Friday, 10 September 2010

Millican Dalton

Harry Griffin, the journalist and climber who died in 2004 is usually remembered for his Lakeland Country Diary columns that appeared in the Guardian for over fifty years. However, he was also part of a small band of 1930s rock-climbers who helped revive the sport after the First World War. This week's Footless Crow republishes a 1975 piece by the man himself in which he recalls half a century of climbing in the English Lake District.

It's a fascinating read but what caught my eye was a sentence about Millican Dalton, the self-styled Professor of Adventure. Griffin writes: "There were no professional guides in the Lake District 50 years ago, apart from kindly old Millican Dalton, the Borrowdale hermit, who would take you up the Needle, make you a tent or rucksack, or cook you a meal in his cave." The man also featured in a Country Diary from September 14 1984:

Another description of the famous cave dweller can be found in the 1992 obituary of climber Paul Orkney-Work, in which he is quoted as saying, "(Dalton) made his own clothes and equipment and never washed. My mother broke off the engagement eventually. She said that he had a rather strong goaty aroma. But he took no offence and when she married my father he made them a tent for their honeymoon, in the gipsy style, with hoops rather than poles"

Read more about this amazing character in Millican Dalton: A search for Romance & Freedom.

There are a number of Griffin articles in the Guardian Book of Mountains, but his work also appears inDouble Measures. Here he writes about Lanty Slee, a notorius bootlegger and yet another cave dweller. Hidden underground in a quarry area near the Langdale valley the sometime farmer produced illicit whisky that was said to be the best for miles around.


  1. Richard,
    Sounds like you missed Terry Gifford's excellent Millican Dalton article which went out on FC a few weeks earlier.
    Can you point me in the direction of the Paul Work obituary ?

    thanks John A

  2. Alan,

    Oh dear - how did I miss such a great article? Think I was away when it appeared. Anyway, thanks for the gentle nudge.
    As for the Paul Work Obit, if you send your email I'll forward it to you.


    Millican Dalton article on Footless Crow:

  3. Re Paul Work