Genealogy, Background and Works of G. J. Romanes
The following news item appeared under the heading "A twin celebration", in the June, 1975, issue of the Presbyterian Record:
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:
In the Quebec Mercury of Tuesday, May 21, 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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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." [E. B. Poulton] wrote in the Oxford Magazine, May 30, 1894.
The obituary in the Guardian June 6, 1894, read, in part:
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:
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. George John 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
The Romanes Family: Canadian Connections
By Mabel Ringereide
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 [according to tombstone (below) he died in January 1848], 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.
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 -
In this letter he expresses great enthusiasm for Upper Canada, and a portion of it must have greatly encouraged would-be-emigrants.
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 -
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.
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.
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.
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 -
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:
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 -
Part V CHANGES AT SMITHS FALLS
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.
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:
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.
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 Eighth Session of Queen's College began the First Wednesday of October (4th) 1848. The curriculum listed four professors:
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:
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:
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.
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":
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;
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:
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:
Life & Letters of George John Romanes by Ethel Romanes (1896) Longmans, Green & Co. London.
The Story of an English Sister by Ethel Romanes (1918) Longmans, Green & Co. London.
Evolutionist and Missionary. John Thomas Gulick. Portayed through Documents and Discussions by Addison Gulick (1932) University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois.
Between Science and Religion. The Reaction to Scientific Naturalism in Late Victorian England pp. 134-163, by Frank M. Turner (1974) Yale University Press, New Haven.
The Role of Isolation in Evolution. George J. Romanes and John T. Gulick by John E. Lesch (1975) Isis 66, 483-503.
The Flourishing Tree by Mabel Ringereide (1977) Heritage House Publishers, Ottawa.
George John Romanes's Defense of Darwinism: The Correspondence of Charles Darwin and His Chief Disciple by Joel S. Schwartz.(1995) Journal of the History of Biology 28, 281-316.
The Origin of Species, Revisited. A Victorian who Anticipated Modern Developments in Darwin's Theory by Donald R. Forsdyke (2001) McGill-Queen's University Press, Montreal.
Out from Darwin's Shadow: George John Romanes's Efforts to Popularize Science in Nineteenth Century and other Victorian Periodicals by Joel. S. Schwartz (2002) Victorian Periodicals Review 35, 133-159.
N. H. Romanes and the Text of Lucretius by David Butterfield (Christ's College Cambridge) in Illinois Classical Studies (2006-2007) 31-32, 75-115.
Bodleian Library, Oxford. Correspondence with George John Romanes dating 1880-1900, deposited by Joan Westmacott in 2009.
Darwin's Disciple: George John Romanes, a Life in Letters, by Joel S. Schwartz. American Philosophical Society. 2010.
In Praise of Darwin: George Romanes and the Evolution of a Darwian Believer, by J. David Pleins. Bloomsbury Academic, New York. 2014.
Reverend George Romanes (30 Nov 1805-18 Jan 1871; Minister Smith Fall, Ontario) married at Beckwith, Ontario,12th August 1835 Isabella Gair Smith (30 Jan 1810-2 Jan 1883), daughter of Cromarty parish minister Robert S. Smith and Isabella Gair Rose. She arrived in Quebec 31st August 1833 and with her brother, the Reverend John Smith, settled in Beckwith Township, Lanark County, Ontario. GR was professor at the new Queen's College, in Kingston, and returned from the UK in 1866 to receive honorary degrees (LLD).
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 Rose (born at Elmsley, Canada - died 9 March 1849 Kingston, Canada)
3. 17th October 1842 Georgina Isabella (born at Smith Falls). A musician - friend of Gounod and Joachim - greatly attached to her brother George. She died unmarried in England in 1878 (1st April).
4. 19th May 1848 George John (born Kingston, Canada). Married Ethel Mary Duncan 11th February 1879, the only daughter of Andrew Duncan, described as "merchant and ship-owner" in the records of the City of Liverpool. Joan Westmacott relates that Ethel's mother became mentally ill and spent much of her life in a private institution. George died in Oxford 23rd May 1894 of what was probably a 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). After the death of George, Ethel travelled in the UK and the USA lecturing on Dante and religion. She wrote a biography of GJR that ran to several editions (Longmans, Green & Co. London, 1895), The Story of Port Royal (Dutton, NY, 1907), Charlotte Mary Yonge. An Appreciation (Mowbray, London, 1908), a biography of her eldest daughter (Longmans, Green & Co. London. 1918), various religious texts and, late in her life, two novels (A Great Mistake and Anne Chichester). She converted from the Church of England to the Roman Catholic Church in 1919 and died at Santa Margherita, Italy on 30th March 1927 (obituary in The Times April 1st).
5. Charlotte Elizabeth. Born in England. Unmarried. Died in Scotland 17th January 1911.
Children of George and Ethel
Early Romanes Origins as researched by Mabel Ringereide:
[The two 19th century gravestone photos (above and below) are reproduced with the kind permission of J. David Pleins, the copyright holder.]
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. Jan 1848. Merchant in Edinburgh. m. Margaret Carrick (1785-1856).
Romanes Early Career & Religion (Click Here)
Romanes and Evolution of Mind (Click Here)
Romanes and Evolutionary Biology (Click Here)
Romanes & Physiological Selection (1886) (Click Here)
Romanes Meets His Critics (1887) (Click Here)
Romanes Correspondence (Click Here)
Romanes, Grant Allen, Wallace & Gould (Click Here)
Romanes Versus Newton (Click Here)
Video Lecture on Bateson & Romanes (Click Here)
Video Lecture on Romanes, Mind, and Samuel Butler (Click Here)
History of Queen's University (Click Here)
The Ringereides and the Manse Where Romanes' Mother Lived (Click Here)
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Established circa 1999 and last edited 31 May 2020 by Donald Forsdyke