At 4.30 the Queen accompanied by the Princess Alix and Lady Churchill passed out at my house on the way to see Bala Lake. Mr. Savage told us to expect the Queen to pass out at the above time. Frances (TR’s wife) got the three little ones (Frances Harriet, Caroline Elizabeth and Amelia Agnes ) to stand in a group with Amelia in the middle on the table in front of the parlour bow window to see the Queen pass. The three were not close to the window for fear it might be offensive to Her Majesty, but they could easily be seen, and they looked a pretty group with their smiling faces. When the carriage was passing the Princess saw them and smiled at them, and then pulled the Queen by the sleeve so as to call her attention to them; when the Queen saw them she smiled at them and nodded to them very pleasantly. We all had a good view of her, and we thought it very gracious of herself and the Princess to take such notice of the children.
After tea, Frances took Henry as far as Tyndol for a walk, on returning the Queen’s carriage passed them, Frances bowed, and Henry touched his cap, Her Majesty acknowledged them by bowing to them. During the afternoon, Mr. Robertson told him the Queen had been talking with him in the morning, and that she asked him about me,and was very pleased to hear him say I came from Scotland. Mr. Robertson also said that when the Queen glanced at the fossils on entering the fruit room and before I got there, she remarked how very like an Ammonite my specimens of Lithuites were – a remark which shows Her Majesty has a good eye when looking at such things. Mr. Robertson also added that he was very pleased to see the Queen take such deep interest in my collection, and he said he did not think the Queen was much of a geologist but that she was certainly much interested.
At 6.30, Mr. Hugh Brown, Her Majesty’s Highland attendant came to me and giving me a small brown case, said “The Queen bid me give you this”, on opening it I found it to contain a very beautiful gold and pearl scarf pin. I was highly pleased with my present, and asked him how I was to thank Her Majesty, at which he said, “I am to do that for you, for I know the lassie gie weel.” I felt most grateful, and will all my life value it and treasure it as a precious relic, given to me by the best Queen who has occupied the throne of England for centuries, and perhaps the best that ever occupied it.
Hugh Brown was the brother of the more famous John Brown. See a letter from Queen Victoria to Hugh Brown here
Thomas left the scarf pin in his will to his eldest son by his second marriage, The Revd. Henry Ruddy. I do not know what then happened to it thereafter, but it was not amongst the objects left in the will of Henry’s only son Denys.
Her Majesty would have given it to me from her own hand if there had been time to do so, and I understand it is her usual custom to do so if at all convenient. The pin is heavy, of very good gold, horseshoe shape,* [*footnote Mrs. Wilson (Mr. Robertson’s sister) told me that the Queen is fond of giving horse-shoe articles, because it is thought they bring good luck] and is studded with nine large and beautiful pearls. It has quite a striking and handsome appearance. I learned from one of Her Majesty’s attendants that the Queen had been reading the chapter on the Silurian rocks of the Dee valley, which Mr. Darlington of Llangollen got me to write for insertion into his Guide to the Dee Valley. The queen remarked to the attendant that it was written by the gardener here, and added “And he comes from Scotland.”
Mr. Francis Clark told me that I got through my interview with the Queen very well, considering I came from Scotland! Both Highlanders are evidently valued and faithful servants of Her Majesty, and both were good natured and free in manners. Mr. Grant, a Queen’s Messenger was also very good nature, and so were nearly all the attendants.
Tuesday Evening At 9.30 we went to the station to take our places so as to witness the departure of the Queen and her suite. There were 400 or 500 persons present some of them from Bala. The Llanderfel choir were on the stand in their costumes, and had Chinese lanterns. Banners were everywhere to be seen, and when the time for the departure was near, the heather arch near the station was illuminated, but the wind was rather high for it to look well. All the houses in the village and neighbourhood were illuminated, which had a very pretty effect. On Moel Calch there was a bonfire which burned brightly and added very much to beautify the scene. A little before ten o’clock an outrider came up and shortly after theQueen came in an open carriage with the Prince and Princesses. The people were most enthusiastic and cheered loud and long and the Choir sang the National Anthem. The Queen bowed to the people and was evidently well pleased. The members of her household were also cheered, and when the Queen alighted from her carriage, she walked with the aid of the stick which she accepted from the Llanderfel people. There was a mottoe (sic) spanning the way to the train which said “Come again!”
The Royal train left the station two or three minutes past ten, the Queen put her head out at the carriage window and said “I Thank you all very much”. The people cheered again and again, the choir sang on until the Royal train went from sight, and nothing could be nicer than the whole scene, a scene which all can never forget. The loyalty and behaviour of the people could not be better, and after the Queen left, all dispersed quietly to their homes. Crowds of people cheered the Royal train at every station on the way to Chester.
‘I never expected to have the great pleasure of talking quietly with her face to face, and to have the pleasure of showing my collection to our beloved Queen was quite beyond all expectation.‘ This unusually lengthy passage details a moment which was certainly the highlight of the Queen’s visit for Thomas, and probably the highlight of his entire life.
After planting a tree in the garden, the Queen and Princess Alix proceed to the fruit room where encouraged by Dr. Reid the Queen makes a detailed and close examination of his fossil and mineral collections. Her question about the age of a bronze age axe has to bee seen in the light of the Darwinian controversy earlier in her reign, and the tension between church and science about the age of the Earth. The Queen’s question has to be seen as forensic, and Thomas’ reply as diplomatic! Her question about his origins in Scotland show that his accent even after so many years away from Jedburgh had remained Scottish. He certainly wasn’t going to divulge his Irish roots.
The Queen’s Journal mentions to inspection of the fossils only briefly. Since we are reading Princess Beatrice’s redaction of the original Journal it is not possible to say whether she mentioned Thomas. Beatrice was known to excise mention of the servants from her version of the Journal, thus diplomatically excising mentions of John Brown or the Munshi Abdul Hafiz.
Sir Theodore Martin called at Palé during the morning, and returned to Berwyn before luncheon. Colonel Wilson and Mr. Darby came from Brymbo accompanied by the heads of various departments at the steel works, exhibited specimens of ornamental steel to Her Majesty, and had specimens to illustrate the process of steel manufacture. Mr. Robertson went with them. Mr. Edwards of Trevor showed Her Majesty specimens of his TerraCotta (sic) Several others exhibited various articles.
The queen next wished to plant a tree in the grounds in memory of her visit; everything was ready and Her Majesty planted a Turkey Oak a little beyond the end of the lawn tennis ground. Her Majesty took one of the garden steel spades in her hand and with the help of Mr. Clark her Highland attendant put some fine earth on the root of the tree, and said ‘Shall I put a little more on it’. Her majesty was accompanied by the Princess Alix of Hesse (The Queen’s granddaughter ), Lady Churchill, Mr. Robertson and the aboveMr. Francis Clark. Mr. Cameron and I were present to see the ceremony, which was performed at quarter to twelve noon.
After the ceremony was over, the Queen asked which way she was to go next, so Mr. Robertson asked her if she would like to see the cromlech, the Queen said ‘Yes’ and added, ‘Anywhere.’ Mr Clark then led the pony ( the Queen had entered her pony carriage) along the lower walk under the Cromlech wood; the Queen walked from her little carriage to see the cromlech, and after the Queen was seated again, Mr. Robertson guided her to the end of the long walk, from which they then returned by the upper walk and crossed the lawn again as when going to the front of the Hall. From there, they came by the front, passing the gun room, until they arrived sat the little iron gate leading to the Lower, or fruit garden. Here the Queen got out to walk round the lower garden.
During the time the Queen was along the long walk, or “Queen’s Walk” as it ought to be called now, I went to get in the fruit for luncheon. I was coming from the upper or Kitchen garden when I was met by Mr. Francis Clark whotold me that I must come at once to go with the Queen around the garden. I followed Mr. Clark, and as the Queen by this time had got to the end of the walk leading to the conservatory. Mr. Clark and I went round the west end of the garden and past the conservatory to the store door; here Mr. Clark told me to stay until I was called; the Queen continued her walk until she got to the fruit room steps; here a halt was made as the Queen expressed a wish to go up into the fruit room to see my fossils etc. Dr Reid was in possession of it with the door open [TR’s footnote: I used to leave the key of the fruit-room on a nail for Dr. Reid to see the fossils at his leisure]; the doctor was near the door, examining the fossils, he told the Queen he was much interested in the fossils, and Her Majesty said ‘I fear you are more interested in the fruit than in the fossils.’ – This caused a laugh at the Doctor’s expense. The Doctor then came out and told the Queen it wasvery interesting up there – meaning the fruit- room. The Queen was then helped up the stone steps and Mr. Clark was at once sent back for me to go to explain the collection to Her Majesty.
On entering the fruit room, I found the Queen with her head down looking over the fossils; Mr Robertson was standing on the left by the door, Mr. Francis Clark on the right near the door, Lady Churchill in the north passage of the fruit room, and the Princess Alix standing at the end next the door of the south passage. The Princess looked straight at me, and as the Queen was stooping over the fossils, I bowed to the Princess, who nodded back. On the Queen raising her head, she looked at me, Mr. Robertson said, “This is the gardener,”and when I bowed the Queen nodded, and then said “These are very wonderful and must be very interesting,” and added, “Did you get these yourself?” I answered Her Majesty that I collected and arranged them all myself, then Her Majesty said, “Very nice” and continued examining the specimens. I pointed out to the Queen the arrangement of the various groups and their peculiarities, the Queen remarking as I went on “Yes, yes.”
I took up one of the tablets [TR’s footnote Echinospherites balticus]and showed the Queen the label on the back of it, which gives particulars of the locality where the fossil was found and other information. Her Majesty read the label slowly and carefully, and then said “Very nice”. When Her Majesty looked at my specimens of univalves or fossil snailshells, she remarked, “Wonderful, so natural”. Then Her Majesty asked me, “Are these from near here?” I told Her Majesty that they were to be found in various locations between Corwen and Bala, and that Bala was the typical district for Bala fossils, but they were also to be found near Llangollen. Her Majesty then said “This part must be rich in these”, and after a prolonged examination Her Majesty said “Very nice”.
The Princess [TR’s footnote Now Empress of Russia –Nov 1894] took up the tablet on which the gold quartz from Gwynfynydd or the Morgan minewas fixed, I told the Princess to take it to the door where the light was best, and then the Princess examined it carefully as I pointed out where the visible gold was to be seen. The Queen was much interested in it, and when I told Her Majesty that it was from the Morgan mine near Dolgelly, Her Majesty gave me a nod and smiled very knowingly, as much as to say plainly “All that glisters is not gold.” In fact the mine has been so puffed that people are distrustful of it. [TR’s footnote (it was a failure afterwards)]
The Princess Alix then called the attention of Her Majesty to my flint flakes, stone hatchets bronze hatchets, etc. Her Majesty took up the bronze hatchet or Celt in her hand, examined it, read the label on it, and asked me if it was found near here, I said it had been found on the estate, then Her Majesty took it between her fingers, and looking at me closely and straight in the face said “Can you tell me the age of this?” I at once answered “I think that is beyond man’s knowledge, Your Majesty,” and as I said this I looked full into Her Majesty’s face, which was only half a yard from mine; Her Majesty still looking into my face said, “Well, I suppose it is.”
After that the Queen seemed to have finished her inspection of the fossils,and as she was standing looking round at the room, Lady Churchill told her Mr. Robertson wished her to have a peach; Her Majesty said “Not now” [TR’s footnote; When the queen was inspecting the fossils and chatting, she was at her natural ease, but stood dignified when talking ofthe fruit.] and then added “You have very fine peaches and grapes here,indeed, very fine fruit.”
When the Queen prepared to go down the steps again, her pug dog went to get down, but seemed afraid to go, and stood whining on the top step. Her Majesty then said to Mr. Clark the Highland attendant “Carry him down carefully,” and then smiling and looking at all of us said, “He has the rheumatism and cannot well go down.” Then when Her Majesty was being helped down the steps, Mr. Robert son told me to go before and open the hot house doors for Her Majesty. The Queen looked into the forcing houses but was afraid to go through for the heat, then she walked slowly and stiffly along the back of the forcing houses until she got to the end of the peach house, here she stopped to admire a beautiful border of penstemons in full bloom; then she walked slowly after me through the peach-house, remarking to the Princess when she saw the peaches caught in nets, “That is very nice”, then through the conservatory, and on getting into the vinery, Her Majesty looked at me in the face and said, “I suppose this is a good country for fruit and flowers.” I said it was very fair.
We got out at the west door of the vinery, and then past the flower border in which grew Love-in-a-mist, Victoria asters,salpiglotis, gladioli, Rockets, Dahlias, and sunflowers next the wall. Then past the narrow flower border, in which grew dwarf chrysanthemum, asters, peony asters and African marigolds. Her Majesty admired the flowers, and stopped when she got near the west entrance gate to admire the iron palisade which was almost hidden with flowers, consisting of clematis, scarlet and yellow nasturtiums, the yellow creeper Tropaeolum Canariense, and the Tropaeolum Speciosum. The whole had a striking and beautiful effect, and as Her Majesty looked at it, she called the attention of the Princess Alix to it and said, “Isn’t that beautiful,” and then said as she pointed to the Tropaeolum Speciosum “That is a pretty little red plant.”
When Her Majesty got seated in her pony carriage, she turned to me and said “What part of Scotland do you come from?” I said “From Jedburgh,Your Majesty,” at which the Queen remarked to Lady Churchill, “That is near Floors” (Floors Castle, Kelso), Lady Churchill said “It is”, then the Queen said looking at me again “I have been there”, and I said “And to Jedburgh too Your Majesty”, the Queen at that nodded to me and said “Yes”. Then she said “I do not wish to get out again”.
Mr. Robertson then told me to go on before and tell the stable keepers to open the stable doors so that the Queen could look in. When the pony carriage was led past the doors, Her Majesty said “I see they are very nice.” After that the Queen continued her out past my house, and went down the road to see the laundry, and the other houses there, and returned up the drive to the Hall. I left at the gate here as I wished to finish getting the fruit. Mr. Robertson signalled to me the time to leave. I left my hat near the outside of the fruit room door when I entered, and went afterwards round with the Queen without it. Mr Robertson did the same.
When I went to the Queen in the fruit room, I felt nervous, but Her Majesty’s very pleasant way of speaking to me, and her kind manner eased me very much. Indeed, her manner was simplicity itself. Her way of speaking was in short sentences, and like stout people with a little difficulty. The queen evidently wished me to feel at ease, for she looked pleasantly at me and spoke very kindly to me.
Before Her Majesty came to Palé I was wondering if it would be possible for me to get a good look at her, but I never expected to have the great pleasure of talking quietly with her face to face, and to have the pleasure of showing my collection to our beloved Queen was quite beyond all expectation. To me certainly it was a Red Letter Day, and I fully appreciated Her Majesty’s kindness in honouring my collection with a visit.
The Queen is under middle height, has a very full round face very stout, and hair grey. She wore a dress having black and grey stripes, a black mantle with a fringe to it. Her hat was large, of boat shape, with white flowers in front. When walking she took short steps and walked stiffly, from the effects of her rheumatism, I expect. I was pleased to see the great interest Her Majesty took in everything.
When I went back to the fruit room for my hat, I found Dr. Reid inspecting my collection again, as soon as he got Her Majesty away he went back again, and there I left him as I wanted something to eat. Mr. Minshall of the Oswestry Advertiser was in my house waiting for me to get particulars of my interview with the Queen, but I declined to say more than that her Majesty inspected my collection with much interest.
After the Queen had luncheon, Mr. Evan Morris, Mayor of Wrexham, arrived at Palé and was knighted by Her Majesty. Sir John McNeill handed his sword to Her Majesty, and as Mr. Morris knelt on his right knee, Her Majesty touched him on both shoulders with the sword, and addressing him as Sir Evan Morris, commanded him to rise. Sir John Puleston also came to Palé and was presented to the Queen by Mr. Raikes. Mr. Raikes left during the afternoon. I only saw Mr. Raikes when he was with the Queen at the dog trials; he was very tall, stout and full-faced.
For Thomas, the main event of the morning was the opportunity to show several senior members of the Queen’s household his fossil collection. Sir Henry Ponsonby, Sir John McNeill and Dr. Reid seem to have been interested in the well displayed collection which Henry Beyer Robertson had asked him to display during the visit. See here for the Royal Household
Princess Beatrice and Prince Henry had an eventful visit to a coal mind during the morning, descending to the coal face, hewing a piece of coal each, and setting off an electrical charge. Meanwhile the Queen’s morning began with her marking with sadness the birthday of her late husband. “This dear dear day, spent for the 27th time without my darling Husband, the light of my life.” A carriage ride up the hill road behind Palé towards the Berwyn mountains, providing her with good views may have lightened her mood. Thomas found a number of interested people arriving at his house to get a view of the Queen.
Monday the 26th. There was nothing very particular going on until breakfast was over. At 10.30 Prince Henry, the Princesses, the Hon. Harriet Phipps & Major Bigge in attendance, left here in the Royal train for Ruabon to go a coal pit. The carriage of Major Evan Morris (Mayor of Wrexham) was waiting at the station and took them to the Winnstay Colliery, half a mile away. At the coal pit they put on dust cloaks and caps,the gentlemen put on overalls. They were accompanied in the descent by Major Morris, chairman of the colliery, the engineer, the underground manager, Sir W. Wynn, and others connected with the colliery. They were pushed along in tubs for about five hundred yards, and on getting to the coal, each cut out a piece with a pick; afterwards the Princess Beatrice fired a shot by electricity to bring down some coal, and then the party returned to the surface. They kept the pieces of coal they got out as trophies, and were well pleased with their visit. The miners, above and below the surface cheered them heartily. The Royal party got back here in time for luncheon.
A good drawing of Princess Beatrice hewing coal, originally from ‘The Graphic’ here (not available on this page for copyright reasons)
At 11.20, the Queen, attended by Lady Churchill, went out at the gate by my house for a drive over the Berwyn road.When the queen passed my house, she took a good look at itso that we had a close and full view of her. My friend Mr. Robinson of Shrewsbury came into my house to see the Queen pass, and three ladies from Bournemouth (the Misses Hull) friends of Mrs. Roy asked to come in too so as to have a view of the Queen. They were all satisfied, for they had an excellent view of her. Mrs. Roy (Mrs. Robertson’s sister) lives near the Misses Hull at Bournemouth, and as they were coming to Bala, Mrs.Roy told them to come to me and I would be sure to show them all there was to be seen at Palé. They came to me three or four times last week, and their great ambition was to see the Queen in her pony carriage anywhere in the grounds. They are ladies pretty well in years, and as they made themselves agreeable, I did all I could for them, but they could not see the Queen in her pony carriage. The Misses Hull took much interest in my collection of fossils and other objects of interest. They told me that Mrs. Roy often talked about me, so that in name I was no stranger to them.
The two Highlanders accompanied the Queen in her carriage, but no other guards or attendants. Mr. Robertson went up the hill on foot and met the carriage at the head of the old lane at Wernol, there he was taken into the carriage and sat with the Highlanders, and then he acted the guide to the Queen. They went to Palé stables on the hill near Pontcwmbedw; here the Queen had a good view of all the Berwyn heights, the valley ofLlandrillo and a retrospect view of the hills north and west ofBala. On the return journey the Queen had a distant view of Snowdon, the Moelwyns at Festiniog and a very pleasant view of the valley of the Dee from Llanderfel to Bala. The route for two miles went through a wild moorland, covered in heather in full bloom. Palé mill is the only roadside dwelling all the way from here to where the Queen went, and indeed for three or four miles further. The distance from here to Palé grousing stables is 3 and a quarter miles.
At Mr. Robertson’s request I laid out my collection of fossils in the fruit room, which is a well-lighted and convenient place to display it. I arranged the fossils into groups, according to their natural divisions. The fossils are mounted on little wooden tablets,
covered with blue paper, so that when spread out there is nothing to be seen but the blue surface, the fossils, and the labels with the names. On the back of each tablet there is a label to give the exact locality of the fossil and other information about it. The arrangement of the collection has a pleasing and effective appearance, and as most of the specimens are good, even those who know little or nothing of geology usually take an interest in the collection.
The kinds of fossils that would have been displayed in Thomas’ collection.
Mr Robertson told Dr. Reid that I had a well known collection, and the Doctor said he wished to inspect it. I got out several other objects of interest, such as visible gold in quartz from the much vaunted Mount Morgan or Gwynfynydd gold mine at Dolgelly, a fine bronze celt found on Palé estate, two stone celts from Antrim, Ireland, flint arrowhead from near Arenig, flint flakes from Bala Lake. I also had a geological map of North Wales, books on geology and the local Natural History of the district. I did not display all my local fossils, but the selection covered a space ten feet in length and two feet in width.
After the Queen went out for a drive, I had the pleasure of conducting General Sir Henry Ponsonby and General Sir John McNeill over the gardens and hot houses, and also of showing them my fossils and the other objects laid out. Both gentlemen were most surprised at the extent of my collection and took much interest in all I showed them. The gold quartz was of much interest to them, and Sir Henry asked me to point out on the map the situation of the Mount Morgan gold mine. They were very chatty and of pleasant manner, so that I felt quite at ease with them.
Sir Henry is very tall, six feet or over, Sir John about 5 ft 8 to 5ft 9. I gave Sir John a peach when leaving the fruit room. Sir Henry said he never ate fruit in the morning. Dr. Reid and I had a minute inspection of my collection and I gave him much information about them. Dr. Reid took special interest in the various groups, and examined them with care. I left the key of the door in a place where he could find it at any time, and he said he would go and look over the collectiuon whenever he had time.
The Queen returned from the Berwyns at half past twelve o’clock; when passing my house, we had another good view of her as she looked at the creepers on the house when passing. The pretty scarlet Tropaeolum speciosum was well in bloom, and much admired by everybody.
Thomas was regularly leading field expeditions for local natural history societies, particularly the Chester Society for Natural Science. He offered expert knowledge on both geology and botany, but no doubt commented on birds as well, as this was another of his studies. His reputation as an expedition guide was obviously growing, and in 1887 he was approached by the most distant group yet, and set out to plan a comprehensive programme for late June of that year which would involve the Palé family, as the Robertsons were to offer tea and a tour of the Palé gardens led by Thomas as part of the programme.
Saturday the 21st [May 1887] Mr Wilkins, solicitor, Uttoxeter, came to see me so as to make arrangements for a visit of the North Staffordshire field club to visit Bala, etc. He wanted me to be their guide, and to make out a programme for him. He had tea with us, and we enjoyed his visit very much. I met him at the station and saw him off by last train to the Lion, Bala, to make arrangements for the excursion.
By chance or arrangement, Frances Ruddy and the small children visited their Grandmother, Frances Williams, in London at the time of the expedition, thus a letter to Frances describing the expedition is also preserved amongst the pages of the journal.
The North Staffordshire Field Club visit Day 1
Thursday the 23rd The members of the North Staffordshire Field Club came to see my fossils, and to see over the gardens. I had a telegram at 4 o’clock from Bala to say a start would be made for Palé at 4:40. At 5:15, seven work and it’s full of ladies and gentlemen arrived (41 in all) .
My friend Mr Wilkins who sent me the telegram from Bala soon came to me and after introducing me to some of the leading members, Such as the President, Dr Arlidge and the Secretary the Rev Thos W Daltrey of Madeley Vicarage Newcastle Staffs. I took them through the upper garden, and pointed out my hardy ferns and interesting plants. We crossed the road and went to the lawn in front of the dining room where Mr and Mrs Robertson and family were in waiting to receive the party. After I introduced the leader (Mr Wilkins) President, & Secretary, they were all asked to partake of tea and other refreshments in the dining room, and act which was highly appreciated. The young ladies attended to their wants, and Mr Robertson and his son were most attentive and kind to them. Mrs. Robertson being an invalid could do nothing but chat to them.
They went round the grounds, so the so-called cromlech, the tumulus in the park, and as I had my fossils arranged in the front room etc. I had the most interesting plants of our district also ready for their inspection. My fossils rather took them by surprise, although their programme called it “most extensive and unique collection “. The plants pleased and very much, and they freely took specimens with them. My collection of birds’ eggs was also examined with much interest, and my ancient weapons too came in for close inspection. Mr Harry Robertson kindly assisted me to show the collections. A vote of thanks was given to Mr Robertson, and the party left at 7:40, highly pleased.
The involvement of the whole Robertson family in this visit is quite remarkable, and demonstrates the close relationship and trust between the family and their Head Gardener.
The North Staffordshire Field Club visit Day 2
The main objective of the party’s second day was the site of the construction of the reservoir to be known as Lake Vyrnwy, involving the inundation of the village of Llanwddyn. They were joined by some members of the Chester Society for Natural Science. Thomas had previously visited the site and made himself known to the construction manager, Mr. Bickerton.
A very clear series of photographs of the construction of the dam which well illustrate Thomas’ description can be found here:
It is notable that included in the visit was Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes of Cambridge, Thomas’ mentor in his practical research of the Bala fossils. Professor Hughes had connections with both the Chester Society for Natural Science and the North Staffordshire Field Club, and had probably recommended Thomas as guide for the expedition.
Also of interest is the inclusion of a number of ladies, mainly the wives of members, in the expedition. We can imagine these ladies, clad in voluminous long skirts and laced boots, and wearing hats (as shown in photos of the era) gamely clambering over the enormous construction site.
Friday, June 24 Having to act as one of the guides or leaders to the members of the North Staffordshire Field Club and over 50 of the members of the Chester Society of Natural Science, I left here by the 9.10 train. I met with the Chester folks at our station, and got into a carriage with Mr Siddall, Mr Shepheard, Mr Newstead, Mr Lucas et cetera. At Bala I had a chat with Mr and Mrs. George Dixon (Mayor and Mayoress of Chester last year) Mr Shone, Prof. Hughes and Mrs. Hughes, and several others of my Chester friends. Prof Hughes was to act as Guide with me.
I went in the same carriage as Mr Wilkins, Dr. Arledge, Rev. T.W. Daltrey, and Miss Ashdown. It was very warm and dusty most of the way, but all of the party enjoyed their ride, and were delighted with the scenery along the route. There was not much time for geology, but we found several interesting plants; the most interesting to me what’s the Geranium sylvaticumin full bloom. Mr. Siddall has botanised a very great deal of North Wales but he never saw the plant before, and it was new to the other botanists of the party.
We had lunch in the village [Llanwddyn, the vilage later drowned under the Vyrnwy Reservoir – ed. ], and on getting to the works we were taken in tram cars to the quarries, where a short address was delivered to the party by the resident engineer, Mr Deacon. There are three or four managers and to him, my old friend Mr Bickerton being one of them. Mr Bickerton had a few fossils to show me, which had been found in the quarries.
After we saw the quarries, we were taken in the tram cars to the embankment, over which most of us walked. It was a rough walking, as it was in an unfinished state, but the managers and Mr Deacon did all they could to assist us. I helped Mr. Dixon to get Mrs. Dixon over it. The plans of the embankment were explained to us, and indeed we had every facility to see and understand the gigantic works. The Chester members went over Bwlch y groes to Llanwuchllyn, but I returned to Bala with the Staffordshire people. We returned from the works by the new road along the south side of the valley. I saw the white and yellow waterlilies growing in the stream in the valley. We passed close to Eunant Hall, a small shooting box, which will be almost covered with water when the valley is drowned.
The Garden House about 1872/3. Thomas, first wife Mary and Thomas Alexander
Thomas’ collections continued apace, comprising not only fossils, but antiquities, coins and probably birds’ eggs. The Garden House at Palé although spacious for its time, with two adults and 4 children from William aged 15 to Caroline aged 2, a live-in servant and another child expected in September of 1887 must have been bulging at the seams.
Not only was Thomas collecting for himself, but others in the area, including members of the Robertson family were keen to add to his treasures:
Tuesday the 29th [March 1887] Mrs. Sheriff [Formerly Annie Robertson – an early widow – ed.] 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. It is 2 1/2 inches high, and 1 1/2 inches across the bulb. Length of neck 1 1/2 inches and the bulb is 3 1/4 inches in circumference.
Thomas himself rarely returned from a ramble without something to add to one or other collection. Some finds were more unexpected than others:
Tuesday the 31st [March 1887]. I went to Garnedd in the evening. I picked up an unfinished stone hammer on the wall in one of the fields belonging to Pandy farm, the field in which is situated and old lime kiln, close to the Hernant Stream. It had been ploughed up in a potato field, and was placed on the wall as a curiosity. It is in the rough, but is drilled for some depth from each side, the drilling being quite sharp.
Recent information shows that this hammer or ‘mace’ eventually ended up in the National Museum of Wales, having been presented with other finds by Thomas’ son Henry. This is known as ‘The Ruddy Collection’.
From ‘A History of Merioneth’ Vol 1 Bowen & Gresham MHRS 1967
In May 1884 another baby was born to Thomas’ growing family:
Sunday, May 18th Baby born at 7:50 o’clock. Her name is to be the same as her mother Francis Harriett, and it will include part of her grandmother’s name. All passed over very well and Mrs Williams was here at the time. Mrs. Owen came to the rescue shortly after until nurse arrived. Doctor arrived at 7:10.
For reference to her grandmother, Harriott Pamplin, neé Dench, see here
Mrs. Owen was the Housekeeper at Palé and was to become Godmother to baby Frances Harriett. This suggests how closely the staff and the family of the ‘big house’ were concerned with the Ruddy family. Their assistance would have been essential to enable Thomas to carry on as widowed father after the death of his first wife, Mary. He appeared to able to go on with his work, natural history and geology expeditions and in due course court, marry and go on honeymoon with his second wife whilst the three quite young children of his first marriage were adequately cared for. The Welsh census returns of each decade also show a living in general maid at the Garden House.
I have not been able to get the dimensions of the Garden House at Palé; it is a substantial house, but by 1884 was becoming well-populated. With Thomas and his wife, there were the three children of the first marriage, Thomas Alexander (15), William Pamplin (12) and Mary Emily (11) The eldest son of the second marriage, Henry Ernest was 2, there was the new baby, the live-in servant Jane and Mrs. Williams, Frances’ mother, was staying with them.
Thomas’ ever increasing collections must have needed a growing amount of space, and as is clear from an entry later in 1884, there were always people anxious to come and see them, even with a very new baby in the house:
Friday 30th May Mr and Mrs Aitken of Urmston Manchester came to see my fossils. Mr Aitken is president of the Manchester Geological Society. He was with the party I acted as a guide to last year and who went to Llanwydden. He examined my collection very minutely and was very pleased to see it. He said he never thought to see such a fine collection of Bala fossils although he was told I had a good one.
His wife was a very affable lady and enjoyed herself with Francis and Mrs Williams. They came by the 5.20 train and went to Bala by the last from here as they were going to stay at the Lion Hotel. I met them at the train and we had tea ready for them of which they willingly partook. I gave him some nice Bala fossils and went to the station with them after they saw the garden.
Thursday, June 19 Major K. McKenzie of the Indian staff Corps brought his wife and daughter to see my collections. They were very much interested in the fossils, birds eggs, dried plants, minerals and coins. The lady was much interested in the plants as she is a botanist. They were here an hour and a half and wished they had more time to stay. They were very much surprised to see such very interesting collections, and they repeatedly said they wished they had made my acquaintance long before. I showed them the circulation of the sap in the Nitella and other interesting things under the microscope. They were very pleasant and affable, enjoyed their visit and wished they could come again but they leave Bodwenni for Llandudno on Monday.
Thomas was a loving and quite hands-on father by contemporary standards, recording events in the progress of his new daughter:
June 1 Whitsun Day Francis came downstairs to have dinner for the first time since baby was born. Monday 9th Francis and baby out for first time.
Sunday the 15th Baby was christened at Llanderfel church by Reverend William Morgan. Mr Pamplin was Godfather and Mrs Owen an old friend was Godmother. [Mrs. Owen, Housekeeper at Palé Hall. ed.] Mrs. Williams was at the ceremony. Name – Frances Harriett Ruddy.
Thomas, however was not to be deterred from his lengthy expeditions, which seem to have been essential to his well-being as a busy Head Gardener and devoted husband and father.
Thursday, June 12 I left here by the 9.10 train for Arenig station to have a ramble along the railway down Cwm Prysor Valley.
I got to Arenig by 10 o’clock and at once started up the line past Pont Rhydefen and the north end of Arenig. It was very warm and fine; the cuckoos were calling to one another, the larks  were singing merrily above me as I passed along; and the Riverside meadows were blue and white with wild hyacinths and daisies. The only interesting plant I saw until I got to the little lake of Tryweryn was the globe flower.
I walked along the south side of the lake where I saw plenty of the yellow waterlily I found the Isoetes and Littorella lacustris but no Lobelia or any other interesting plant. No shells. At Nant-du, not far from the lake, I examined an old lead mine, which was abandoned about 10 years ago. It was in the Llandeilo slates, had to shafts, some buildings, machinery, and a water wheel. I saw no minerals but as the debris consisted of fine slates I could hardly expect to find any.
I got on the line a little beyond the lake and examined the various rock cuttings through which I passed. I found plenty of Lingulas in the Lingula slates between the lake and viaduct. The Lingula shales between the lake were much iron stained and  I saw many thin veins and patches of iron pyrites. I saw the junction of the Lingula shales with the igneous rock, but they did not alter in the least, and the shales lay conformably upon the igneous which was distinctly bedded under them or at least seen so. I shall give sections of the rocks at the end of the account of the day’s rambling. I saw a pair of golden plovers on the moors and several sandpipers along the mountain streams.
I crossed the viaduct which is 12 1/2 miles from Bala and 13 1/2 from Ffestiniog at 10 minutes plus past 12 o’clock; it was then very warm but not at all oppressive as the mountain air seemed to be so bracing. The viaduct is very substantially built a variety of Felstone ash which was quarried on the mountain about one of the half miles distant. It consists of nine arches the middle arches being 100 feet in height. It spans a small stream called Nant Lladron, which runs down and narrow but deep treeless dingle. This structure is the second built as the first fell when nearly finished. I found a ring ouzel’s nest with five eggs about 12 3/4 miles from Bala and some nice crystals of feldspar at the same place.
I had a rough walk over a fearfully rough ballast; which was made up of rough lumps of igneous rock. I went through several rock cuttings where the igneous rocks were distinctly interbedded with Lingula shells, sometimes A bed of igneous would be between two beds of shale without altering either the dip or character of the shales.
I got to a large overhanging mass of igneous rock at a 1:45 o’clock; it was a fine mass and partly overhanging the rails. The line between this rock and the fire that is over and most difficult ground, as it runs along the side of a rocky slope all the way. The rocks stand high above it and the sides sloping down from eight of us, rocky, and strewn withrocky fragments. I found the Arabis hirsuta and the Hypericum androsemum on the big rock.  I saw several frames of quartz rock, but could not see any metallic veins. One quartz vein seemed to be auriferous, but I could not detect any visible specks. A little beyond the big rock is an isolated mound called Castell Prysor. I got onto it at 2:10 o’clock. The mound is certainly an ordinary mound like many others in Wales, and which are nothing else but sepulchral mounds. It is entirely made up of loose fragments of rock and earth; there is no masonry of any kind. Two openings were made into the side of it, but were not deep enough to find sepulchral remains. It was placed on a rocky bus of hard igneous rock, overlooking the river Prysor, and not far from the old road leading from Bala to Trawsfynydd. The mound is about the size of the Bala one.
At 2:30 o’clock I’ve got to a little lake short way from the line; it is called on the map Llyn-rhythllyn. (in a later hand – Distributed perch in it Jany 1898)  I was tired and thirsty so that I sat down on the stone which stood in the water at the side of the lake and began to eat for the first time since breakfast. It was very pleasant as there was a breeze blowing over the lake and the cool water was so refreshing. Before eating I washed my hands and face. While sitting on the stone I saw a leech about 4 inches in length. I saw plenty of Lobelia and Isoetes in this lake with the Littorella and a bit of Utricularia floating about. I saw freshwater sponges, could not find a single shell.
The lake is oblong, about a mile long and half a mile broad. It was shutting by local grassy hills, but no trees. I saw some little fish run away from the side, and I was told by a friend that there are perch in it, but I think I have read somewhere about char being in it. About half a mile from the lake I left the line and got into some upland pastures where I found several fine patches of the pretty little Mountain everlasting Antennaria dioica. Near it grew a plant of the Gymnadenia orchis and quantities of the beautiful Vicia orobus which is so plentiful in Merioneth.
I got onto the road leading from Trawsfynydd to Bala at a farm house called Glanllafarwhere I cross the stream on the slab of stone 12 feet in length and another half that. The stream must be the Llafar as GlanLlafar means on the side of the Llafar. Shortly after I passed by a ditch full of water and sphagnum where I found the Utricularia again.
I got to Trawsfynydd station at 4:10 o’clock. The country between Arenig and Trawsfynydd is not of much interest; a good part of it is wild moorland, and the sides of the Prysor river is wild rocky and treeless on the other side. There are a few farm houses down the valley, with patches of cultivation, but the most of it is pasture.
When I got to Trawsfynydd station I pushed on to try and get to Tomen y Mûr but ongetting halfway I found it would be too much for me as it was very warm and all uphill, so I turned back by the old road called Sarn Helen to the village of Trawsfynydd entering it by the north end at Pencarrig Street. I saw a nice row of houses with the fronts nearly covered with Cotoneaster Microphylla in bloom. The village is a large one with good houses, some shops, four chapels, and a good hotel called the Cross Foxes.
The church is in a very bad situation at the back of some old houses; it is very low roofed with square headed windows, and is like two churches built along side of each other with a gutter in the roof between them. It is dedicated to St Mary. I had a glass of ale in the Cross Foxes which was a very nice house and a very obliging landlady.
In my wanderings about I met a friend, Mr John Morris Jones, builder there. He very kindly took me to his house and got tea ready for me, which I much enjoyed as I was thirsty and tired. I stayed with him till train time. He told me that Llyn-rhythllyn and most of the land in Cwm Prysor and on to the Arenig belongs to Sir Watkin W. Wynn and that he owned most of the property about the village. He also told me that Trawsfynydd was a very important little place before the coast railway was made round by Barmouth and Harlech as all the traffic was from Dolgelly through Trawsfynydd and the village of Maentwrog into Carnarvonshire.
I had a very fine views of the mountains from near the village. The Arenig on the east then kept it address in the west then Llawlech, Llether, Rhinog-fach Rhinog-fawr Y Graig Dwg and Diphusys in the north-west. I could see the mountain pass called Bwlch Drws between Rhinog fawr and Rhynog-fach. Moel Siabod and the Moelwyns shut out the north. The village of Trawsfynydd is said to be situated at a greater altitude than any village in Wales.
Throughout the summer Thomas records several further expeditions in some detail. It is clear that as well as searching for fossils, Thomas has become very interested in botany, and records here some of his plant finds.
Huw Lloyd’s Pulpit, oil on panel by James Stark, 1794-1858 from the collection of the V &A Museum. Visited and climbed by Thomas in June 1883
Thomas Ruddy, at age 41 was very well settled in the Bala area. He was obviously trusted by his employers the Robertson family, was well- known in the area and beyond as a naturalist, geologist, judge of local produce and leader of geological and scientific expeditions. It would seem that by the year 1883 the man and the landscape he inhabited were at one.
He was the father of four children, three by his late first wife Mary, and a new baby son with his second wife Frances Harriet. His friendship with the eminent naturalist and former London bookseller William Pamplin and his second wife Margaret was warm and firmly established. Thomas had in effect become that ‘gentleman’ he dreamed of being when he first chose gardening as his profession.
The Journal entries for the year reflect the settled state of Thomas’ life as he entered his middle years. Even the harsh conditions of the winter and their effect on the garden could not disturb his equilibrium.
April 1st, Sunday. Nothing particular to mention, except the weather so far. It was changeable all January, very fine most of February, but exceedingly cold nearly the whole of March. The wind was piercingly cold, there was a lot of snow, and hard frost –culminating in 19 ½ deg. on Saturday 10th. Nearly 15 inches of snow fell during the month. It was the coldest March I ever remember. A good many things were injured by it in the garden and
As the weather became warmer, geology expeditions continued as usual:
May 22nd I went geologizing to the hills and mountains above Cynwych [SJ 056 411] It was a very warm day so that I was very tired on getting home. I took particular note of the beds on the ridge of the Berwyns between the two roads going over the Berwyns south of Moel Ferna – I brought home some good fossils.
May 30 (Wednesday) I had a short time at my hunting ground near Gelli Grin where I found a starfish, and the first so far perfect I ever found so that I was highly pleased.
Saturday June 2nd I went to Rhosygwaliau, from there to Caerglas, then along the ridge to Cornilau, from there to Brynbedwog, from there to Gelli Grin, and then home. I had a very fine day and found some good fossils, among which was a rolled up Homalonotus
Via Wikipedia Image by smokeyjbj
On a June 5th Mrs Williams, Frances Harriet’s mother arrived to stay for five weeks, in order to make the acquaintance of her new grandson. A number of excursions were undertaken, among them this expedition to Ffestiniog by rail and foot. Once again we see Thomas very accomplished and lively writing style.
In July the family took advantage of the growing availability of photography to record the arrival of the new baby:
Tuesday July 3rd Frances, Mother, baby and I went to Llangollen by the 9.35 train. The principal object in going was to have baby photographed. After he got “taken” we had some refreshments, and after that we set out for the top of Castell Dinas Bran. The donkey boys made several efforts to get us to patronise them, and a ragamuffin of a girl offered to sing us a song either in Welsh or in English for a halfpenny. After that an old lady offered to sell us guide books. It was a very warm day so that we found it no easy climb, but by repeated rests and I carrying baby we got up all right. It was the first time for Mother to be on top, and it was good work for a lady of 75 years of age. The ladies had a good long rest while I explored the hill and the ruins in search of plants, but I got nothing new…
We are left with a charming portrait of a day out for a late Victorian family in Mid Wales, but sadly the baby photograph is not to be found – perhaps edited out by its adult subject during his curating of the family papers in the first part of the 20th century.
Thomas was in demand for judging local horticultural shows, and of course he could always be side-tracked by an object of local history!
Tuesday July 10th Mr. Evans of Rhiwlas and I had a days judging of Cottage Gardens in connection with the Corwen Flower Show. Mr. Bennett of Rug met us at Llandrillo with a trap and drove us about from garden to garden. We went from Llandrillo to Cynwydd, from there over the hill by Caenmawr, Salem Chapel and Pont-pren to Llawerbettws, from there to Rug, from Rug to Llansantffraid. We had tea with Mr. Owen and then crossed by the fine bridge spanning the Dee to the Corwen road, and then on to Corwen.
We had a very good dinner at the Crown and after awarding the prizes we went about the town. I saw the shaft of the ancient cross in the churchyard, which is 8 feet in height. I also saw what is called Owen Glyndwr’s dagger, but it is only a rude cross. The ancient cross seems to be early Christian, 7th – 10th century, I would say. Most of the gardens we inspected were very clean and well-cropped. I was appointed to take notes of them and to draw up a Report of them. The day was very fine, with the exception of a shower between Cynwedd and Salem Chapel.
At the age of 41 Thomas could look back with some satisfaction at his fulfilment of his erly ambition to raise his status and satisfaction in life through the medium of gardening.