed to give Thomas the residential qualifications enshrined in the bye-laws – the counties of Chester and Flint – Thomas did not in fact ever stay at Llantysilio Hall.
It took a further letter from Mr. Griffiths and one from a third party, Thomas’ friend George Dickson, nurseryman and member of the Chester Society, to persuade Thomas to accept.
By September 23rd Thomas was ready to write a gracious and self-deprecatory reply, accepting the honour.
And so it was arranged, that Thomas Ruddy, geologist, entirely self-taught and without academic qualification or membership of a learned society, became the 12th recipient of the Kingsley Memorial Medal.
The next post will describe the occasion when he received it from the Countess of Grosvenor.
Annie Robertson (1855 – 1889) was the second daughter of railway engineer Henry Robertson. Her elder sister Elizabeth was four year older, then came Henrietta in 1858 and finally brother and heir Henry Beyer in 1862.
Annie was born in Shrewsbury, and in the 1861 census, when Annie was 6, the family were already living in some elegance. The household then consisted of the parents and three daughters, Mrs. Robertson’s mother, Ann Dean and Mrs Robertson’s brothers Charles, also a civil engineer and Joshua, Secretary of a railway company, also 17 year old nephew John. They were supported by a Governess, Coachman, Cook, Nursery Maid and three housemaids. Clearly a family on the up.
During the census of 1871 the Robertson family, parents and children were living at 13 Lancaster Gate, London, a home which they retained during the rest of Henry Robertson’s lifetime. Henry, aged 55, is by now described as Magistrate and Deputy Lieutenant – presumably of Merionethshire, not London. The Dean family no longer lived with them. As well as Governess, Housekeeper, Cook and three Housemaids there were a Ladiesmaid, Butler and Under Butler.
Some time before this, Henry Robertson had acquired the Welsh estate of Crogen, and then bought the Palé estate and had Palé Hall built. The family moved in on September 18th 1871, the carriage in which they arrived being pulled up from the Lodge to the Hall by the estate workmen. The 16 year old Annie must have been delighted by the splendid and luxurious house and its beautiful grounds. The family maintained the ownership of Crogen, renting it out. The Robertson family continue to live at Crogen.
Only just over a year later, in December 1872, Annie Robertson married Alexander Sherriff. This was somewhat surprising, since her elder sister had not yet married, and there would have been an expectation that the eldest married first. Since Annie was only 18, it is likely that this was a love match. Alexander was 8 years older than Annie. He had been born in Leeds, but in 1871 had been living with his extended family at Prospect House, Sunbury. His father was M.P. for Leicester, other relatives were members of the Stock exchange, so it is likely that Annie met her future husband through her father’s network of city and political friends.
In May 1878 Annie, Mrs. Sherriff, was visiting Palé Hall with her sisters in law. A visit to see Thomas’ fossil collection led to several days’ expedition with Thomas, and including Henry Beyer Robertson when some enthusiastic fossil hunting took place and Mrs. Sherriff also did some water colour painting. This shows the degree of trust and respect existing between the Robertson family and their Head Gardener.
May 3rd Miss Robertson brought Miss Sherriff, and Miss Alice Sherriff to see my fossils and general collection; they were very much pleased. After seeing them we went together in the wagonette to Garnedd [SH896355]to see the Bala beds and to collect fossils. Mr. H.B. Robertson went with us. We got several nice fossils and walked back together.
May 18th I went with the Misses Sherriff & Mrs. Sherriff [nee Robertson]to Gelli Grin, to geologise. The first two worked uncommonly hard at stone-breaking. –I never saw more enthusiastic ladies fossil hunting. Mrs Sherrif was painting a sketch. They all enjoyed themselves very much and were very courteous.
May 21st. The above party went went with me to Cynwyd, where I first showed them Cynwyd falls. I next led them up to the fossil ground, but it was raining, so that it was not very encouraging, but the ladies were cheerful and willing to proceed. When we got up two miles, the rain suddenly ceased, and it turned quite a fine day. On looking back we could see the Arenig white with fresh-fallen snow. We got several interesting fossils at the first ground. After luncheon we went to work at the upper beds at Bwlch-y-Gaseg, where we were unusually successful. Miss Sherriff was continually calling out that she was getting fat ones–that is large shells. We got Trilobites, shells and corals. Mrs. Sherriff sat sketching the distant view. They were very free, courteous and kind, and we got home well pleased with our trip, although it was a hard day’s work.
Just over eight years after their marriage, which was childless, Alexander died on the 8th February 1880 at the Robertson London family home in Lancaster Gate, leaving Annie a widow at 26. It is difficult to know how Annie spent the few remaining years of her widowhood. From Thomas’ journal of 1887 we can see that she spent some time on the Continent at Nice, and that her regard for Thomas and memory of his collections remained in her mind:
Tuesday the 29th [March 1887] Mrs. Sheriff, who has been staying at Nice for a time, very kindly brought me a Roman tear bottle; it is a small glass vessel bulb shaped, with a longish neck. Mrs Sheriff saw it dug up in a Roman cemetery at the town of Ventimiglia, in the north of Italy, and in the ancient province of Liguria. Many other curious articles were found in the same place.
The next mention of Annie is in March 1889 when she falls ill:
March Monday 4thMrs Sherriff ill, was at church yesterday, and in the garden with me on Saturday, but seems to have caught a chill.
Mrs. Sherriff very ill during the night, her old malady erysipelas has again got hold of her.
Sunday 10thMrs. Sherriff so very ill that I had to stop the turret clock. Everything done inside and outside the Hall to keep down noises.
Wednesday 13 Mrs Sherriff has been very ill day and night, Dr Waters of Chester and Mr Williams of Bala with her all night. Everybody about it very anxious about her, and great sympathy felt with Mr Robertson and all of them.
Wednesday, April 3 Mrs. Robertson told me that Mrs Sherriff was taken into Mr Robertson’s room, which is over entrance hall; she is now watched night and day by three nurses, who take it in turns. I am sorry to say that her mind seems to be unhinged.
Saturday the 20thMrs Sherriff taken to Eryl Aran near Bala I am sorry to say that she is no better; bodily she is, but mentally she is not. I put on the turret clock again after Mrs S. left here.
Sadly, in July Annie died at the private nursing home in Bala where she had been since her illness affected her mind:
Wednesday the 24th July Mrs Sherriff who has been unwell since her severe illness in March), died at Eryl Aran this morning at 3:30 o’clock. Mrs Sherriff has been of late much better, but was taken very ill two days ago, and suffered severely yesterday and during the night from suffocation with sore throat. We all deeply sympathise with Mr Robertson and his sisters, for they have had a large share of trouble since Mr Robertson died. Mrs Sherriff has been very confidential with me about their troubles, and ready to assist me in any way possible since I had to reduce the men. Mrs Sherriff also was ever ready to lend me books, and it was very pleased with my success in Natural History, and was at all times interested in any additions to my collection. Very few ladies were so talented as Mrs Sherriff herself, she had splendid abilities, and worked hard; painting being her special study, and at this she was very successful. I fear that she overworked her brain, and thought herself to an untimely end.
So Annie was buried at Llandderfel, a few months after her 34th birthday, and only just over a year after the death of her father. Thus it was with these two family deaths still fresh, that the young Henry Beyer Robertson had to plan and take responsibility for entertaining the Queen and her extensive household just five weeks later.
Despite living in a relatively remote area, Thomas was able to share his geological expertise with a range of people not only from Britain, but from across much of the northern hemisphere, thanks to the Chester Society for Natural Science, and its President Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes of Cambridge. The growth and efficiency of the railways expedited this intellectual exchange. Thomas also had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time.
After the close of the fourth International Geological Congress, held in London, delegates visited a number of areas of particular interest to geologists of the time, including North Wales. This led to a fortuitous opportunity for Thomas:
Saturday the 22nd[September 1888] I have been asked by the committee of the Chichester Society of Natural Science to meet the members of the International Geological Congress at the Conversazione in the Town Hall, Chester, on the 24thinst. The International Congress met in London this year and as the members were to make an excursion into North Wales, passing through Chester en route. The Chester Society’s Conversazione was fixed so as to suit the visit of the foreigners. As I was asked to take as many specimens of my Bala fossils as possible, I have been busy all week in arranging a selection from my collection.
Thomas travelled to Chester with his wife Frances, taking the opportunity of meeting his elder son Thomas ‘Tommy’ en route at Wrexham station. They were to stay at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Shrubsole, Mr. Shrubsole being an official of the Chester Society.
During the afternoon Mr Shrubsole went to the Town Hall with Frances and myself, and after a look over the room, I began to unpack. Francis helped me and I met my old friend Mr Williams of Blaenau Ffestiniog in the hall and he kindly assisted me. I found my specimens in fine order, just as I packed them. This space allotted to me was close to the seats set apart for the foreigners in the Assembly Room. After arranging my collection, I went to see the collection of Llandeilo fossils which Mr Williams brought; it was upstairs in the Ante Room. I met in with several of my old friends in the room set apart for the microscopes such as Mr. Siddall, Mr Shepheard, Mister G R Griffith and others all of whom I introduced to Frances.
We had tea at Mr Shrubsole’s, and then got ready for the Conversazione. We found the room very full of people, ladies and gentlemen. We went to look at the microscopic objects, many of their most beautiful and curious. There were rock sections, diatoms, fresh water Polyzoa, the Cristatella and Plumatella being especially beautiful. We saw a beautiful rotifer too, and cilia vibrating round the mouth, gave the object the appearance of having wheels rotating round the mouth.
Thomas and Frances looked closely various exhibits of insects, stuffed birds, etc. and Thomas introduced his wife to a number of his friends and acquaintances from the Society. Soon the main events of the evening commenced.
We next went to the Assembly Room, and got near my fossils during the speeches by the Chairman Mr Walker and others. The mayor in his robes was on the platform, accompanied by some of the foreigners the Countess Grosvenor and her husband, Mr Wyndham, Secretary to Mr Balfour, the chief secretary of Ireland. Some of the foreigners spoke a little in English. Prof Capellini, rector of Bologna University was the first, and was followed by Dr Hicks, then Prof Szabo, Buda Pesth (sic) spoke, and prof Lapparent of Paris gave an address in French. Mr C. D. Walcott F.G.S. from Washington gave a short address, and then prof D.K. Von Zittel of Munich gave us a short address in which he praised English hospitality. The Bishop, Dr Stubbs, gave a short but amusing address, in which he said he was an old fossil, he hoped the impression he would leave on the coal measures would be a pleasant one.
Among the international geologists whom Thomas met that night, undoubtably the most interesting and significant was Charles Doolittle Walcott (1850 – 1927) Walcott was in 1888 a member of the US Geological Survey. He was to become its director in 1894, President of the Geological Society of America in 1901 and Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 1910. Walcott’s primary interest was in the fossils of the Cambrian era (immediately underlying the eras of Ruddy’s main interest).
After the speeches, Mr Griffiths bought Mr Walcott and introduced him to me, and several of the foreigners were examining my fossils. Dr. Frech of Halle University was highly interested and told me my collection was beautiful and interesting. Mr Walcott and he said they never saw such a series of the Orthisena. In the midst of our examination the lights were turned down for a magic lantern exhibit of photographic scenes. This is stopped further examination. Dr F and Mr W wished they could come here and go over my collection quietly, for it was so crowded in the room that it was impossible to do much. Mr Walcott knew my American friend Prof. Brownell of Syracuse, New York State.
Walcott’s most significant discovery came in 1909 -1910 when he discovered the fossils of the Burgess Shale in British Columbia, Canada. He continued examining this area until his death in 1927. The fossils preserved here are some of the oldest examples of the the preservation of soft parts of organisms, whose full significance was only realised long after Walcott’s death.
We return to the year before the visit of Queen Victoria, and the months following the unexpected and regretted death of Thomas’ employer Henry Robertson. Fortunately, his son, Henry Beyer Robertson and his sisters were happy to follow their father’s precedent of encouraging Thomas in his geology and botany, and so in June 1888 Thomas fulfilled his promise to the Severn Valley Field Club to lead an expedition in the Dolgelly area. Unusually for his expeditions, there was bad weather to contend with, but Thomas and his group of amateur natural scientists managed to enjoy a successful, if curtailed expedition over two days.
Thomas was initially to meet his contact from the Society, Mr. Wanstall in Barmouth, and so took advantage of spending the first part of his day there with his wife and daughter.
Tuesday the twenty sixth [June 1888]. Francis and I went by the first train to Barmouth for the day. Some time ago I promised to Mr Wanstall, vicar of Condover, and secretary to the Severn Valley Field Club, that I would act as the guide to the members during a three days visit to the neighbourhood of Dolgelly; and as the members were to visit Barmouth first on this day, I promised to meet them there. I thought as I had to go that I might as well get Frances with me for an outing, and we took Francie with us to be a little companion.
I left my luggage at the Royal Ship Hotel at Dolgelly when passing in the morning. The tide was low when going, so that I could see the salt marshes covered with sea pink and other plants. I also saw the sea aster, and there were flocks of ducks very like teal ducks swimming on the estuary. I also saw the greater black backed gull, several curlews, the Shieldrake and other birds.
Frances and I went to the station to meet the 12.30 train, by which the Severn Valley people were to arrive. My friend Mr. Wanstall was very pleased to see me on the platform and then introduced me to the principal members of the club. I first met Mr. Wanstall at Dolgelly three years ago, when I acted as guide to the members of the Caradoc Field Club and Mr. Wanstall was one of the party. The most scientific members could not get to Barmouth but were to be at Dolgelly in the evening, so Mr Wanstall said the best thing I could do would it be to collect the interesting plants of Barmouth for the evening.
I parted with Francis and Francie at Dolgelly, they came home and I stayed with my friends at the hotel. We all dined together, and I was introduced to those who stayed at Dolgelly, namely Dr Callaway, the President, and the Reverend J A Panter, Vice President. I was very kindly treated by all of them, and we spent a very pleasant evening together. I had to name all the plants collected at Barmouth and also a few collected by Mr Panter at a Dolgelly. Mr Panter and the ladies tried to puzzle me with the flower of a potato which I named solanum tuberosum, which puzzled them in turn, for they did not know scientific name.
I was very pleased to have Mr Panther with me, for he was the best botanist I had the pleasure of guiding for some years. Dr Calloway has been devoting most of his time for a few years to the Precambrian rocks. I was very much delighted to be in his company, and he gave us a short address on the geology of the Wrekin and Cader Idris. Mr Hodgson Is also a geologist and FGS. We had five parsons with us namely Mr RC Wanstall, Rural Dean and Vicar of Condover, Mr. John Arthur Panter, Vicar of Saint Georges near Wellington, Mr Thomas Owen, vicar of Christ Church Wellington, Mr John Hodgson, rector of Kinver, Stourbridge, Mr R. Woods, Victor of Malinslee Shropshire. Dr Calloway has his title from Dr of science. Dr Calloway is so short stature (about 5 foot seven), sallow complexion, Dark hair, thoughtful, but has much quiet humour. Mr Wanstall, about same height, but full of talk and fun. Mr Owen, same height, full of wit and talk.  Mr Panter is about 5ft 9inches, very pleasant, amiable and a devoted botanist. Mr Hodgson, about same height, evidently a forcible character, and energetic. Mr Wood (the brother-in-law of Mr Wanstall) about 5‘8“ dark complexion, quiet and thoughtful. Mrs Wood, amiable and witty. Mr Knowles, very highly respected solicitor of Wellington, tall five ft 9 inches, bulky quiet but shrewd.
Wednesday the 27th The programme for this day was to go to the Torrent Walk, then onto Minfford, from here some of the ladies and gentlemen were to ascend Cader Idris under my guidance, those who did not wish to do mountaineering, were to go on to Talyllyn, and return the same way. But rain and mist stopped the Cader part of the programme. I got up early and went for a ramble up the lane leading to the abbey, and passing at the back of the mansion Hengwrt, but I only went to the top of the hill. It was a beautiful sunny morning, very warm and liked it to be fine, but appearances in the weather are deceptive.
Indeed, Thomas’ day was to be very much curtailed by rain, and although those of his party who wished to ascend Cader Idris were still hopeful of doing so, but Thomas had to dissuade them for safety reasons, and plan an alternative visit on lower ground.
It was about 10 o’clock before we started in two brakes. I sat on the box with Mr Wanstall on the first brake, and the others followed. We entered the Torrent Walk near Dolserau, and followed the stream, plant hunting and admiring the cascades and gorges till we arrived at the top; here it unfortunately began to rain, which rather upset our plans, but we pushed on to the Cross Foxes, and got out and had our luncheon there, so as to wait to see if the rain would ease. The rain kept on, and great masses of mist shrouded the tops and flanks of the mountains. There was a little sunshine, and as the rain got lighter, we again pushed on towards Talyllyn. It was pleasure hunting under difficulties, but we kept going. On passing the lake of the three pebbles, I pointed out the pebbles, which the Giant Idris cast from his shoes. The said pebbles are large angular fragments which had fallen from the neighbouring rocks, or else pushed down with the ice in early times.
The pass called Bwlch Llyn Bach is shut in on both sides with great bosses of rock, those on the south side being overhanging, and broken up into pinnacles and pillars. The rock is composed of columnar feldspathic ash, some of the overhanging masses seem to be almost detached. Going to the rain there were several pretty cascades gliding down the rocky masses and the rocks and Cader being partly shrouded in moving mist, had a curious weird-like appearance.
On arriving at Minfford, Those who were to ascend a Cader alighted and took bearings but I strongly stood out against the attempt, for it would have been madness, and indeed highly dangerous. I could never keep them together in the thick mist, and someone might fall over the rocks, and there would be no view from any part. The botanists were much disappointed, especially Mr Panter. There was nothing for it but to go on to the hotel at the outset of the lake of Talyllyn, so we went in the rain, skirting in the south margin of the lake until we got to Tyn-y-Cornel hotel. This is snuggly situated a short distance from the outlet, and at the base of a steep green sloping hill called Craig Coch. It is a plain rambling building, very much frequented by anglers, for whom every preparation is made. I saw five boats there, and there are long shelves in the room on which the rods, full mounted can be placed.
Thomas then explored Tallyllyn Church and churchyard, and as usual, found items of interest there.
Tallyllyn Church is just opposite Penybont, the stream dividing the hotel and church. The church is very plain, built of local shale, rock and the weather has eaten out all the mortar in the west end which allowed ferns and cotyledon to find root hold in the spaces between the stone courses. The Cotyledon was in flower, and nearly covered the end. There are two very curious Lytch gates covered over as usual, and having seats fixed on each side. The houses are few and far between in the district, but the churchyard is choked full of tombstones, which seems strange.
I copied the following from a memorial cross over the grave – “I will never leave nor forsake thee” Jenny Jones, born in Scotland, June 17 89, died Talyllyn April 11, 1884.She was with her husband of the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers at the Battle of Waterloo, and was on the field three days. Jenny Jones must have travelled much and must have witnessed many harrowing scenes; after all hardships and dangers go to her eternal rest quiet out of the way place like Talyllyn. There are slate slabs left into the churchyard wall in two places to form steps, so that access can be gained to it without unlocking gates.
After an exploration of a small part of the lake, the party headed for the warmth and dry of the Ship Hotel, where they spent a convivial evening.
Therain scarcely ever ceased, so we started for Dolgelly between three and 4 o’clock. It rained most of the way, so that we were glad to get to the hotel. We were rather wet, but after a change we sat down to an excellent dinner, which comforted us very much. Two English South Africans had dinner with us, and talked much about gold mining. They knew much about it, and were going to visit Mount Morgan or the Gwynfynedd mine on the following day. Both had gold bearing rock on their estates in the Transvaal, and as they were in England, on business, they wished to see the much talked about Mount Morgan mine.
After dinner all the Severn Valley folks returned to the drawing room, and were tolerably comfortable with a fire. Dr Calloway gave us an interesting Address on the geology of the Wrekin and Cader Idris, some business was transacted, and a vote of thanks giving to their late President who had resigned through illness. Dr Calloway very kindly referred to the valuable assistance I gave them. We spent a most agreeable and instructive evening together, and then retired to rest.
Thursday the 28th. I got up early as usual, found the South Africans at breakfast, so as to make an early start for the gold mines. It was after 8:30 before we had breakfast, and as the weather was still dull and threatening, we were slow and undecided about starting for the waterfalls and gold mine, this being our programme. I was asked by Mr Wanstall to have a look out and to decide about going. I concluded that the day would be tolerable, so the brakes were got ready and we started off at 10 o’clock.
We soon got up our spirits, the weather clearing up as we went on. We first pay it paid a visit to Cymmer Abbey as the Caradoc party did three years ago. ……..From the abbey we went straight to Tyn y Groes Inn. Some of us got out at Tyn y Groes and walked on, Mr Hodgson and Mr Panter walked on with me to Rhaiadr Ddu, got some plants on the way and saw the cascades. We got into the brakes again and went on to Pont yr Eden, here we all had to get out and walk to the gold mine and waterfalls. The distance is about 2 miles, but the route is so beautiful and interesting that we did not think the way long. We got to the gold mine at midday, or rather the gold mill; this is situated on the corner between the junction of the rivers Mawddach and Cain.
When I was there three years ago, the old crushing and washing works were all in ruins, now all was bustle, and there was going a large waterwheel, and all the machinery for crushing and washing the gold bearing rock. Perhaps the present buildings and machinery may be all in ruins in three years after this again. Such is the usual rise and fall of Welsh gold mining. We examined the machinery with a much interest, but we only saw three or four specks of gold, although we examined much quartz. The specks we saw were on a show block at the office door. We asked the men if they could show us any gold in courts; they said they never saw any, and one man said he thought Mr Prichard Morgan must be ‘salting’ the rock with foreign ore, for they could see none in the rock.
I next conducted the party to the foot of the beautiful cascade of Pistyll y Cain. The previous day’s rain made the Cascade much more beautiful than I ever saw it before. All of the members were delighted with it, and watched the foaming waters fall from the heights above into the deep dark pool at the bottom, and then rush on between walls of rock in an narrow passage until they united with the Mawddach. We next examined the Mawddach fall; this is not of much height, but there is usually a large volume of water, and there is a very deep and wide circular pool at the foot of the fall.
We next visited the hill where the gold quartz is found; here some levels are driven into the hillside, and the quartz is taken nearly a mile in trucks to tramway to the crushing mill, where it is crushed and washed. There were heaps of quartz about which we examined with much care, but we could only see a little lead and blende ore, and some iron pyrites, the latter was shining like gold, and would easily deceive any bad experts. We soon came to the conclusion that all was not gold that glittered. The mine has been so puffed in the principal London newspapers, and other journals, that it has quite set in a gold fever as it did some years ago, which many have rued, and no doubt many will rue investing in the present Gwynfynydd or Mount Morgan mine.
A mining “Captain” said to me once, there is gold in North Wales, just sufficient to tempt people to spend capital in working it, it will take 25 shillings to extract 20 shillings from the rocks. This is quite true. *(added later by TR) The late Sir W.W .Wynne said the same to the Rev CH Drinkwater of Shrewsbury as he told me, May 20, 1908
We had a pleasant drive all the way back to Dolgelly where we had a good luncheon, I had a chat with the South Africans in the hotel. They were pleased to see them mine, and said they went into the underground workings where they saw wonderfully rich gold, but still they had no great faith in the affair
.After luncheon, I assisted Mr Wanstall in preparing a report of the excursion for the Wellington Journal, and after that I arranged with him to send him some notes for a report for the Shrewsbury Chronicle. I dined with the members, and then prepared for returning home. One and all of them were most amiable and kind to me, and I felt quite at home with all of them. Mr Wanstall did everything he could for my comfort and hoped I did not find any of the party “starchy”.
I got home here safely and found all well, I had much pleasure from my outing. Mr Robertson and his sisters made many enquiries about my outing, and wished to know if I enjoyed myself. Indeed they were very kind to me over it all. I was indifferent about going until they strongly urged me to go, saying that as I seldom met educated people in this part, I ought to go as it would be a nice change for me.
It has been some weeks since I completed my ambition to publish Thomas Ruddy’s account of Queen Victoria’s visit to Palé in 1889. It was a great pleasure to make it happen and I was very pleased with the feedback and increased readership the posts attracted.
Regular readers will have noticed that it has been rather quiet on this site since the Victoria posts, but much has been happening away from the blog. Once again one of those happy coincidences which have kept me going in this work of transcription, research, and more recently blogging has spurred me on.
The most persistent theme in Thomas’ journals has been not the gardening which was his (very successful) career, but his hobby as an amateur geologist, and his increasing value as a researcher and fossil hunter, under the mentoring of Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes, Woodwardian Professor at Cambridge, and successor to Adam Sedgwick, after whom Cambridge’s geological museum is named. One of my greatest friends, a retired geography teacher, realised that a former pupil is now a member of staff at that very museum.
Links were made, plans put in place, and so in October my friend and I met up with her friend on the Sedgwick museum staff and two more of her colleagues. We were treated to a tour of the museum (well worth a visit if you are in Cambridge) and spent a happy hour talking about Thomas and his geology. I was delighted to know how much he is respected as a contributor to the collection, and that the journals have a potential place in their archive.
Finally, I was able to see some of the collection of fossils donated by Thomas. These come from some of the oldest rocks in the geological series, so are sometimes quite small or fragmentary. Expect to be impressed by their age, rarity and significance in the history of the dating and description of geological time rather than their glamour!
Having worked on transcribing, researching and recently publishing the journals for about 12 years, these little pieces of ancient rock affected me greatly – I found myself hovering between joy and tears.
Now I await a formal decision from the Museum’s archivist about whether they will accept the journals into the collection. The wear and tear (actually I have managed not to tear anything) on the journals as I transcribe them is causing some deterioration, so I need to place them somewhere where they can be properly stored quite soon. I’m waiting in hope for a positive response from the Sedgwick; I can’t think of anywhere better than the Museum planned and worked for by Thomas McKenny Hughes, Thomas Ruddy’s friend and mentor.