From the city of sad millionaires to the land where the lamb cries freedom came world renowned musicians, Francis Dunnery and David Sancious, to lead a sponsored walk round the shores of Ennerdale Lake and later the same day to thrill a packed theatre at Rosehill with their music. In the name of the Charles and Kathleen Dunnery Children’s Fund, which Francis set up in memory of his parents, all the proceeds are this year to help Bookwell School to provide a superb library service to its children, and dozens of excited children, together with enthusiasts from all corners of the country, gathered at Bowness Knott to share breakfast before striding out round the wildest of all the Lakes.

Blue skies would have been inappropriate. The grey clouds sprinkled tears in your eyes and fitfully hid the peaks of Steeple and Pillar before briefly returning them to view in dramatic outline as the party picked its way between rocks and over torrents swollen by the recent rains.

The gig in the evening was a record of an amazing journey. Francis has made the little housing estate on which he grew up famous in every continent with his latest album, “Gulley Flats Boys”, and has at least this in common with Wordsworth, that they both look back with longing on the days they spent with a “noisy crew” of boyhood companions. Francis stilled the packed theatre as he stirred the ghosts of those past days, with Matty Benn’s Bridge and Nethertown Beach in his hair.

The sensitive, instinctive accompaniment of David Sancious gave the songs a resonance we have not heard before, and these two musicians were both inspired by respect for one another’s work and challenged to match one another’s virtuosity. The haunting voice of Dorie Jackson provided a magical accompaniment. Fourteen years on the wagon, after an experience that warned him that alcohol abuse could kill him, Francis is now studying for an MA in Psychology, and not only looks back on lost time but forward to a way of giving his experience order and significance.

Published October 25, 2005
Published in Egremont Today

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