Big Josie of Boot

The name of our walking group, BOOTboys, is only partly to do with footwear worn on the hills and nothing to do with any hooligan sub-culture.  It is also partly in memory of a night in 1973 when we chanced upon the Burnmoor Inn at Boot in Eskdale.  

Actually, it is not exactly true to say "chanced".  We had heard tales of the Inn and its eccentric landlady, Big Josie as she was known, and we wanted to see if they were true. After a day's walking on the fells we found out. They were true. Somewhat tame by modern day standards but rather risqué in the early 1970s.  Having seen for ourselves, in the best traditions of investigative journalism, we made an excuse and left.

Josie was Austrian.  She had a daughter by a soldier who was killed on the Russian front in WWII.  Subsequently she met and married John, a British soldier, and they settled in Eskdale, at Boot's Burnmoor Inn.  Many years later, her teenage daughter was brought over from Austria to look after her step-brothers.

After John died, Josie started to drink heavily and her eccentric behaviour developed. Her antics were legendary.  Several descriptions exist on the web and Eric Robson, in his book "After Wainwright", relates the tale of a typical Josie encounter.

Eventually she was drinking a bottle of gin a day and the doctor advised her that unless things changed she had less than six months to live.  She left the Burnmoor Inn and moved to Gosforth where she became a more respectable woman who stopped drinking.

Josie died in 2001.  Boot would never be the same again.


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