Mr. Francis Ronaldson of the Post Office was one of
the least men of the regiment, but a very zealous volunteer. He is
placed in the same Print with Osborne, in order to record an anecdote of
Sergeant Gould. In forming a double from a single rank, at a squad
drill, Francis became Osborne's rear man. Poor Francis was never seen;
and Gould, addressing the next man, continued to call out—"Move to the
right, sir; why the devil don't you cover? " Little Francis at length
exclaimed, with great naivette—"I can't cover—I do all I can!"
Mr. Ronaldson was Surveyor of the General Post
Office, which situation he held for upwards of forty years. He was a
most active, spirited little personage, and remarkably correct in the
management of his official department. He kept a regular journal of his
surveys, which, on his demise, was found to have been brought up till
within a few days of his death.
In private life, Ronaldson was exceedingly joyous,
full of wit and anecdote, and was withal a man of rare qualifications.
He had also some claims to a literary character. He was a votary of the
muses, and a great collector of fugitive pieces. He left upwards of two
dozen volumes of Scraps—culled principally from
newspapers—consisting of whatever seemed to him valuable or curious. He
was also deeply versed in divinity; and, strange as it may appear,
several well written sermons were among his manuscripts. As illustrative
of his talent for the pulpit, it is told of Mr. Ronaldson, that on one
occasion he invited an acquaintance, a clergyman, to take a drive with
him in his carriage on a short official journey. The day being the last
of the week, his friend declined on the ground that he had " a sermon to
study for to-morrow." "O never mind," said Ronaldson; "if that's all,
step in—I'll assist you with it." The clergyman afterwards acknowledged
the aid he had. received; and expressed his astonishment at the extent
of information, and the fluency of language displayed by the Post Office
When the duties of the day were over, Francis
delighted to hurry home to his literary labour. There you were certain
to find him— his coat off, and "in his slippers"—busily engaged with
scissors and paste-brush, while armfuls of dissected papers, spread out
on the table before him, sufficiently attested to his rapacity as a
"We have glanced over several sheets of his sermons,
and have seen his scrap-books, which are indeed curious. Several of the
volumes are in manuscript, and contain original as well as selected
pieces, both ,in prose and verse. As a specimen of the poetical
department, the following may be taken:—
"LINES ON SEEING, IN A LIST OF NEW MUSIC, A PIECE
ENTITLED 'THE WATERLOO WALTZ."
"A moment pause, ye British fair,
While pleasure's phantoms ye pursue,
And say if sprightly dance or air,
Suit with the name of Waterloo!
Awful was the victory—
Chasten'd should the triumph be:
'Midst the laurels she has won,
Britain mourns for many a son.
"Veil'd in clouds the morning rose;
Nature seem'd to mourn the day,
Which consign'd, before its close,
Thousands to their kindred clay.
How unfit for courtly ball,
Or the giddy festival,
Was the grim and ghastly view,
Ere ev'ning closed on Waterloo!
"See the Highland warrior rushing,
Firm in danger, on the foe,
Till the life-blood warmly gushing,
Lays the plaided hero low.
His native pipe's accustom'd sound,
'Mid war's infernal concert drown'd,
Cannot soothe his last adieu,
Or wake his sleep on Waterloo!
"Chasing o'er the cuirassier,
See the foaming charger flying;
Trampling in his wild career,
All alike, the dead and dying.
See the bullet, through his side,
Answer'd by the spouting tide;
Helmet, horse, and rider too,
Roll on bloody Waterloo!
"Shall scenes like these the dance inspire?
Or wake enlivening notes of mirth?
O! shiver'd be the recreant lyre
That gave the base idea birth!
Other sounds I ween were there—
Other music rent the air
Other waltz the warriors knew,
When they clos'd on Waterloo!
"'Forbear!—till time with lenient hand
Hath sooth'd the pang of recent sorrow;
And let the picture distant stand,
The softening hue of years to borrow.
When our race has pass'd away,
Hands unborn may wake the lay;
And give to joy alone the view,
Of Britain's fame on Waterloo!
"April 23, 1817."
In Mr. Eonaldson's collections are to be found many
very amusing and humorous articles, strongly indicative of his relish
for the ludicrous. The following may serve as a specimen:—
[Taken from a Clmrch-door in Ireland.]
RUN AWAY FROM PATRICK M'DALLAGH.
"Whereas my wife, Mrs. Bridget M'Dallagh, is again
walked away with herself, and left me with four small children and her
poor old blind mother, and nobody to look after house or home, and I
hear has taken up with Tim Guigan, the lame fiddler, the same that was
put in the stocks last Easter for stealing Barney Doody's game-cock,
This is to give Notice, that I will not pay for bit or sup on her or his
account to man or mortal, and that she had better never show the marks
of her ten toes near my house again. Patrick
"N.B.—Tim had better keep out of my
Mr. Ronaldson belonged to the right centre company of
the Volunteers, but was occasionally drafted to other companies ; in
consequence of which he was sometimes brought to cover Mr. Osborne. In
this position little Francis, from his convenient height, was of
important service to his gigantic friend, by helping him to his
side-arms, when ordered to fix bayonets—Osborne, owing to his immense
bulk, finding great difficulty in reaching the weapon.
The regimental firelocks being rather too heavy, Mr.
Ronaldson had one manufactured specially for himself. One day at a
review, General Vyse, then Commander-in-Chief, happening to observe the
difference, remarked the circumstance—"Why," said Ronaldson, with great
animation, " if my firelock is light, I have weight enough here J"
(pointing to his cartridge-box). The General complimented little
Francis on his spirit, observing—'' It would be well if every one were
animated with similar zeal."
Although in the Print allusion is made to the
"game-laws," Mr. Ronaldson was no sportsman; that is to say, he was not
partial to roaming through fields with a dog and a gun ; but he affected
to be a follower of Walton in the art of angling. On one of his fishing
excursions on the Tweed, he was accompanied by a gentleman, who was no
angler, but who went to witness the scientific skill of his friend.
Francis commenced with great enthusiasm, and with high hopes of success.
Not a leap was observed for some time ; but by and by the water seemed
to live as it were with "the springing trout;" yet, strange to say, all
the dexterity of the angler could not beguile even a single par from its
element. After hours of fruitless labour, Francis was perfectly
confounded at his want of success. In vain he altered his flies—all
colours and sizes were equally ineffectual; and at length the closing
day compelled him to cease from his labours. On his way home he was
accosted by an acquaintance—"Well, what luck to-day, Mr. Ronaldson?"
"Very bad," he replied; plenty raised, but not a single take." This
apparent plenty, however, did not arise from the abundance offish, as
Mr. Ronaldson supposed—his friend, who always kept a little to the rear,
having amused himself by throwing small pebbles into the water, in such
a way as led to the deception. The gentleman kept the secret, and
Francis for years puzzled his brains in vain to find out the cause of
his extraordinary ill luck in the piscatorial exploits of that eventful
Mr. Ronaldson was a native of Edinburgh. He was
married, but had no family. He resided in a house at the Calton Hill,
where he died in 1818, his widow surviving him only a few years. The
most of his property was bequeathed in various sums to the different
charities of the city.