Memoir of Sir
Andrew Crombie Ramsay Chapter III -
The Geological Survey under the Office of Works
On the 1st April 1845,
the beginning of the Parliamentary financial year, the Geological Survey
was formally taken over from the Master-General and Board of Ordnance,
and was placed 'under the direction and supervision of the First
Commissioner of Her Majesty's Woods, Forests, Land Revenues, Works, and
Buildings.' The staff was partly reorganised and somewhat augmented. At
the same time the geological mapping of Ireland, which had been
partially done for some of the north-eastern counties by Captain
Portlock [J. E. Portlock, born 1794, died 1864 ; best known to
geologists for his excellent memoir on the ' Geology of Londonderry,
Tyrone, and Fermanagh, with portions of the Adjacent Counties.' He was
President of the Geological Society in 1856-58.] under the Ordnance
department, was now definitely undertaken upon the same lines as those
followed in the larger island. The Irish Survey was made to form part of
an organisation which embraced the whole United Kingdom, and which now
became ' The Geological Survey of Great Britain and Ireland.'
The chief appointments of
the staff thus enlarged were arranged as follows : Sir Henry De la Beche
had charge of the whole organisation, with the title of
Director-General. The immediate supervision of the work <n England and
Wales (and afterwards in Scotland) was assigned to A. C. Ramsay as Local
Director for Great Britain. The Irish branch was entrusted to the care
of Captain James,  R.E. A palaeontologist was appointed, and the
office was filled by Edward Forbes. W. W. Smyth  became Mining
Geologist, and Dr. (now Sir Joseph) Hooker was a year later made
Botanist to the Geological Survey of the United Kingdom. Dr. Lyon
Playfair (now Lord Playfair) was appointed Chemist, while Richard
Phillips still remained in charge of the original laboratory of the
Museum. Robert Hunt succeeded T. B. Jordan as Keeper of Mining Records.
The staff of geological
surveyors under Ramsay, besides W. T. Aveline, Trevor E. James, D. H.
Williams, and II. W. Brstow,  already members of the Ordnance
Geological Survey, was now augmented by the appointment of W. H. Baily
 and of A. R. C. Selwyn ~ez_mdash~a name which will be frequently mentioned
in the course of [his Memoir. Besides these officers, the staff included
a few assistants for special services. R. Gibbs,  one of the most
admirable collectors the Survey ever possessed, had joined as far back
as the summer of 1843. Charles R. Bone was employed as artist to draw
fossils described by the palaeontologist.
1 Captain (afterwards
Sir) Henry James, born 1803, died 1877; resigned the Directorship of the
Geological Survey of Ireland in June 1846, and was succeeded by Thomas
Oldham. He afterwards held for many years the appointment of Director of
the Ordnance Survey of the United Kingdom.
2 Warington W. Smyth,
born 1817, died 1890; son of Admiral W. H. Smyth ; Lecturer on Mining
and Mineralogy in the Royal School of Mines from 1851 to the time of his
death. Knighted in 1887.
3 Henry William Bristow,
born 1817, died 1889; appointed to the Survey in 1842 ; became Director
for England and Wales in 1872 ; an able and accurate surveyor of
Secondary and Tertiary formations, and, from his genial and courteous
manners, a great favourite among his colleagues.
4 William Hellier Baily,
born 1819, died 1888; transferred in 1856 to the Irish staff, where he
acted as Palaeontologist.
5 Alfred R. C. Selwyn,
after doing admirable work in the mapping of North Wales, resigned, in
July 1852, to accept the charge of the Geological Survey of Victoria. On
the resignation of Sir William Logan, he was appointed Director of the
Geological Survey of Canada, an office which he still worthily fills.
6 Richard Gibbs, a native
of Gloucestershire, was first employed by De la Beche in running
sections in the Mitcheldean district, and made himself so useful that he
was eventually attached to the staff of the Survey. A large part of the
fossil collections in the Museum of Practical Geology was originally
collected by him. His name will frequently occur in the subsequent pages
of this Memoir. He retired from the service on a pension in 1872, and
died in 1878.
William Talbot Aveline
With this augmentation of
the staff, other additional duties were undertaken by the Survey. Of
these perhaps the most important was the preparation and publication of
Memoirs illustrative of various districts that had been mapped, and
containing a discussion of subjects connected with general views of
geology and its applications. The first volume of this series was soon
planned. The Director-General undertook to contribute an essay ' On the
Formation of the Rocks of South Wales and South-Western England.' Edward
Forbes supplied his famous and classic paper ' On the connection between
the distribution of the existing fauna and flora of the British Isles,
and the geological changes which have affected their area, especially
during the epoch of the Northern Drift.' Ramsay's contribution consisted
of his essay 'On the Denudation of South Wales and the adjacent counties
of England.' The volume containing these various papers appeared in
1846, and the preparation of the material occupied much of the time
spent indoors in the previous year.
The general bearing of
the scientific organisation planned by De la Beche upon the progress of
geological investigation was well expressed by Leonard Horner1 in his
address as President of the Geological Society. 'With scarcely any
exceptions,' he said, ' all geological inquiries have [hitherto] been
the fruits of individual research. But n the Geological Survey of Great
Britain there is a combination of forces which we have never, in this
country at least, seen applied to the promotion of any one department of
science. No department perhaps requires so many different descriptions
of force to be brought to bear upon it. The Ordnance Trigonometrical
Survey led the way by the preparation of that indispensable requisite in
geological inquiries, an accurate map on a large scale. For the more
general (geological) Survey, we have geologists of great practical
experience, who have established a high reputation; and when the
structure of each region is to be worked out in detail, the special
knowledge of the mineralogist, the chemist, the natural philosopher, the
zoologist, the comparative anatomist, the botanist, and the
palaeontologist, will be brought to bear, as required, by means of men
of high authority in each branch, and their labours will be illustrated
by artists of great skill, all attached to the Survey, forming together
a corps of scientific men, for the accomplishment of a great work, not
surpassed, 1 believe, by any similar establishment in any other
By these new arrangements
additional duties and responsibility were thrown upon Ramsay. The Local
Director was to have immediate supervision of the field-work of the
staff, which would necessitate his frequent inspection of the surveys of
his various colleagues. He was to see that the whole mapping was
conducted on uniform methods, to confer with the officers on their
difficulties, to bring the experience gained in one district to bear
upon the elucidation of another, and thus to ensure the harmony and
steady progress of the field-work. To gain these important objects it
would no longer be possible for him to spend his whole time in the field
carrying out independent mapping on his own part. It would be needful to
keep himself in touch with the progress of the mapping in every
district, though he resolved from the first that he would still devote a
good part of the working season to mapping by himself~ez_mdash~an employment for
which he was so admirably qualified, and in which he took such a keen
superintending the surveys in the field, the Director was charged with
the task of seeing the maps prepared for the engraver, of arranging the
lines of horizontal section, and of editing these sections before they
were sent to be engraved. These indoor duties were sometimes exceedingly
onerous, involving as they did much correspondence and frequent visits
to the ground before all discrepancies, omissions, or mistakes were
finally rectified. From this time forward letter-writing on official
business claimed an ever-increasing share of Ramsay's time.
The most irksome part,
however, in the routine of these duties was the supervision of the
accounts of the staff. Incredible as it may now seem, each member of the
corps was required to procure a receipt for all travelling expenses.
Continual and vexatious were the disputes with railway-clerks,
coach-proprietors, hotel-keepers, and others who refused to be at the
trouble of granting receipts, or declined even to sign their names at
the foot of official receipts already prepared for them. Moreover, each
officer was further bound to furnish at the end of every quarter a
detailed statement of his disbursements, with vouchers for his
travelling fares and other payments.
All these documents
required to be checked and made conformable to the regulations, and the
operation sometimes took several days, even if it was not further
prolonged by correspondence as to inaccuracies in the charges, or in the
method of stating them. But the crowning vexation came after the whole
accounts had been examined and passed. In those days it was officially
required that before sending in his accounts the Director should appear
before a magistrate, and swear to their accuracy. In a country place, as
may easily be imagined, this regulation often led to great loss of time,
as well as additional expense. It would sometimes happen that no
qualified official was to be found within a distance of several miles
from the Director's station. And now and then, when found, the worthy
justice had some difficulty in comprehending the nature of the unusual
request that was made to him.
Ramsay chronicles a
number of instances of his experience of this serious infliction in
country places. Thus in the beginning of the October quarter of 1847,
while at Bishop's Castle, he records : ' Got the accounts sworn to
before Squire O.~ez_mdash~a jolly, gentlemanly red-faced man, who did not seem
clearly to understand the difference between an affidavit and an oath.
Accordingly, as the surest method, he made me kiss the book.' On another
occasion, while stationed at Llanberis in 1849, he had the experience
recorded in the following entry: 'Having received the amended accounts,
started for Mr. Hughes' of St. Ann's, the magistrate, ten miles off or
so. He was away at Llanfairfechan. No help for it but to walk to Bangor.
Every magistrate in the town was away to Llanfairfechan, for it seems
they are one and all parsons, the magistrates of Bangor, and there was a
chapel to be consecrated there to-day. Took a car, and in despair drove
to Penrhyn Castle. Colonel Pennant also gone to Llanfairfechan!' Next
day he proceeded to Caernarvon, ' expecting Mr. Morgan to do my
magistrate's business for me, but lo! he was gone to Bangor, and no
other was to be found in the town. I was disgusted beyond measure. Then
took steamer and crossed to Anglesey to the Rev. Wynne Williams of Menai
fron, and as good luck would have it, he was at home. At last we had run
a magistrate to earth after a two days' hunt. He was very civil and made
us take a glass of wine.'
The duties of the Local
Director for Great Britain were at that time confined to England and
Wales, the: field-work not being extended to Scotland for some nine
years later. The Irish branch of the service was entirely excluded from
his supervision, but Ramsay was kept fully aware of all that was going
on in the sister island, not only by conference and correspondence with
De la Beche, but also by frequent communications from the successive
directors of the Irish Survey. His tact and good sense were often of
service in smoothing difficulties which threatened to break up the
discipline and effectiveness of the Irish staff. Having the confidence
both of the Director-General and his subordinates, he was appealed to
frankly by both, so that over and above the correspondence naturally
entailed on him by his own proper duties, he frequently was involved in
much letter-writing on the affairs of his colleagues in Ireland. We get
a glimpse into the life of the Irish Survey in the following unpublished
letter from Edward Forbes.
Fethard, County Wexford,
11th September 1845.
Dear Ramsay~ez_mdash~When I
arrived in London from my Zetland voyage I found you were in Glasgow.
Had I known it before, I might have given you a ten minutes' call on the
way. I got your note at Oban. On arriving in town I found half a dozen
orders from Sir Henry to be off to join him in Ireland; so after three
days in London, I cut away to Waterford via Bristol. . . .
I am here in a little
village near Hook Point, in the midst of Mountain Limestone fossils,
examining their distribution~ez_mdash~all very interesting. The Captain, a very
nice fellow named Willson, who is of his staff, and that thorough
Welshman, little peppery, uncomfortable, and marvellously stupid and
uninformed (as I find on close quarters), are my companions. We make a
very merry mess, however, and the Welsh squire's absurdities~ez_mdash~for he is
in misery in Ireland~ez_mdash~make us laugh. Sir Henry was with us till two days
ago, working like a trooper, and when not at work telling funny stories.
In a few days I leave this and go with the Captain (who sports a
ferocious pair of egg-brown moustaches) to look at the Pleistocene beds
in Wexford. Thence I go with Sir Henry to Dublin, after which, route as
yet undetermined. When in Zetland I got most important data respecting
the history of the animals found fossil in the Pleistocene beds. This
makes me very anxious to see the Irish, and I should like much to go
with you to Moel Trefaen and thereabouts.
I have been talking to
Sir Henry about Longman's book. I don't see how the Devil it is to be
done. One gets no time to do it. Unless it can be done as Survey work,
and in Survey time, it seems to me to be quite out of the question, and
if we find that it cannot so be done, it would be better to write a
joint letter to Longman submitting such to be the case, and requesting
to be freed from the engagement. As it is, it is an unpleasant fiction.
What say you? I have not finished my great work yet from utter want of
time, nor when I think over it, do I see how it can be done, unless Sir
Henry grants a few weeks' respite. Ever, dear Ramsay, most sincerely
yours, Edward Forbes A.
With all the immediate
and prospective additions to his duties arising from the reorganisation
of the Survey, and happily ignorant as yet of the trouble and worry
which they might involve, Ramsay got through the office work of the
winter of 1844-45, and soon after the middle of April took again to the
field. He first joined H. \V. Bristow in the Ludlow and New Radnor
district, 'turning Old Red Sandstone into Silurian' during the day, and
spending the evenings right merrily with musical friends.
The great Leopold von
Buch, one of the oddest and ablest of the German geologists of his day,
came to London early this summer. On the 27th May Ramsay notes: '
Adjourned to Dr. Fitton's, where were all the big-wigs of science to
meet Von Buch.' A few weeks later he accompanied the German philosopher
to Cambridge to attend the meeting of the British Association, which was
held there in June of this year. Of this journey down from London he
afterwards wrote: 'At Murchison's request I took Von Buch to Cambridge
on the outside of the mail-coach from the head of the Haymarket. His
luggage always consisted only of a small baize bag, which held a clean
shirt and clean silk stockings. He wore knee-breeches and shoes.' [Life
of Sir R. I. Murchison, vol. ii. p. 7 footnote.]
At this meeting Ramsay
read a paper before Section C ' On the Denudation of South Wales and the
adjacent Counties.' His lotting in reference to this event runs thus: '
Read my paper, or rather spoke it. Felt no difficulty. Much discussion.
Dined with the Reds. Evening meeting in our hall' [Jesus College].
Edward Forbes formed one of the merry party that was lodged in the
It was past the middle of
July before he had resumed his field-work in Cardiganshire, working
along the coast and into the interior from Aberporth, Aberaeron,
Aberystwith, and other stations. This was to be a season of hard work in
the field, clearing off outstanding unfinished tracts of ground, and
joining up lines so as to carry the mapping well to the north. It was
only interrupted by a few weeks spent in a visit to his mother and
friends in Scotland, during which he passed an evening on the top of
Goatfell, renewed his acquaintance with the Glasgow circle, and saw his
relatives in Edinburgh and Haddington.
Back again in Wales, he
writes to his mother from Aberaeron on the 29th September: 'Stress of
weather has delayed my work, two successive bad days having driven me to
the verge of despair, and, had I good opportunity, there is no saying
but I might run away to sea. I have been wandering after dinner on the
shingly sea-shore. The wind was low, but a heavy smooth swell played the
dickens with the pebbles, rattling and rolling them, and grind, grind,
grinding them into rounded surfaces as polished as a smooth teapot. Then
such piles of watery clouds in the west, full of portentous caverns,
through which the upward rays of the sun (himself deep down in the sea)
shone with a strange unearthly light, the whilk it was difficult to say
whether it most resembled a reflected glow from the gates of Heaven or a
lurid glare from the portals of Infernality !'
The Welsh ground that had
to be mapped at this time included tracts that lay far from his
stations, and necessitated long tramps on foot. Writing to his brother
William from Aberystwith on 25th September, he asks, ' Will no Christian
make me a present of a thousand pounds? and then I might buy a horse and
gig and save my bones. When a man is wearied his brain is barren. That's
my case. I could sleep, too, if it weren't that the tea keeps me
wakeful. . . . I wish I had four legs and a man's head. I wish I were a
centaur, and then I could go right across the country, taking all the
hedges and ditches just as they come.' On 6th October he tells the same
correspondent, ' I have been obligated to buy a pony, for this is too
wild a country and the distances too great for my legs to stand it. The
day before I reached Aberaeron I was fairly knocked up long before I
reached home. Ten miles to one's work is rather too much of a good joke,
for it makes twenty without including the work at all. I have got a
great bargain, having only paid : ios. for her. She is at present well
worth £12 or £13, and in six months I shall make her worth more than
double what I paid. She is a chestnut, with silver mane and tail, and
five years old last May.' Four days later he writes to his brother : ' I
get a deuce of a drenching every day just now, even to the very sark.
However, it does me no harm. My new pony turns out well~ez_mdash~a little
skittish sometimes, but that makes one feel alive in the saddle.'
The short November days
would sometimes close in upon him while still far from his quarters, as
on one occasion, of which he notes, ' Walked up the road to Llanidloes,
and so over the shoulder of Plynlimmon. Benighted on the hills, sans
road, and so dark I could not see two yards. By dint of shouting, a man
came and found me.' At last, on the 14th November, he is able to
chronicle at Pontrhyd-fendigaid: ' Had a most successful day's work, and
finished South Wales, perfectly understanding the same.' Before the end
of the year he joined Selwyn at Machynlleth, and the two comrades made
some traverses into the rugged country of Cader Idris, from which in
later years they were to work out the complicated volcanic geology of
While stationed at
Puinpsaint, near Llandovery, in 1842, Ramsay had received much kindness
from Mr. Johnes of Dolaucothi and his family. The friendship then begun
was one of the most cherished of h:s life, and lasted undimmed to the
time of his death. He was always a welcome guest at the house and a
constant correspondent of the family. Not infrequently his epistles took
the form of verse, and on his visits he sometimes wrote rhymes in the
albums of the ladies. The earliest of these effusions dates back to the
summer of 1842, and its character may be gathered from the following
lines in it:~ez_mdash~
And when 'mid other
scenes I ride, With good Sir Henry by my side, Oft will I tell of merry
staves, Sung in Gogofau's ancient caves ; And how his ' geologic son 1
At Dolaucothi had ' such fun '; Fenced with his host upon the green, And
came off second best, I ween ; Ran races on the lawn, good lack ! And
tumbled down upon his back ; Or shouted loud among the train, Till
woodland echoes rang again ; When I (with all the mirthful crew,
Yourself, and B, C, F, and Stue), A stranger from the ' Land o' Cakes,'
On Cothi's banks made ducks and drakes ; Or how, 'mid arbor-vitas
bowers, We plucked our ante-dinner flowers; And lofty Fanny chose to
wear, Entwined amid her raven hair, Of cabbages a garland fair, While
Charlotte, less ambitious, weaves A simple wreath of carrot leaves.
While the Geological
Survey was in progress in Wales it was not difficult for him to pay an
occasional visit to Dolaucothi, where he was always certain of a cordial
welcome. And even after the field-work had been finished in the
Principality he was able from time to time to return to this hospitable
home.1 From his voluminous correspondence with the Dolaucothi household
we shall glean some interesting reminiscences of his life and work in
From the brief entries in
his memorandum book of 1846 a few quotations may be taken, giving
glimpses into his London doings during three months in the early part of
'21st January.~ez_mdash~Went to
Putney with Playfair. Lecture on chemical affinity. Came up to hear
Sedgwick's paper on Wales, Cumberland, etc. Made a speech about South
Wales. The old man horribly wrong-headed.' This meeting is referred to
in a letter of the 31st January to W. T. Aveline: 'Sedgwick is at work
attempting to show that we are all wrong, and that all North Wales (!),
I think, and all South Wales ~ez_mdash~Cardigan and Caermarthenshire~ez_mdash~is Upper
Silurian. He vows that Aberystwith is Ludlow. I dared up the other
night, after his paper at the Geological, when he said that that was now
the case, and thus we must not leave him the shadow of a leg to stand on
He is not content with the Cambrian, and so, gulping it down, he wheels
about ten times, and turns it all in Upper Silurian.'
'29th.~ez_mdash~At the Museum as
usual. Had a scramble with Sir H. among the old book-shops after four.
Bought an old Beaumont and Fletcher, and a Walton and Cotton. Evening at
home. Wrote Eliza.
'11th February.~ez_mdash~At home
at night reading the fifth edition of the Vestiges [of Creation\. Saw in
it things I had told Chambers in Edinburgh after the publication of the
fourth edition. He is the author see p. 137]
20th.~ez_mdash~ Anniversary of the
Geological Society. Heard some of it. Went to the dinner afterwards; sat
beside Sir H. and Henry,  Ansted,  Strickland, Sopwith, 
Austen,  and others of our party. Good fun. Murchison awfully grand.
21st.~ez_mdash~At work as usual.
Lord Northampton's first soiree. Prince Albert, Sir Robert Peel, and
Lord John [Russell] there among the crowd. Left at half-past eleven.
Dined with Reeks and Baily.
25th.~ez_mdash~Went to hear paper
[by J. Prestwich  on the Tertiaries of the Isle of Wight at the
Geological excellent. The - made an ass of himself. Sir H. spoke
12th March.~ez_mdash~Sir H.
criticised the first part of my paper [on the Denudation of South Wales]
to-day most flatteringly.
'14th.~ez_mdash~Dr. Smith dined
with us. Afterwards we went to the Haymarket, and died of laughter.
Oysters with Playfair.'
1 Thomas Iletherington
Ilenry, at one time head brewer in the brewery of Messrs. Trueman,
Hanbury, and Buxton, afterwards practised as an analytical chemist. He
was a contemporary and friend of Edward Forbes, a member of the Red Lion
Club, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.
2 David Thomas Ansted,
born 1814, died 1S80 ; Professor of Geology at King's College, London ;
Assistant-Secretary of the Geological Society from 1844 to 1847 ; author
of numerous popular works on geology. During the last thirty years of
his life he was largely consulted in regard to the practical
applications of geology, and was much employed as a professional
3 Thomas Sopwith, born
1803, died 1879 ; an ingenious mechanician, who devised many excellent
geological models ; devoted much time to the study of mining districts ;
became Commissioner for the Crown under the Dean-Forest Mining Act, and
ultimately manager of the Allendale Mines.
4 R. A. C. Godwin-Austen,
born 1808, died 1884 ; a geologist of the keenest insight, who, though
he wrote little, was acknowledged by his contemporaries to be one of the
greatest of their number. His paper on the Possible Existence of Coal
under the South-East of England is a remarkable example of his skill. He
specially delighted in reconstructing the geography of former geological
5 Joseph Prestwich, the
living Nestor of English geologists, specially distinguished for his
researches in Tertiary and Post-Tertiary geology, succeeded Phillips in
1874 as Professor of Geology at Oxford, and retired from that office in
Ramsay remained in London
until the 25th April, and passed the whole of the rest of the year in
the field, partly inspecting work already done, and partly joining
several of his colleagues in the tracing of fresh lines and in the
attack of new ground. The staff had been recruited at the beginning of
that month by the addition of another palaeontologist in the person of
J. W. Salter, [John William Salter, born 1820, died 1869 ; appointed to
the Geological Survey in 1846, and for many years engaged both in the
Museum and in the field in determining fossils for the Survey. His
knowledge of Paleozoic forms of life was unrivalled. He retired from the
Survey in 1863.] who was to play a brilliant part in working out the
fossils of the Cambrian and Silurian formations of Britain, and who from
time to time gave his services to the working parties ill the field.
After a brief period of
inspection with Bristow around Yeovil, in Somerset, Ramsay turned his
face once more to North Wales, and remained there until the middle of
December. The problems which the Survey was attacking in that region
were of absorbing interest. Besides the question of the relative
boundaries of the Cambrian and Silurian systems, then beginning to be
agitated between Murchison and Sedgwick, there was the marvellous
display of volcanic phenomena presented by the older Palaeozoic rocks.
Ramsay had already helped to map the igneous masses north of Builth, in
the Shelve and Chirbury district, and among the Breidden Hills. But it
was a new experience to see volcanic sheets developed on the magnificent
scale which they present in the noble range of mountains extending from
the ridge of Cader Idris northwards through the chain of the Arans and
the Arenigs. Selwyn was at work from Dolgelli. Aveline was tracing the
boundaries of the Silurian series from Llanbrynmair eastwards to Church
Stretton and the Longmynd. At the beginning of October J. B. Jukes (see
p. 82), jomed the staff, and began to work out the ground around Bala.
Between these three centres of field-work Ramsay spent some busy months,
keeping himself in continual touch with the progress of the mapping, and
taking also an active part in personally tracing geological lines. A few
excerpts from his memorandum book will bring his life at this time
before the reader.
'14th May.~ez_mdash~Out with
Selwyn along the front of the Cader cliffs. Glorious day and glorious
'16th.~ez_mdash~Out with Selwyn
over the top of Cader Idris ; a long day's work. We had a splendid
20th.~ez_mdash~Wrote Sir H. and
Smyth with traps ; also Gibbs, Playfair, and my mother. Out by Tygwyn
and all that country. Selwyn s work good. We wandered all day by mighty
pleasant brooks and rivers.
1st June.~ez_mdash~Left for
Mallwyd ; met Aveline there.
2nd.~ez_mdash~Aveline and I began
to work. Work excellent, so far as I saw, especially the traps; awfully
19th.~ez_mdash~Out seeing the
unconformable Caradocs on the Longmynd; splendid old coast. Never more
23rd.~ez_mdash~Wrote Eliza, and
Survey letters to Trimmer,1 Henfrey, Selwyn, Hunt. Walked up to
Abergwailas with Aveline, working all the way. Dined there. Started
again after dinner, and wrought till nine at night; then back to tea.
R. C. SELWYN, from a Photograph by Perry, Melbourne
24th.~ez_mdash~No sleep at
Abergwailas owing to green tea and fleas. Everything dirty. Started at
ten. Aveline and I taking different routes. We met at five, having each
traced some ten miles of winding boundary and meeting to a nicety. We
got home to Pen y bont at nine, having walked thirty-five miles and
fasted twelve hours. Mutton chops and bottled porter.
August 2nd.~ez_mdash~Left [Dolaucothi]
after lunch. Got awfully drenched on Lampeter Mountain ; stayed at
Lampeter two hours. Rode to Aberaeron; flood so great I was obliged to
stay two hours there. Rode on ; bridges all gone ; forded the foaming
torrents with difficulty ; so late when I got to Llanrhystyd that I
stayed at Lewis.
3rd.~ez_mdash~Rode on at half-past
six to Aberystwith. Breakfasted at the ' Lion.' Called and spent half
the day with Fosset and the Downies. Rode on to Dol-gelli, and got there
at half-past twelve at night. Slept at the inn.
19th.~ez_mdash~Out by Llyn bach
and along the range of hills to the Dinas road. Splendid day.
25th.~ez_mdash~Out on Rhobell fawr.
[This interesting but difficult piece of geology was the subject of much
careful exploration in later years both by Ramsay and Selwyn. When the
survey of North Wales was almost completed, Ramsay wrote to Aveline
(28th June 1853), ' I have often been prone to consider Rhobell as
probably one of the centres of eruption.'] Excellent day's work.
Llanfachreth. Home to dinner at six. Found Sir Henry dining in the
coffee-room. Dined with the cricketers, and had a chat with Sir H.
27th.~ez_mdash~Out with Sir H.
over Cader; got many wrinkles. Met a car at Tal-y-llyn ; home to dinner
at seven. Selwyn and I dined with Sir Henry. Sir H. breakfasted with
us.' With reference to the ' wrinkles' which the Director-General was
able to furnish to his younger colleagues, the following extract from a
letter written four days afterwards to W. T. Aveline is not without
geological interest: ' There are a number (if bands of strata here,
which I at first took for altered rocks, but which Sir Henry declared to
be volcanic ash, and which, though doubtless often deposited in water,
he declares must be mapped in green. [Green was the colour adopted at
that time on the published maps of the Geological Survey to express 1
greenstones' and other igneous masses.] His reason is that they are
volcanic products; and I see he is right. Some of them in structure are
as fine as porcelain - slates, being mostly or entirely composed of
' 29th.~ez_mdash~Car to Drws y
nant. Over Aran Benllyn and Aran Mowddwy to Dinas Mowddwy. Came home in
a car to Dolgelli, well tired; Sir H. the freshest of us. Dined, slept,
awoke, and went to bed.
Walked down to the castle [Harlech] after breakfast. Splendid ruin. From
thence along the coast, where we bathed. Thence to Llanbedr, and across
the sandstone hills through Bwlch Ardudwy to Pont dol gefeiliau, where
we met a car and drove home by eight. Among the hills Sir H. and I had
lunch in a hut, where we met a Welshwoman, who gave us bread, butter,
and milk, and a hearty welcome.
22nd.~ez_mdash~Went with Selwyn,
Oldham [see p. 84], and Salter to Barmouth, etc. ; walked back across
the sandstone hills over Llawllech. Jolly day. O. dined with us.
5th October.~ez_mdash~Came up from
Bala in a car with Jukes [Joseph Beete Jukes, born 1811, died 1869;
after carrying on geological explorations in Newfoundland and Torres
Straits, returned to England and staff of the Survey] to Ffestiniog, and
found Sir H. there with erysipelas in the leg. Jolly!] [who arrived at
Bala on the 3rd]
10th.~ez_mdash~Came down to Bala
with Sir H. and Jukes in an eternal rain. Jukes and I dined with Sir H.
Pleasant evening, very.
2ftk.~ez_mdash~Jukes and Forbes
rode to the foot of the Arenig; Aveline, Williams, Gibbs, and I walked.
Foggy on the top. Ash, ash, ash everywhere.' By this time Ramsay's eyes
were fully opened to the great importance of recognising the detrital
material of old volcanic explosions among the Palaeozoic systems.
Writing to W. T. Aveline on the 23rd September, he says : ' On the
whole, my experience here makes me much more sceptical of altered rocks,
generally speaking, than I used to be, there being many beds here that I
would once have considered altered rocks, which are in reality nothing
but hard consolidated ashes. The word " ashes" does not imply "cinders,"
but often rather volcanic dust, which may be as fine as you like.'
'18th November.~ez_mdash~Bala. Out
among the traps; had a glorious find of fossils.
21st.~ez_mdash~Out with Aveline to
the traps. It got wet and turned us just when we had begun to work.
Nevertheless, we got a goodish day's work done on the way home by the
river, into which, a branch giving way, I tumbled considerably over the
One of the most important
events in the progress of the Survey, and also in the career of its
Local Director, during the year 1846 was the appearance of the first
volume of the Survey Memoirs already referred to. Allusion to the coming
volume was not infrequent during the summer in the correspondence of the
Survey officials. Thus Sir Henry, who had gone over to Ireland to
inspect the field-work there under the new Director, T. Oldham, [Thomas
Oldham, born 1816, died 1878; appointed to the directorship of the
Geological Survey of Ireland in 1846 on the retirement of Captain James,
and held it until 1850, when he became Superintendent of the Geological
Survey of India. He retired from that office in 1876.] wrote :
Newtown Bray, Co.
Wexford, 26th July 1846.
My dear Ramsay ~ez_mdash~ Oldham
and self continue to get on famously, and I am right well contented with
him. . . . Oldham appears to have a philosophical mind, quite ready to
go ahead in the school we have been forming. In about ten or twelve days
I hope to be on the start for the other (your) side of the Irish Sea,
running up to London to see what progress we are making towards a house.
Our tome of Memoirs is
described as a handsome one; I believe it to be a good one. The Longmans
say it is too cheap, but somehow : is. seems a fair price for any work
of the kind. ~ez_mdash~Ever yours, H. T. De la Beche.
We are here concerned
with only Ramsay's contribution to the volume. His essay on the
Denudation of South Wales was a remarkably original and suggestive
addition to the literature of geology. It was the first attempt to
reduce the phenomena of denudation to actual measurement by constructing
horizontal sections on a true scale, and showing what thickness of rock
had actually been stripped oft" the face of the country.
correspondence will show how this essay was regarded by two of the
ablest reasoners in geological science:~ez_mdash~
C. Darwin to A. C.
Down, Farnborough, 10th
Dear Sir~ez_mdash~Having just read
your excellent Memoir on Denudation, I have taken the liberty to send
you a copy of my volume on South America, finding that we have discussed
some related questions. I wish I had profited by your Memoir before
publishing my volume. I see that we entirely agree on the sea's great
power compared with ordinary alluvial action, and likewise on the
frequency of grand oscillations of level, and on several other points.
If you had time to read parts of my volume, I should much like to
discuss with you many cases, such as my notion of subsidence being
necessary for the formation of high sea-cliffs, as inferred from the
nature of the sea's bottom off them; likewise the horizontal elevation
of ~ez_bull~✓the Cordillera as inferred from the sloping gravel fringes in the
valleys; the non-horizontality of lines of escarpments round old bays,
etc. etc. I grieve to see how diametrically opposite our views are (I
being a follower of Lyell) on the probability of great and sudden
elevations of mountain-chains; I cannot but think that you would have
estimated existing forces as more than 'petty,' and entertained some
doubt about their being 'conflicting,' had you inspected with your own
eyes the wide area of recently elevated and similarly affected districts
in South America. There is much which I could say on this head, but I
will not intrude on you.
May I ask whether you do
not admit Mr. Hopkins's views of mountain-chains being the subordinate
effects of fractures consequent on changes of level in the surrounding
areas; and does not all the evidence which we possess tend to show that
widely-extended elevations are slow, and may we not infer from this that
the formation of mountain-chains is likewise probably slow ? I cannot
see any difficulty, after a line of fracture has been once formed, in
fluidified rock being pumped in by as many strokes, as it is pumped out
in a common volcano, and yet producing a symmetrical effect. But I much
fear that I have cause to apologise for having written at such
unreasonable length; the interest excited in me by your Memoir must
plead my excuse, and trusting that you will forgive the liberty I have
taken, I remain, dear sir, yours faithfully, C. Darwin.
C. Lyell to A. C. Ramsay.
My dear Sir~ez_mdash~I have just
been reading with great pleasure your admirable and well-written essay
on the Denudation of South
Wales, the illustrations
of which are most beautiful, and with nine-tenths of which, in regard to
the conclusion and reasonings, I agree. I shall have to cite it in a
seventh edition of my Principles, which I am now printing, and I wish to
guard myself against misunderstanding the only point on which I shall
have to differ from you. I am anxious to have a speedy answer, as the
sheet in which I shall allude to your paper will soon go to press.
In that part of your
section, plate 4, which relates to the Mendip region, one which I have
gone over sufficiently to take more interest in it than I otherwise
should do, you mean to say, if I mistake not, that between 4000 and 5000
feet of strata have been removed by denudation, between C and 4a; in
other words, that between the deposition of certain Carboniferous strata
and certain newer beds, 4a, two events occurred: first, the disturbance
of the beds of the Palaeozoic rocks; second, the denudation of several
thousand feet of the same beds. Yet it seems to me, on reading other
passages of your paper, that you cannot mean this; for your ideas of
denudation acting contemporaneously with subterranean movements, whether
of upheaval or depression, agree with those which I published in 1831 in
my Principles (and, by the way, before that time it was thought a
triumphant argument against what were called ' modern causes' to prove
that a river could not denude the rocks); the gradual action of the
ocean acting concurrently with movements of the land, as exemplified in
my denudation of the Wealden, had not, so far as I know, been fully set
forth in any geological work, with due allowance also for the resistance
of the harder and yielding of the softer rocks.
Now as you adopt these
views, and have applied them with all the modern lights to your sound
and philosophical speculations in this essay, I cannot comprehend how
you can dispense with indefinite geological time for your denudation in
the case I allude to. But if so, what becomes of your argument at p. 317
in favour of grand catastrophic and intense disturbing power between the
close of the Coal Measure Period and the deposition of the unconformable
beds, 4a ? You must be well prepared, from what I have said of the
amount of denudation, especially in my Elements, for my willingness to
admit as much of it, or more than you want, as it must have exceeded all
the sedimentary strata which are a measure of its quantity, and of the
gradual manner or slow rate at which it took place. You will also expect
that I, at least, shall feel no difficulty in granting an indefinite
lapse of geological time between the deposition of the last of the Coal
Measures in the Mendip region and the oldest of the overlying
conglomerates of that country. The entire flora and fauna were changed
once, if not more, during that interval of unknown extent, and therefore
I have no objection to as much elevation, disturbance, and denudation as
you represent. But as I interpret your paper, you think the period so
short that you have only time for one gigantic effort to cause all the
faults, fissures, and curvatures of the older strata. You may say,
perhaps, that the greater time taken for the denudation the less remains
for the upheaval; but that argument is then against the two operations
having been contemporaneous. That you do not suppose them to have gone
on simultaneously I conclude from the suddenness which you attribute to
the action of the disturbing forces. You also seem to assume (p. 317)
that the action of forces working at successive times could be
conflicting. This seems to be so contrary to the analogy of volcanic
action, whether breaking out at the surface or exhibited in the upheaval
or depression of continents, or in convulsions which rend for several
thousand years lines of country, recurring so marvellously in the same
tracts, and in the same direction, that some facts or some references to
contrary analogies should have been given. The conformity of the
Palaeozoic strata can in no wise circumscribe the lapse of time of which
I have defined the limits as above.
I do not think that any
geologist who has lived, as we have done, in a period when a single
earthquake can rend a large district like Chili, and permanently uplift
a portion of the earth's crust, which may possibly be miles in depth,
will quarrel with you for any intensity which you ascribe to the
disturbing power; but I shall be surprised if you do not live to see the
day when few will think it consistent either with the ancient Plutonic
or Trappean phenomena, or with our acquaintance with actual igneous
action, to suppose that so mighty a change in the interior of the earth
occurred at once, as is implied by the sudden uplifting and contortion
of thousands of feet of strata. That no relief should have been obtained
by intermittent action, as now by the rending of the crust as soon as
the expansive power of the melted matter requires more room, but that it
should have all been kept under till it could be accommodated during one
grand convulsion is, I suspect, an hypothesis unnecessary on mechanical
grounds, and especially undesirable by one who adopts our views of
denudation, which are so naturally aided by taking not only unlimited
time for the development of igneous action, but equally so as regards
the upward and downward movements, and the rending and bending of the
beds. But I do not write this to make a convert of you, but that you may
explain if I have misconstrued your meaning, and you will better see how
I interpret you by my entering into this line of objection. I do not
quite follow you on the argument founded on the missing members; but I
am sure you cannot assume that, in a region suffering denudation,
deposits of such a nature as to last must be found in the immediate
neighbourhood. It is, I believe, quite the exception to the rule, and in
this view I am not singular. Hoping to hear from you soon, and with many
thanks for one of the very best papers I ever read, believe me, very
truly yours, Cha. Lyell.
11 Harley Street, St/i
When I inferred that the
denuded dome of the Wealden had lost some 2000 [feet] and upwards of
thickness of strata removed, I also assumed that it was shaved off by
the ocean when rising, and had never constituted hills 4000 to 5000 feet
high. So I think of your denuded tracts. They were never suffered to
attain an Alpine elevation.
To the foregoing letter
Ramsay sent the following reply:~ez_mdash~
Bala, 19th October 1846.
My dear Sir~ez_mdash~We have been
so busy in the field (Sir Henry only having left us to-day) that I have
not previously had time fully to consider your letter.
In the beginning you
refer to what I have written about the Mendip Hills as a type of certain
denudations in the following words: 'First, the disturbance of the beds
of the Palaeozoic rocks ; second, the denudation of several thousand
feet of the same beds. Yet it seems to me, on reading other passages of
your paper, that you cannot mean this ; for your ideas of denudation
acting contemporaneously with subterranean movements, whether of
upheaval or depression, agree with those which I published in 1831 in my
Principles; the gradual action of the ocean acting concurrently with
movements of the land, etc. etc. Now, as you adopt these views, I cannot
comprehend how you can dispense with indefinite geological time for your
denudation in the case I allude to, etc. etc.'
In this argument I think
you have partially misunderstood me, partly because, in my anxiety to be
concise, I have not sufficiently entered into detail; and again perhaps
from not bearing in mind that my reasonings are not intended for
universal generalisation, but simply refer to the phenomena exhibited in
a given district which came during the progress of the Survey under my
First, With regard to the
disturbance and upheaval of rocks. You will observe that in different
parts of this essay I recognise two distinct species of phenomena, one
that of violent and extensive disturbance on a gigantic scale, and
another that of slow upheaval and depression, such as we now have
experience of on the shores of the Baltic and elsewhere. With regard to
the latter, I grant that any possible height may be attained by an
unlimited succession of comparatively small elevating disturbances. But
in reference to the former I cannot conceive that the early forces that
affected the Palaeozoic strata in the district treated of, and which I
believe then elevated these strata, were at all of the same intensity as
those that in later periods occurred in the same tracts. You may raise
to a given height a certain bar of iron with your finger, but no
succession of the same forces, however numerous, could crush that bar
laterally like a plaited frill. A more sudden and powerful effort is
requisite. Such I believe to have been the case with the Mendip Hills,
viewing them solely as part of a much wider area. But even granting this
to be the case, it does not follow that I therefore restrict the period
required for denudation. In the case referred to (the Mendips) you will
observe that I state, p. 320, that 'a mass of limestone, etc., once
existing above part of the Mendip Hills, to an extent of at least 6000
feet high, had been removed by the denuding agency of the New Red sea,
or possibly by that sea and the earliest Liassic waters, since we find
the lower beds of the Lias resting horizontally on the upturned
water-worn edges of the rocks that now form the flattened summit of the
range.' Denudation, I uphold, though materially affected by the nature
(suddenness and intensity) of disturbances, yet as an independent agency
acts in a measure independently of them Thus the sea has greater
facilities afforded it for acting on a coast subjected to frequent and
gradual submergence and emergence ; but the sea would still act, and
might, if time were allowed it, utterly destroy a tract of land of any
given height, with little or no oscillation of level. In the instance of
the Mendip Hills, there were doubtless many minor oscillations after the
great catastrophe, and you will observe from the foregoing quotation
that I allow great part of the New Red and part of the Liassic epochs
for the sea to effect this denudation.
This surely was a period
of time fully equal in extent to those comparatively latter days to
which I refer the greater part of the South Wales denudations. I think
in the paper I have given physical reasons to show that in South Wales
and the neighbourhood the greatest denudation of great part of these
tracts did not take place during the first elevation (pp. 317, 323).
I shall by and by have
occasion in subsequent papers on the same subject to prove that in other
countries such long-continued denudations did take place during a series
of disturbances that affected the Palaeozoic strata during the very
period of their formation. The whole matter is merely a question of
degree, denudation in both cases being produced by changes of level.
Respecting the forces
that produced the earlier great disturbances, I have perhaps used the
words 'conflictmg forces ' somewhat hastily. My object was to show that
the remarkable and intense curvatures with which that country abounds
were not produced by any efforts of melted matter to escape, these
efforts being attended with the curved upheaval of different parts of
the strata where the efforts were made. I wished to show that the
curvatures were due to a more universal action and a different power
(see De la Beetle's Theoretical Researches; I have not a copy by me),
viz. an effort of contraction in a solid crust to accommodate itself by
the force of gravitation to a cooling and lessening internal mass. I
never dreamed of doubting that relief was obtained from the very
beginning of geological time by intermittent outpourings of melted
matter. On the contrary, I have got a quantity of data together for
future use respecting remarkable periods when visible volcanic action
more or less obtained, and the efforts produced by this action on the
strata of the day ; but I shall also be able to show that all these
volcanoes were subsequently affected equally with their associated
strata by a power stronger than they or than that which produced them.
You must not suppose that by such efforts I understand a universal
general crumpling at one time of the whole earth's surface. There is
perfect evidence that the contrary was the case. It is not the
accommodation of the melted matter I contend for, but the accommodation
of the solid circular external crust, attempting to fit itself through
the influence of gravitation to a cooling and diminishing area within.
Respecting the missing
members of the New Red Sandstone, I believe that they may exist, though
concealed by the Upper Series, it being remembered that the New Red
Sandstone lies as it were in a basin, since we find that proceeding from
north to south the higher marls gradually encroach on and cover up the
lower beds. These lower beds may also cover up members still lower in
the series so completely that they are nowhere exposed.
When I wrote this paper I
was buried in the country without the means of reference to a single
book, and if I have omitted to refer to what has been done by you and
others in the same walk, it entirely arises from forgetfulness or
ignorance. The papers referred to in notes were quoted from memory, and
the notes in the manuscript left with blanks for more accurate detail
when I got to town. Nothing could be further from my wish than to assume
as my own any idea started by another, especially by one whose
Principles of Geology strongly tended to make my geological mind such as
it is by first directing its inquiries into proper channels, when, now
some ten years ago, I first began to dip into geology as a relief from
the irksome drudgery of mercantile concerns. Had I no higher motive than
my affection for the mere book, that of itself would be sufficient to
deter me from such an attempt.
Believe me, the opinion
you express of my paper has been to me a source of no ordinary
gratification, feeling as I do the value of approbation from so dis-\
tinguished an author.~ez_mdash~I remain, dear sir, ever yours sincerely, Andw. C.
The following three
letters of the same period afford an indication of the relation of the
Geological Survey to the dispute regarding Cambrian and Silurian which
was arising between Sedgwick and Murchison :~ez_mdash~
Museum, 29th December
My dear Ramsay~ez_mdash~I put you
in possession of notes which have passed between Murchison and self
touching Silurians, so that you may know how to treat things if any
discussion arises at the next meeting of the G. S. The lower rocks
should be mapped as we have proposed.
Sedgwick at last meeting
spoke highly of our sections.
We have to keep a
straight honest course, thinking only of truth, and aiding the advance
I am off in an hour or so
for Swansea.~ez_mdash~Ever yours,
H T. De la Beche.
Petersfield, 29th December 1846.
My dear De la Beche~ez_mdash~Your
note of the 24th followed me.
I cannot for a moment
suppose after all you have said and done, and after your fair and public
recognition of my 'Lower Silurian' types, that you can in any way intend
to swamp them. The case is indeed so palpable that I believe every
geologist is desirous of sustaining the names of the person who first
worked out the succession from a known base line. All I expected, and do
expect from you is~ez_mdash~that if it be proven that Cambrian and Lower Silurian
are geologically synonymous, you will adhere to my name~ez_mdash~ the only one
worked out on a fossil basis. Now all I beg your permission to do in my
little ' apology' for the Silurian System (the Bible has even been
apologised for!) is that I may say 1 by whatever name the rocks be
defined, it must be one name I for that the inquiries of the Government
geologists (which are yet, however, not completed) go to prove that
there is but one natural series or system of organic life in North
Is there any objection to
this, which leaves you by your subsequent inquiries to make any
statement you please? At all events, the question between Sedgwick and
myself is decided by his own evidence of the existence of some of the
commonest Caradoc fossils in some of his very lowest beds.~ez_mdash~Ever yours
Rod. I. Murchison.
Geological Survey Office,
18th December 1846.
And now, my dear
Murchison, a word for you before I start for South Wales, and that in
about two hours. To tell you the truth, I was a bit inclined to look
queer at the preamble of your last missive, seeing that you spoke a
possible thought on my part of swamping your ' Lower Silurian types,'
and this at the very time I had been doing my best to show how much I
appreciated your labours, and so I did not say so much about the matter
as I might. The said queerishness having duly evaporated, it is but fair
that as you are going to write, and you have broached the matter to me,
I should put you in possession of things as I know them, since, as
matters stand, you will not get them elsewhere.
First to clear the ground
as to classification. If the older rocks be classed, as they are,
according to the remains of life found in them, it follows that any
given mass of them containing the same kind of life, really and truly,
should have but one name. Whatever the Bala beds may turn out to be, as
to equivalent deposits in geological time, they present, so Forbes says,
the same kind of life as that contained in the Silurian system,
according to your published works. The consequence of general name
follows~ez_mdash~that is, one name for the whole.
Next come the beds, which
have been termed the Lingula beds ~ez_mdash~these underlie the others. Whatever
other fossils may be found among them in Wales, our collection will
ultimately show. In the meantime, rocks in Ireland which may be
equivalent both to these and the Bala beds contain Silurian fossils.
Supposing further researches to confirm these views~ez_mdash~the same kind of
life still, with its consequences about one name.
Beneath these come rocks
which you know well at the Longmynd, and of which you showed me an old
section, at least one showing your views at the time respecting them.
Without aid of any kind
Ramsay this year made out their story. Of the equivalents near St.
David's you have often heard me speak, and touching the Irish rocks of
the same date you know what I said the other night Of all the
exhibitions of them the Irish is the best ~ez_mdash~a great thickness. Now it has
been supposed that these beds are not fossiliferous. This is not true in
Ireland. Two or three years since Oldham got some things that were
clearly organic, though m such a condition that nothing could be made of
them. But this year one of our lynx-eyed collectors has been turning out
good specimens. What they are is not clear; anyhow they are more
diffused than at first thought. Now with this group of rocks
classification is not clear. We have abundant evidence, capital in
Ireland, of their slow deposit through a long lapse of time. These
things I tell you in confidence, because the affair is incomplete, and
there is much yet to be done, but you should know them~ez_mdash~and now I must
run for it.~ez_mdash~Ever sincerely, H. T. De la Beche.
Griffith, in a document
he has sent in to us of about a year's date, has got there older rocks,
though not correctly mapped. He calls them Cambrian, and whenever he
publishes his new edition of map, so they will, I suppose, be called.
Before the end of the
season for field-work in the year 1846 Ramsay received an invitation
which gratified him nut a little, as it offered to him a wider opening
into the society of men of science and their associates. He was asked to
give a Friday evening discourse at the Royal Institution, and on
communicating to De la Beche that he had accepted this offer, he
received from his chief the following characteristic note in reply:~ez_mdash~
London, 24th November
My dear Ramsay~ez_mdash~In the
matter of an evening at the Royal Institution you have, I think, decided
well~ez_mdash~though I have by no means the view of any great good to arise
therefrom which some folk have. The thing is over-rated.
All appliances shall be
at your command~ez_mdash~all aid that can be given, and I have little doubt of
your coming out of the matter in good style.
Take some good commanding
subject. Continue to think me a kind of daddy~ez_mdash~the more you do that the
better I shall be pleased. ~ez_mdash~Ever sincerely, H. T. De la Beche.
All advancing famously.
The field-work of this
year was prolonged by Ramsay until late in the season. About the middle
of December snow fell thickly over the Welsh hills, making further
field-work for the time impossible. He accordingly took advantage of the
opportunity to spend Christmas and New Year at his old home in the
north. He announced his advent to his mother in the following effusion
Bala, 12th December 1846.
My dear Mother~ez_mdash~
Plunge the poker in the
Stir the blaze; Rouse it high, and rouse it higher,
Till your very eyes it daze,
Brightly glowing, And the puny candle's rays Pale are growing.
Hark the kettle's
Shrilly crying To the dull recumbent tongs,
On the clean-swept hearthstone lying,
Cheerily singing! ' Blithe I be because I'm trying, By my ringing,
To announce a merry
I am humming To arouse a jolly greeting.
Hear me on the hob a-bumming;
Let me threep o't. Even now I hear him coming; Fill the tea-pot!
Fill the tea-pot! By the
While you're basking You shall have your heart's desire.
I will tell you without asking
One is hasting Even while the tea is masking, No time wasting.'
Mother, mother!~ez_mdash~yes, I'm
Hasting home, too; Posting, steaming, no time wasting,
Till, O happy day ! I come to
Your own ingle, For a while no more to roam to Dell and dingfe.
Yes, I'm coming! Rouse
Make it roar there; Rouse it high, and rouse it higher;
Soon you'll hear me to the door there
Madly bounding, Then rushing in athwart the floor there With laugh
It's a fact, though I did
not know it till too late for the post. If the weather be good I shall
remain here, as in duty bound, till the 15th or 16th. If the snow
continue I shall leave to-morrow and be home, I suppose, on Tuesday to
dinner, for the steamer leaves Liverpool at seven at night. Therefore
air the sheets and clear out that chest of drawers for a fortnight, for
that's my allowance. What's the use of writing more when we shall have a
fortnight to haver ? With hurrahs to all, yours affectionately,
Andw. C. Ramsay.
These pleasant glimpses
of the old home had always in prospect the inevitable pang of parting at
their close. He had to leave upon his return on the 2nd January. Under
that date he records that his mother and sister 'kept up well by dint of
talking of all sorts of things till starting time came, when all at once
they gave way. I did so also almost. I wish their hearts were a trifle
harder. It almost makes going home painful, the dread of the leaving
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