The Lake District has been a county that attracts poets, painters, writers and homegrown fox hunters that have songs written about them. For example, ‘D’ye Ken John Peel?’ about John Peel, a famous eighteenth-century Cumbrian huntsman. Like Dominic, Peel was from the Caldbeck area, a likeable rogue and a man prone to dissipation. His friend and neighbour John Woodcock Graves (1795–1886), wrote the lyrics to the song in the Cumbrian dialect and set them to the tune of a traditional Scottish song, called Bonnie Annie. Like Peel, Dominic also had poems and songs written about him.
Graves travelled to Tasmania from Caldbeck, where he lived out the rest of his life. I have the only remaining oil painting of him, but our paths cross on a personal matter. His eldest son John, a successful barrister, died as Dom did, before his father. I feel Grave’s pain almost one and half centuries later, I can see it in his portrait’s eyes.
The other thing that John Peel and Dominic, have in common is that they are both buried in St Kentigern’s Church, Peel in Caldbeck and Dom in Castle Sowerby, the parishes where they were born. Sadly, both of them have had their graves vandalised. Peels was damaged by anti-hunt protesters, one hundred and fifty years after his death, and Dom’s by an unknown assailant between the 4 – 6 May 2015, eighteen months after his death.
FFS dad you no as well as I do who did it…
As is the Christian tradition, Dom’s grave faces to the east, so the Northern Massif landscape is behind him. He hasn’t turned his back on his beloved hills, in fact just the opposite, his grave basks in the sunrise from the east above Penrith and falls into shadow as the sun sets on the other side of High Pike and Caldbeck. It’s a passage of the sun he knows well, growing up at Vicargate two fields away from his grave. The church was founded by St Kentigern in the sixth century, or Mungo, as he was also known. He had a major influence on large areas of Cumbria, digging wells to baptise the hill dwellers and building several churches on his missionary journey from Scotland to Wales.
Legend has it, that Kentigern converted Merlin (Myrddin) to Christianity during his time in the Scottish Borders, as depicted in the stained-glass window in a church in Tweeddale
One of Dom’s favourite places to visit was Bowscale Tarn, an isolated hamlet named after St Mungo, nestled between Mosedale and Mungrisdale. As a man, he was often up there with Lucy. As a teenager, Dom worked at the Mill Inn, the only pub in Mungrisdale.
The tarn is a dark, brooding place. It’s 56 feet deep, but to Dom, it was an oasis of solitude and serenity. According to folklore, two immortal fish live in the tarn and it’s these fish that appear in Wordsworth’s 1888 poem, Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle.
Dom would mention the tarn in his texts and take pictures of Lucy on his phone fetching the sticks and tennis balls that he’d thrown into the enigmatic water.
there u go agen
i don’t even no who this wordsworth gadg is
but ur right tho its the best place
lucy loved the water
According to Cumbrian legend, Mungo’s mother was a princess, the daughter of King Lleuddun who ruled the lands of Lothian in Scotland. She became pregnant after being raped by the son of Urien, the King of Rheged (c.590). In a twisted act of early medieval honour killing, her father had her thrown off Traprain Law, a hill in east Lothian.
She survived the fall and made her way across the River Forth to Fife. Mungo was born and brought up by Saint Serf who was ministering to the Picts. It was Serf who gave him his name, Mungo, which means ‘Dear Friend’. An anti-Christian movement in Strathclyde made it difficult for Mungo and he left the area and travelled to Wales, via Cumbria.
After a pilgrimage to Rome, he returned to Glasgow where a large community grew up around him. In old age, it is said that Mungo became very weak and was so feeble that his chin had to be kept in place with a bandage. He died in his bath.