Happywanderers Cave and Pothole Club

How the “Happy Wanderers” came into being

Five lads were exploring around Castleton in Derbyshire. We bumped into each other once or twice and formed a lasting friendship. We visited Peak Cavern, Winnets Pass, Giants Hole and Peveral Castle. There was Malcolm (Tiger) Culshaw from Southport, Pete Matley from Salford, Frank Shuttleworth (Bazz of Bolton) and Philip Wallace from Bolton and myself from Barrow. It was summer 1955. We decided to meet up again the following Easter at Ingleton.
Mike Myers

It was summer 1955. We decided to meet up again the following Easter at Ingleton. So in 1956, after exploring a few caves around Ingleton and Clapham, we decided to form ourselves into a proper group. It was August-September 1956 we held a meeting in the Wheatsheaf Hotel, Ingleton.

BIOGRAPHIES: by Mick Melvin


Michael Ryan by Mick Melvin
Although Michael Ryan had some caving experience when he joined the Bradford Pothole Club in 1967; he was however a comparative newcomer to caving. He attended the Bradford Pothole Club’s winch meet at Gaping Gill early that year, and as a result of that experience, he rapidly became an enthusiastic caver.

The weekend following his trip down Gaping Gill he accompanied a team of cavers from the Bradford Pothole Club, to the far end of Ingleborough cave (Terminal Lake) and in doing so proved himself to be a very competent caver.

He gained a reputation for himself as a very willing helper at the Club’s hostel in Brackenbotttom, but he was always keen to go caving. The week before the fateful Mossdale trip, Michael went down Meregill hole with Bill and Colin.  Because he showed a natural aptitude for caving, he was invited along on the Mossdale trip and considered to be a valuable addition to the team that sadly perished in the cave.

Michael, who was seventeen at the time of his death and the youngest member of the team, had been a pupil at Bingley Grammar School near to where he lived with his family in Allerton, Bradford.

Dave Adamson by Dave Brook
Dave was one of the founding members of ULSA in 1965. He graduated with an English degree from the University of Leeds and taught in a Leeds school. Earlier he joined the Leeds University Union Speleological Society and became involved in Alan Fincham and John Robey's project to survey Mossdale Caverns.

He took part in new explorations in Ouroborous and Minicow passages and was in the team that established the sound connection between the extended Minicow and Tunnel Caves in the Kneewrecker Series.
Away from Mossdale he was involved in the early work in Marble Sink and exploration of the Cascade Inlet leading to Toyland in the West Kingsdale system.

Geoff Boireau by John Comer
The death of my friend Geoff Boireau is a fact of history, now some 50 years in the past. We both left the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, in summer 1961 and met up again at Leeds University at the freshers' conference. We joined the Trog soc and, for reasons beyond recall, we also joined the Society for Psychical Research. We were both post-Christian boys looking for a flaw in the materialistic view of the world, both fantastical, if unassuming, idealists, very positive, and perhaps wondered if some very good things were up ahead of us, if only we could figure out what they were. In any case, we could always meet in the Union bar, although I have to say that Geoff was more a Union Bar buff than I was.

Geoff married Judith in August 1965 and moved to Manchester to teach sociology and philosophy at St John's College. By this time his interest in caving had developed into an obsession. He joined up with others keen on discovering new cave systems, and I listened to his accounts with some amazement of trogs spending their weekends underground up in the Dales, moving boulders aside, allegedly using gelignite, in order to follow the cave systems down where the water flowed. I have a feeling that in Mossdale Geoff and his friends were hoping to push the system and be the first to enter these hitherto-unknown regions, and to have their names attributed to them. It was exciting, but it's also true that a certain common-sense world vanished and in its place emerged a pure arena of discovery and achievement. This was trogging, higher-order trogging, a world with high aesthetic and aspirational goals.

Trogging was just beginning to discover neoprene, wet suits, and all the paraphernalia. Carbide lamps were the norm. Cold, wet, sogging boiler suits with lots of woolly jumpers were standard; electric lamps a rarity. I realized that you could either be a member of this newly-emerging society or not. I wasn't. Geoff was. Geoff embraced it. He told me that if he died he would want to die trogging. This was a measure of his idealism.

A memorial service was held at the tiny Conistone church a few weeks after Mossdale, attended by his mother, a widow, his wife Judith and her father, and personal friends, which included many trogs outside in the churchyard, in what was a gloomy and dispirited scene where misadventure had visited us all.


Two weekends after the disaster, a memorial service was held at St Mary’s Church, Conistone. Later a jury inquest recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.