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Kay's Edinburgh Portraits
Francis Ronaldson, Esq., of the Edinburgh Royal Volunteers


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 Surveyor.

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 gleaner.

"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 M'Dallagh.

"N.B.Tim had better keep out of my sight."

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 day.

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.


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