Death of true Keswick character

Date: Wednesday 27th December 2017

KESWICK lost a colourful character with the death at the age 85 of Ronnie Cape, who in his later years lived in the town’s Millfield care home, Penrith Road.

Ronnie lived most of his life in and around Keswick, apart from during his national service days, when working at sea and over a four-year period he spent at the Woodlands care home, Distington.

He had been forced to move to the West Cumbrian facility by the closure of Keswick’s Ravensfield home, but was able to return to his old stamping ground after campaigning by friends resulted in a place being found for him at Millfield in 2012.

He arrived back in Keswick with a gift from friends and staff of 72 cans of cider — his tipple of choice — and celebrated the occasion with a drink at the town’s Twa Dogs Inn, which was his local pub for most of his life.

Among those at this reunion was Keith Richardson, who had included a chapter about Ronnie in his popular book about Lakeland life and characters, Ivver Sen, first published in 2008.

Ronnie had not had an easy life. He was born at the Sun Inn, Bassenthwaite — his grandparents’ home — before moving to Skiddaw House, miles from the nearest public road on the northern flank of Skiddaw, where his father was the gamekeeper. He had a brother, Billy, who died in 1969, and a sister, Barbara, who married an American and went to live in the USA.

After the spell at Skiddaw House, the family moved to Tallentire Hall, Cockermouth, where Ronnie’s father again worked as a gamekeeper, often with his son’s help.

After leaving school at the age of 14, Ronnie started work at Peter House Farm, Bassenthwaite, as a labourer — an occupation he returned to on a regular basis during the summer months, often living rough and making his bed in outhouses or barns at the places where he was employed.

He spent many summers in and around Keswick working for farmers, foresters and others doing dry stone walling, dipping and shearing sheep, felling trees or digging trenches.

In the winter he would pack up his few belongings and go to work for long spells at sea on trawlers, visiting fishing grounds as far afield as Newfoundland, Labrador and Iceland. He continued to sport an earring from these hard seafaring days throughout his life.

Between 1953 and 1955 Ronnie saw national service and was with the Border Regiment in Suez. For a short time he was also whipper-in with the Blencathra Foxhounds.

During his working life, Ronnie was a familiar figure around the town and its pubs, where he enjoyed the crack, more than a few beers and the occasional rum with a dash of pep. He was a genuine character who was always tugging at the peak of his cap, readjusting his battered old headgear this way and that.