Sir Francis Ronalds and his Family

George Nairne Ronalds

George Nairne Ronalds; oil on pulpboard (c.1850). It is not known how he was persuaded to dress up for the portrait. Eldon House, Terry Fieldhouse photography

Sir Francis Ronalds' cousin George Nairne Ronalds (1797-1859) followed a path quite different from his relatives.

He studied at Uxbridge Academy before being apprenticed as a warehouseman, but working life did not suit him. His mother had noted when he was 16 that "he suffers little occurrences to discompose him where there is no occasion, it is not to be supposd his life is to run a plain unruffd stream any more than others".

He spent time in France improving his language skills, writing home that he was studying "au style et coloris, que les auteurs Francais emploient pour peindre leurs sentiments [the style and colour the French authors use to paint their feelings]", but at home he was "quite like a fish out of water, having no occupation". Years later, his sister Mary reported:

George continues to lead his hermits life in the Summer house [at the bottom of the family nursery in Brentford] which he has fitted up with his books &c after his own fashion, there is no fault to be found with his manner of conducting himself, except the slovenly, untidy, manner in which he dresses himself. And it is impossible to make him understand that appearances are of any consequence, he never touches any sort of animal food, or strong drink.

Shortly after he headed off to America, his sister wrote:

we hear nothing from George, where can he be? I suppose he has made friends with some of the Indians he used to be so fond of and is living amongst them.

He died on the Isle of Man.


The letters quoted are in the Ronalds Family Papers of the Harris Family Fonds at Western Archives, Western University, in London Ontario.