GenealogyRomanes - Father and Son
By MABEL RINGEREIDE
The Bulletin (1979) 28, 35-46. Published by the Committee on Archives and History of the United Church of Canada in collaboration with Victoria University.
The following news item appeared under the heading "A twin celebration", in the June, 1975, issue of the Presbyterian Record:
A unique celebration was held in Westminster Church, Smith Falls, Ontario, in April, 1975. They invited the [Presbyterian] Presbytery of Lanark and Renfrew and the United Church [of Canada's] Renfrew Presbytery to a joint celebration marking anniversaries of both denominations...
The first church at Smith Falls was St. Andrew's, Kirk of Scotland, 1834, and later there was the United Secession Church, St. Paul's, 1846. In 1913 these two became Westminster Church. On the wall just inside the doorway of Westminster Church is a plaque to the minister of St. Andrew's from 1834 to 1850, the Reverend George Romanes. Apart from his ministry, George Romanes should be remembered for his active connection with Queen's College, Kingston, Canada West, during the first decade of its history.
Perhaps it would be of some interest to know a little of his background before he came to Canada. A genealogical table compiled in 1854 records that a Hugh Rolmanus in 1539 had land at Lauder (Berwickshire, Scotland). In 1619 the name appears as Rolmanhous and in 1778 it had evolved to Romanes. In that year James Romanes married Margaret Carrick. James became a merchant in Edinburgh. He started a small draper's shop on the "Royal Mile" (the "King's Way" between the Rock and the Palace), and it became so successful that he later removed to the present site of the North British Hotel. In 1878 the business was moved to 62 Princes Street, where "Romanes & Paterson" still is a thriving establishment catering to tourists from countries around the world.
James Romanes and his wife Margaret had twelve children, most of whom died young. We are primarily interested in their eldest son George.
George Romanes attended the Royal High School, Edinburgh, and Edinburgh University where he studied theology, graduating in 1826. He was a "home missionary" in Edinburgh, and resided with his father at 4 Buccleugh Place. From there he wrote a letter dated February 23, 1833 to Robert Burns D.D., of the Glasgow Colonial Society:
From several conversations which I have had with the Rev. Mr. Marshall, and from the letter of Mr. Miller, I have been induced to turn my thoughts to Canada, as an important field for ministerial labour. As I have now only for the first time directed my attention to this subject I feel myself very much at a loss for want of information and direction; which no one is more able to furnish than you. I should like very much to wait on you personally but from my constant employment as Home-Missionary in a large and populous part of Edinburgh it is rather inconvenient to go from home. If, however, you have the slightest wish for a personal interview- I shall be happy to comply with it. A friend of Mr. Gardner who was appointed to a church in Canada informs me that he has a prospect of being presented to a charge at home. So far as I can judge an appointment to a specific charge would be more desirable than going out as a missionary, but perhaps in this I may be wrong. My feeling at present is that if there is an appointment to a distinct and regular charge I should have no hesitation whatever in going out - while the more uncertain appointment as missionary seems to demand more inquiry and deliberation. It is worthy of much more serious attention and I shall think of it seriously. Perhaps you will be so good to direct me to any person or book that may be able to give me information and useful advice. In this as in every other matter, I desire to resign myself entirely to the will and direction of the Almighty. As I am a stranger to you, I beg leave to refer to the Rev. Mr. Forbes, and the Rev. Mr. Henderson of Glasgow, and to most of the ministers of Edinburgh and vicinity especially the Rev. Drs. Chalmers, Gordon, Dickson, and Brown, and Rev. Messrs. Marshall, Hunter, Wilkie, Paul and Bruce. I am, Reverend Sir, very respectfully and sincerely yours, GEORGE ROMANES (1).
In the Quebec Mercury of Tuesday, May 2 I , 1833, the Rev. George Romanes is listed as one of the passengers arriving at Quebec City on the Gleniffer from Greenock.
It would seem that he was appointed for a special 'assessment' assignment, because his letter to Dr. Burns, from Smiths Falls, is in the form of a report. It is dated November 24, 1833:
|MY DEAR SIR,
By desire of George Mouro, Esq., King St., York, U.C., I write to inform you that I have drawn on Matthew Montgomery Esq., in Mr. Mouro's favour for 150 sterling; the bills are dated 5 November 1833, York, U.C.
I am now in the eastern part of the province the District of Johnstown, by directions of the Synod. For ten days past I have been in this place and the neighbourhood where measures are now in progress for establishing a church in connection with the Church of Scotland. The leading men of the place have entered warmly into the plan, and express an anxious desire that I should remain amongst them, but of course I can give no decided answer until the arrangements are more mature.
There are a considerable number of Scotsmen and Irish Presbyterians in the vicinity and there being no minister near, the Episcopalians and others will in many cases join with the greater body, until they shall be able to procure clergymen of their own persuasion.
The village of Smith Falls stands where the canal crosses the Rideau River on which there are very powerful falls and extensive mills erected. It is 35 miles from Brockville and is situated in the township of Elmsley.
Gananoque in not yet supplied; it would be a desirable situation. The Rev. Mr. Gale of Lachine has received a call to Hamilton, chief town of the District of Gore. He is very desiring I should go to Lachine of which he speaks very favourably.
I have several letters from Mr. Roach who has had invitations to settle from various places in L.C. Messrs Leach and Gordon were when I last heard on Yonge Street. One of them will likely receive a call to Newmarket.
The eastern part of the country is more advanced and more prepared than the western. But if possible neither must be neglected. The older and wealthier townships must have ministers provided when they seem to be disposed to invite and support them. And these settlements which are near and poor like in London district might for a short time be occupied by fine missionaries, or regularly visited by circuit preachers till churches can be organized.
On the whole- the aspect of things is such as to afford ample encouragement to the Society to persevere in its exertion as it seems destined to be the instrument in the hand of God of diffusing incalculable blessings over this vast country. I remain Rev. and dear sir, yours very sincerely, GEORGE ROMANES (2)
The Smith Falls settlement was only about thirteen miles distant from the manse of the Reverend John Smith on the 7th line of Beckwith. George Romanes must have travelled that road often while courting the younger sister of the Rev. John Smith, minister of the Kirk in Beckwith township, Their banns were entered in the Beckwith minutes, and they were married on August 12, 1835. The bride, Isabella Gair Smith, was twenty-two years old.
The Rev. George Romanes was a fine orator and scholar and his name was often noted in the Bathurst Presbytery minutes. In later years, his daughter-in-law said of him that he was a quiet, serious, studious type, in contrast to his vivacious, unconventional highland wife.
During the 1830s the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland invariably had on its agenda the question of a theological college for the Canadas. In 1840 the college became a reality. In 1846 the Rev. George Romanes, at the age of thirty-nine, was appointed Interim Professor of Classical Literature. According to the minutes of the Board of Trustees of Queen's College, Kingston for 3 November, 1846:
|The Board resolved that Professor Romanes be allowed the sum of £30 in order that he may be enabled to supply his pulpit at Smith Falls (5).|
Apparently he did this during his entire professorship at Queen's. Another interesting time from the minutes of the Board of Trustees, 10 June, 1847, reads:
|The Board resolved that Mr. Romanes be appointed Classical Professor with a salary of pounds 300 a year, provided always that if as a member of Synod or as an ordained missionary, he shall be in the receipt of any sum, his salary shall be by that sum reduced; and it is further noted, that that appointment shall be voided at any time, when the circumstances of the College render a Classical Professor unnecessary (6).|
Mr. Romanes not only continued as Classical Professor for the next three years, but he also became Curator of the Library in November of 1847. He was also Professor of Moral Philosophy, Secretary of the Senate, and a Trustee during his years with the College.
The three eldest Romanes children were born at Smiths Falls, The second son, Robert, died young. At Kingston, Mrs. Romanes gave birth to another son, George John Romanes, on May 19, 1848, his baptism being recorded at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Kingston, June 13, 1848. The Cyclopaedia of Canadian Biography would in years to come describe him as the Canadian founder of the Romanes Chair of Biology at Oxford University [Actually, he founded the Romanes Lecture series; DRF]. George John Romanes left Canada at the tender age of two years, never to return. His father inherited a considerable fortune and in 1850 resigned from Queen's College and returned to Britain where he purchased a house at 18 Cornwall Terrace, Regents Park, London, England. Now owned by the Royal family, the Terrace has been redeveloped, preserving the beautiful Nash facade.
Queen's College must have felt the Reverend George Romanes worthy of recognition because J. Clerk Murray, Registrar, records in the minutes of the Board of Trustees 1865/66 that a motion was passed that Dr. Romanes be elected a Fellow of the Faculty of Law. There is no record that he returned to Canada for this honour, but though he and his family lived for months at a time on the Continent, his interest in the Library at Queen's did not lag. Several letters written in this regard to Very Reverend Principal Snodgrass and to Professor Williamson are interesting:
|London, 15 January, 1867.
MY DEAR SIR,
I ought to have replied long ago to your letter. I have not, however, been forgetful of the contents. I have already selected a number of works, and have got the catalogues of several booksellers to select from. Dr. Williamson sent a list of books he wishes for his department, which will save me some trouble in selecting. I avoid all duplicates, so far as your catalogues guide me; but in a public library or a university one, it is often of great service to have duplicates of some works. Many a time, when at Edinburgh College, how I wished for a work, essential, perhaps when writing an essay, but of which the only copy was monopolized by some more fortunate person.
The cold, since New Year, has been very severe, and much snow has fallen, blocking up our streets, and sadly interfering with business. Indeed were it not for the Underground Railway it would be nearly impossible to get to the city. You may think four miles of railway a very small piece; but the benefit of it to London is really incalculable; besides the quickness it is entirely independent of the weather, snow, ice, fog, rain or heat, all the same.
I understand that all books imported for educational purposes are admitted into Canada free of duty. Is a declaration of any kind required to secure this privilege, and in what form?
I would like to know also whether philosophical instruments and apparatus are duty free.
You will have time to inform me on these and any other points, as I intend to take some time and choose really useful books. Some persons thoughtlessly send books of little use to students, and thus fill the limited space of a library with what may almost be termed trash; books which are never read, or if read, do more harm than good, by taking up the student's time to no purpose.
I trust the University is getting on well this session; that the Weir affair is finally settled and that the students are working as earnestly and zealously as they did in my time.
With kind regards and New Year's wishes to yourself, Mrs. Snodgrass and family and the whole Senatus, I remain,
Yours very truly,
G. ROMANES (7)
|Cromarty, Scotland, 2 Sept.
MY DEAR SIR,
I am happy to see by your letter that the subscription in aid of the funds of Queen's University is so large, and I observe in the newspaper, it is still increasing. It would be very satisfactory to those who have subscribed so liberally, as well as to those who may intend to contribute, to have some information as to the proposed investments of so large a sum as the whole subscription will amount to. It is proverbially more difficult to keep money than to acquire it; and this old maxim seems to be more true now than ever it was.
Should a similar misfortune again befall the College, it would be very difficult to raise another fund.
As to mines, I cannot think there is any real chance of your money being lost. No one expects a very quick return in such business. James [Presumably the Rev. Dr. Romanes eldest son] writes that there has been mismanagement, but the rich ground is there and will turn out well.
You did not mention in your letter whether you had seen the Frontenac Lead Mine. I would like to have your impartial opinion as to the quantity and quality of the ore, situation, etc., as you are well qualified to judge.
I am kept busy here as I am building a house-and probably I will not be at Edinburgh for a long time, so I cannot give you information regarding your friends there.
With kind regards to all your circle, I remain,
Yours very truly,
G. ROMANES (8)
Dr. George Romanes died January 19, 1871. His wife Isabella Gair Smith died on January 2, 1883, and their son, Professor George John Romanes died May 23, 1894.
Of George John Romanes's forty-six years of life much could be written. His was a fascinating, interesting career which started out inconspicuously and uncertain.
As a boy he attended a preparatory school in London, but after a bad attack of measles his education continued in a desultory fashion at home. By the time he was seventeen years of age he had little formal education, but the many months spent in Heidelberg and other German towns had given him a knowledge of German and a passion for music and poetry. Heidelberg was frequently visited by the family Romanes, and remained golden in memory. Summers in Ross-shire, at "Dunskaith" their home, now restored as offices for the Cromarty Petroleum Company, were ever his delight, and that part of Scotland a second home for him.
He was not a robust youth, but he accomplished more in his lifetime than many of stronger physique. His parents decided that something must be done to prepare him for university, and he was sent to a tutor to read for entrance to Brasenose College, Oxford. He had thoughts of becoming a minister or taking holy orders in the Anglican Church. One of his fellow pupils was Mr. Charles Edmund Lister, and they became such good friends that when Lister went to Cambridge he persuaded George John to follow him. In October of 1867 he entered Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.
His wife writes in her book The Life and Letters of George John Romanes:
|He entered Cambridge half-educated, utterly untrained, with no knowledge of men or of books. He left it to all intents and purposes a trained worker and earnest thinker, with his life work begun - that work which was an unwearied search after truth, work characterised by an ever-increasing reverence for goodness, and, as years went on, by a disregard for applause or reward (note 9).|
Romanes dropped the idea of holy orders and began to study medicine and physiology. Science fascinated him and his first plunge into scientific research opened up an entirely new life. However, in the spring of 1872 he became ill with typhoid fever, and it was during his long convalescence in Scotland that he wrote his successful Burney Prize Essay (1873) on "Christian Prayer and General Laws".
It was also during his convalescence that he finally abandoned the idea of a profession and resolved to devote his time to scientific research. A letter of his to Nature attracted the attention of Mr. Darwin, who sent a friendly little note to the young writer. Thus began a lifelong friendship and an exchange of letters, many of which are published in The Life and Letters of George John Romanes by Ethel Romanes, written after his death and published in 1896. There is much more in the book of the personality, life, friends, family and work of the man, written lovingly and precisely by Ethel, his wife, who was herself an author. There is an impressive list of publications to her credit in the British Museum catalogue.
George John Romanes married Ethel, only daughter of Andrew Duncan Esq., of Liverpool, on February 11, 1879. From 1879-1890 he resided mostly in the house at 18 Cornwall Terrace, which he eventually inherited. He lived his final four years at Oxford, but summers and early autumn saw him in Ross-shire, where from 1882 to 1890 he rented the lovely house called "Geanies" belonging to a cousin of the Romanes family, a Captain Murray of the 81st Regiment.
His wife recorded that the surroundings of Geanies, without being romantically beautiful, had a charm of their own. There was a certain melancholy and loneliness about the inland landscape around Geanies which appealed strongly to George John Romanes. It was a place abounding in many kinds of birds, and it was almost impossible to describe the weird, uncanny effect of the long twilight summer evening silence, broken only by the hooting of owls and screams of sea-gulls. Geanies was a rambling house with long passageways and mysterious staircases and the children found endless conveniences for playing hide and seek. The library was a lovely room, lined with bookcases and leading into an old fashioned garden full of sweet smelling flowers. She said it was impossible to imagine a more ideal abode for a poet, a naturalist, a botanist, a sportsman, than Geanies, his summer home; and as George John was to some extent all four, Geanies was a place of exceeding happiness to him. Here he began to write poetry.
The writer visited "Geanies" in the autumn of 1974, and found it even lovelier than described by Ethel Romanes. There are beautiful flower gardens, and the father of the present owner, Sir Kenneth Murray, started an arboretum including many rare and tropical trees which flourish and thrive in a paradise of their own by the sea. Sir Kenneth recalls the family's admiration for Professor G.J. Romanes, and remembers cousin Ethel. Ethel Romanes died in 1925.
In 1885 came the first warning of ill health which was finally to incapacitate George John Romanes and cut short his career and work. However, no inkling of this is apparent in his letters to George Munro Grant, Principal of Queen's University, Kingston, in 1885 and 1886 respectively.
|Nov. 11, 1885
We had a very pleasant journey South, the chief event of which was an invitation to dinner with the Roseberys, who live in a magnificent palace nine miles out of Edinburgh. There were only eight other guests beside the Gladstone family; and as Lady R put me on one side of herself at the end of the table with the grand old man on the other round of the corner of the table I had an excellent opportunity of studying him and the process was most interesting.
I have seen other faces, and other manners with as much in them but never a face or a behaviour with so many. He gave me the impression of two or three personalities rolled into one. An incessant talker, polished to the last degree of culture and good breeding, courteous and agreeable to an extent which may be called studious, and presenting a wonderful sense of humour combined with extraordinary dramatic power of narration, he is as good a man at a dinner table as it is possible to imagine. But playing through the expression of deep intelligence and alternating with a falcon-like flashing of his eyes, there is an appearance of slyness and cunning looking out which would be well worthy of another old gentleman who will be nameless. I can well understand how this cunning look is too deep and too thickly overlaid with other qualities to admit of being readily detected; and therefore I can understand how so many people are impressed with the appearance of earnest sincerity. But, for my part, while watching him speak to others or while speaking to him myself, the predominant feeling I had was-"What a very knowing old bird you are."
G.J. ROMANES (11)
In his spiritual life George John Romanes went through some deep waters, and the letter written in 1886 seems to be an outpouring to Grant of some of his thoughts:
|The difficulty with me is what I may term an instinct against
the supernatural, which it would require an immense weight of evidence to overcome. Now as
you very clearly argue in Dots. there are many grave objections even to such evidence as
we have, and these difficulties seem to grow greater with the advance of science. For
instance, to the last generation there was presented what seemed to be a self-consistent,
albeit wholly unintelligible theory of salvation. Man was regarded as an exceptional
creature of special concern to the Deity, soon after his special creation he fell, and so
required to be redeemed. Then as in Adam all dies, so in Christ all were made alive. As by
one man's disobedience, etc., etc.
But to our generation all this is changed, and the theory (which all the prophets, Christ himself and his apostles accepted in a literal sense) can only be saved at all, by reading into it some metaphysical sense. As a matter of fact, we now learn that man is not a fallen creature, but a creature which has continuously risen. Now, what should we think of any scientific theory the very basis of which is thus proved to be erroneous. In fact, we should of course reject such a theory. and try another. If the foundation of the whole structure does not send verification, the structure itself has been found wanting in that stability which alone can make it trustworthy to build upon.
Should you say, it makes no practical difference whether Adam was a real man, or a metaphorical peg on which to hang an imaginary scheme, I answer, that it makes this difference. The question is whether the scheme of redemption, which runs through the Bible, is of a nature of a revelation, or of a natural evolution, whether the end was seen from the beginning by God, or whether the first writer propounded a theory of the Fall. The next writer adopting this theory and adding to it, and so on, till the way was prepared for a redeemer of the world in the manner of a natural sequence. Now, it unquestionably lends countenance to the latter view, that the whole system is found to have been based on an erroneous statement of fact, for there is obviously no conceivable reason why the Deity should have chosen to erect his whole system of revelation on what was to be shown by his creature Darwin a gratuitous falsehood.
It seems to me that the orthodox interpretations of scripture are apt to become circular. Take, for instance, the so-called prophetic psalms. The writer was evidently bewailing his own evil fortunes, or exulting in his own successes. Orthodoxy, already accepting the writings as inspired, looks through them all, in order to find any expression which will possibly bear a mystical application to the sufferings and triumphs of Christ. Then orthodoxy points to the correspondence as proof of inspiration. The correspondence alleged is often far enough fetched (as when the Queen in the marriage psalm is taken to mean the church, or a similar appropriation is made of Solomon's favourite concubine), but, far or near, the method is equally circular. If we desire to estimate fairly the evidence of prophecy, we must go to work without any pre-formed assumptions as to the writing being inspired. The inspiration is the thing to be proved by the prophecy, and therefore evidence of inspiration cannot be improved by assuming that it must be there, because the prophecy is a prophecy.
Now, thus viewed I do not know of any evidence to indicate that the revelations are an inspired book. Certainly the style of it is not conducive to the supposition that it is; written in bad Greek, and conveying pantomimic conceptions of paradise, it wears much more the appearance of being the production of a gaudy-minded mystic than of the high and holy one who inhabiteth eternity.
I can sympathise with anyone who feels that the sublimity of Isaiah or the majestic beauty of St. John are worthy of God himself but how any one can suppose that the latter was written by the same hand as the revelation is to me the best proof I know of clairvoyance or the power of reading with one's eyes shut.
G.J. ROMANES (12)
To sum up in concise form the extent of George John Romanes's life work is very difficult. After his death a small booklet entitled In Memoriam was compiled of the obituaries and tributes to George John Romanes' life, character and deeds. Perhaps it is better to let some excerpts from it do the summing. "E.B.P." wrote in the Oxford Magazine, May 30, 1894.
It is impossible, within the necessary limits of space to give more than a brief and inadequate account of the great man whose loss Oxford and the scientific world lament. But even a brief account will be of deep interest to many here who, although warm personal friends of Mr. Romanes, had not the opportunity of an acquaintance with the scientific work which occupied so large a part of his time and thought ....
Romanes received his first impulse towards biological study at Cambridge, from the lectures of Dr. Michael Foster, who had just been appointed Praelector at Trinity College. Soon after taking his degree, in 1870, he came to London and worked in the Physiological Laboratory at University College, then under the direction of Professor Burdon Sanderson. A strong and enduring friendship sprung up between the professor and the young investigator who was carrying on physiological research in his Laboratory; a friendship which is of special interest to us in Oxford, inasmuch as it formed perhaps the chief inducement which brought Romanes here... It was at this period of his life, towards the end of 1874, that Romanes made the acquaintanceship of Charles Darwin, who was then visiting London. Thus began an intimacy which exercised a profound influence over his life.
The most important scientific papers written by Romanes contained an account of his investigations into the physiology of the locomotor system of Medusae and (later) Echinoderms. The first of these, communicated by Professor Huxley, was made the subject of the Croonian Lecture delivered before the Royal Society in 1876, and published in the Philosophical Transactions for that year. The second memoir, also communicated by Professor Huxley, was published through the same channel in 1877, and the third, which concluded the investigations upon Medusae, in 1880. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1879. The investigation upon Echinoderms was conducted jointly with Professor J. Cossar Ewart of Edinburgh, and was made the subject of the Croonian Lecture for 1881. Thus twice in five years an investigation by Romanes was chosen among all other biological memories as the subject of the Croonian Lecture. He also conducted jointly with Professor Schafer an important investigation into the histology of the nervous system of Medusae - an investigation very naturally suggested by his previous physiological work.
All this admirable research upon the lowest and simplest types of nervous system formed an excellent foundation for his subsequent work upon comparative psychology. The investigations were conducted in a shore laboratory close to his house upon the east coast of Ross-shire.
The more general results were afterwards brought before a larger public in some of the numerous volumes which he published, and which have been very widely read. But the majority of these works deal with human and animal intelligence and instinct, and with a criticism and exposition of the theories connected with the names of Darwin and Weismann.
Romanes continued to interest himself in physiological problems and only a few months ago, communicated a paper to the Royal Society on the effect of intermittent light on plants. This research was conducted in the Oxford Physiological Laboratory.
His theory of Physiological Selection, an additional suggestion on the Origin of Species, was published in the Proceedings of the Linnean Society of which he was for some time Zoological Secretary in 1886.
Several of Romanes public addresses attracted much attention and became the subjects of volumes which have had a very wide circulation. This was especially the case with his evening lecture on "Animal Intelligence" delivered before the British Association at Dublin in 1878; his lectures on "The Philosophy of Natural Science" at Edinburgh (from 1885 to 1889) when holding a special Professorship founded by Lord Rosebery, and still more recently his lectures on "Before and After Darwin" as Fullerian Professor of Physiology at the Royal Institution. He delivered the Rede Lecture at Cambridge in 1886.
His marvelous fortitude when threatened at the beginning of his illness with the loss of his eyesight- the most terrible affliction which a scientific investigator can endure- was a constant source of wonder to his friends. No sooner had the terrible blow of partial blindness fallen on him quite suddenly than be began to occupy the periods of enforced idleness with reflecting upon these problems and the means for their solution. There can be no better example of the calm majestic sway of a scientific habit of thought over the human intellect (note 13).
The obituary in the Guardian June 6, 1894, read, in part:
|George Romanes was a man who very strongly attracted the affections of many friends. In the home and outside of it, few men have been more surrounded by love, or have better deserved it, as men speak. He was only forty-six on the Sunday before he died, but in a short time he fulfilled a long time... His life was a life of hard work, outward and inward, up to the very last. His scientific work, partly laid aside in these closing months but not neglected, will be measured by others who are trained naturalists. In this, as in the more intimate side of life, he had remarkable freedom from the defects of his qualities. With his readiness of writing there was much patience, thoroughness and self-denial. He had the power to put modern scientific ideas before the general public (15).|
He was one of the men whom the age specially requires for the investigation and solution of its especial difficulties, and harmony of interest between which a factitious rivalry has been created... Your heavy private loss is then coupled in my view with a public calamity; but while I can rejoice in your retrospect of his labour, I trust it may please God in His wisdom to raise up others to fill his place and carry forward his work...
W. E. GLADSTONE (16)
George John Romanes was buried at Holywell Cemetery, Oxford, and it seems to me that his own poem "Faith" is a truly beautifully expressed epitaph:
|Can it be true, as all the Churches teach,
Nought is of Faith but what they hold as true?
Or is the Word set forth in human speech
More sure than when revealed to human view?
Nay, if the truth be all that they would show,
Let him who doubted be my witness here:
Faith's deepest joy were it at last to know
That, while I knew it not, the Lord was near.
So now, with groping hand, I feel for Thee,
Who hast such words as no man ever had;
Oh, count it sorrow that I cannot see,
And not a sin that I was born so sad.
Though dark the eyes that stream in sightless grief
Lord. I believe: help Thou mine unbelief. (17)
Reverend George Romanes and Professor George John Romanes, father and son, may not now seem extraordinary men in the light of present day religious philosophy and scientific accomplishments, but in their day they were exceptional, and gave much to the academic life of Canada and Britain. G.J. Romanes's textbook on psychogenesis, psychology and philology, The Mental Evolution in Man, is still of interest and worth reading in our generation.
1.United Church Archives. Glasgow Colonial Society. Letter 31.
2. Ibid. Letter 214.
3. Some Highlights from the story of Westminster Presbyterian Church (Smiths Falls, 1967) p.2.
4. Public Archives of Canada. Record Series 74624-25.
5. Queen's University, Kingston. Romanes papers. No. 169.
6. Ibid. No. 180.
9. Ethel Romanes, Life and Letters of George John Romanes (London, 1896).
10. Nature, Volume viii, p. 101.
11.Public Archives of Canada. George Munro Grant Papers. No. 1982.
12. Ibid.,NO. 2001, 2002, 2003.
13. George John Romanes, F.R.S. - In Memoriam n.p., n.d. (copy loaned by Mrs. Watson of Cromarty).
14. Ethel Romanes, op. cit.
15. GeorgeJohn Romanes, F.R.S. -In Memoriam.
16. Ethel Romanes, op. cit.
17. George John Romanes, Poems (copy in the National Library of' Scotland).
Some Highlights from the Story of Westminster Presbyterian Church (Smith Falls, Ontario, 1967).
Letters from: The Royal High School, Edinburgh; Crown Estate Commissioners; Sir Kenneth Murray, "Geanies", Ross-shire.
ROMANES GEORGE JOHN.
Animal Intelligence .
Mental Evolution in Animals .
Jelly fish, Star-fish, and Sea-urchins .
Darwin and After Darwin .
An Examination of Weismannism .
The Mental Evolution in Man (London, 1888. Republished by Gregg International Publishers, Ltd., England, 1970, and by Anton Hain KG Meisenheim/Glan, W. Germany, 1972.)
The Romanes Family: Canadian Connections
By Mabel Ringereide
This document is among the Ringereide Papers placed in Queens University Archives in 2000. The work was published in 1984 as a 6 part series in the Smith Falls Record News (22nd and 29th February, and 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th of March).
One branch of the Romanes family believe their ancestors were masters of the ancient and delicate art of glassblowing, and migrated from northern Italy through France to Normandy, and thence to the Tweed Border country of Scotland in the 13th or 14th century.
In the National Library of Scotland there is a pedigree chart titled "Genealogical Table of One of the Families of Romanes - 1854". It begins with a Hugh Rolmanus of Lauder, 1589.
The family put down roots evidently in the border country, and several became Burgesses of their district. To use the Bible method - James, the father of the Rev. George Romanes, was the son of George, who was the son of James, who was the son of George, who was the son of Hugh Romanes, who was the son of William Rolmanhous, who was the son of Hugh Rolmanus, who married Alison Porteous and settled on property at Lauder in the reign of James VI.
James Romanes, born June 10, 1778, married Margaret Carrick. He moved to Edinburgh and in 1808 began a business selling satin, taffeta, lace and silks, on Drummond Street in the Old Town, close to the site of the house in which Lord Darnley (husband of Mary, Queen of Scots) was murdered.
In 1815, James took in a Mr. Paterson as his partner. The "patronage of The Quality" had made it a thriving enterprise, and they moved to a new shop on South Bridge. Again in 1820, the firm moved into a building on the North Bridge, on the site now occupied by the North British Hotel. Romanes & Paterson gained world wide recognition and continued to expand and grow. In 1880 another move was made to 62 Princess Street, where Romanes & Paterson still serves the public for gifts, tartans and all things Scottish, although no Romanes has been connected with the company for well over- a century.
It is intriguing to contemplate that possibly in 1821, Sir Walter Scott approached James ~Romanes to provide the tartan for his friend "wee Geordie" - King George IV, who decided to wear the tartan of his forebear Sophia Stewart, while on a state visit, to let the Scottish public know he was proud of his heritage connection with Scotland.
There were five sons and seven daughters born to James and Margaret Carrick Romanes. Several daughters died unmarried, and the families of the prodigy of the others are multiple and have their own varied family connections in Britain.
GEORGE, the eldest son born in 1808, attended the Royal High School of Edinburgh, where he excelled in the classics, and later graduated from Edinburgh University in theology. He was sent as a missionary-at-large to Canada by the Glasgow Colonial Society for the Propagation of the Christian Gospel in 1833. His brother JAMES, two years his junior, died unmarried. JOHN and ROBERT Romanes followed their elder brother to Canada, and married at Smiths Falls. They returned to Britain with their families after the death of their father in 1850. It is possible some of their descendants returned again to Canada. ANDREW, the youngest son, was in business with his father but died in 1853, aged 33 years, unmarried.
In 1848, James Romanes at the age of 70 years, drew up his will, naming his brother John Romanes, a writer at Edinburgh, James Paterson, Merchant, Margaret Romanes (while she remained his widow) and their son Andrew, as trustees of his estate - "with power to them to assume any others to act with or after them, and particularly any of my sons in Canada, should any of them return to this country." His residence, 4 Buccleugh Place, was left to his wife for her lifetime, then to his unmarried daughters. Now, in 1984, it is a residence for the University of Edinburgh.
He died in 1850, and the three brothers returned from Canada. The inheritance was substantial. James had wide financial interests and held mortgages on some of the most aristocratic and powerful properties in Scotland.
Part I. REV. GEORGE ROMANES: A MISSIONARY FROM EDINBURGH
FEBRUARY 23, 1833 - 4 Buccleugh Place, Edinburgh. On that day a serious young man wrote a letter from his parents' home which later had quite a bearing on the religious life of Smiths Falls.
The Rev. George Romanes, a graduate of Edinburgh University, licentiated to preach, was a local missionary in the capital. of Scotland, no doubt ministering to the large, poorer section of the city.
His father was a successful merchant (Romanes & Paterson) and the family home, 4 Buccleugh Place is now in 1984, a student residence connected with the university.
The letter stated George had from conversations with a Rev. Marshall been induced to turn his thoughts to Canada, but being at a loss for information and direction he was writing to the Rev. Robert Burns of the Glasgow Colonial Society (GCS), Paisley, for advice. It was further stated, he felt it would be much more practical to go with an appointment to a definite charge and on that basis he'd have no hesitation in going out - "while the more uncertain appointment as missionary seems to demand more enquiry and deliberation. It is worthy of much more serious attention and I shall think of it seriously". George, even in early life seemed to have inherited his father's business acumen.
The outcome of the letter, after satisfactory discussion by both parties, was that George was accepted by the GCS for work as a "Missionary at Large" in the colony.
He sailed from Greenock on the ship "Gleniffer" one Spring day and arrived at Quebec City, May 21, 1833.
He travelled to Montreal, and then up the St. Lawrence and on to the village of York (Toronto), where he met with the Rev. William Rintoul, the moderator of York, who more or less suggested he spend several weeks at various places in western Upper Canada on his itinerary, as the advantage would be greater than a passing visit.
George Romanes enjoyed his missionary work, and his travels covered such places as Zorra, Goderich, Williams, Port Stanley, Ancaster and Dundas. From Hamilton, June 23, 1833, he wrote the Rev. Burns -
|"I addressed to you a few very hurried lines from Quebec, informing you of my safe arrival, on this side of the Atlantic. The Presbytery of Quebec happened to hold its meeting at Montreal while I was in that city; I appeared before them, and having produced my License, Presl. Certificate and other credentials, was recommended to proceed, forthwith to York, and place myself under the direction of that Presbytery. I left Montreal next day and arrived at York on June 2nd."|
In this letter he expresses great enthusiasm for Upper Canada, and a portion of it must have greatly encouraged would-be-emigrants.
|"This is certainly a magnificent and wonderful country and far surpasses all the expectations and ideas I had formed. The accounts we have and read of its advantages appear to many, perhaps to most, highly colored and exaggerated; but to me they appear to fall far below the truth. The rapidity of its advancement in wealth and improvement is perfectly astonishing, and almost incredible. On every side the heart is cheered by its pleasing prospect of universal prosperity; abject poverty is a thing unknown, and industry is sure to meet with a rich and lasting reward; every one is blessed with plenty and cheered by hope. It is surprising that so many of our countrymen at home, harassed as thousands are, by anxiety and hopeless toil, can remain blind to the advantages of emigrating to this province. I am sure thousands of all ranks and professions, did they but know what this country is would not hesitate one moment in coming out and securing the advantages that here await them."|
Later, he travelled to the Johnstown District and eventually in the Fall of 1833 arrived at the village of Smiths Falls.
In 1831, a Mr. Bartlett, we are told, came from New England and settled at Smiths Falls. He opened a "Sabbath School" in his new home, and from that emerged the Presbyterian congregation of the village.
Thus, when George Romanes came upon the scene the time was right for a church with an ordained minister to be established. On December 6th, a public meeting was held and it was moved, seconded and carried that a call be given to the Rev. George Romanes to be their minister.
Mr. Romanes accepted the invitation, and the usual official letter was sent to Lieut. Col. Rowan, Civil Secretary of the Lieut. Governor, advising that the congregation had chosen a minister and signed a.bond for his salary, and that he would be ordained to their congregation as soon as the forms of the Church (of Scotland) permits. It was signed by four trustees, namely - William Elliott; Thomas Story; Russel Bartlett and Wm. Simpson.
150 years ago - March 5th, 1834, the Rev. George Romanes was ordained to serve the congregation of Smiths Falls. His leadership abilities and oratory made him a valued member of the Bathurst Presbytery.
Through his encouragement, and the dedication and teamwork of the congregation, a church was built in 1835 on Beckwith Street at Church, where the Westminster now stands. It was called the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in connection with the Church of Scotland.
A letter from Romanes to Robert Burns of the Glasgow Colonial Society from Smiths Falls, Rideau, U.C., - May 30, 1835, gives some interesting comments on the people, the village, the church and the future. He wrote -
|..."The outside of our church is finished, except the parapet on the tower. It is a Gothic building, and has a very handsome appearance. We shall have funds enough to finish it, excepting its seats"..." Some of the inhabitants have been very liberal in their subscriptions for building the church. W. Simpson gave us the ground, value 60-pounds; James Simpson Esq., subscribed 50-pounds. A number of farmers, merchants and tradesmen 5-pounds each and upwards ...we received 65-pounds from the Government grant for building Scottish churches in U.C. I hope that in a few weeks the work be so far advanced that we can hold public worship there at least during the summer".|
These letters of 150 years ago are amazing as detailed reports sent back to the Society. They also show clearly that the minister earned his stipend. For example, Romanes gives some details about his work and dreams regarding the ministry of Smiths Falls.
"I generally preach in two places every Sabbath; we have a double service at Smiths Falls in the forenoon and in the afternoon and evening, I preach in some stations in the country. This is rendered necessary by the scattered state of population and the badness of the roads"...
"I am endeavouring with good prospect of success, to form a second congregation in the township of Kitley, about 9 miles from Smiths Falls. I mean to preach every alternate Sabbath there in the afternoon and it is possible that in time there will be a church established there. The settlers there are Irish Presbyterians from Ulster, and much attached to the Church of Scotland".
"There is a village or infant town called Kilmarnock, about seven miles down the Rideau, which I occasionally visit, where with attention a church might perhaps be formed".
The letter though different in style and wording is echoed in 1984, in many ways - on assistance from the Society, Government grants and encouraging the people; that he believed in the future of Smiths Falls was evident.
|"For various reasons it is peculiarly important that this station be maintained; from central situation and increasing importance; and from the satisfaction of a flourishing church being established in the course of a few years" ... "Many are now passing westwards by this route; the Rideau being the great channel of communication this season".|
He also wrote - "It is not likely I will leave this country".
During that Spring of 1835, the Rev. George Romanes could have had little inkling of how far, or by what various paths, his family and he would travel in years to come. Perhaps, he had already met his future wife, Isabella. They were married in August of that same year.
The Rideau Canal, like the railway some 25 years later, had a great effect on the small hamlets in the area. Those fortunate enough to be on the route, prospered, and others were by-passed and remained backwater villages, or faded into oblivion.
James Simpson, a young surveyor from Lockport, N.Y., gave this description some years later of the period of the building of the Rideau Canal and its effect on Smyths Falls.
"When I came to Smyths Falls or Wardsville in 1827 the place had no roads leading to it.
It was an entire wilderness with the exception of an old sawmill newly rigged up by Abel Russell Ward (UEL) for the purpose of sawing lumber to build with, and his own building, a log house nearby.
The sawmill had hardly commenced operations when by order of Col. By, the officer in charge of works, I removed it to make way for a dam for the canal. I came on with about 20 men and with teams and we opened a road from Smyths Falls to the By-town road, a distance of about 8 miles. Also a road towards Perth, about nine miles; improved a road toward Merrrickville, three miles, and also a road to Dack's Tavern on the post road to Brockville, and a road five miles from the Falls to the Rose settlement.
In my opinion, the opening up of these roads, all leading to this quarter and the improvements made by myself, Abel Russel Ward and others who settled in, tended more than all other things to make Smyths Falls what it became and now is".
From this one can readily understand that the photo taken of the church with the built-up background, was taken many years after it was built. However, in the summer of 1835 it must have appeared as a gem in the wilderness, comparable to St. Andrews Church at the corner of muddy Wellington and Kent Streets, Bytown.
A church report April 4, 1835, states a meeting was held to appoint trustees "in whom the property of the land for the building of the church shall be vested" and also to draw up "a constitution for the government of the affairs of the congregation".
The Rev. Romanes in his letter of May 30th, 1835, was enthusiastic about the exterior of the church being finished apart from the parapet on the tower. He also advised that there were funds enough to finish the tower, but the seating must await further funding.
The speed with which this project was accomplished indicates inspired leadership and great vitality of this early group of people.
Romanes seems to have had a great deal of discipline, goodwill, understanding and love of his fellowman, and on the latter count, especially for a certain young lady who lived 12 miles from Smiths Falls at her brother's home, the Manse of Beckwith.
Isabella Smith was young, beautiful and vivacious in contrast to the serious, academic, young man who courted her. They were married at the Beckwith Church by the Rev. John Smith, August 12th, 1835. Perhaps practical George took his bride for a trip to Glengarry where the Synod met at Williamstown on Sept. 16th, of that year.
They settled in his log house on lot 5, Concession 3 of Elmsley, of which the Rev. Bell was to write in his diary, January 1837 -
|"But what a miserable place! I found it little more comfortable than the stable - a log house so ill secured and cold, that it was impossible to sit anywhere but at the side of the stove".|
Nevertheless, it was there that Isabella gave birth to their first child, James, August 4, 1836. He was baptized by the Rev. Wilson of Perth, October, 1836.
"The Minister" of the Smiths Falls congregation must have written glowing letters home about possibilities in the new land, and instilled a sense of adventure in the hearts of his younger brothers Robert and John, because in 1837, we find they have entered the Smiths Falls scene. Of James Romanes' four sons, three were now in Canada.
Robert and John Romanes bought adjoining properties - lots 7 and 8, concession one, S. Elmsley, and joined in the affairs of the community and their brother's church with vigour and dedication. They were actively involved in many ways for over ten years.
Robert became Justice of the Peace of S. Elmsley from 1842 - 1845. He was also a Tavern Warden in 1845, and had a great interest in the Debating Society and the Library.
He married June 19, 1843, Isabella MacDonald, niece of Isabella Romanes. The bride's mother Catherine Smith MacDonald, a naval widow, had come to Smiths Falls and taken up residence there. She never understood how "Isa" her daughter could be happy with that dour man living isolated in the backwoods, but admitted she was, and there was great rejoicing when Isa had her baby girl Margaret Carrick Romanes (named for her paternal grandmother) May 3, 1844. She was of course, baptized by Uncle George. Three more children were born in time - Catherine, Robert and Isabella Emily.
Meantime, George Romanes' own family had grown with the birth of a second son, Robert, December 29, 1838; and a daughter Georgina Isabella, October 17, 1842.
The church membership had increased, and in 1839 a tender was put out in the Perth Courier and Brockville papers for work to be done on the pews. By the Fall of 1840 it was completed and seat rental rules were drawn up.
One may wonder today at the charging for church seats, but it was a way of putting funds into the church coffers to help defray expenses, and the guidelines were clear. to quote in part an extract from the church minutes:
"The seats shall be let on Friday 14th November 1840 at 2 p.m., for ensuing 12 months.
The seats shall be paid before or at the annual meeting of the congregation, the second Saturday of January".
And, so forth -
Perhaps like concert reservations today on a subscription basis, it was figured if you paid for a seat, you'd attend.
The Rev. Romanes, and his Board of Trustees, of which brother Robert was at one time Secretary, were men of good sense and integrity, and the church prospered under them and a dedicated congregation.
Queen's College, after many years of discussions and planning had been started in 1840 in a private house on Colborne Street, Kingston.
In 1846 George Romanes was granted a position of Interim Professor of Classical Literature, and the Board of Trustees of the College, allowed him the sum of 30-pounds in order to supply his pulpit at Smiths Falls. It wasn't too easy to get up and go, and for two years Romanes, while still minister at Smiths Falls, taught at Queen's.
Meantime, the other brother, John, had settled in and had been busy in several directions. In 1837, he and his neighbour John Ballantyne were chief promoters of the founding of the Elmsley Library, and this small seed sprouted into the Mechanics Institute and later grew into the library as known today. He was a Fence-Viewer; and Superintendent of Common Schools for S. Elmsley, 1844-1845.
John Romanes also found romance in Canada. George's neighbour was Walter Armstrong. He lived on lot 4, concession 3, and had settled there in 1820 at which time there was no Smyths Falls, and the country around was comparative wilderness. Walter Armstrong had emigrated from the border county of Scotland, Roxboroughshire, and Romanes' father had originally gone to Edinburgh from Berwickshire, so the families had an empathy for each other.
John, and Hannah Armstrong, the eldest daughter of Walter Armstrong, were married at Elmsley by the Rev. George on November 19th, 1839, in the presence of Robert Romanes of Elmsley, yeoman, and George Graham of Kitley, by authority of a licence from the Lieut. Governor.
Their first child, James Carrick, was born October 10, 1840; a second son, Walter Armstrong, was born September 19, 1842; and a daughter, Mary Ann, was born November 19, 1844. All three were baptized by their Uncle George. In future years, three more children would be born to Hannah and John Romanes, Agnes, Elizabeth Jane and Walter Armstrong.
The grandfather, Walter Armstrong, died at 80 years of age, May 9, 1875, on the farm in S. Elmsley where he had settled in 1820.
John Romanes became a District Councillor in 1848. His successful enterprises in investments and mortgages in the district and surrounding area, assured the family of an affluent life.
Also, in 1848, "The Presbyterian" magazine No. 5, May issue, reported that the Presbytery of Bathurst had met at Smiths Falls on the 6th day of March last for the purpose of taking steps required by the laws of the church, for releasing Rev. George Romanes from the congregation of Smiths Falls and translating him to the Professorship of Classical Literature to Queen's College to which he had some time ago been appointed by the Trustees of that institution.
It stated several members of the congregation were present at the meeting and expressed great regret at losing a pastor so efficient and so highly esteemed by the congregation as Mr. Romanes was, and more especially as by his departure the congregation "is left without any near prospect of a minister", but Mr. Romanes' appointment to Queen's they felt was one of great importance to the general interests of the church.
An exact extract from the Minutes of the Bathurst Presbytery reads -
|"The Presbytery at the same time resolved to record the high estimation in which they held their brother Mr. Romanes, and the strong sense of the loss which they sustain in his departure from them. Connected with the Presbytery almost from its formation, his piety and his talents and obliging disposition have enabled him to render important services to the interests of this church, and of religion generally within the bounds of the Presbytery, and Presbyterian Community generally through the District. The Presbytery however, rejoices in Mr. Romanes' appointment to the influential office which he now fills at Queen's College, believing that it will conduce greatly to the interests of the Church and of sound education in this Province".|
It is not easy to pinpoint the exact location where an "ill-secured, cold log cabin" stood, 150 years ago.
The Assessment Rolls for Elmsley for 1846 and 1848, listed the Rev. George Romanes as owner of lot 5, conc. 3; in 1850 Wm. Ballantyne is listed as owner of this property.
It seems logical to assume therefore, that this was the land mentioned by Romanes in his letter to Burns in May, 1835.
"I have got a piece of land near the village and intend putting up a house this season. This will be attended with some expense and trouble but I cannot think of asking the people to build a house for me, while the church is unfinished".
When the Bathurst Presbytery released the Rev. George Romanes to be a full time professor at Kingston in 1848, it must have pleased his wife very much, though it is possible they were already residing there at that time.
At a meeting of the Trustees of the church, June 5, 1848, it was recorded that the two new trustees should be appointed, as William Elliott one of the original trustees had moved away; and "that the Rev. George Romanes, also one of the original trustees, desired to resign office in consequence of his now residing at Kingston".
Alice Kathryn Gould compiled a little booklet called "By the Rideau - A Tale of Smiths Falls in Song and Story". It was printed approximately 50 years ago, and James Simpson's description of making the roads out from Smiths Falls was taken from it. She also told that James Simpson had left Smiths Falls in 1832, selling out his interests to his brother Wm. Simpson. James eventually went to the California gold rush in 1849, and "returning on a visit to relatives in Smiths Falls in June 1852 on the steamship "Independence" bound from San Francisco to San Juan del Sur, he died aboard ship, and agreeable to his request, was buried at sea, near Acapulco, Mexico. In his will, dictated to the purser, he made disposal of his effects, which included two bags of gold dust valued at five thousand, six hundred dollars".
This small booklet, known no doubt to many residents of the town, should in my opinion, be a part of the curriculum for Smiths Falls school children. It is concise, brief and full of interesting facts.
Alice Gould ended the prose section with this paragraph:
|"Of the old first residents very few still survive, and in many cases, even the names are forgotten; their struggles and hardships, clearing forest and rocky hillside, are now blent into the background of the picture, but in the end, the victory is to them, and they have left for those who come after, a thriving and beautiful town, in which the pioneer physician, farmer, missionary, millowner and tradesman each had his real part".|
Change is inevitable in town or city, and by 1848 there certainly had been changes in the Presbyterian Church affairs in Smiths Falls.
The disruption (1843) as the establishing of the Free Church was called, resulted in a split in the congregation, and by 1846 the Free Church was formed, called St. Paul's Presbyterian with the Rev. Aitken as minister.
In 1850 the Rev. Solomon Mylne was ordained to St. Andrews Presbyterian "in connection with the Church of Scotland" succeeding the Rev. George Romanes, and he remained the beloved minister of that congregation for many, many years.
The Romanes brothers left the area in 1850, and the Church minutes of July, 1850 record the thanks of the congregation in recognition of the work they had done on behalf of the church during the time of their sojourn in the community. All three eventually returned to Britain.
However, the Rev. George from 1848-1850 would still have two more years of devoted professorship at Queen's College, Kingston.
The minutes of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Edinburgh, consistently recorded in the 1830's a need for a college for the education of ministers in Canada, and recommended it be given prime attention.
REV. GEORGE ROMANES: PROFESSOR AT QUEEN'S
In "The Story of Queen's - Queen's Centenary - 1841 - 1941" it says there were two different dates upon which the beginning of Queen's was celebrated.
These dates were - October 16, 1841, the day Queen Victoria assented and issued her Royal Charter, and Queen's College was born; and December 18, 1839, the day after the bill was introduced into the legislature, when a meeting was held at St. Andrew's, Kingston, to start a campaign for funds. Involved in this effort there "were three young men whose lives were to unfold as amazingly as the institution beside whose cradle they stood".
All three achieved knighthood - Sir Alexander Campbell, Sir Oliver Mowat, and a young lawyer John A. MacDonald who twenty eight years later would be Canada's first Prime Minister, and to whom Queen's would give its first honourary degree LLD, "in its 21st year of existence". George Romanes would become well known to Campbell and MacDonald, and later his eldest son would visit at Earnscliffe.
Queen's College "officially" opened in 1842 in the rented house on Colborne Street, with two professors and ten students and within ten years doubled that number, a far cry from today's crowded campuses.
The Board of Trustees on the 10th of June, 1847 had resolved "that Mr. Romanes be appointed Classical Professor with a salary of 300-pounds a year, provided always that if as a member of a Synod or as an ordained missionary, he shall be in receipt of any sum, his salary by that sum be reduced".
To give an inkling of what his work entailed consider this letter of July 19, 1848, that Romanes wrote from Montreal as Convenor of the Exam Committee. It says, in part:
|"The committee examined Mr. (John B.) Mowat in Latin, on the third oration of Cicero against Catiline - in Greek, on the Second book of the Iliad, and the Epistle to the Romans; in Hebrew, on the second psalm, also on Logic, Moral Philosophy, in Theology, on the Evidence of Christianity the Jewish and Christian System, the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, and the great outlines of the history of the Church, and the committee have to express their very high satisfaction with the manner in which he acquitted himself on all the different subjects of examination".|
The Eighth Session of Queen's College began the First Wednesday of October (4th) 1848. The curriculum listed four professors:
Revd Hugh Urquhart, A.M., Professor
Revd John Machar, D.D., (Glasgow), Professor
Rev. James Williamson, A.M., (Edinburgh), Professor
Rev. George Romanes, A.M., (Edinburgh) Professor and the latter taught Moral Philosophy as well as the Classics.
He had become Curator of the Library in November, 1847, and later he became a Trustee, as well as Secretary of the Senate.
The Rev. George Romanes formed a strong bond with Queen's College which would continue long after his four years as a professor at that fledgling college. In 1866 he was elected a Fellow of the Faculty of Law of Queen's, in recognition of his interest and ongoing work on behalf of the college.
One highlight of the Romanes' life in Kingston was the birth on May 19, 1848, of their third son, George John, who would later add prestige and honour to the family name.
In 1891, he founded the "Romanes Lectures" to be given annually in The Sheldonian Theatre at Oxford. On June 1, 1961, the late R. Hon. Vincent Massey of Canada was the guest speaker. His topic was "Canadians and The Commonwealth". His opening remarks were:
|"May I express my deep sense of honour at being invited to address you? The names of those who have preceded your present guest as lecturers on this foundation can only produce in him a feeling of honest humility, and indeed some real apprehension. George Romanes was born in Canada, but pursued his studies at Cambridge. I have not been able to discover why a Cambridge scholar should have founded a Lectureship at Oxfords this must be regarded, however, as a happy example of academic coexistence Canada could ill afford at this early stage of her development (perhaps not even now) to lose such an intellect".|
Actually, in the strange ways of historical records, George John Romanes would have remained practically unknown in this century, had not his wife, Ethel Duncan Romanes, written "The Life and Letters of George John Romanes". Volume XVII of "The Dictionary of National Biography" also has now devoted 2h pages to his work and accomplishments.
His father was a true educator and always tried while involved with Queen's, to promote the best for his students by means of bursaries and encouragement.
In 1850 James Romanes, father of the Rev. George, died at his home in Edinburgh, leaving a large estate, and in his will expressed the hope his sons would return from Canada. Thus, we find in 1850 Rev. George Romanes tendering his resignation to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Queen's College, as follows:
Kingston, 3rd May, 1850
I beg leave to intimate to you, for the information of the Trustees of Queen's College, my resignation of the Professorship of Classical Literature in that Institution, and also the resignation of my office as a Trustee. - George Romanes".
It was not entirely farewell to the college though, as he for many years ordered, bought and sent books to the Queen's Library. For example consider this letter from his home in London, England.
18 Cornwall Terrace, 1 May, 1867, to Professor Williamson of Queen's.
"You will receive by next Thursday's steamer the electric light apparatus, and the following books ...The odd volume (IV) MacKnight on the Epistles belongs to a set which I formerly presented to the Library, but this volume was accidentally omitted in packing up the parcel ...Perhaps I will be able to have another box ready to send before closing of navigation, but that depends on the time that I return from Scotland ...With kind regards to yourself and all at Heathfield...P.S. The box will be sent to Liverpool in time for next Canadian packet. If I do not hear soon from Greenwich, I will go down myself and enquire about the Observations".
Apart from the list of books, etc., this letter is interesting in that "Heathfield" was the residence of John A. MacDonald, 1865 - 1878, owned by Prof. Williamson, mortgage held by George Romanes.
It also gives the Romanes' address in London, where he had resided since mid-1850's, and where his son would reside after his father's death until he moved to Oxford in 1891.
Cornwall Terrace, today belongs to the Crown Estates, property owned by Her Majesty the Queen. In 1975 there appeared an item in a Montreal paper, mentioning that houses of Cornwall Terrace designed by John Nash and built about 1835, were being redeveloped.
I wrote in haste to the Commissioners of the Crown Estates, and asked if it were possible to obtain a photo of No. 18, and received a kind reply, enclosing a photo, with these remarks: "I was unable to take a photo as I intended, as the whole Terrace has been surrounded by scaffolding and security fencing for the last four months. I managed however, to find a photo from our Surveyors official collection, which shows No. 18 Cornwall Terrace".
Rev. Romanes was always inviting friends to visit the family in London. In one letter he is enthusiastic about the new four mile underground railway; in another about the Crystal Palace. Though his health was not good, he now and then preached in the Presbyterian Church in London, of which a friend of his was the minister. The family travelled on the continent for holidays, but mostly in summertime went up to the north of Scotland to his wife's family terrain, where he built a home called "The White House".
His second son Robert had died as a young child. His daughter, Georgina, became a brilliant musician and their home was the centre of a good deal of musical society. Gounod and Liszt were two of the many musicians who visited there. Georgina died in April, 1878, having only outlived her father by seven years.
The March issue of "The Presbyterian" 1871, carried this obituary from the "Kingston Whig":
"We deeply regret to chronicle the tidings received by Atlantic Cable, of the sudden death of the Rev. George Romanes, LLD., which took place in London, on the 18th last. Although it is about 20 years since he ceased to be a resident of Kingston, he is still remembered by many with affectionate esteem as one who rendered no small service in the cause of higher education in the early days of Queen's University ...he came to Canada in 1833,, and was ordained to the charge of Smith Falls, where his ministrations were warmly esteemed and are still affectionately remembered.
In 1846 he moved to Kingston, having been appointed Professor of Classical Literature, a position for which his profound and accurate scholarship eminently qualified him. His talents and acquirements were characterized by variety as well as depth.
He often surprised and delighted his students with the vigour and beauty of his original translations from classical authors, which he would give with evident unconsciousness of their brilliancy. And at a time when the professorship of moral philosophy was vacant, he supplied the deficiency by a series of lectures on that subject which called forth the enthusiastic admiration of his students.
Dr. Chalmers, under whom he studied at Edinburgh University remarked concerning him that he was 'fit for any position, yet with all his varied and profound learning, no trait was more characteristic than his unaffected modesty and simplicity'.
So utterly unpretending and unobtrusive was he, indeed, that but few except those who had actual opportunity of knowing, were at all aware what treasures of thought and learning lay under his quiet exterior. While in Kingston he was always ready to cheerfully take his part in any labour connected with the college or the church. As a preacher, he united deep thought with practical earnestness, and his sermons were always solid and useful.
His personal character was remarkable for great amiability, and kindness of heart, uprightness, integrity and single-mindedness".
His wife, Isabella Smith Romanes, died January 2, 1883.
Their eldest son, James, was a businessman who travelled often between Britain and Kingston. There was a family home on Ring Street, which is now an apartment residence. James married late in life and died childless in 1901, in his 65th year.
Professor Dr. George John Romanes, poet, musician, writer and scientist, married in 1879, and had one daughter and five sons. He died May 23rd, 1894 at Oxford, at 46 years of age.
The youngest child, Charlotte Elizabeth, never married, though she was at one time engaged to a cousin, Duncan Forbes Macdonald, son of Dr. George Macdonald of Cromarty, who had married her mother's older sister Margaret. No relation to her Aunt Catherine's husband Dr. John Duff MacDonald.
Duncan had gone to India and hoped on his leave home to marry Charlotte, but the family story goes Charlotte would not marry him if he returned to India. He worked with, the Bank of Bengal H.Q., in Calcutta and died in that city in 1869. After the death of his father in 1866, the family emigrated to New Zealand, and their story is told by a descendant, Bruce Faulkner Macdonald in his book on the Macdonalds of New Zealand.
Charlotte lived most of her life in the north of Scotland at "Dunskeath", doing good works especially for school children and the poor of the parish. It is written the children were all late for school waiting to put flowers on her passing funeral cortege when she died in January, 1911, at the age of 58 years. She is buried at Inverness in the Tomnahurrich (Ring of the Fairies) cemetery, on a high escarpment overlooking the sea.
What of the brothers of the Rev. George - Robert and John - did any of their descendants with MacDonald and Armstrong roots return to Canada - I wonder?
It is always nice to have a few notes of what happened to families, and half the fun of research is to present a growing mosaic that can be added to as facts unfold or additional letters or data are found.
The Rev. George Romanes in 1866 on the motion of Professor Murray, seconded by Professor Williamson, was elected Fellow in the Faculty of Law of Queen's University.
Professors Williamson and Romanes had been friends during the latter's connection with Queen's at Kingston, and this continued after Romanes returned to Britain. According to the book "Queen's University, Kingston - 1841 - 1941" by D. D. Calvin, page 83 we read that in 1849 both Williamson and Romanes gave scholarships. Page 184, "In 1846, the first Senate of Queen's was constituted in July 1846. Only two of the five men were Arts Professors, the Rev. George Romanes in Classic and Rev. James Williamson in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy.
In 1847, the Rev. Romanes was Curator of the Library at Queen's and continued active in sending out books from Britain for many years. A letter written by Romanes to Professor Snodgrass, from London, January 15, 1867, reads in part;
|"I have already selected a number of works, and have got the catalogues of several booksellers to select from. Dr. Williamson sent a list of books he wishes for his department which will save me some trouble in selecting. I avoid all duplicates, so far as your catalogues guide me; but in a public library or a university one, it is often of great service to have duplicates of some works. Many a time, when at Edinburgh College, how I wished for a work, essential, perhaps when writing an essay, but of which the only copy was monopolized by some more fortunate person".|
He continues - and this I find fascinating information - .
"...the cold, since New Year, has been very severe, and much snow has fallen, blocking up our streets, and sadly interfering with business. Indeed were it not for the UNDERGROUND RAILWAY it would be nearly impossible to get to the city. You may think FOUR MILES OF RAILWAY a very small piece, but the benefit of it to London is really incalculable, besides the quickness, it is entirely independent of the weather, snow, ice, fog, rain or heat, all the same".
A brief glimpse of the times, and the thoughts of Rev. Dr. Romanes
One can also picture the life of the Romanes family from 1860-1890 through George and Isabella Romanes' daughter-in-law, who wrote " " (her husband) after his death in 1894. However, it is a sad fact many women who achieved in their own right long ago, have been forgotten or no records are available to tell their story. Ethel Duncan Romanes fascinates me. A wealthy heiress she bought the Murray estate of Pitcalzean, which later became the property of her son Colonel Gerald Romanes, DSO., and after his death in 1946, was sold in 1947 to the author Eric Linklater and Hunter Gordon. In the 1970's it became the property of the North Sea Oil Company and is now used as a VIP establishment, beautifully preserved. (see photo) When Ethel D. Romanes resided up in the highlands she did much for the underdog and was loved by all in the community, so the story goes. She was not just a Lady Bountiful; often she'd sit up all night with a sick child so the mother could get some rest, and her. Christmas parties and treats for the children of the district were long remembered after her death in 1927.
The Rev. George Romanes' eldest son, JAMES, born at Smith Falls married a nurse, Margaret Wardrop from Cork, Ireland. His sister Charlotte in a letter to a cousin in New Zealand, written June 28th, 1895, mentions her new sister-in-law, saying, she has delayed writing in order to send a photo of Margaret - "I think it is such an attractive face and the Nurse's uniform seems to suit the sweet seriousness of it. She is very dear to me and I feel thankful every day that she has been sent to us, my brother is so completely happy in her. It is wonderful how when afflictions come new blessings arise also." The last sentence evidently refers to her brother George John's death the preceding year.
ROBERT, the second son born in Canada at Smiths Falls had died young..
GEORGINA, the third child born at Smith Falls, wrote letters from her school in Britain in 1858, telling of her interest in music. Twenty years later, her sister-in-law wrote of her death:
|"Early in the year 1878, a great sorrow fell on the Romanes family. The elder of the two sisters Georgina, died in April, and to her brother (George John) her loss was very great. She was a brilliant musician, and had done much to prevent her young brother from becoming too entirely absorbed in science, and in keeping alive in him, the passionate love for music which was always one of his characteristics. They went much together to concerts, and the house was the centre of a good deal of musical society. Among the many musicians who came and went may be mentioned Gounod. He had a great admiration and liking for Miss Romanes, and used to make her sing to him".|
CHARLOTTE the youngest, born in the period of transition from Canada back to Britain, and lovingly called "Chatty" by her family, was very close to her brother George John also, and spent much time with his children.
A letter to her brother James while he was in Canada is revealing in its humour, concern and news. She mentions her little niece Ethel (who later became an Anglican Nun) misbehaving, and that she had suggested to her when she said her prayers to ask God to help her be good, and the little girl replied: "I did ask Him, Auntie, twice yesterday"!
She also mentions that she wishes James were going to Aunt Helen's (Helen Smith Aitchison of Rose Farm, Brockville Road, near Smith Falls), but says "jolly that Walter will be with you. I had a letter from Carrie a few days ago on her way to Edinburgh". Walter was the lawyer son of Catherine Smith MacDonald of Smith Falls and later Hamilton. He married Caroline, daughter of Edward Malloch of Ottawa, who died in 1862 (childbirth, it is presumed) and it is her daughter Carrie who was on her way to Edinburgh. Carrie married Captain William Murray of Geanies, father of the late Sir Kenneth Murray. "Geanies" was the house rented by the Romanes family during the early days of their return,to Britain, when they spent their summers up in Scotland.
The next generation were all children of PROFESSOR GEORGE JOHN ROMANES. He was known as an outstanding scientist and physiologist at the latter part of the 19th century. He was a friend of Darwin's and also a poet who wrote some extraordinary beautiful sonnets. In 1879 he married Ethel Duncan. Their daughter, Ethel, an Anglican Nun, died young. For the sons and their families see the family chart [below].
It is interesting to examine a census sheet from Kent, England, of 1864, recording John Romanes, and his wife Hannah, (nee Armstrong, born in Canada) their son Walter born in Canada, a civil engineer pupil, two daughters born in Canada, four daughters born in Scotland, and one born in Land Lee, England. Also listed belonging to the household, three domestic servants, a cook and a nurse.
The story of the Romanes family continues to unfold. The tale of the Canadian connections leaves many gaps, it is true, but perhaps someone, somewhere, reading this little book will find links in the chain of their ancestry, be it Romanes, MacDonald or Armstrong - families who contributed to the life of a village called Smiths Falls, when only 25 homes had been established in that pioneer settlement.
Data gathered by Mable Ringereide (1912-1990) are publicly available in Queen's University Archives. We are much indebted to her son T. John Ringereide and her husband Trygve Ringereide for making available her papers. See also:
The Flourishing Tree by Mabel Ringereide. Ottawa.
The Story of an English Sister by Ethel Romanes. Longmans, Green & Co. London, 1918.
The Romanes Family Tree
Reverend George Romanes (1807-1871; Minister Smith Fall, Ontario) married Isabella Gair Smith (1811-1883) at Beckwith, Ontario,12th August 1835.
1. 4th August 1836 James (born at Smith Falls). Married Margaret Wardrop 1896. Died in Scotland on 16th December 1901. No children.
2. 29th December 1838 Robert. (died young)
3. 17th October 1842 (born at Smith Falls). died unmarried in England in 1878.
4. 19th May 1848 George John (born Kingston, Canada). Married Ethel Mary Duncan 11th February 1879. George died in Oxford 23rd May 1894 of brain tumour; A school friend who remained close to Ethel was Annie Ingham. This led to the later marriage of Norman Hugh Romanes to Cecily Ingham (see below). Ethel died 30th March 1927 in Italy.
5. Charlotte Elizabeth. Born in England. Unmarried. Died in Scotland 17th January 1911.
Children of George and Ethel
1. Ethel Georgina. ("Fritz" is the main subject of Ethel's book The Story of an English Sister.) Born 19th February 1880. Anglican Nun. Died 26th August 1914 of lung cancer.
2. George Ernest born ?1882. married Mina Alexandra Scott in 1905 Cromarty. died 1910.
1. George Christopher. b. 1907 d 1961. RC Priest (Benedictine order).
2. Walter John. b. 1910. d. 1960. RC Priest (Benedictine order).
3. James Gerald Paget. Lt. Col. Royal Scots. India. D.S.O. Lord-Lieutenant of Ross & Cromarty. d. 1946.
4. Francis John ("Jack"). Eton, Oxford, Australia, USA. married Doris Helen Wright (daughter of Almwroth Wright).d.1944.
Children: 1. Giles John b. 8th December 1919 married Margaret Gee
Children: James b. 1946
Rosalind b. 1949
Julian b. 1957
2. Cynthia Joy b. 1920. Married Lewis Castledon.
Children: Will Vernon Casteldon b. 1943
Andrew b. 1945
Christian b. 1947
Heina b. 1952
5. Norman Hugh. born 1892. Eton, Oxford.
Married Cecily Anne Mitchell Ingham. He died 1964.
Children: Hugh Giles Ingham born 1921.
Joan Cecily Mary born1922
married Patrick Westmacott
Children: Christopher. b. 1959.
6. Edmund Giles Radcliffe. born February 1893. died 1915 in the Dardanelle Campaign. (Norman and Edmund were the late "interlopers" in George and Ethel's family)
Early Romanes Origins as researched by Mabel Ringereide:
Hugh Rolamanus m. Alison Porteous. He and his wife were "insett in property in lauder in 1539".
William Rolman-Hous. eldest son of Hugh, married Elizabeth Hall of Blainslie, "insett in property in lauder, 2nd March 1619. He married secondly Agnes Allen "insett her in property lauder 21st February 1639". Children Hugh, George and Margaret.
Hugh Romanes married Alison Paterson Oct 24th 1662. Married again in 1676 Margaret Scott by whom George and William:
George Romanes. b. May 5th 1683 m. in 1708 Margaret Grieve, "entered Burgess in Lauder toWell Hill Acre April 26th 1709. In 1733 brought Greenside Acre. Children James and Margaret.
James Romanes. born 22nd January 1711. Married Elizabeth Thomson. Entered Burgess 25 June 1729. Bailie of Lauder in 1757. Died August 19th 1771. Children, George (1748), Robert (1750), William, Agnes.
George Romanes (1748-1824) m Jean Tait. "Entered Burgess 1761" Children James, John, Margaret, Robert, Elizabeth.
James Romanes b. June 10th 1778. d. 1850. Merchant in Edinburgh. m. Margaret Carrick.
Children: George (1807-1871) m. Isabella Gair Smith at Beckwith, Ontario.
James. died unmarried
Isabella. m J. S. Veitch 1834.
Jane m. John Sibbold
Margaret d. young
Mary Anne d. unmarried
John. m Hannah Armstrong at South Elmsley, Canada. 6 children.
Robert m Isabella MacDonald. 4 children
Margaret d. young
Andrew b. 16th Sept 1823. d. 29th Oct 1853. unmarried. Merchant in Edinburgh.
Agnes. d. unmarried.
Romanes Correspondence (Click Here)
Romanes and Evolution of Mind (Click Here)
Romanes and Evolutionary Biology (Click Here)
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Established circa 1999 and last edited 11 June 2005 by Donald Forsdyke