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.
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.