Wainwright - The Miserable Years


11 April 2014

Alfred Wainwright didn’t start work on his first pictorial guide until he was 45 years old, what was he playing at? What was he doing for those 45 long years? The answer is: being miserable.
text and image Wainwright was born in Blackburn in 1907. His father was an alcoholic and therefore mostly face down in a gutter, which wasn’t great for his career, so they had no money. Young Alfred was heading for a life oiling gears and tying yarn at the local mill, when he made a fairly good decision, he stuck in at school (are you listening kids?). When he left school he got a job at the Town Hall and studied accountancy in his spare time.

Wait, I know what you're thinking, this doesn’t sound that miserable does it? True, but then he got married.
Wainwright on his wedding night, no doubt excited by the impending nuptials, threw caution to the wind and removed his cap. This was the first time he’d done such a crazy thing in front of his new bride, Ruth. She was disgusted by what she saw – Wainwright was ginger. Ruth was repulsed. Now, I’m not speaking for personal experience here (although my wife may disagree), but being repulsive on your wedding night, I would imagine, is not the ideal start to a life-long commitment. 36 years of marriage were ahead of him and she hated him from day one.

Although Alfred must have left his hat on every now and again, because they managed to have a son, Peter, so well done for that.



Apart form the 'Peter night', ten years of loveless marriage ensued and then Wainwright got a job at the Treasurer’s Office in Kendal. To escape the frostiness at home Alfred did the honourable thing and fled to the fells. For another ten years he wandered the Lake District Mountains in his tweed suit ignoring his wife and child.

In 1952 he started work on his first pictorial guide.

You see, Wainwright’s conjugal misery is important to us. Imagine if Ruth wasn’t disgusted by the sight of him, and imagine if martial nuptials had made him too tired to walk the fells, maybe Alfred would never have started his guides and the Lake District would be a poorer place because of that.

Thanks for reading.

Ian Young

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