Thursday, 8 March 2012

Millican Dalton 1867-1947......................................... "Professor of Adventure"

My favourite part of the English Lake District is south of Keswick and Derwentwater... Borrowdale.
This post is about someone who gave up his job as an insurance clerk in the city and lived his dream.

Millican Dalton 1867-1947.

In the early 1900's the self styled "Professor of Adventure" Millican Dalton lived in a cave on Castle Crag in the valley of Borrowdale.  He made his own clothes, rucksacks and sleeping bags out of salvaged materials, grew his own vegetables. baked his own bread and was known for his love of coffee and cigarettes.

As one of the early Lakeland guides he hiked and climbed the fells around Keswick for most of his life.

At the age of 36 Dalton gave up a stifling city job to embrace a life of adventure. as he told a correspondent of The Sunday Chronicle in 1933 "Forty years ago I was working as a clerk in a city office...Day after day I went to the office at the same time... but this was not the life for me. I gave up my job in the commercial world and set out to seek romance and freedom".

Millican Daltons cave is on the eastern flank of Castle Crag and consists of two inter connected split level caves formed by quarrying. 
Dalton inhabited the cave in for the best part of fifty years.
I first visited the cave in 2007 after a couple of previous unsuccessful attempts to find it.
All the colour images in this post are mine.

My son Craig and his now wife Eleanor at the cave in 2008. 
I took them on a walk around Borrowdale and later Buttermere... 'twas a lovely day for me.

It's a damp place around the entrance... it provided Dalton with a steady water supply.
A year later this pair did a trip backpacking around the planet... Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand (free fall sky diving and bungee jumping) Fiji and the USA.
I think even Millican Dalton would have been impressed by their adventure.

To this day Daltons legacy can still be seen at the entrance to the cave where he carved his own epitaph into the rock despite the efforts of vandals oblivious to this little piece of history.
It reads.
 "Don't waste worrds Jump to conclusions"

The view from the caves entrance... It's a beautiful scene to wake up to.

Millican Dalton "Professor of Adventure" in action

Millican Dalton in Keswick near the Moot Hall.
The buildings haven't changed the one behind him to his left (your right) is now Greggs the bakers.
Dalton spent his summers in Borrowdale moving south to the wooden shack in Buckinghamshire during the colder months. During the winter of 1946-47 Daltons hut burnt down so he moved into a tent.
This was too much for his 79 year old frame however and he contracted pneumonia and died in hospital on the 5th of February 1947.

The River Derwent flows through Borrowdale below Castle Crag and Daltons cave.
The area is now owned by the National Trust who discourage camping on the site... but many people still make the pilgrimage to spend at least one night in the cave that sheltered Millican Dalton.

Craig and his old man... I think I might be smiling?

We had climbed to the summit of Castle Crag a climb of only 951ft... but it's quite steep.
The view north from Castle Crag over Derwentwater towards Keswick has to be one of the best in the whole of the lakes... I can so see what attracted Millican Dalton to make this place home.

 Craig has spent his whole life calling the knowledge I have passed onto him as "Andrew facts" I think it's a compliment... hmm? well I hope it's a compliment.


Arija said...

What an absolutely lovely story, just the sort of life I would have liked but so sad that when he embraced civilisation in the winter, it led to his death.

That lovely boy looks so like you. I should think you never stopped smiling in that company.

XOX . . . Arija

wildaboutwales said...

great pair of legs on the prof.

Scriptor Senex said...

It's my favourite place in the whole world, what little I've seen of it, too. I've stayed in Borrowdale many, many times (Mrs roscamp at Riggside was for many years a great hostess)and my first 'day out' with my wife of 25 years was to walk her along the River Derwent. Thanks for the memories.

Fábio Martins said...

Old memories are good to life again :)

jorrit said...

Hey there,

Great post. We were inspired so much by Millican Dalton we named our company after the Lake District legend.

He felt true freedom when he was living simply out in nature.

We feel the same way.

Check us out:

See you out there...

Modesto Viegas said...

Thanks for sharing these great stories!!!!!!
Best regards,

Wanda..plain~N~simple said...

What a fascinating life Millican Dalton created for himself, and for him to live like this for so many years is incredible!

Your son and his wife seem to have contracted the adventure bug, good for them that they can explore the world and enjoy a part of their young life doing what they love!!

I am sure your"Andrew facts" have helped Craig many times during his travels, and yes, I would definitly say it was a compliment. He is lucky to have a father who took/takes the time to pass on this knowledge!


Gary said...

Fun post Andrew!! Boom & Gary Of the Vermilon River, Canada.

Sondra said...

a fascinating man who lived the life he chose for himself...I admire that so much. Its great that you have been able to pass your love of the outdoor onto your son!!

Sallie ( said...

I absolutely love this post Andrew!!! Wonderful story about Millican, a man who really lived his dream. And it was great how you included the parallel story about how you found the cave and took your kids to see it. Your son and dil have a lot in common with our oldest grandson and his wife! We are proud of their sense of adventure!

TexWisGirl said...

your son has a strong resemblance to you. i'm glad the andrew facts have included passing on the sense of adventure.

glad you included how the gentleman died. i was curious as i read how he chose to live...

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

My kind of guy. Thanks for sharing the story. So let us know when you decide to chuck your job and go live in a cave. We're behind you all the way Andrew.

Susan said...

Beautiful post Andrew, and what a handsome son you have. Takes after his Dad! I love that he calls the knowledge you have passed on as "Andrew facts". That is so cool.

Tanya said...

what a great story! and what an adventurous son you have!

JM said...

Fantastic story about this amazing man! Thank you for sharing.

Phil said...

A great tale Andrew but those legs made me laugh - reminded me of a chap with the nickname of "stick".

Ruby said...

Thanks for sharing this piece of history. The views adn pictures are fabulous!!

heyBJK said...

What a gorgeous cave! I commend those who are courageous enough to give up job security and pursue their dream. It would be a tough decision to make.

Bob Bushell said...

What a nice story, and how old was he, wow, I want to be like him. Good shooting Andrew.

Light and Voices said...

YEA, Millican Dalton followed his bliss; not to many people have the courage to do that like Millican did.

Enjoyed the sunset above which brought me again to your wonderful site, Andrew.

Horst in Edmonton said...

Awesome story. He must have been an interesting man.

PerthDailyPhoto said...

I think it's a fabulous compliment Andrew and well deserved. Really enjoyed this story of Millican Dalton, what a character and how fantastic that he lived his dream.

Marianne, aka Ranger Anna said...

Freakin' awesome. All the way around.