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Issue 444 - January 2010

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Chairman's Column

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Happy New Year

It gives me great pleasure to send all our members my best wishes for the ensuing year - let us hope we all have a good one!

January Meeting

As usual, this month we are holding our annual Members' Photographic Evening and Competition, full details of which were published in the last Newsletter.

Society New Year Lunch

I look forward to welcoming members to The Blue Hayes Restaurant, Shootash, near Romsey on Saturday 16 January when we will be enjoying our second New Year Lunch. If you haven't yet given Maureen your menu choices, can you please do so as soon as possible. Just a reminder please, if anybody has crackers or party-poppers left over from their Christmas and New Year gatherings, it would be helpful if they could bring them along.

February Meeting

At next month's meeting we can sit back and wallow in nostalgia when our own members, Eric and Sue Lewis, take as "Round Britain in the 1970s". Nostalgia? Well, the seventies were thirty years ago, when we were all a lot younger!

Society Skittles Evening

Following the success of our previous Society Skittles Evenings, Maureen Greenham has organised a further event at a new venue for us, 'The Phoenix' in Twyford. This will be held on Friday 26 February. If you haven't yet booked/paid, can you please contact Maureen as soon as possible - but be quick, these events have always been sell-outs in the past. More details elsewhere in this Newsletter.

Proposed Boat Gathering

As members are aware, a number of boating members based in the Flecknoe and Braunston area usually have an informal gathering over the weekend of the early May bank holiday. Providing there is enough interest that event could be repeated over the same weekend this year. This would not be an organised event, just a small number of boat owners joining up for a casual get-together. If any members with boats moored in that area would like to join in, could they please contact me as soon as possible so that I can ascertain interest.

Save Our System 2010

Following on from the extensive coverage in the last Newsletter about the possible sell-off of British Waterways assets, whilst I haven't got the current figure I am aware that over 20,000 people have signed the e-petition posted on the 10 Downing Street web site. Its property folio provides BW with about £45m in revenue, about one third of the money it needs to run the waterways properly. HM Government has ended the recent speculation about the sale of BW's property endowment in England and Wales by announcing its preferred approach is to "consider alternative models for the business as a whole, such as mutual or third sector structures". The new approach, contained in the Asset Portfolio which accompanies the Smarter Government White Paper, confirms and builds on the conclusions of a previous Treasury report in April 2009 which concluded there was no financial or economic case to sell off the property assets and a sale of the property endowment would not achieve best public value.

However, if you haven't yet signed the Downing Street petition it is still important for you to do so - just go to: - it is very easy to do.

BW's proposed new strategy to create a sustainable future for the waterways is laid out in their newly published 'Setting a new course: Britain's waterways in the third sector'. That report, produced by a team of third sector experts, looks in more detail at how a move from the public to the third sector might work for BW. The full report may be found on the internet at

Paul Herbert

The Jam 'Ole Run

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After publishing a picture of Stanton in last month's Newsletter and referring to the last Jam 'Ole Run, Annegret Evans felt that members might like to know a little more about the Jam 'Ole.

H E Kearley and G A Tonge had both worked for the tea merchants Tetleys but left to open their first retail store in Brentford, Middlesex in 1878. By the beginning of 1889 there were some 200 branches across southern England. The early branches traded under the name "International Tea Co."

With this rapid expansion, Kearley & Tonge opened their jam and marmalade factory in Southall, Middlesex in 1913. To receive the coal that the factory needed, a canal basin off the Paddington Arm of the Grand Junction Canal (now known as the Grand Union) was built about 200 yards from Bulls Bridge Junction. Officially, it was called Mitre Dock but became known to the boatmen as the Jam 'Ole as the dock was accessed under a bridge carrying the towing path over the dock entrance.

Over many years the Samuel Barlow Coal Carrying Co boat had supplied coal to many factories in the London area one of which was the Jam 'Ole. In 1962, with declining trade, Barlows was sold to Michael Streat's Blue Line based at what is now Braunston Marina. Despite Streat's best endeavours to renew existing carrying contracts and to find new ones, by mid-1970 only the Jam 'Ole contract remained. This involved the delivery of about 150 tons per week from Atherstone on the Coventry Canal. The round trip was 246 miles and 188 locks. Whilst the trip was occasionally done in seven days, it was more usual for it to be done in eight or even nine days.

The only other carrying in 1970 was the somewhat irregular loads of coal to Dickinson's paper mills at Croxley in Willow Wren boats. The last boats were unloaded there on 3 September 1970.

Now, only three boatmen families were still carrying long distance cargo under regular contract, on canals that were beginning to fall apart for lack of maintenance. These were Bill and Rose Whitlock together with Rose's cousin Laura Carter on Renfrew and Lucy, Arthur and Rose Bray with Rose's son Ernie Kendall on Nutfield and Raymond, and Jim and Doris Collins on Stanton. Jim and Doris had been using the butty Belmont but this was in such poor condition that it had not been used for some time. Another butty, Capella, was being prepared for use in its place but was not yet ready.

Nutfield towing Raymond

Nutfield towing Raymond round Hawkesbury Junction in September 2005.

Photo: Laura Sturrock

However, about the beginning of September 1970, whilst unloading at the Jam 'Ole, Doris Collins met a black man she had never seen before measuring up the dockside. He asked her, "Where you gonna go now? Is this the only place you come to missus?" Doris replied, "It is now. We had lots of places at one time, but this is the last one that's going." He said, "Well, what you gonna do when we close this?" Doris replied, "I don't know."

The next time the Whitlocks were unloading, Rose saw someone she knew who was the captain of a barge. He had brought a cargo of syrup up from Brentford. He said that a boss at the factory had just told him that the place was closing in about a month. As the Whitlocks were about to leave the dock, Nutfield and Raymond arrived. Whilst there, the Brays witnessed workers at the Jam 'Ole being handed redundancy notices.

When the Whitlocks returned to Braunston on Sunday 13 September, Rose Whitlock approached Michael Streat with all this information which came as a complete surprise to him. On the next day, Monday, he rang the factory and the closure was confirmed. The boatmen then all signed on at the labour exchange in nearby Daventry.

A few weeks later Michael Streat was rung up for one more delivery of coal. A bit reluctantly, the crews agreed to do what they knew would be the last trip.

Near Hartshill between Nuneaton and Atherstone was a large stone quarry that discharged water into the canal. With a good carrying traffic, the silt this water brought in would be dispersed over a wide area and the channel maintained. But with no loaded boats for some weeks, the silt had built up.

The run up to Atherstone with empty boats was not too difficult and they just scraped through. However, once loaded, the Whitlocks on the leading boats hit the silt bank only a mile from Atherstone and here they were forced to stay for two days whilst trying to get British Waterways to do something. The quarry then sent its largest dumper truck with a long line to tow the boats from the offside bank. The line was attached to Renfrew's T-stud.

Rose Whitlock described what happened, "And they pulled us, and this is the God's honest truth, they pulled us on top of the mud as you could see the bottom of the boat and the blade [propeller] was out of the water and it didn't 'alf look queer with a load of coal on. They pulled the butty just the same and Uncle Arthur [Bray] was pulled the same and Jim Collins. I wished I 'ad a camera, so I could 'ave took pictures. Them would have been worth a lot of money."

Troubles continued before they finally got to Hawkesbury after a journey of three days which would normally have taken three hours. The next day the boats stopped at Braunston as they had all run out of money. Boatmen were only paid by the delivered load and but for the delays they should have been back by now. With intermittent loads, four weeks unemployment and a pittance on the dole, their savings were exhausted. So they all walked three miles to the labour exchange in Daventry as they couldn't afford the bus fares to pick up the few days' dole money they were owed.

Still they had problems. They found a car in the lock at Nash Mills but managed eventually to work the boats through singly. Then, on the Cowley pound, Laura Carter steering Renfrew hit a submerged, large, stolen safe which had been thrown off a bridge. The impact was enough to raise the bow so far out of the water that the stern fender went under it.

On Thursday 15 October 1970, the Whitlocks with Renfrew and Lucy reached the Jam 'Ole followed by the Collins on Stanton. Ironically, on the last run, the Brays who had always prided themselves in being first, were the last. The Whitlocks and the Collins were unloaded on the Friday and the Brays on the following Monday.

As an event, this last delivery of some 120 tons of coal to a factory in West London, which itself was about to close, was rather insignificant. But, the last Jam 'Ole Run was the end of some 200 years of regular canal carrying on the English canals. Trade on the Grand Union Canal, once a major artery of the Industrial Revolution, had ceased and with it the old boatmen's way of life.

The Jam 'Ole itself was filled in and it is only a change in the piling and a few stones in the towing path that allow its position to be identified. The deck of the towing path bridge outside the dock now spans the entrance to Cowroast Marina near Berkhamsted.

The International Stores Group was taken over by British American Tobacco (BAT) in 1972. Later the Dee Corporation took control and changed the shop names to Gateway and now Somerfield. The Kearley & Tonge brand is no more.

In October 1995, Tim Coghlan, who owns Braunston Marina, organised a commemorative re-run of the last Jam 'Ole Run. At that time all but Rose Bray were still alive. The re-run has since been staged six more times. Today, only Laura Carter is still with us. Laura Sturrock and I took our boat, a partially restored Stanton, on the 2008 re-run and we will participate in the 40th anniversary re-run in October 2010 in memory of all those boatmen and boatwomen who have gone before us.

Peter Oates

With acknowledgement to articles about Rose Whitlock by Tim Coghlan in the Newsletter of the Historic Narrow Boat Owners Club.

Piece of Brentford's waterways history under threat

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The Inland Waterways Association is appealing to Brentford residents to help save a unique piece of canal heritage from demolition. The IWA are desperately trying to hold off developers by coming up with a viable use for the unique warehouse which extends over Grand Union Canal in Commerce Road.

The overhanging structure includes the only example of a fully covered transhipment wet-dock in London and the IWA believe it should be retained as part of Brentford's regeneration programme, instead of demolished. An IWA spokesman said: "This historic structure dating from the early 1960s will be yet another instance of disappearing waterway heritage unless imaginative ideas for its potential use are forthcoming very soon."

IWA hope to forward conservation ideas for the site to developers ISIS, who are to present their plans for the delapitated warehouse in early February, after their previous proposal to demolish the site was rejected in 2007.

"Proposals so far have been DIY superstructure painting, and/or as a canoe club and training centre. Maybe lateral thinking by a wider audience can come up with a possible, hopefully water related use, for the combined warehouse wet-dock site."

Send any suggestions to or December 15 2009

December Meeting

Annual Inter-Society Waterways Quiz and American Supper

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As always, the annual Inter-Society Waterways Quiz proved to be a popular and humorous event. As winners of the 2008 event our own Society hosted the evening with teams from IWA Solent & Arun Branch, IWA Salisbury Group, IWA Guildford & Reading Branch, and Southampton Canal Society again taking part. The Quizmaster was our own Eric Lewis, ably assisted by wife Sue.

After a closely fought contest over Eric's often difficult questions, the IWA Salisbury Group came out on top and was awarded the trophy. Runners-up were IWA Guildford & Reading, followed by the teams from Southampton and Solent & Arun. Many congratulations to the Salisbury Group team who will now be responsible for organising next year's Quiz, which our Society will again be pleased to host.

In the audience participation section, in a low scoring round, there was a dead-heat between Myra Glover and Rosemary Davis, with the latter winning the tie-break question. Congratulations Rosemary - and I hope you enjoyed your prize of a bottle of wine.

Many thanks to our Quizmaster, Eric, who was presented with a book token, to Sue who also had to work hard, and to all members of the teams who took part.

Many thanks also to all those who generously donated prizes for our Christmas Raffle. A special 'thank you' to Pam McKeown who again had baked another of her splendid Christmas Cakes as the star prize in the raffle, the winner also being Rosemary Davis.

After the Quiz we all enjoyed the traditional American Supper which, as always, was generously provided by Society members. Many thanks to all those who provided the food, assisted with laying it all out, worked in the kitchen, and assisted laying out the hall and clearing away at the end of the evening.

Paul Herbert

Skittles Evening

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MAUREEN GREENHAM Tel: 023 8040 6951 Email:

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Page created 7 January 2010 - archived 4 February 2010.

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