The consistent themes running through Thomas’ journals through the years as Head Gardener at Palé are his own family’s events, the developments in the Robertson family, his employers at Palé and, like a golden thread running through it all, his passionate interest in geology.
Geology had, for a few years in the late 1880s and early 1890s, become less featured in the journal’s pages. I suggest that was for reasons related to all three themes suggested above; his growing family of young children with Frances, together with the older family of his first wife Mary, who were starting out in the world of work, demanded his attention; the death of Henry Robertson, and the succession, marriage and knighthood of his still relatively young son Sir Henry Beyer Robertson needed his attention at Palé. 1889 saw the momentous visit of Queen Victoria, requiring intensive preparations and recovery.
The late 1880s also saw the end of sustained interest from Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes. The Bala region and its key importance in defining the detail and sequence of Cambrian, Ordovician and Silurian had been thoroughly researched, with much practical help from Thomas. Hughes had interests to pursue with his Cambridge Professorship, the ongoing project to fund and build the Sedgwick Museum, and his international contacts resolving ongoing geological questions. The geologists of the Chester Society for Natural Science had been conducted by Ruddy over the key sites, as had members of several other Scientific Societies. In May they again visited, and Professor Hughes (‘the President’) was in the party.
Wednesday the 25th I went by the first train to Chirk to meet a Chester party for whom I promised to act as one of their guides for the day. On arriving at share I met my party. The President, Mr. Walker, the Vice President, Mr. Shepheard, and the Hon. Secretary, Mr G.R. Griffith were there with about 30 members, including a good sprinkling of ladies. The above gentlemen were very pleased to see me, as they were in a fix, the other Guides having failed to come with the train. There were open tram cars ready to take us on the tramway to the New Inn at Glyn Ceiriog.
On arriving at the New Inn, we were met by the vicar of the parish, the Rev R Jennings, and Mr Rooper. The latter owns a large slate quarry and a stone quarry short distance from theNew Inn. All of us went with Mr Rooper to see his slate quarry. He very kindly acted as our guide over the works and explain the working of the elaborate machinery erected for sawing and dressing the slates, and for other useful purposes. I found some specimens of the Graptolithes priodon, but nothing else.
After leaving the slate quarry, I acted the Guide and conducted most of the members over the Bala beds on the famous Myndd Ffronfrys. We found some good corals and brachiopods, one or two univalves, and some fragments of trilobites.
In 1892 there is evidence of Thomas Ruddy’s continuing interest in geology, and his flexibility in relating to others as mentor and tutor, as assisting colleague, and as a student ever pressing on in his geological understanding.
Thomas was always eager to pass on his knowledge to others, and particularly in the context of practical geology. A notable feature of his mentoring skills was his readiness and enthusiasm for helping women students. This was in some contrast to the exclusively masculine ranks of the Chester Society for Natural Science at the time. Thomas had given attention to the adult daughters of his employer Henry Robertson, see 1887-8 The Fossil years
Geologists late 19th century. Note two women at the front, one of whom may be Mary Caroline Hughes. Prof. Hughes at the far right.
Thomas mentions the lady geologists who were present on his expeditions with the various Scientific Associations for whom he acted as guide, often commenting on their interest and expertise in geology, and giving them help and advice.
In August 1892 a mother and her two daughters, Mrs. Nevins and the Misses Frances and Lettice Nevins came to lodge in Llandderfel village for most of the month. At the end of their visit writes a little about them. The two young ladies were serious geologists, and the family was acquainted with a very famous geologist, Murchison.
Mrs Nevins told us she was an Irish lady, and her husband had some knowledge of geology, and was acquainted with Sir R. Murchison. They are certainly well bred ladies. They went on Monday to see Chester and went to the Grosvenor Museum. I gave them a letter of introduction to Mr Newstead the curator. They said he acted most kindly to them. Last Friday the three of them went to the top of the Arenig.
They relied heavily on Thomas’ advice and guidance throughout their stay: Wednesday the 3rd (August). Mrs Nevins and her two daughters Miss Francis M and Miss Lettice came heree with Mr Thomas of the shop, with whom they lodge. They asked to see my fossils, and as Miss Frances had been studying geology, she took particular interest in them. Miss Nevins also wished me to mark fossil localities on the Ordnance map for her.
Saturday the 20th. Frances, Henry and I went with the Misses Nevins to Bala by the 2.25 train. From the station we went to the lake at the lower end, and from there on to Gelli Grin. I found the impression of Bellerophon on a heap of shingle at the lake.
I showed the Misses Nevins the glacial markings at Penygarth in the strophomena expansa zone and also at Gelli Grin. Indeed we were very successful at the latter place. I got a well preserved eye of an Asaphus [trilobite – Ed.] And what very much resembles Cythere aldensis. We all enjoyed the ramble and the Misses Nevins were highly pleased with their fossils, and the scenery.
The 22nd The Misses Nevins here in the evening to have their fossils named.
Tuesday the 30th Mrs. and the Misses Nevins here. They brought back some books I lent then, and were much obliged to me for all my kindness to them. They were very refined and good-natured ladies, and highly intelligent, and eager to learn anything I could tell them. Miss Nevins told me I was the best tutor she had had to teach her practical geology.
On the 7th -8th September 1892 a fellow geologist with whom Thomas had been corresponding visited.
Wednesday the 7th my correspondent, Mr A.C. Nicholson of Bronderw, Oswestry came to see me. He arrived by the 4.20 fast train. He had tea with us here and then I took him to the fruit room to see the fossils. Although he knew about them by report, he was very much surprised when he saw them spread out.
On the 8th September, Thomas joined Nicholson for part of a lengthy walk and they returned to Thomas’ home. After tea we packed his specimens I gave him, also fragments of fossiliferous Silurian rocks which he found in the glacial deposit with marine shells at Gloppa, Oswestry, and which he sent to me some time ago to name for him.
More of Mr. Nicholson in a later post. He had just published an article on the rocks around Gloppa in the February 1892 Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society.
Perhaps the most important record, late in 1892 was evidence that Thomas himself was embarking on a new phase of geological research, documented in the journal and in a smalltattered notebook found amongst the trunk’s contents.
“Boulder and Glacial Drift Dispersion Written by Thomas Ruddy of Llandderfel”