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Memoir of Sir Andrew Crombie Ramsay
Chapter I - Parentage and Youth


In the little town of Haddington during last century-several generations of Ramsays carried on the craft of dyers. At length one of the family, William by name, the son and grandson of previous Williams who had been content to pursue their calling by the banks of the East Lothian Tyne, determined to push his fortune in a wider sphere. He appears to have been a man of high principle and great energy, wide-minded and good tempered, with a strong bent towards chemical pursuits, and not a little originality as an investigator. About the year 1785 he went to Glasgow, and became there junior partner in the firm of Arthur and Turnbull, manufacturers of wood-spirit and pyroligneous acid. Besides making dyers' chemicals and a variety of Prussian blue still known as 'Turnbull's Blue,' this firm was the first to manufacture 'chloride of magnesia' as a bleaching liquor, and also 'bichrome.' Had William Ramsay patented some of his processes, it was generally believed among his friends that he might have become one of the richest men in the west of Scotland. But he did not consider himself entitled to retain for his own behoof a discovery which, :f made widely known, would benefit the general industry of the country, and he was content to remain comparatively poor

The requirements of his business made him an excellent practical chemist, but his interest in chemistry reached far beyond these limits. In 1800 he founded the 'Chemical Society of Glasgow,' into which, by the energy of his example and the kindly courtesy of his manner, he brought those of his fellow-citizens who were interested in the progress of theoretical as well as practical chemistry. He was chosen first President, and among his associates were the well-remembered chemist and mineralogist, Thomas Thomson, Professor of Chemistry in the Glasgow University, and Waiter Crum, of Thornliebank. Two years later, on the foundation of a wider brotherhood of science by the establishment of the 'Philosophical Society of Glasgow,' the Chemical Society was voluntarily dissolved in favour of the new organisation, which thus received, we may believe, not a little of the vigour which has enabled it to flourish till now as a centre of scientific life in the midst of the mercantile atmosphere of Glasgow. William Ramsay's reputation as a chemist spread outside his own country. His house was one of the attractions to foreign chemists who came to Glasgow; and even long after his death his widow received visits from such men as L!ebig, who remembered her husband's meritorious work.

In the year 1809 William Ramsay married Elizabeth Crombie, a second cousin of his own, daughter of Mr. Andrew Crombie, writer in Edinburgh. The Crombies, like the Ramsays, had for many generations been connected with the trade of dyers. There is a tradition that during the famous Porteous Riot in Edinburgh in 1736, so graphically described in Scott's Heart of Midlothian, the mob, coming down the West Bow with their wretched victim, stopped at the shop of Crombie, the dyer, with the object of hanging Porteous from the pole above the door, when a shout arose that it would be a shame to do the deed at the door of so worthy a man. The crowd, determined as it was on vengeance, recognised the justice of this protest, and passed down into the Grassmarket, where they made use of the pole of another dyer not so popular among his townsmen. The last representative of the family who still carried on the trade of dyer in Edinburgh was a not less worthy citizen—John Crombie, who, firm in the ancient ways, went about in a tail-coat and ' stock' up to the end of his life, in 1874. He was a cousin of Sir Andrew C. Ramsay, who often stayed in his hospitable house during visits to Edinburgh.

Mrs. Ramsay was a woman of strongly-marked character, uniting a firmness of purpose with a gentleness and sweetness of nature that gave her remarkable influence over all who came in contact with her. Clever and wise, she had had her natural powers quickened and trained by an excellent education. She was beloved by the young, for whom her face used to light up with a cordial welcome. In the esteem and affections of her sons she ever held the foremost place. Her husband died in 1827, and her circumstances became thereafter somewhat straitened, but her cheery spirit and unruffled temper enabled her to keep a happy, though modest home for her children. She survived until the year 1858. The children of this marriage were four in number—Eliza, born in 1810, William in 1811, Andrew Crombie in 1814, and John in 1816.

In this well-ordered household, where both the father and mother had read widely, much was done to foster a love of literature among the younger members. It was one of the practices of the family that on at least one morning of the week French should be the language of the breakfast-table. On other mornings a paper from the Spectator would be read, or a passage from some standard English author. And doubtless the achievements of science, as far as they could be made intelligible and interesting, were often subjects of conversation.

Such was the household in which Andrew Crombie Ramsay was born on the 31st January 1814. Of his early years little record has been preserved. From his mother's letters we learn that when five years old, during a painful operation on one of his fingers, he showed such self-possession as to earn from the surgeon the encomium of being 'the most determined little fellow he had ever seen.' In a letter written to his wife in 1854, when his eldest daughter was a child, he says: 'I fancy I see Ella in the hayfield. These early days are never lost. I recollect them on rare occasions. I remember the first time I saw cowslips in a field ; how amazed and charmed I was ! The mind drinks in beauty in early life that never leaves it, if of good quality. Happy is the child whose first impressions are not of smoke, bricks, and gutters.'

For some time his health appears to have been delicate. At nine or ten years of age he was removed from Glasgow, and sent to the Parish School at Saltcoats, a little village on the coast of Ayrshire, where the sea-air might enable him to gain strength, and throw off his ailments. An observant boy could hardly have been placed in a position better fitted to stimulate his faculties. A sea - beach strewn with pebbles and shells lay in front of him, with rocks over which he could climb, and pools wherein he might bathe, or watch the movements of the creatures left by the tide. To the south a range of sand-dunes stretched for miles along the coast, mounting into ridges and sinking into hollows, which a young imagination could easily transfigure into ranges of mountains and lines of valley, interspersed with bare sandy plains and recesses that might typify trackless deserts—a lonely region, and a very paradise of boyhood. Then, in the interior, a long sweep of upland rose northward from the shore, commanding from its breezy heights a wide expanse of the Firth of Clyde, with the blue hills of Cantyre and Arran, sometimes even those of the north of Ireland, closing in the distance. On the lower grounds many a dell and ravine served as channels for streams which, haunted by trout and minnow, wandered through woodlands where many a bird built its nest, and where with the changing seasons came the successive attractions of blackthorn, may-blossom, blackberries, wild cherries, and hazel-nuts. There were likewise not a few ruined castles and crumbling peels, which an adventurous boy might climb, and where a contemplative one could find material for many a pleasant reverie. We can hardly doubt that surroundings such as these must have quickened in young Ramsay that love of nature, that delight in antiquities, and that devotion to out-of-door pursuits which formed such strong features in his character.

From Saltcoats he was eventually brought back to Glasgow, to continue his education at the Grammar School there. Mr. James King, probably his only surviving schoolmate, has kindly supplied the following notes about his school-days: 'Andrew was always cheerful and full of fun, so much so that he was nicknamed "Appybe" (happy bee). He was our leader in the stone-fights with the Camlachie boys. He attended Mr. Dvmock's class at the Grammar School. When he was a child, a lady who had called was telling Mrs. Ramsay what a good child her lost son was, when Andrew, looking up to his mother, said, "Mother, I would not like to be a good bairn; good bairns aye die." He was very fond of dogs. I remember his great grief at being obliged to drown Puck for biting the postman.'

He lost his father in the summer of 1827. Twenty years afterwards, on the anniversary of this sad event in his life, he wrote as follows: 'My father died this day twenty years at Roseneath. I was then between thirteen and fourteen, and recollect it well. We had been there about a week. He was very ill on the way down in the steamboat, having had an additional slight shock the very night before we started. Willie was sent up from Roseneath a day or two before his death. I accompanied him as far as Ardincaple Ferry, and watched him across. It was a fine day, but blew hard. On the way back I recollect playing with flowers, so strange is it (I believe with all men) that even in great distress the mind occupies itself with trifles. I also recollect during this week of severe illness my mother told me to take a book and amuse myself. It was Shakespeare. I read Julius Caesar the first play of Shakespeare I ever read, and even then it highly interested me. Willie brought down Drs. Coldstream and Buchanan with him. My father died, I think, shortly after they arrived, having been speechless for some time before. I did not see him die, having, if I recollect right, left the room in great distress some half-hour before. My mother prayed aloud soon after, most passionately and fervently; so did Dr. Coldstream. Curiously enough, none of our relations came to aid the widow and her children up to town, but Mr. Napier, the engineer, came down of his own accord in one of his own steamboats, and took on himself most kindly all the arrangements. My uncles arrived the day of the funeral. My mother threw herself into her brother Andrew's arms, and said, "Oh Andrew!"

'The funeral was large and imposing. He was carried "shoulder high" to the Ramshorn Churchyard, and buried in the Walkinshaw ground.

'By and by, shortly after, my troubles in life began. Willie was apprenticed to Napier, the engineer, and I was sent to Mr.-'s counting-house.'

The boy's education was thus prematurely cut short, for in the straitened circumstances in which the widow found herself after her husband's death, she deemed it necessary that she should take boarders, and that her sons should, as early as possible, begin the active business of life. Andrew was intended for a mercantile career, and went when a mere boy into the office to which he refers in the preceding extract. After being some time there he removed to the warehouse of a firm of linen merchants in Glasgow—a situation in which he seems to have been specially unhappy, for mention of the misery he there endured occurs in his diaries and in his family correspondence long years after he had become a successful man of science. He once came upon one of these old masters of his in a little inn in Wales, and the following entry occurs in his journal of that day 'After dinner an old man, whom I had observed promenading the road before the inn, came into the room and took off his hat; his hair was bleached. In an instant a recollection flashed upon me. I started up and stretched out my hand, crying, "Mr. -, I am delighted to see you," for my heart warmed towards him, in spite of all his want of consideration and kindness when long ago I sat, a boy, at a desk in his office. How changed care and anxiety have made him! He is an old, old man, though only sixty-one, and has been very ill.'

There never appears to have been any question in the family but that Andrew was to devote himself to mercantile pursuits. Yet, from the very outset, he kept his interests broad, and made amends for his curtailed education by cultivating his mind with wide reading. His natural tastes led him to continue the literary pursuits that had from his early years been so well fostered at home. He was an omnivorous reader, and acquired a facility in expressing himself in clear, vigorous language.

An interesting relic of this period of his life has survived in the shape of a few numbers of a manuscript periodical, written by him and a few young men of similar tastes. He acted as editor, and the paper circulated among the families and friends of the contributors during the years 1835 and 1836. It bore the name of 'Ramsay's Miscellaneous Journal,' and upon the wrapper of each number, in the handwriting of the editor, some appropriate motto appeared from a play of Shakespeare or a poem of Pope. The articles contributed by him included some nightmare hallucinations and sketches of character, with occasional sonnets and odes, more or less grotesque in subject and treatment. The concluding number closes with an editorial farewell: 'May our journal rest quietly in its grave; and if ever its pages should be used to light your pipes, peace be with its ashes!'

Though he had not himself matriculated at the University of Glasgow, he came into close personal relations with some of its professors and many of its students. Chief among his academical friends and advisers was Dr. J. P. Nichol, the well-known and accomplished Professor of Practical Astronomy. To this sympathetic associate he owed more than to any other for the guidance and encouragement which eventually led him into the career of a man of science. Among the young men then attending the University his closest friend was Lyon Playfair, now Lord Playfair, who was one of the boarders in Mrs. Ramsay's house.

In pursuance of the intention that he should follow a mercantile profession, Ramsay, about the year 1837, entered into partnership with a Mr. Anderson as dealers in cloth and calico. The firm took an office in the Candleriggs of Glasgow, and carried on business for some three years. But the venture was not successful, and the copartnery was dissolved, leaving Ramsay poorer in purse, somewhat enfeebled in health, and rather depressed in spirits.

It was natural that these successive disappointments should create a strong revulsion in his mind against an occupation which had never had great attraction for him. In a letter to his brother William, written in 1846, when he had thoroughly established his position in the Geological Survey, he refers to these early and bitter experiences of his life: 'You must bear in mind how unhappily I was placed —first with -, when a system of miserable petty tyranny was carried on from beginning to end, with other disagreeables going much against the grain; then with -, a falling, low concern from the beginning, and then something still worse behind.

The island of Arran has been for the last two or three generations one of the chief centres of attraction in the west of Scotland. To the inhabitants of Glasgow it has offered a much-prized retreat, where pure air and charming scenery can be reached after a journey of only a few hours. It was the custom of the Ramsay family, and of many families of their acquaintance, to spend as much of the summer as possible in this delightful island. In those days the accommodation to be had in Arran was of a far more primitive kind than it is generally now. Almost the only available lodging was to be found in the little thatched cots of the peasantry, and the unpretending farmhouses, where the rooms were few and small, and the furnishing generally scanty. Yet into one of these lowly dwellings a large family would contrive to squeeze itself, laughing at the discomfort with the light-heartedness of holiday-makers who were prepared to enjoy everything. The conventionalities of town life were left behind. Except for the hours of meals and of sleep, and the intervals of bad weather, the time of the visitors was spent entirely out of doors. Bathing, boating, climbing, and walking or driving to different parts of the island filled up each day, and the evenings brought pleasant interchanges of hospitality, with music and dance and endless merriment. If at the end of the week the heads of families brought down with them more guests than the capacities of the cottages—elastic as these were—could accommodate, there was always the homely and comfortable hostelry of Mrs. Jameson to fall back upon, with the calm bay in front, the Castle woods behind, and the noble cone of Goatfell towering into the sky beyond them.

Among the reminiscences of this pleasant Highland inn I recall the eccentricities of a half-witted but pawky attendant, who used to be employed in miscellaneous errands, and had a specially pronounced love of brandy. On one occasion he was pushing his boat down the beach, when two visitors came up and asked where he was bound for. He answered that he was going across the bay to the Corriegills shore for a bag or two of potatoes. The gentlemen asked to be allowed to accompany him; a request with which Sandy willingly complied, the more especially as they volunteered to do the rowing if he would steer. Having crossed the bay, they were coasting quietly past the huge boulder of granite which, lying on the red sandstones, forms so notable a landmark on that part of the shore. Directing the attention of his crew to this object, Sandy remarked: 'Maybe ye'll no believe me, but if anybody climbs to the tap o' that stane and cries as loud as he likes, there's naebody can hear him.' This statement, as he expected, was received with a smile of derision, whereupon he insisted that he would wager them a bottle of brandy that it was true. So they drew to land, and Sandy, jumping ashore, was speedily on the top of the boulder, where he proceeded to open his mouth and swing his body as if he were roaring with the strength of ten bulls of Bashan, but without emitting a sound. ' Very extraordinary,' said his friends, and they resolved to try the experiment themselves. So when Sandy had descended, they proceeded, with rather less agility, to clamber up the stone. When they were both on the top they proceeded to shout with such vehemence that they might have been heard on the other side of the bay. Sandy, however, stood on the shore below, putting his hand behind each ear in turn to catch any sound that might come from the boulder. They shouted to him until they were nearly hoarse, without evoking one sign of recognition from him. At last coming down they demanded if he meant to say that he had never heard them. Sandy had a remarkable power of expressing astonishment by his mere looks, and availing himself of this power, he loudly protested that he had never heard one single sound from them, and, with a face of childlike innocence, asked if they really had called out. He was allowed to pull the boat back himself, but he had his bottle of brandy that evening.

Sixty years have passed away since the time to which I am now referring; and though in this interval Arran has altered far less than other places on the Firth of Clyde, it has, nevertheless, undergone some marked changes. The old village of Brodick, for instance, with its long row of thatched cottages, has been removed. The old inn no longer 'invites each passing traveller that can pay,' though the building still stands as part of the offices of the Castle. The deserted pump-well remains to mark the centre of the life of the vanished hamlet. A large hotel, with waiters and other products of modern civilisation, has since risen at Invercloy, on the south side of the bay, together with many slated houses; while the inns all over the island, as well as the farm-houses and cottages, have been much enlarged and improved. The young visitors of to-day would probably look with disdain on the humble cots where their mothers and grandmothers were contented and happy. But it may be doubted whether the charms of this most delightful of islands are more appreciated than they were in old days when the enjoyment of them was coupled with discomforts now happily removed.

Since the early decades of this century Arran has enjoyed a special reputation as a field for geological study. Its mountainous northern half has been held to represent the main structural features of the Scottish Highlands, while its southern half has been regarded as affording examples of the younger formations, and especially of the igneous rocks, which form a conspicuous feature in the geology as well as the scenery of the southern part of the opposite mainland. It has been described as affording an epitome of the geology of Scotland, with all the salient points of structure comprised within such narrow compass, and so clearly displayed as to afford exceptional facilities for practical investigation. Its coast-line supplies an almost continuous section of the rocks, with admirable exposures of their various structures and relations to each other, its streams, too, coursing for ages from the watershed to the sea, have trenched their channels into the solid rock. All over the island, crags and rugged knolls reveal the nature of what lies beneath the surface, while the peaks and crests of the northern mountain group form the background of the finest landscapes. Nowhere can the influence of geological structure upon scenery be more clearly seen, and nowhere is that influence displayed in forms that more emphatically appeal to the imagination. It is a region where a slumbering love of geological inquiry can hardly fail to be stimulated into activity, and where a latent aptitude for such inquiry may easily be quickened into life.

Such were the surroundings amid which Ramsay spent the holidays of his boyhood and youth. I have not been able to trace definitely the beginning and earliest development of his enthusiasm for geology. There can be little doubt, however, that, over and above the effect of his environment, he owed much of the impulse which led him into the geological field to the influence of two early friends. When still a boy at Saltcoats, he had come into close contact with David Landsborough, with whom he then began a life-long friendship. This genial man and enthusiastic naturalist, born in 1779, became in 1811 minister of the parish of Stevenston, in which part of the village of Saltcoats lies. He had from an early period of his life devoted himself to the study of the botany and natural history, not only of his own parish, but of the neighbouring region of Ayrshire and of Arran. So ardent was his devotion to these pursuits, and so successful his cultivation of them, that he was known as the Gilbert White of the west of Scotland. He is said to have added nearly seventy species to the previously known flora and fauna of Scotland. His personal influence in communicating the contagion of his love of nature is vividly remembered by those who knew him. As Ramsay came under this influence when a mere boy, we can hardly doubt that it helped in giving the bent to his future life-work.

The other friend, who contributed still more to the determination of Ramsay's geological career, was Professor Nichol, already referred to. Besides guiding the young man's reading, this helpful mentor incited him to the undertaking of definite pieces of geological field-work. Nichol, though not a professed geologist, had himself read widely and critically in geological literature; he was therefore well qualified to suggest lines of inquiry, to appreciate the significance of new observations, and to share in the pleasures and excitements of geological rambles. He, too, used to spend his summer holidays in Arran, and while there enjoyed long walks and talks with his young friend. If any stimulus to sustained geological effort had been needed on Ramsay's part, it was amply supplied by 'the Professor.' When the two friends were separated, long letters of suggestion and advice would come from Nichol. The kindly and helpful interest thus taken in him was always gratefully remembered by Ramsay, who never ceased to look back upon the Professor of Astronomy as his true father in science, to whose wise counsel and assistance he owed the happy change from a merchant's office to the life of a professional man of science.

The fame of Arran as a happy hunting-ground for the geologist drew many men of note to visit it. Of one of these visits Lord Playfair has been so good as to communicate the following recollections:—

At the latter end of April 1836, or beginning of May in that year, I was going down to Arran, and was reading Lyell's Geology, which I had got as a prize at Graham's Class of Chemistry. Sitting beside me in the steamboat was a charming lady, who entered into conversation with me, and I showed her my book. I expressed great admiration for the author, and she smiled, and then called a gentleman from the other side of the steamer, to whom she introduced his young admirer. This was my first introduction to the Lyells. At Arran I used to help Mrs. Lyell in collecting shells, for at that time I knew something of conchology, while Lyell geologised in the interior of the island. Ramsay joined me in Arran after a few days, and I told Mr. Lyell that my friend would like to help him in his excursions, which thereafter they used to make together.

In the letter to Lyell, given at p. 92 of this Memoir, Ramsay himself dates the beginning of his serious study of geology from about the year 1836, and acknowledges his great indebtedness to the illustrious author of the Principles of Geology.

It is not possible now to recover traces of the successive tours and excursions by which the young geologist gradually filled up the geological map of Arran. He had been preceded by several able observers, who had published accounts of the structure of the island, notably by Macculloch, Jameson, Sedgwick, Murchison, and Necker de Saussure. But their descriptions could not be regarded as more than outlines of a wide subject, which would require years of patient research before its details could be mastered. It was with no idea of testing, still less of criticising, their labours that Ramsay followed in their footsteps along the shores and up the glens. He had not originally proposed to himself to publish any of his observations, which were made entirely for the pleasure they brought in their train, as they led him year after year over hill and dale. Gradually he found that various facts met with by him in the course of his rambles had not been noticed by others before him. Thus, as far back as the summer of 1837, he had observed the mass of granite of 'Ploverfield,' of which the first published account was given three years later by Necker de Saussure. These discoveries were duly communicated to his friend Nichol, who doubtless made good use of them as an encouragement to continued investigation.

The meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science was held in Glasgow in September 1840. Among the preparations for that meeting a committee was started for the purpose of gathering together a collection of specimens, maps, and sections illustrative of the geology of the west of Scotland. In order to expedite the task, various sub-committees were formed, to each of which a special branch of the work was assigned. One of these was organised to prepare a model of the island of Arran, together with specimens of its geological formations. The convener of this sub-committee was Professor Nichol, who, as one of the local secretaries of the Association, undertook a large amount of labour and responsibility, and contributed much to the success of the Glasgow meeting. Ramsay was the secretary of the sub-committee, and, single-handed, did almost the whole of its work. In reporting to the general Museum Committee what they had done, Professor Nichol, who drew up the statement, remarked that 'Arran had previously been surveyed by several geologists; but although these eminent men had given valuable accounts of their observations, many blanks remained to be. filled up, and several important questions, having reference to the particular modes and epochs of the elevatory movements, and other phenomena of which this remarkable island is a memorial, do not appear to have been stirred at all. The Committee cannot presume that all deficiencies are now supplied, but they are certain that many points formerly obscure have been illustrated by their labours, and that a foundation at least is laid for a very complete and singular geological monograph. Their specimens, amounting probably to 700 or 800, have been selected with much care, [These specimens became the property of the British Association, and were handed over to the Andersonian University of Glasgow. But many years afterwards (1876) the Andersonian authorities, having no longer room for them, returned them, and they are now in the British Museum.] many sections have been drawn, a large map is in progress, and they have every hope that the model will, when finished, answer the purpose of rendering a great class of phenomena more palpable than could be done by any other mode of representation. It is necessary to mention that a new survey of the island in every locality has been executed, and that nearly all these labours have been gratuitously performed by their secretary, Mr. Andrew Ramsay, to whose talent and untiring energy their success is wholly owing.'

By the time the Association met, these active preparations had been completed. The specimens from Arran, after much anxious consultation over them on the part of Professor Nichol and his young associate, were duly displayed, the large map and sections were hung up, and the model, on the scale of two inches to a mile, was exhibited, with all the geological formations of the island clearly depicted on it in distinct colours.

A notable gathering of geologists assembled in Glasgow in September 1840. They included Lyell,2

Greenough, [1] Buckland, [2] PhiHips, [3] Murchison, [4] De la Beche, [5] Smith of Jordanliill, [6] Agassiz, [7] Strickland, [8] Edward Forbes, [9] and Griffith. [10] It was before this audience that Ramsay read his first scientific paper, ' Notes taken during the Surveys for the Construction of the Geological Model, Maps, and Sections of the Island of Arran.'11 In this communication he gave a brief sketch of his work. How he was guided in the conception of it, and in the further elaboration of his results, will appear from the following sentences in a letter to him from Nichol : 'In writing out your memoir never omit to draw attention as you go along to points yet requiring elucidation, and which present hopes of something very interesting. You must make this memoir short, chiefly in the way of scientific notes.

1 George Bellas Greenough, bom 1778, died 1855 ; one °f the founders and the first President of the Geological Society of London.

2 William Buckland, born 1784, died 1856; author of Reliquia Diluviana, also of one of the most celebrated Bridgewater Treatises, and of numerous geological memoirs ; Dean of Westminster, and Reader in Geology in the University of Oxford.

3 John Phillips, born 1800, died 1874 ; one of the founders and for many years General Secretary of the British Association; was for some years attached to the Geological Survey under De la Beche ; an able writer and clear lecturer on geology ; succeeded Dr. Buckland in the geological readership at Oxford.

4 Roderick Impey Murchison, born 1792, died 1871 ; author of The Silurian System, etc., and Director-General of the Geological Survey from 1855 to 1871.

5 Henry Thomas De la Beche, born 1796, died 1855; founder and first Director-General of the Geological Survey of Great Britain ; author of some valuable papers and treatises.

6 James Smith, bora 1782, died 1867 ; author of a remarkable work on The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul, and some of the earliest papers on the shelly deposits of the Glacial Drift.

7 Louis Agassiz, born 1807, died 1873 ; famous as a writer on fossil fishes, and for his contributions to glacial geology.

8 Hugh Edwin Strickland, born 1811, died 1853; a geologist of great ability and promise ; killed by a passenger train when examining a cutting on the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway.

9 Edward Forbes, born 1815, died 1854; one of the foremost British naturalists of his time; attached to the Geological Survey, and shortly before his early death appointed Professor of Natural History in the University of Edinburgh.

10 Richard Griffith, born 1784, died 1878 ; the most illustrious geologist Ireland has produced.

The popular descriptive part must be kept for your book. I have been thinking of a speculation with Griffin :n regard of your model and book, which I think might be very advantageous to you; of which, when we meet.' We shall see immediately what came of the ' speculation' here referred to.

Ramsay was heartily welcomed at Glasgow into the brotherhood of geologists. He formed there some of the most lasting and influential friendships of his life. It was there that he first came in contact with De la Beche, under whom, though at that time undreamt of by either of them, he was within a few months to enter upon the career of a professional geologist. It was there that he first met Murchison, who was from the very first deeply impressed with his capacity and geological ardour. It was there, too, that he made acquaintance with Edward Forbes, and began that intimacy which linked the two men together by the closest ties of friendship in the prosecution of scientific work.

It was arranged that on the Saturday of the Association week an excursion should be made to Arran, and the young geologist who had explored the island so well was invited by Lyell, who was President of Section C (Geology), to read his communication the day before, in order that those who intended to take part I in the excursion might be put in possession of the necessary information. The excursionists divided themselves into two parties, one proceeding direct by steamer, the other by railway to Ardrossan, and thence by steamer to Arran. Ramsay was to conduct the party united at Brodick, and give them a general exposition of Arran geology. But he had worked hard in making all the preliminary preparations, and for some days before had been up early and late. Hence, when the morning came, he unluckily overslept himself, and was too late for both steamboat and train. This untoward accident he never ceased to regret.

The excitement of the Glasgow meeting, the first entry into the company of renowned geologists with whose names he had so long been familiar, the first public exhibition of his own work as a geologist, the first plunge into the sea of active scientific discussion, and the cordial welcome extended to him by men whose achievements he had followed from afar, left Ramsay with many regrets when he came back again to the consideration of his own prospects in life. How gladly would he have taken to science as a calling if only any opening had offered itself. Nine years afterwards, when he had found his place 'n the active brotherhood of men of science, chancing to meet Professor Johnston of Durham, whose acquaintance he had made at the British Association in Glasgow he recalled to him an incident of that meeting, which he thus describes : ' On the Sunday of the Association week I chanced to overtake Johnston in Ingram Street, and, talkmg about geological matters, I told him how I was busy with mercantile affairs, and longed for an opportunity to engage in geological pursuits, after the happy taste I had had of it in working before the coming of the Association. "Stick to your work," quoth he, "and don't forget your geology, and something may arise!" He spoke truly.

The British Association meeting, while it had stimulated his bent towards geological work, threw no light upon the dark outlook before the young man. From a letter of his mother's, it appears that there was at one time some prospect of his going out to Tasmania, and with her maternal desire to keep all the family around her if that might be, she gladly welcomed any proposal that would prevent such a breaking up of her home-circle. As one disappointment succeeded another in his efforts to obtain a solid footing in business, he employed himself in completing his account of Arran. The ' speculation' referred to by Nichol took formal shape in an agreement between the Glasgow publishing firm of Richard Griffin and Co., and Andrew Ramsay, ' Merchant in Glasgow,' dated 2nd November 1840, by which, in consideration of the payment of a sum of twenty-one pounds, the latter undertook to prepare within three months a work on the geology of the island of Arran, together with the necessary views, sections, and maps.

In pursuance of this agreement, the work was duly written, and appeared the following spring as a thin octavo volume of seventy-eight pages, with a little map, a page of sections, and upwards of two dozen woodcuts, chiefly from drawings by the author. It was entitled The Geology of the Island of Arran from Original Survey, by Andrew Crombie Ramsay, and was appropriately dedicated to Nichol. This essay has long since taken its place among the classics of Scottish geology. As a broad outline of the structure of an exceedingly interesting geological region it was a most meritorious production. It gave sufficient detail to show how carefully its author had gone over the ground, how accurate and acute he was as an observer, and how clearly he saw the relation between scattered or isolated facts and the broad principles that connected them. While his chapters did not by any means exhaust Arran, they correctly described its general geological structure. In particular, the existence of a 'New Red Sandstone' series, first proposed by Sedgwick and Murchison, was clearly recognised by him. Other observers have since disputed this assertion, but its truth has recently been confirmed by the Geological Survey. The history of the igneous phenomena remains very much as Ramsay left it, and is not likely to be much advanced until the still comparatively unknown southern part of the island is mapped in minute detail.

Apart from the excellence of his essay as a geological treatise, it had no little merit as a piece of descriptive prose. A few passages from it may be quoted here, to show that, besides cultivating habits of geological observation, the author entered thoroughly into the spirit of the scenery amid which he was working, and could depict in graphic words the aspects of the landscapes. Let us accompany him to the top of Goatfell, the highest summit in Arran, and listen to his account of it: 'The eye of the geologist suddenly rests on a scene which, if he be a true lover of nature, cannot fail to inspire him with astonishment and delight. The jagged and spiry peaks of the surrounding mountains ; the dark hollows and deep shady corries, into which the rays of the sun scarce ever penetrate ; the open swelling hills beyond, the winding shores of Loch Fyne, and the broad Firth of Clyde, studded with its peaceful and fertile islands ; the rugged mountains of Argyllshire, and the gentle curves of the hills of the Western Isles, their outlines softened in the distance, form a scene of surpassing grandeur and loveliness. In all its varying aspects, it is a scene, the; memory of which can be dwelt on with pleasure: whether it be seen in the early morning, when the white mists, drawn upward from the glens, float along the hills, and half conceal their giant peaks; or in the gloom of an autumn evening, when the descending clouds, urged onwards by the blast, flit swiftly across the mountain sides, while ever and anon their gloomy shoulders loom largely through the rolling masses, and seem to the beholder to double their vast proportions; or in the mellow light of a summer sunset, when the shadows of the hills fall far athwart the landscape, and the distant Atlantic gleams brightly in the slanting rays of the setting sun ; while, as he sinks below the horizon, it is difficult to distinguish the lofty summits of Jura and the Isles from the gorgeous masses of clouds among which he disappears.'

In the midst of these impressive scenes, while enjoying to the full their picturesque beauty, Ramsay's eye was ever keenly sensitive to the geological lessons so vividly taught by them. Lingering among the granite precipices, and 'surrounded by the grey peaks of the solemn hills,' the observer reflects that these colossal features in the scenery, notwithstanding ' all their appearance of majesty and power, are day by day slowly crumbling into dust. Even now the landscape on which he mutely gazes is imperceptibly yielding to the never-dying principle of change; and the time will come when, with all its varied features, it shall have passed away, and left no trace behind.'

The young geologist had an eye, too, for the little touches of human pathos which so often lighten up the sombreness of a Highland scene. As he comes down North Glen Sannox, once a populous valley, but in his day, as it is still, almost uninhabited, he contrasts its very different conditions. He marks how 'green spots, clothed with a close-cropped herbage, and still bearing witness to the marks of the plough, surround each ruined clachan. The hazel and the fragrant birch, the ash and the charmed rowan, fringe the banks of the stream, or mark the remains of the little garden-enclosures; and mingled with these may be seen the white blossoms of the gnarled elder, famed of old for its irresistible power in scaring the midnight witches from the neighbourhood of lonely dwellings, and counteracting the malicious pranks of the fairies, who, it is well known, still inhabit these desert wastes!'

The author avoids letting his own personality be seen in the course of his narrative, but in the following passage we seem to meet him coming back somewhat jaded from a long tramp to his welcome resting-place for the night in the snug homely inn of Loch Ranza. 'Tired and hungry though the traveller be, and with the very smoke of the little inn curling before his eyes, let him pause for a moment at the entrance of the loch, and seating himself on a granitic boulder, quietly contemplate the placid scene before him. Trees there are few to boast of, and what is pleasanter, there are still fewer strangers, for to the traveller in such a scene, all strangers seem out of place but himself The sinking sun shines bright on the gleaming peaks of Caistael Abhael and Ceum na Cailleach, where the shadows of the rugged scars and deep hollows of the winter torrents, mingled with the lights brightly reflected from the projecting rocks, form a hazy radiance which more obscures than illuminates the shady recesses of the rugged corries. The tide is at its full, and the lazy sails of many a lagging fishing-boat, the image of the ruined tower and of the green hills around, lie calmly reflected in the unruffled waters :—

The lake returned in chastened gleam The purple cloud, the golden beam ; Reflected in the crystal pool, Headland and bank lay fair and cool; The weather-tinted rock and tower, Each drooping tree, each fairy flower, So true, so soft, the mirror gave, As if there lay beneath the wave, Secure from trouble, toil, and care, A world than earthly world more fair.

'But it is in a cold February evening that the pleasant solitude of the place will be most esteemed. There, seated at a blazing peat-fire, as the geologist extends his notes or arranges his specimens after fris day's work, he will hear the piercing wind whistling down Glen Chalmadael and the narrow pass of Glen Eisnabearradh, then dying away as it reaches a wider expanse of the loch, to be again renewed by a louder and a shriller blast. And as he loiters to the door to speculate on the probabilities of the morrow's weather, he may chance to see the burning heath, like the beacons of old, blazing on the hills around, and faintly gleaming on the far-distant headlands of Argyllshire.' [Geology of the Island of Arran, pp. 7, 27, 36, 40.]

It was while Ramsay was engaged in the preparation of these chapters for the printer that the long-looked-for prospect of congenial employment at last opened out to him, in a form as unexpected as it was welcome. Among those who, from what they had seen of him and his work at the British Association, had formed a high opinion of his geological capacity was Murchison. This illustrious geologist, then in the full tide of his work among the older formations of the north and east of Europe, had entertained the idea of possibly extending his labours to North America, though he ultimately went to Russia instead. The young geologist who had done such excellent work in Arran would, he thought, make an admirable companion and assistant in his foreign expeditions ; and in the autumn he wrote to propose such an employment to his young friend. No letter appears to have survived from Ramsay himself in reference to this sudden lifting of the clouds that had darkened his path. But we get a glimpse into the family circle in a letter written at the time by his mother to his brother William. 'Dr. Nichol,' she says, 'seems to think Andrew will have to go to London about the beginning of February. Andrew is in high spirits himself with the prospect. I hope it may turn out as much for his good as he expects. For my own part, I think there should be some written agreement about money matters; it is far more agreeable to claim as a right than to get as a favour, although the very travelling at Murchison's expense is a matter of consequence, and you may say although he were to get nothing he will see the world. At the same time, as he cannot afford to be without a salary, I hope it will be given.'

After some delay all the preparations were made, and Ramsay left home for his new career on Monday, 15th March 1841. A large band of his old friends and associates assembled on the Broomielaw to see him start, for he had arranged to take steamboat to Liverpool, and pay a visit there on his way to London. His journey and subsequent doings are best told in his own words :—

Liverpool, Wednesday (17th March 1841).

My dearest Mother — You have by this time got over the first violence of your sorrow at parting with me, and however painful the separation is to all of us, you will find that time will gradually accustom you to my temporary absence; and you will look on a letter from me in the same light as you do one of Johnie's, with this difference, that you have the absolute certainty of seeing the second son (the go-between—the link between Willie and Johnie—who has part of the features and part of the character of both) in less than a year, and probably in six or eight months. Won't I rush home to Glasgow? brimful of London and Russia—of sights, wonders, and travels, a perfect Munchausen, telling most incredible stories about bearded Muscovites, horrible escapes from bears and wolves, burning suns and mountains of snow, expatriated Poles and Siberian mines. How I was introduced to the Emperor, how he smiled and bowed, and by a smile and a bow secured a deathless immortality, and honourable mention in the 2 vols, royal 8vo which are to hand down to future times the results of Mr. Hosie's1 observations 011 men and manners in Russia; for a bow from a prince to a geologist excuses the depopulation of Poland, and a smile renders him amiable and attractive in the bosom of his family and in all his private capacities.

'Andrew Hosie' was a nickname by which he was familiarly known among his friends and associates. In another manuscript journal named ' The Renfield Rocket,' of later date than the ' Miscellaneous Journal' already referred to, the scientific doings of this personage are made the subject of jocular description. A Scots song also appears there to celebrate his virtues, of which the refrain runs—

My Hosie O! my Hosie O!
He's neither thin nor brosy O!
There's no a lad in Scotland broad
Can ever match wi' Hosie O!

London, 25th March 1841.

My dear Willie—You will have heard all about me ere this from our folks at home, but perhaps I may as well give you a synopsis of the whole of my proceedings. I left Glasgow on Monday, and arrived in Liverpool on Tuesday at three. ... I left Liverpool at half-past ten on Thursday morning, and arrived in London at half-past nine at night, and being at a loss what to do with myself, went to the nearest hotel, viz. the Victoria, Euston Square, from whence I immediately wrote to Murchison announcing my arrival. I did not hear from him till next day (Friday) at five o'clock, and in the meantime went and saw St. Paul's and the outsides of some of the streets, for you see I had always to be running home to look for a letter. He asked me to breakfast with him on Saturday morning. This I did. His house is a splendid one. They are quite people of fashion, but, notwithstanding, Mrs. M. is a kindly body, and made me quite at ease at once. I should previously have informed you that Mr. M. told me in his note that he had given up the idea of taking me to Russia with him, but said he was almost certain he had procured me a much better place, viz. that of Assistant Geologist to De la Beche, who is at present making the Ordnance Geological Survey for Government. To cut the matter short, I may here tell you that on that day he again wrote to De la B. that the matter might be finally settled, and on Tuesday last had a most satisfactory letter from De la B., enclosing one for me, officially appointing me to the situation of Assistant Geologist, with pay of 9s. a day. 'Here's a start.' On Monday first I leave this for Bristol by Great Western Railway, and on Tuesday I shall be at Tenby, Pembrokeshire, South Wales, there to join De la B. Tenby lies, I think, at the mouth of Milford Haven, a place celebrated by Shakespeare in Cymbeline. [The writer's literary memory was here better than his geography. Tenby lies about 18 miles due east from the entrance to Milford Haven].


HENRY T. DE LA BECHE

Before leaving, Murchison asked me to dine with him next day at seven. Mrs. M. also asked me to breakfast, and to go to church with her afterwards. The remainder of Saturday I spent getting into my lodgings, going through the Geological Museum at Somerset House, calling on Lyell and Graham, [Thomas Graham, born 1805, died 1869, one of the most distinguished chemists of our time, was for some years Lecturer on Chemistry in Glasgow, and in 1837 became professor of the science at University College, London, an appointment which he held until 1855, when he was made Master of the Mint, lie had known Ramsay and his father in Glasgow, and was one of the first men of science to welcome him to London.] and seeing the Polytechnic. Lyell and Graham both received me very kindly, indeed Lyell as much so as Graham. He was very glad to hear of my success, and told me to be sure and let him know when my Geology of Arran came out, as he wished to notice some of my remarks in a new edition of his Elements of Geology. Here's another start. I went to Covent Garden on Saturday night, and was delighted with The Critic. On Sunday I went with Mrs. M. in her carriage to St. Luke's, Chelsea, and having keeked through the rails and seen the Duke of Wellington, I went to Westminster at three. At seven I went to Murchison's to dinner, and there met Mr. Featherstonhaugh, the American plenipotentiary, his lady, and two gentlemen — a Captain Pringle and Mr. Munro. Featherstonhaugh is a lively man, but takes no wine for his stomach's sake.

Monday I spent in the National Gallery and the British Museum, and in the evening called on Dr. Stanger, with whom I was acquainted at the meeting. I found him out by the merest chance. He took me with him to a Philosophical soiree at Mr. Bowerbank's, and we had a good deal of interesting discussion On Tuesday, after writing to Nichol and home, I went to Belgrave Square, and there got my official appointment. De la B.'s letter is a very kind one. In his note to Murchison he speaks of my pay rising. I am thoroughly convinced that this is a much better thing than going to Russia. If I behave, and am found worthy, I am sure to rise in the service.

By and by the Survey will go to Scotland. Probably I may get the neighbourhood of Glasgow to do, including my own island. After leaving Murchison I went through Westminster, and saw Dr. Johnson's and Garrick's gravestones side by side, and all the others. 'O rare Ben Jonson!' 'The cloud-capt towers!' I afterwards met Murchison at Somerset House.

Yesterday I spent in the Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park, and also visited the Colosseum. At six I dined with the Geological Club1 at the Crown and Anchor, Strand. It has a most shabby outside, but is one of those old-fashioned splendid inns inside, which, I suppose, are not to be found out of London. It was here that Fox and the great Whigs of that great day used to meet and enjoy themselves. Lyell and Featherstonhaugh were there, and Captain Pringle; Murchison in the chair. There were about twenty-five gentlemen present. I was introduced to Dr. Buck-land and some others. Murchison introduced me also to Mr. Taylor, the croupier and treasurer of the Society, and asked him to take me beside him. I heard him say to Buckland: 'You remember young Ramsay, who made the model of Arran? I shall introduce him to you.' 'Oh yes,' quoth the Doctor. So I was introduced, and the Doctor gave me two of his digits to shake. There were a lot of big-wigs there whose names I do not know—members of Parliament and others. Mr. Taylor, whom I sat next, knows, or knew, Dr. Thomson of Glasgow, Dr. Ure, Charles Mackintosh, C. Tennant, and others, who were old friends of my father's, and we had a great deal of conversation together. After dinner we went to Somerset House to hear Murchison on Russia. The^Sarquis of Northampton was there. The discussion broke up about eleven, when we all went upstairs to tea.

I must now close, as I have to go to Belgrave Square and elsewhere, to get my equipment before leaving for Wales.

From De la Beche's letter, containing the formal offer of the appointment, a few sentences may be quoted. It is dated from Cardiff, 22nd March 1841 :

'My friend, Mr. Murchison, having recommended you to me as well qualified to assist on the Ordnance Geological Survey, as I have little doubt, judging from your labours in the Isle of Arran, is the case ; and Mr. Murchison having also stated that you were desirous of joining the service as Assistant Geologist, I have now to offer you the situation of Assistant Geologist on this Survey, with a rate of pay, for the present, of 9s. per day for the six working days of the week (it being the somewhat singular rule that the Sundays are unprovided with pay), payable quarterly, which is at the rate of ^140 :8s. per annum. Independently of this salary, your travelling expenses from station to station would be paid, and all necessary instruments, drawing materials, etc. etc., are found by Government.

'Should you feel disposed to join the Survey on these terms, I would thank you to write to me to that effect, directing your letter to me, Tenby, South Wales, to which place I intend to remove my headquarters to-morrow. In that event, it would be desirable that you should report yourself at Tenby on the 1st of April, the commencement of one of our official quarters. A steamer leaves Bristol for Tenby on Tuesday, the 29th instant, so that you would only remain a day or two at Tenby without your pay.'

Though Murchison's strong recommendation may have had some influence in determining the offer of this appointment to the young geologist, it must be remembered that De la Beche had attended the Glasgow meeting of the British Association, where, as one of the vice-presidents of Section C, he had met Ramsay, seen his map and model, and been able to form an independent judgment as to his capacity for the work of the Geological Survey.

The pecuniary prospects set forth in the Director-General's letter could not be regarded as specially inviting. They were much canvassed in Glasgow, where the news that Ramsay was not to go to Russia after all, but had been offered, and had accepted, a post in the Geological Survey of this country, fell like a thunderbolt in the family a few days after he had left home. Mrs. Ramsay's first feeling was one of bitter disappointment, and it needed all Professor Nichols powers of persuasion to convince her that the situation now offered to her son might really open the way to his future distinction.

At length, having completed his outfit in London, he started on the last day of March, and arrived at Tenby at one o'clock in the morning of the 2nd of April by the Phoenix, from Bristol, there to begin a career in the Geological Survey which was to last until he had risen to be the head of the service, and one of the foremost geologists of his day.


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