Article by Chris Butterfield
Many of Wainwright’s quotes are pure poetry; decades later, they continue to inspire his followers. William F. Dyer, a former banker from Hertfordshire, compiled a large selection of Wainwright’s passages from the seven Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells. The book’s title was For Those Who Love The Hills, published by Michael Joseph in 1994.
Some of Wainwright’s best-known quotations came after the Lakeland Pictorial Guides. One of his more notable quotes featured at the end of Fellwanderer, Published by the Westmorland Gazette in 1966:
“Every day that passes is a day less. That day will come when there is nothing left but memories. And afterwards, a last long resting place by the side of Innominate Tarn, on Haystacks, where the water gently laps the gravelly shore and the heather blooms and Pillar and Gable keep unfailing watch. A quiet place, a lonely place. I shall go to it, for the last time, and be carried: someone who knew me in life will take me and empty me out of a little box and leave me there alone. And if you, dear reader, should get a bit of grit in your boot as you are crossing Haystacks in the years to come, please treat it with respect. It might be me.”
The first Wainwright BBC TV programme aired in December 1982. The narrator, Alan Albion, read the above passage from 1966, with the camera panning over Haystacks and beyond, which segued into the closing credits. It was the perfect finale for this feature on Wainwright.
Michael Joseph succeeded the Gazette as the publisher of Wainwright’s work following his death in 1991. One of their early books, Memoirs of a Fellwanderer, published in 1993, compiled writing from both Fellwanderer (1966) and Ex-Fellwanderer (1987).
The final page of this memoir, as produced by Michael Joseph, contains paragraphs from both of Wainwright’s autobiographies. However, the most famous passage was changed to:
“All I ask for, at the end, is a last long resting place by the side of Innominate Tarn, on Haystacks, where the water gently laps the gravelly shore and the heather blooms and Pillar and Gable keep unfailing watch. A quiet place, a lonely place. I shall go to it, for the last time, and be carried: someone who knew me in life will take me and empty me out of a little box and leave me there alone. And if you, dear reader, should get a bit of grit in your boot as you are crossing Haystacks in the years to come, please treat it with respect. It might be me.”
I have always wondered why the beginning of this paragraph was altered. Was it to make the final paragraph appear optimistic and not focus too much on Wainwright’s demise? Unfortunately, the edited quote in Memoirs of a Fellwanderer has become the definitive Wainwright quote. For years, the wrong quote featured on the Innominate Tarn Wikipedia page, along with the incorrect book title and publishing date: Memoirs of a Fell Walker (1990). Shortly after this article went live, the Wikipedia entry was corrected. Thank you, Michael Pearson.
This new quote is widespread throughout dozens of Lake District-related websites, including news reports and books. I can only assume that most people copied the information from the Innominate Tarn Wikipedia page, which is easily done. Hunter Davies’ Wainwright Biography, published in 1995, not only uses the incorrect quote but references it being written in 1966 when Fellwanderer was published.
Finally, the 2007 BBC TV documentary ‘The Man Who Loved The Lakes’ also used the incorrect quote during the finale before the closing credits, whereas it was correct in the Wainwright programme that aired in 1982.
Ultimately, both passages relay similar sentiments, so should it matter? In my opinion, if this passage is reproduced as a quote by Wainwright, then it is essential that the wording is correct and reflects his sentiments at the time.
Throughout all my research, I was trying to find the definitive answer as to why the two passages begin differently. Did Wainwright produce an alternative quote that wasn’t used in Fellwanderer? That scenario is not impossible but unlikely. When Wainwright produced each book, he moved on to the next and never looked back. He didn’t decide 20 years later to edit that paragraph, and I doubt that an alternative version was found in his drawer after his death.
It is a shame that Wainwright’s 1966 quote has been slowly replaced over the last few decades. There are very few references to the original on the internet. Only readers of Fellwanderer will be familiar with it.Back to top of page