Around the end of December 1957, Brian Andrew Kerr a 20 year old art student, decided to spend some time hiking and exploring the caves around Nidderdale in North Yorkshire. One of the caves on his list was Goyden Pot, a superb but very flood prone cave situated on the banks of the River Nidd.
According to sources at the time, Kerr had planned to set up his tent in the Main Chamber of the cave whilst he explored the area, and was due to return home on the 5th January 1958. He never made it and the Police were notified.
I know Goyden Pot – I first explored it about 40 years ago with the White Rose Cave and Pothole Club. It is a superb cave, with big chambers and a fine river passage, but it is also very complex – easy to get lost if you don’t have someone with you who knows the system. It is approx 4.5 km long.
A few kilometers upstream from the cave is Scar House Reservoir, and when the dam is full, or wind blows water over the top the water flows down the dry riverbed of the Nidd and flows into the cave. This also happens when Yorkshire Water scours the reservoir (opening the flood gates) – which happens occasionally. Then the whole of the cave floods to the roof and anyone inside is likely to be drowned.
When Kerr didn’t return home a rescue was put in place. No body was found, but the search teams did find two sweaters, an anorak, rucksack, food tins, three eggs, a billy-can and water bottles. The also found four 1,000 French franc notes (old currency – approx £60 in todays money), and a solitary boot. It is also interesting to note that on 5th January, the day Kerr was due back, Goyden Pot was flooded.
The rescue teams, in an effort to perhaps figure out where the body may have ended up – put two life size dummies into the cave during high water conditions, and these were never seen again. Also interesting is the fact that just prior to this 12 sheep were washed into the cave during a flash flood and no trace of these were found either.
Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association searched the system for weeks after and found nothing, but the items from his camp in the main chamber were strewn down the main stream passage.
Several weeks later there were a couple of unconfirmed sightings of Brian abroad, and why did he have French francs with him? Some say he faked his own life and started anew somewhere.
I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure. But I believe he perished in the cold inhospitable depths of Goyden Pot.