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Old 18-01-2010, 08:20 PM   #13
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Millican Dalton reading the Daily Herald
outside Dixons the Keswick newsagents
on the corner of Station street and St John Street

“there were many who smiled at the tall, lean figure,
dressed in an open-neck shirt, green or brown cord shorts,
climbing boots or sandals and an Alpine hat”

Millican Dalton . . .
• born April 20th 1867 in Nenthead in the Pennines.
• named Millican after his mother's maiden name.
• quaker.
• attended the Friends School in Wigton.
• father died when he was aged 7.
• family moved south and lived at Walnut Cottage, Stony Path, Essex.
• worked in London as an insurance clerk.
• keen cyclist and camper.
• left London aged 30.
• built a forest hut at Marlow Bottom, Buckinghamshire where he lived during the winter months.
• worked as secretary to the Holiday Fellowship in Newlands for a couple of years.
• camped at High Lodore.
• moved to a cave under Castle Crag in the 1920's.
• named his cave "The Cave Hotel".
• mountain guide.
• styled himself 'Professor of Adventure'.
• offered 'Mountain rapid Shooting, Rafting, Hair-breadth Escapes.'
• was always addressed as 'The Skipper '.
• made his own clothes.
• vegetarian.
• grew potatoes on the terrace outside his cave.
• baked his own bread.
• ate hazelnuts picked from the woods around his cave.
• collected ample firewood from the surrounding countryside.
• climbed trees in winter to keep fit for climbing.
• bachelor.
• a popular guide among the lady climbers.
• invented trousers that could convert into shorts.
• took the Daily Herald.
• pacifist.
• often wrote to Churchill demanding he stop the war.
• admired George Bernard Shaw.
• had strong views on almost everything.
• teetotaller.
• smoked Woodbine cigarettes.
• drank large ammounts of coffee.
• washed infrequently.
• was more likeable when he was standing down wind.
• built a raft named Rogue Herries.
• lit a fire on top of Napes Needle to mark his 50th accent and made a pot of coffee.
• during the cold winter of 1947 his hut burned down; undaunted he moved into a tent.
• contracted pneumonia.
• spent his last few days in a hospital ward.
• died on the 5th February 1947 in Amersham aged 79 years.

Millican Dalton's Cave Today

I clearly remember my mother and father taking me up to Millican Dalton's cave. In the dim emptiness of the cavern staccato sounds broke the the still air. The dank notes of dripping water and the peels of slate shards scattered underfoot. They made a lonely accompaniment to the echoes of ceaseless chatter and flickering fireside laughter that still fill the cavern today, if you listen hard enough.

Millican Dalton made this place his summer home for nigh on fifty years and his spirit is easily invoked in the cool air of a quiet summer's evening.

The mouth of Millican Dalton's Cave from the terrace.

The lower and attic caves can be clearly seen. Abundant nettles attest to the human habitation.
Millican Dalton lived here during the summer for the last 50 years of his life. He is reported to have grown potatoes outside the cave, though the land in front of the cave is very shallow, so the beds must have been at a more distant location

The view from the lower cave on a showery spring evening.

Millican Dalton used this cave as his living quarters.

The interior of the lower cave.

You can clearly see the remains of the low walls which Millican Dalton built to divide the rooms.

The view from the mouth of the attic cave where Millican Dalton had his sleeping quarters.

Nora Dalton, the wife of Millican Dalton's nephew, was taken there by her husband in 1957. She said "He had already been dead quite a while then, but the place was much as it had been. It's changed now. I went back in 1999, the sleeping area in the attic had gone."

Jump to

Photographed on a wet day.

An itinerant camper emulates Millican Dalton by setting up a tent in the attic cave.

The attic cave is not as deep as the lower cave and offers less shelter from the weather.

A sign put up by the landowner, The National Trust, prohibiting fires or the collection of wood.

Would there still be room for Millican Dalton today? The answer is no.
The itinerant camper in the photo above was evicted by the National Trust for "fly camping".

both those attributed to and those referring to Millican Dalton

Millican Dalton on the Derwent in Borrowdale
Photo: Maysons, Keswick

“Don't waste words jump to conclusions!”
Millican Dalton - Carved into the wall of his cave.

“ ‘The Skipper’ as he was always called, had the lightest of touch and taught many fine climbers.”
R.K.Vinycomb - Northumbrian Mountaineering Club Newsletter No.1

“Nothing but wood fires satisfied him, and as a 'Wallaceite' and vegetarian he always had brazil nuts on a climb. One well-intentioned lady gave him a Primus, but it kicked about the corner of the tent unhonoured and unused.”
R.K.Vinycomb - Northumbrian Mountaineering Club Newsletter No.1

“The best air-raid shelter in England”
Millican Dalton - on his cave.

“My only luxury is coffee for which I pay 2s 2d a pound. I sleep on a bed of bracken and need only my plaid and an eiderdown to keep me warm. I don't burn a light, though I lie in bed from beginning to end of blackout. Seven hours sleep is enough for any one.”
Millican Dalton - quoted in the Daily Mail, January 1941.

“You can't feel lonely with nature as your companion.”
Millican Dalton - quoted in the Daily Mail, January 1941.

“At the time, Uncle Millican's defection from conventional life, which today would pass almost unnoticed, caused quite a stir, both in the family and beyond.”
Nicholas Dalton - nephew to Millican Dalton.

“Millican Dalton, Professor of Adventure. Camping Holidays, Mountain rapid shooting, Rafting, Hair's breadth escapes.”
Millican Dalton - the wording on his business card.

“The hottest time I ever had on it.”
Millican Dalton - recalling his fiftieth ascent of Napes Needle when he built a fire at the top to brew coffee. As told to R.K.Vinycomb

“Once a week he went shopping in Keswick on his own battered bicycle, painted bright blue. He was lean and bearded. He habitually wore a broad-brimmed hat with a pheasant's feather for decoration, nailed boots, no socks and self-made jackets and breeches that were tattered, weathered and leathery.”
Alan Hankinson - writing in "A Century on the Crags" 1988

“He was a wonderful guide and cheerful enlivening company, but there was one problem. He smelt rather, so you always tried to get up-wind of him."
Unnamed female guiding client - as told to Alan Hankinson.

“Respected by all who knew him. A man of simple pleasures and tastes conducive to a mind at peace with the worl, who's knowledge of things in general was very sound. After a day on the hills with him or just pottering about one had a feeling of contented happiness and peace of mind."
Ralph Mayson - Keswick photographer and friend

“A true gentleman of the hills."
Ralph Mayson - Keswick photographer and friend

“He was an expert in the burning qualities of different kinds of wood."
George Bott - keswick writer

“Camping provides the completest possible change from ordinary town existence and being the healthiest kind of life as well as the jolliest and most unconventional is the best antidote to the rush and stress of city work."
Millican Dalton - 1913

“there were many who smiled at the tall, lean figure,
dressed in an open-neck shirt, green or brown cord shorts,
climbing boots or sandals and an Alpine hat"
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