Historian Arthur R. Nicholls examines the lines of some of Kendal's 'Worthies'.

A WELL-KNOWN truism is that some are born great and others have greatness thrust upon them.

Of course, few of us ever achieve anything like greatness but there have always been some whose life did not run as expected. Of them, the enigmatic question displayed on a house in Ann Street - 'Quisputaret' or who would have thought it? - certainly applies.

Take little John Dalton for example. He was the son of humble Quaker parents in a small Cumbrian village in the 1760s.

Life for him would have been expected to lead to the same daily toil of farming as his father before him.

Yet he became known later in life as the father of modern chemistry and one who laid the foundations of the atomic theory.

There was something about him that marked him out from his fellows. Even as a boy he showed powers of perseverance, determination and concentration.

He never married and remained true to his Quaker upbringing throughout his life. He contributed so much to scientific thought and knowledge. Who indeed would have thought that?

Another, a true Kendalian, was John Gough, known as The Blind Philosopher.

He was an ordinary boy, interested in everything that came his way, who would have been expected to take up his father's trade as a shearman dyer when he grew up.

But life took a drastic turn. When he was only three years old he contracted smallpox. This was a common malady at the time and he was fortunate in not dying from it but it left him virtually blind.

Anyone could have expected that this would have ruined his life completely, but not so. He gradually learned to compensate for his loss of sight by developing his sense of touch.

He was even able to note the number and arrangement of stamens and pistils in a flower by touching them with his tongue!

Handling different threads from his father's dyehouse he was able to distinguish their colour simply by touch.

He was unable to read a book but, with the help of friends and family reading to him, he became proficient in mathematics, geometry botany and other subjects.

Patient acceptance and not resignation to his fate marked his whole life and he never complained about how circumstances had treated him.

George Whitwell was another man who rose above his humble beginnings. He was destined to become an agricultural labourer and was appointed Superintendent of the Serpentine Walks in Kendal (later renamed the Woods).

One of his duties was tending to the daily firing of the Time Gun there.

Despite his lack of basic education he developed a very keen interest in ferns at a time when they were popular with gardeners. He planted and tended a Fern Garden in the Woods and became a founder member of the Pteriological Society.

These are but three of those in Kendal who deserve the description of 'worthy', worthy of note. The new book by Trevor Hughes and Arthur Nicholls entitled ' Kendal Worthies' gives much more fascinating detail on their lives and the lives of others equally worthy.

The book can be bought from The Westmorland Gazette reception at Wainwright's Yard, Kendal, for £14.99.