Friends, family, gardens and geology – 1873


The journal entries for the year 1873 are sporadic and mainly brief, but they demonstrate the main features of Thomas’ life and interests in their mix of topics.

Once again Thomas visits a local house with a view to help with the design of the garden.:May 19th Monday Had a trip to Eyarth near Ruthin. Mr Pulestone brother-in-law To Mr. Evan Jones of Bala is having a house built there and I have promised to lay out the place for him. He bought the large farm of Ffynogion for the sum of £9,000, and he is going to have the villa built for a tenant.  We can only assume that this was with the encouragement and permission of his employer at Palé, Mr, Robertson.  It also suggests that the design and upkeep of the Palé garden was well in hand, allowing Mr Robertson to consent to the absence and wider engagement of his Head Gardener at other estates.  In the next year Henry Robertson was to become Liberal MP for Shrewsbury (he had already served in that position between 1862 and 1865).  He would have moved in the circles of those local landowners, and might have been glad to offer an obviously talented gardener and landscape designer to come to their aid.  All thanks to the nurture of Mr Williamson, head gardener at Minto, where Thomas shared a bothy and studied Geometry, French and Latin.

Thomas’ continuing interest in geology is evident:  May 30th Friday My friend Mr. William Owen (of Plasisa, Llandderfel) and I went geologising over the Berwen to the Phosphate mine [See here]. We got a few fossils at the Bala limestone; it was a very warm day and we were very thirsty and tired, but well pleased with our journey.  Throughout his life he made friendships with those in the neighbourhood who had similar interests in the natural sciences.  events were later to lead to wider friendships, visits and correspondence with significant scholars, particularly geologists.  There are over 1,000 of his geological specimens in the Natural History Museum, and he later sent a parcel of specimens to the Smithsonian Museum in New York, at the request of the curator of geology.

An intriguing mention is made of an expedition with ‘Mr. Irvine of London’.  William Pamplin, Thomas’ greatest friend and mentor had collaborated with Alexander Irvine who had lived close by WP in Chelsea in earlier years, and Irvine and Pamplin had made joint botanical expeditions both in Scotland and Wales.  Alexander Irvine had died in May 1873.  Was this a relative whom Thomas met through William Pamplin.  How else did Thomas come to have a London based friend?

Sept 11 Thursday I went to Barmouth with my friend Mr. Irvine of London; we got out at Arthog and botanised all the way to Barmouth. We got several interesting plants. During the year I have added largely to my collection of plants, eggs and fossils.  I have explored a great deal of the neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, events moved on in the Pamplin and the Ruddy households, bringing both joy and sadness:

August 30th Saturday Poor Miss Sarah Pamplin died from an accident caused by falling down the cellar steps at Bronwylfa. We were both exceedingly sorry, for she was a most amiable and kind person. It was a terrible blow for her family. William Pamplin’s sister Sarah had come with her sister Harriet; from their family home in Newington, South London and settled near William and Caroline in the village of Llandderfel.  They were 68 and 69 when they arrived, and lived in the home of the local doctor.

While in the Ruddy household, there was a new arrival: Dec 31st Wednesday (in the evening) Our third child born and named Mary Emily Ruddy.[In a later hand] Died on the 15th of June 1897.