Selkirk Road, SW17

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Alexander Selkirk (1676 – December 13, 1721) was a Scottish castaway who lived for four years on a Pacific island called Más a Tierra, now part of Chile, who is widely believed to have been the inspiration behind Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. The book, often described as the first English novel, was published on April 25, 1719. Selkirk’s story began when he was marooned by his captain on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific Ocean in September 1704 after complaining about the seaworthiness of their vessel, Cinque Ports. He had rashly announced that he would rather be stuck on the desolate island than continue sailing unless urgent repairs were made. Captain Stradling took him up on the offer and gave him a few basic supplies before sailing off, refusing Selkirk’s pleas to be allowed back on. After initial struggles he managed to eke out a living on the island, hunting feral goats that had been introduced by previous sailors and living off the fruit and vegetables that grew naturally. Escape eventually came on February 2, 1709 when he was picked up by an English crew. On his return he found fame but not peace, he returned to sea, joining the Royal Navy and later died of Yellow Fever. Defoe’s book about a resourceful castaway was clearly based on Selkirk’s story and builders would frequently include Selkirk’s name as part of Robinson Crusoe themed street names. In this case, local legend has it that Daniel Defoe, spent some time living at nearby Tooting Old Hall. Más a Tierra was renamed Robinson Crusoe Island in 1966. Nearby roads also connected with the book are Robinson Road, Crusoe Road, Pitcairn Road, Island Road and Friday Road.

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