I will quote the first thee months of Thomas’ journal in full, giving as they do a broad insight into his various interests and activities, ranging from the success of his crops to the international news of the year:
January 1st 1885 The last year has been a warm and fruitful one; every crop did well in the garden. Our government have sent troops at the Nile to get General Gordon out of Khartoum who is shut up there with Egyptian troops and defending themselves against the Mahdi or False Prophet as he is called at the head of his Sudanese. An American dynamite party has given some trouble in London by attempting to blow up London Bridge and other buildings.
From events on the world stage, Thomas turns to local and more personal news:
Tuesday January 6thToday Mrs Owen of the White Lion Bala died suddenly. She was a very kind friend.
His brother-in-law comes to stay in the Llandderfel cottage rented by the London Pamplin family:
Monday January 19thMr. Williams came here from London for a weeks shooting over Henblas. We were very pleased to see him, but I could not get to the station to meet him as I had an influenza cold.
Saturday the 24thMr Williams returned to London. We were very sorry to see him go. I went to the station with him. This day the House of Commons, Westminster Hall, and the Tower of London were much damaged by dynamite. The dastardly and cowardly explosions have caused great consternation in London and all over the country. Fortunately none were killed but sorry to say five or six were injured. It will take about £20,000 to restore the buildings again as they were.
Geology remains an abiding interest, and his employer Henry Robertson shows an interest and brings his guest to visit the collection
Friday 6th FebruaryMr. Robertson brought his guest Mr Frank Archer to see my collection of Bala fossils. Both gentlemen were here for nearly 2 hours, and both are like were highly pleased with the collection.
SaturdayMr. Robertson and Mr Archer came again for nearly a couple of hours to see the remainder of the collection and my antiquities. Mr Archer is a very good geologist and antiquary. Mr Haywood told me about him some time ago. He is an honorary member of our Chester Society.
Events abroad cause alarm:
Saturday the 7th News arrived today to say the Mahdi captured Khartoum by treachery on the 26th of last month and that General Gordon was killed. Our troops only two days late in reaching Khatoum at least a small party by river. Great sorrow and indignation in the country about it. Gladstone in Office.
Family events are chronicled with pride, and old friends visited:
March 1st This was Henry’s first Sunday at church. He walked nicely and kept very quiet all the time and was much pleased with going.
Saturday the 7thFrances, the little ones, and myself had tea with Mr Pamplin. He and I went for our first 1885 walk as far as Tyrsa (?) It was very pleasant at the lanes and in the fields.
Thomas continued to be in demand for landscaping and horticultural advice. He was friendly with the Principal, a fellow antiquarian.
Friday 13thI went to Bala to look over the C.M. College grounds with the trustees so as to see what could be done in the way of improvements. I was there for two hours. As it was so fine I got Francis to go to Bala with me and she took the two little ones with her. They spent most of their time with Mrs. Evan Jones of Mount Place while I was on duty.
After I got done, Dr. Hughes took me for a drive to Llanwchllyn. Our principal object in going that way was to see a newly discovered inscribed Roman stone. For a description of Thomas’ visit to the stone, just 8 days after it had been found, see here: https://wp.me/P5UaiG-kG
Frances Williams, sister of William Pamplin, and her son William Pamplin Williams had been visitors to Llandderfel since William and Caroline Pamplin had arrived there in 1858 to a house near the church, Ty Cerig, which seems to have been shared between William and Caroline, William’s unmarried sisters Harriet and Sarah and Frances and William Williams, perhaps sharing it as a holiday retreat. In 1863, when William Pamplin’s lease in Chelsea ran out, he and Caroline moved permanently to their own house in Llandderfel, Top y Llan.
By the time Thomas married Frances Harriet, Harriet and Sarah Pamplin had both died and Frances Williams had been widowed in 1866. Her husband William Williams had been Parish Clerk of Newington, and their son William Pamplin Williams succeeded him in the post.
Both Mrs. Williams and her son became even more frequent visitors to Llandderfel after the marriage of Frances Harriett and Thomas, and with the birth of their children. Thomas sometimes mentions William P. Williams taking part in country sports such as shooting during his visits; both were occasionally involved in Thomas’s countryside expeditions, sometimes with the addition of William Pamplin and his second wife Margaret.
In October 1884 both Mrs. Williams and her son had been visiting, and on their return to London Frances Harriet, Henry Ernest and the baby Frances Harriett aged 5 months returned with them, being joined a few days later by Thomas. The couple commences an exhaustive and probably exhausting tour of the sights of London. Thomas devotes many pages to descriptions, particularly the individual rooms of the British Museum, which from the style and content would seem to have been directly copied from guide books.
One significant visit was to the Jermyn Street Museum of Practical Geology, see here
‘I made a very minute inspection of the collection of Bala fossils, Mr Newton opening bookcases for me and assisting me all he could.’
Thomas did not think that the Bala fossils then held in the Jermyn St. museum were a good selection of specimens. At some point in his life he contributed over one thousand specimens, now held at the Natural History Museum. There are also over sixty specimens attributed to Thomas in the Sedgwick Museum, presumably donated via Professor Thomas McKenny Hughes, as Ruddy never personally visited Cambridge, as far as I can tell.
When he married Frances Harriett , Thomas married into a family which was aware of its ancestry, and kept a considerable amount of relevant papers and documents, many of which, registered with the National Archives, are still curated by the author of this blog. Thomas was given an introduction to his wife’s interesting ancestry, which reached back to Halsted, Essex, where the Pamplin family were nurserymen. Her great grandfather William Pamplin, 1740-1805 having moved to a nursery in Walthamstow.
Thursday the Fourth – I went shopping with F. Before dinner. We went up the Causeway, saw new Kent Road, Walworth Road, we went into the churchyard where the church of St Mary Newington stood before it was pulled down. It was gay with chrysanthemums and it is a pretty bit of pleasure ground for the people of the district. I examined the marble tablet which some of the parishioners elected as a token of their esteem to the memory of the Father of Frances.
The inscription on it is: In memory of William Williams, 25 years Clerk of this Parish. Who died on 9 November 1866 aged 59 years. This tablet is erected by several Parishioners in testimony of their esteem and respect.
I also saw the tombstones and graves of the father of the above and other relatives. After dinner Frances and baby, Mr Williams and myself went to Walthamstow.
They looked at the gravestones of the Pamplin family and Thomas copied the inscriptions. They saw the graves of the Dench family and Thomas describes other aspects of Walthamstow.
Thomas, the lad who had spent his earliest years in the Irish village at the centre of the potato famine, and during its most devastating years, had achieved what he had set out to do when he made a deliberate choice of gardening as a career, respectability and a degree of gentrification, through his own efforts and through his marriage into the respectable Pamplin family.
Today visitors to Llandderfel, the nearest village to Palé Hall, will find themselves in a quiet and mainly unfrequented part of the Welsh countryside. However, the situation in the nineteenth century was quite different, due mainly to the burgeoning industrialisation of south Wales and to the work of engineers like Henry Robertson whose efforts were making transport by road and particularly by rail increasingly available and swift. Whilst not situated in a coal mining area, quarries for railway hard core and minerals and mines for phosphate, used as agricultural fertiliser were being actively worked in the area during the second part of the 19th century.
Palé was not the only country house built, inherited or purchased by wealthy man in the area. Robertson’s partner Charles Beyer lived at Llantysilio Hall near Llangollen, leaving it to his godson Henry Beyer Robertson on his death. The largest landowner in the area was Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, descendant of a very old and distinguished family, living at Wynnstay Hall. He too, like Robertson was involved with railways, as Director of the Great Western Railway, and also a Member of Paliament, although as a Conservative, a member of the opposite party. Another branch of the family owned Glanllyn, a small estate on the shores of Bala lake. Thomas was on many occasions invited to view or advise on the gardens of these and other estates.
Another interesting local resident was Sir Theodore Martin, another Scot who settled for some time in Wales, at Bryntysilio Hall. Poet, translator and biographer, Sir Theodore was invited by Queen Victoria to write the opbiography of her late husband Prince Albert. This he produced in five volumes between 1874 and 1880, winning the lifelong friendship of the Queen.
Henry Robertson of Palé Hall, Thomas’ employer served as Liberal MP for Shrewsbury from 1862 to 1865 and from 1874 to 1885. A number of influential visitors made their way to Palé Hall, much assisted by the convenient railway station on Robertson’s line at Llandderfel. Thomas gives an interesting account of the visit in September 1888 of the Postmaster General, Henry Fawcett.
Wednesday the 17th [September] Mr Fawcett the Postmaster General arrived at Palé. Francis and myself went to the station to see him. He is a very remarkable looking man being 6’1″ in height, squarely built and straight. His hair is fair, face roughish, broad brow, but is quite blind, having been accidentally shot. His feet are very long, boots measure 13 inches in length. His manner is most genial and he makes very free with people. He writes a fine bold hand, lines straight, ‘t’s crossed etc. He came to fish grayling, at which he is very good.
Fawcett had been blinded aged 25 being accidentally shot from his father’s gun while the two men were out hunting. It is not clear whether his blindness was total or partial, but it did not prevent his becoming Professor of Political Economy, Cambridge (1863), MP for Brighton (1865) later for Hackney, and marrying the political economist and suffragist Millicent Garrett in 1867. Appointed Postmaster General by Gladstone in 1880, he introduced postal orders, the Post Office Savings Bank and most importantly, parcel post. The contracts for parcel transport by various railway companies would give him a common interest with Henry Robertson, in addition to their Liberal politics and parliamentary status.
Friday 19th I went to Bala to a Liberal Meeting. My object was to hear Mr Fawcett deliver an address on the Franchise Bill. He is a powerful speaker; it rolls out of him in the wavy style. He made several good hits, his sentences causing a sensation among the audience. He spoke for 20 minutes. Mr. Robertson M.P., Mr. Holland M.P., Mr. Gee of Denbigh and Rev. Ellis Edwards of Bala College also spoke, but Mr. Fawcett was the Lion of the evening. I heard Mr. Gladstone speak for two hours in Chester in 1865. But Mr. Fawcett, although powerful is not an orator like Mr. Gladstone.
Gladstone’s Bill only allowed for representation by a distinct group of men. Had we the text of Fawcett’s speech, it would have been interesting to see whether Fawcett made any mention of women’s suffrage, since he was married to the foremost female suffragists, Millicent Fawcett, whose sister, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first woman to qualify in Britain as a physician and surgeon. Fawcett clashed with Gladstone over his refusal to give women the franchise in 1884. Fran Abrahams, author of Freedom’s Cause: Lives of the Suffragettes (2003), writes: “As a member of a government which opposed the measure he could not vote for it; as a keen supporter of reform he could not vote against it. In the end he abstained. The measure was roundly defeated but Gladstone was furious with Henry, and wrote to him saying his action had been tantamount to resignation. Henry was reprieved only because the Prime Minister wanted to avoid the bad publicity which would inevitably accompany a ministerial sacking.”
Thomas contrasts Fawcett’s power as an orator with that of Gladstone. In fact Fawcett’s health and strength had been considerably weakened by diphtheria in the summer of 1882 . He was to die of pleurisy less than two months after his visit to Palé, on 6th November 1884.
As so often when distinguished visitors came to Palé, Thomas was introduced to the visitor, in this case by the son of the family, then aged 22 and having served with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers from 1882-3.
Monday the 22nd Mr H.B. Robertson introduced me to Mr Fawcett in the gun-room. Mr. Fawcett said “Let me shake hands with you Mr. Ruddy.” He then talked to me for some time about the heat, the rainfall, and the weather in general, after which he said on going away as he held out his hand to me again “Good morning Mr Ruddy, I am very glad to have made your acquaintance.”
Had the conversation with Thomas progressed beyond the customary remarks about the weather, they might have found much in common, as Fawcett was an admirer of and correspondent with Charles Darwin, writing an article asserting the logic of Darwin’s theory. Although not being able to see Thomas’ fossils, Fawcett might have been interested to handle and discuss their significance. A paper by Geoffrey Fishburn gives detail.
The final evening of Fawcett’s visit gave the owners and staff of Palé Hall an opportunity to entertain in style, foreshadowing the warm hospitality offered to Queen Victoria a few years later. Thomas found himself among the company, having no doubt provided choice fruit and vegetables for the table and flowers and pot plants for decoration.
In the evening I had a chat with Colonel Evans Lloyd of Moelgarned and Mr. Osborne Morgan M.P. While the guests were dining, the Llandderfel Brass Band played outside the dining room window, and after dinner the Llandderfel Choir sang in the staircase hall for about an hour. The guests were at one and looking on. Frances went with me to see and hear them sing. It was a very interesting sight.
Tuesday the 23rd Mr Fawcett left in company of Mr. O. Morgan and Mrs. Morgan, and Mr Dryhurst Secretary to Mr Fawcett. Mr. Fawcett had a great many letters every morning; his secretary read them to him as they walked about arm in arm, up and down the walks. He was very fond of his pipe, wore tweeds and a straw hat, when fine. During dinner hour he told the guests many very amusing anecdotes, so that all eyes were directed to him. Mr Dryhurst dined with him.
Guests today at Palé Hall Hotel might be amused to imagine these figures from national political life mingling in the staircase hall while the Llandderfel choir sang, as they would do again in 1889 while Queen Victoria herself listened from the landing, tapping her fingers in time on the bannister rail.
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 with rocky 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 Glanllafar where 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 on getting 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.
Throughout his life Thomas Ruddy found a succession of key people who encouraged him in his lifelong hobby of geology. This must have begun with the schoolmaster in Jedburgh who first encouraged him in literacy and nurtured his wide curiosity, particularly about the wold of nature. Then there was Adam Matheson, curator of the Jedburgh museum, originally a Millwright, found in the Scottish census of 1851 aged 50 with wife and several children living in High St. Jedburgh and at that time still working as a millwright. By the time Thomas Ruddy became acquainted with him about 1861, he may have been full-time curator of the Jedburgh, museum, or simply fulfilling this role in his spare time. It is clear from the transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh for 1844 that Matheson was a considerable amateur geologist:
Thomas’ introduction to Professor McKenny Hughes came in July 1876 by which time Thomas was already central to the expeditions of the Chester Society for Natural Science of which McKenny Hughes was President. Thomas was never a member, despite being a recipient of its foremost medal in due course.
July 20th  Thursday The members of the Geologists Association and friends to the number of 34 came to Llandderfel station where there were seven conveyances waiting for them to take them to Llangynog. I had an invitation to go with them, so that I got ready. Mr. Davies acted as guide, so that he brought them to see my collection of fossils. I was glad to get introduced to some leading geologists such as Professor McKenny Hughes of Cambridge, Prof. John Morris, London University, Dr. Hicks of London, Mr. Hopkinson and other minor stars.
There were several ladies in the party. I gave them some refreshments, showed them my fossils which highly interested them, and took them afterwards to Brynselwrn quarry to get some graptolites. We next went up the Berwyns to the phosphate mine which was examined with interest and then to Llangynog where there was an excellent lunch ready for us at the expense of Mr. Doveston of ‘The Nursery’ near Oswestry whose two daughters were with us.
All were happy and enjoyed the lunch. I had to carve ducks, which I managed very well. Several amusing speeches were made after dinner. We also had Geological addresses outside in the evening. The day was very warm. The party proceeded to Oswestry in conveyances from there and I came home by those returning to Bala. I felt very much pleased to be with such high geologists. See paper for report of it [Paper not found – ed.] I may add that I had with me Mr. Barrois of Lille, France, Mr. & Mrs. Barbec of Pinner, Watford.
McKenny Hughes must have been delighted to discover an assured and knowledgeable amateur geologist with a large collection of good and accurately identified fossils of the Bala area and a hunger to continue to collect them in the field. Thomas had arrived fully prepared with geological understanding at the centre of one of the areas of greatest interest to geologists of his time.
From this time geologists of note from far and wide began to appear at Ruddy’s door to view his fossils – no doubt at the suggestion of the Professor and his contacts. In 1878:
August 13th Prof Leonhard Törnquist of the town of Geflé in Sweden visited me for local geological information, and to see my fossils. Dr. Hicks of London sent him. I gave him a nice lot of Bala fossils and showed him the local rocks between here and the tunnel. I found him an excellent botanist, a very good geologist and a most intelligent and well-bred person. He took copies of my sections and wrote down anything of interest I told him. He had dinner and tea with us, and could speak good English. He was about 5 feet 8 inches, fair hair and ruddy complexion. He told me over and over again that he was so pleased he found me, and that he was highly delighted with his visit. I got a great deal of geological knowledge from him regarding his own country.
September 10th Prof Tawney of Cambridge University came to me. Mr. Tawney examined my fossils very minutely, and with great interest. He named my minerals for me and I found him to be very nice. Mr. Tawney is very short and deformed.
October 18th Mr. Walter Keeping, the Geologist at the University C of Wales came to me for fossils. We spent a real pleasant evening together examining my fossils. I found him to be a most enthusiastic geologist. He named for me many fossils from the Crag and London Clay. October 19th We went together to Aberhirnant, which pleased him very much and he was much astonished at my familiarity with the rocks. I gave him a nice collection of fossils.
In 1879 a paper ‘On the Upper Part of the Cambrian (Sedgwick) and Base of the Silurian in North Wales’ was published under Ruddy’s name in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society. There is no mention of the paper in Ruddy’s journal, but that may not be surprising as it coincided with the illness and death of Ruddy’s first wife Mary and his being left responsible for three very young children. Whilst it is likely that the paper was ‘tidied up’ and edited by Professor McKenny Hughes, there is little doubt that the basis of the work is Ruddy’s. He was certainly capable of making the stratigraphical sketches included as some are in the original journal. Also the detailed descriptions, some in the first person: ‘Although I have examined the debris at various openings in the interbedded grits and shales above the Graptolite zone, I have only found Encrinite stems and a few fragments of small bivalves.‘ etc. mirror accounts of expeditions in Ruddy’s journal. it is clear that McKenny Hughes certainly did not spend the many hundreds of hours in the area needed to provide the detailed descriptions in Ruddy’s paper.
The paper is based on work presented to the Chester Society for Natural Science in the autumn of 1878:
Oct 3rd  I took my fossils to the annual conversazione of the Chester Society by request of the Committee. I prepared them by the advice of Mr. Shrubsole for the occasion. Both of us my dear wife and myself had a very hard job for a month before going. I for the first time mounted them upon little boards, so that I had to polish the backs of them on a grindstone, my wife put the papers on the boards, and gummed on the labels as I wrote them. We often sat at work till midnight. My collection took the Chester people by surprise, and I got much praise. I was introduced to Mr. McIntosh of the Birkenhead College who had written to me during the summer. Mr. Shrubsole brought the Revd. Mr Symonds of Pendock to me. Mr. Symonds said he wanted to have the pleasure of shaking me by the hand; he made special mention of me after in his address. Prof Hughes introduced me to one of those who conducted the geological survey in North Wales, that is Mr. Aveline. William Talbot Aveline, 1822–1903
The last thing Prof. Hughes said to me when parting was that I must now push on and follow up my good work.
Thomas was to continue his working relationship with Professor McKenny Hughes throughout the nineteenth century, leading many further expeditions and producing a list of fossils of the Bala area. (I am unable at present to date this list, but it is certainly not as early as 1874 as suggested by the photographed cover included in the PDF below). I am inclined to date it from internal evidence to the mid 1880’s. TR mentions seeing Bala fossils in the London geological museum which he did in late 1881.
I have recently discovered that there are 66 examples of Bala fossils collected by Thomas Ruddy in the collection of the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge, no doubt transferred there by McKenny Hughes. These are in addition to over one thousand specimens collected by Ruddy in the Natural History Museum.
Some months ago I booked a holiday on the Isle of Man. I had been on the Island a full 24 hours before it occurred to me that once again I was following in the footsteps of Thomas Ruddy, who worked there between 1863 and 1865. He had chosen the Island over an tempting vacancy in London, since it offered him a further career enhancement in due course:
I had the offer of two situations the same day, one was to go to be journeyman
at Lambeth Palace London, which I declined; the other to go to the Isle of Man in a place where I was to get the foreman’s place when he left, this I accepted.
A web search showed The Nunnery to be about a mile and a half from our hotel in Douglas, so early one morning I set out in search of it. Past the harbour and railway station over the river bridge, and a little way up the hill, I came across a promising- looking gatehouse.
I had discovered that The Nunnery is now part of the University of the Isle of Man, and a private site. A knock on the impressive wooden door brought a gatekeeper, who confirmed that it was indeed The Nunnery. He invited me to explore the site further, but time was pressing, and already a sprint would be required to return me to the hotel in time for the day’s excursion. Thomas lost out in favour of a journey up Snaefell on the electric railway, but I had tracked him down and followed his footsteps to the very gate of his workplace in the 1860’s.
The previous day had brought an expedition to the superb museum in Peel, the House of Mannanen, housed in Peel’s former railway station. Lingering in the vestibule, a familiar name caught my eye:
Here was my link with Henry Robertson, whose eldest son was Henry Beyer Robertson, named after his Godfather, Charles Beyer. Robertson was co-founder in 1854 of Beyer, Peacock and Co with Charles Beyer and Richard Peacock. Based at Gorton Foundry, in Gorton, Manchester, it would become one of the world’s leading locomotive manufacturers. Robertson knew Beyer because he supplied some of the locomotives to his railways. He was a sleeping partner but his connections with the Great Western Railway proved useful in securing orders.
On the recommendation of Thomas Brassey, Robertson provided the loan, when the original loan of banker Charles Geach fell through. Robertson and Beyer subsequently became close friends for life; Beyer was godfather of Robertson’s daughter in 1854 and of his son Sir Henry Beyer Robertson ten years later.
It is now twelve years since I first opened the trunk of Ruddy and Pamplin family papers left in my keeping by Thomas’ grandson the Revd. Denys Ruddy. They have been fascinating, with many discoveries and opportunities arising, together with a sense of responsibility for interpreting, publicising and handing on the papers and artefacts. This is complicated as they are not related to my own family story.
So far, among other things, the enterprise has taken me:
* To the Garden Museum in London, where the journals of William Pamplin the elder (1768 – 1864) have now been donated.
* To the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, where I sat with Queen Victoria’s journal (as edited by her daughter Beatrice) to read the Queen’s account of her visit in 1889 to Palé Hall
* To Cyfarftha Castle Museum in Merthyr Tydfil to see the two detailed drawings by William Pamplin the elder of the water wheel and works there, see here .
* Correspondence with the Natural History Museum where I discover that Thomas Ruddy donated over one thousand fossil specimens collected by him from the Bala series of rocks.
* To the Grosvenor Museum in Chester to donate the Kingsley Medal awarded to Thomas in 1889, with the related correspondence.
Sadly, attempts to communicate with the present owners of Palé Hall have met with no response.
Sometimes, the task ahead seems daunting. I am as yet not even a third of the way through transcribing the journals: occasionally I wonder whether it is all worth while. But it is these moments when Thomas Ruddy, his friend William Pamplin and his employer Henry Robertson intrude into my life – sometimes at the most unexpected moments – I know they and their stories will not let me go. I remain firmly in their grip.
Newlyweds Thomas and Frances Harriet returned from their brief honeymoon in Folkestone on the 19th October. They continued their holiday in London at F.H’s home, making exhaustive excursions to numerous places of interest in London. Thomas gives pages of description in detail of each place, especially the British Museum, describing each room, probably copied from a current guide book st a later date.
Meanwhile, on the 19th October, his friend and now relative by marriage, William Pamplin, Frances Harriet’s uncle, wrote to congratulate the couple.
William was 75 years old when he penned this letter of congratulations to Thomas in his minute, precise and exquisite hand on pages measuring 7 x 4.5 inches. The black margin probably relates to mourning for Sarah Williams, half sister of Frances Harriet by her father’s first marriage, who had been living with William and Margaret Pamplin, and who had died in the previous February.
Several themes appear here – William’s great affection for Thomas and his delight that in marrying F.H, Thomas could now be considered as nephew. Then there is religious fervour, often apparent in William’s social discourse. There is reference in Thomas’ diaries about William giving out religious tracts at Llandderfel funerals. Then there is the shared love of natural science. Thomas had obviously taken time on his Kent homeymoon to collect plant specimens and send them to William, much to his delight.
Here is a wonderful little insight into a very significant and fruitful friendship.
Llandderfel, Corwen, North Wales
October 19, 1881
My very dear Friend and Kinsman,
It is not that we have not been occupied in the thinking About you both, about you all, in talking about you and you’re happy doing is since we parted at Carrog – neither have we been backward in our earnest prayers for you – that every blessing may attend your union – although hitherto we have not written – (you know we shall not be very distant neighbours) – So I wrote to my dear Sister and to my dear Nephew first;
Nothing could be more delightful to me than to read those 3 most interesting Letters which you and the one which my dear Niece now your beloved Wife so kindly have written to us it was the most good and most considerate on your parts to have written. We have both read them all over & over with increased pleasure and with many thanks and much praise to the Gracious Father of all our Mercies for the many comforts in connection with such an event as a Union for Life; everything connected with it down to its minutest details were also kindly ordered for your mutual comfort and pleasure that it really is quite a pleasure to go over the whole of the circumstances in mind and in thoughts & that tho’ we could not be present actually in person we seemed to be in spirit and I may say with truth we did, and could “joy and rejoice with you all “in the whole event and in its attending circumstances.’ – as Mr Pailin says the 13th day of October will be, may it ever be, a Red Letter day in your calendar for both, mutually, being now one – or Heirs together &c. The talking about days reminds me that this Day the 19th day of October is dear William’s birthday – we wish him many many happy returns of it – but I shall put this in – is that he may not have many more until he finds what you have done – a good Wife – for we know the Word of God on our side for this –for we know the Word of God on our side for this –
‘ He that findeth a Wife findeth a Good Thing and obtaineth favour of the Lord’ Prov. XVIII.22 – and to this I can by experience set my seal as a witness for the Truth – once and again ( = twice that is ) so I can recommend it to others.-
Thanks many for the sight of those two letters very many kind and friendly ones Mr. Pailin & Mr Shrubsole they are carefully laid up for you on your return home – why all the friends and neighbours far only know you desire me to present their warmest congratulations upon your marriage ( lists neighbour’s & wellwishers)
We have had a fearful storm as you can see by the Papers – it is most remarkable (up in East Wood and elsewhere too) how the destruction of the Timber trees is for most part in lines or as in furrows in the ploughed fields, in particular spots- The road to Bethel was completely blocked, so the road beyond Blaen y Cwm by trees uprooted and laid fairly right across the road – The destruction it has been great also in farm buildings in roofs of dwelling houses and such.
I shall now refer to your most interesting Letter 1st the little box of plants we only finished overhauling it last night the contents for most interesting to me – everyone has been carefully laid down and registered 19! Yes no less than 19 species have been made out by name beside two of whom I find myself unable to speak positively as to species – & of all of ‘em Thesium linophyllum Pleases me most. I think – of all the Counties ever botanised by me I think my favourite was Kent, perhaps in one sense of as it was my first love and certainly for the most interesting and rare plants with which it abounds. – with what pleasure I have ransacked it’s chalk hills and especially a delight is used to be, to go poking into every hole and corner, in some of those interesting overgrown and deserted old Chalk Pits. – I cannot now think I see the beautiful and interesting Silene nectans ( the Dover catchfly) just back on the very verge of the perpendicular short chalk cliffs a short distance west of Dover near where the Samphire grows.
After you were gone we were quite as if one of our own family had left us. I was on the point are often of saying to Margaret I dare say we shall see friend Ruddy tonight and we shall be heartily glad I can assure, fairly home and stationary so near us and that for good. I’m sorry (as I always am) our neighbour Mr and Mrs Pryce have gone off to Holland or somewhere; andwhen he came in to say goodbye, he told us he would be about three Sundays – of which last Sunday was the first. Dear Margaret is so so, we have been out very little even to Blaen y Cwm, partly on account of the unfavourable weather we have had. The red flag is flying at Palé which is all that we can say about it. If you have that’s fine sunlight as we have here you will enjoy the ride back to London – we are united kindest love to you both – to our dearest sister and to my dear nephew. Believe me to be your very affectionate and attached Uncle William and Margaret Pamplin