The journal entries for the first three of Thomas’ years as Head Gardener at Palé are brief; it is clear that he was much occupied in setting out the gardens and creating and managing a workforce of gardeners – although sadly, we do not hear anything of them. Did Thomas take on apprentices, and did he give them as thorough a grounding as he himself enjoyed at Minto House?
The short journal entries for 1872 demonstrate a range of activities and interests which made up the fabric of Thomas’ life at that period. We read of the activities of the Robertson family, the increase of Thomas’ and Mary’s own family, Thomas’ growing influence among the local owners of large estates needing development, and his spare time activities of botany and geology.
The year begins with the planting of trees in the new garden at Palé (already detailed in a previous post.)
January 15th Monday Master Robertson planted a Deodar and a Picea Nordmaniana on lawn, each near the ends of the walls of the fruit garden.
Miss Robertson planted a Deodar on lawn in front of the pantry window. Miss Annie planted a Deodar and a Picea grandis, both near the library. Miss Henrietta planted a Deodar and Picea pinsapo, both near the little walk leading to the flower garden.
Later that year, a significant event in the Robertson family is chronicled:
December 4th Wednesday Great Rejoicings here over the marriage of Miss Annie to Mr. Sherriff. All the neighbourhood was in holiday and all passed over very nicely.
Alexander Thomas Arthur Sherriff was 24 at the time of the marriage and the son of the MP for Worcester. His family home was in Sunbury, Surrey at the time of the 1871 census; other members of the family are recorded as being Members of the Stock Exchange. Alexander himself is recorded as ‘BA’. After attending Shrewsbury school, Alexander had gone up to Trinity Cambridge in 1865. Somewhat unusually marrying before her elder sister, Miss Annie had made a good match, but it was to end tragically when Alexander died at the Robertson family home in Lancaster Gate, London in 1880, less than eight years after the marriage.
[In brackets at foot of a page: William Pamplin Ruddy born January 19th, Friday at 3.15 am.]
William Pamplin Ruddy was born when his brother Thomas Alexander was two years and eleven months old. I had originally assumed that his second name was given in honour of Thomas’ greatest friend William Pamplin, but I have since learned that it was in fact honouring William’s wife Caroline, neé Hunneman, who was his godmother. At this point no-one could have guessed that in due course Thomas was to become ever more closely related to the Pamplin family.
The next recorded item is the first of many mentions of Thomas’ visits to nearby estates to advise on horticulture and garden design. We can deduce that Henry Robertson was already very proud of Thomas’ work, perhaps showing nearby landowners round his recently acquired estate, and promising them the assistance of his knowledgeable and confident Head Gardener. Thomas was still only just 30.
Sept 25th Wednesday I went to see Dolserau Hall, the seat of Charles Edwards Esq. [now a hotel Ed.] Mr. Lawson the gardener was very nice and showed me all of any interest. It is in a very pretty situation, And a very nice place. Mr. Lawson took me to see the ruins of Dolgyn Hall where he pointed out an old smelting kiln where iron had been smelted. I saw very good specimens of the Taxodirum distchum and tulip trees. We went afterwards up the romantic Torrent Walk, which is a charming place. A large stream is either sliding down rocks, forming small cascades or dashing down at headlong speed for two miles nearly. The sides of the dingle are nicely wooded and studded with flowers and ferns. At the head of it we got to the house of Caerynwch the seat of the late Mr. Richards. Caerynwch is a small but nice place. The torrent is on its property. [Grid ref SH7518]
There was time for family and friends; William Pamplin’s sisters Harriet (1803-1875) and Sarah (1804-1873) moved from London to be near their brother. His third sister, Frances, remained in London. She was married to Parish Clerk of Newington. Their daughter Frances Harriet would become Thomas’ second wife.
It was a very pleasant year all through – not too warm. I had good fishing during the summer. Mr. Pamplin’s sisters came to live at Dr. Richard’s new house – Bronwylfa – very nice people, so that they were and are nice friends.
I am able to trace little about Jane Blackhall, Thomas’ Scottish sister-in-law. Did she emigrate to Australia permanently, or was this a visit? A long journey for a single woman, in either case.
My sister-in-law Jane Blackhall was staying with us for a time before she left for Melbourne in Australia.
As he sums up the year, Thomas reflects with satisfaction on his progress, finding time for both hard work, family concerns and pursuit of leisure activities. and proves himself to be a tireless and self-motivated student, as ‘working up’ the birds and geology obviously point to study in books as well as field research.
Last January our second child was born here at Palé. By this time I have got Palé into a nice state – everything very satisfactory.During the year I have been hard at work botanizing the district, also working up the birds and the geology of the neighbourhood which I find to be very interesting.