“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 Dalton, 1933

This poem was written for my master’s course as a narrative for a short, animated film about Millican Dalton’s life. The idea was that Millican’s story would be told through the landscapes he called home, with Millican himself being a relatively small figure in comparison to the sweeping and expansive landscape.  The narrative is told by Millican, who is now an old man and is reflecting on his observations based on thirty years of living in the wilderness.

Philosophy of Life

As I walk down familiar tracks 
I think about my life
Of all the different choices made
That led me down new paths

I longed to escape my mundane life 
So I took a path that few would take
I left the cities far behind
To live my life anew
And turned my sight to nature
I knew it would see me through 

I put my faith in something else
And found happiness in the hills
I roamed the land, 
The lakes and fells
And helped guide others too

I was free to breathe
To think, to dream at last
To live a simple life
The land provided all my needs
And in a simple cave, my home 
I found my philosophy of life

And as I look back 
On the life I’ve lived
I smile at what I’ve done
I slept under the starry skies
With campfires and good chums

These days have now turned into years
And I think back on how far I’ve come
I look over the Lakes, my home
And smile,
For this is truly where I belong

In the early 1900s, an insurance clerk from London named Millican Dalton became an early adopter of the alternative lifestyle, quitting his job for a life of adventure in the open spaces of the Lake District. Other than an occasional trip to neighbouring Keswick for coffee, Millican remained self-sufficient. Millican was way ahead of his time, he was a pioneer, an original maverick, a worldly eccentric – and a fiercely independent thinker. For the most part, he lived in a cave in the Borrowdale Valley, He roamed all around these mountains, making whatever gear he needed, guiding others around the fells, and enjoying the freedom of living in nature.

The story of Millican Dalton is one that I have grown up hearing from my Dad, and we visit the cave where he lived every year while on holiday, so it is a story I have a strong connection with.  Though it is a story I know well I put a lot of time into researching his life and I feel that I successfully compiled the most important aspects and the parts that he himself would be most proud of, within the poem. While researching his life I discovered that when he took ill and died in hospital at the age of 79, he had at the time been writing a book reflecting on all he had learned from living in the wilderness of the Lake District and what he wanted to pass on to others.  The book which he had titled, “Philosophy of Life” was sadly lost, but it was my aim to try and capture the essence and most important parts of Millican’s life within the poem and I hope this is something I have achieved.

As the poem was written as the narrative for an animated short I also created the script for the short which is bellow:

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