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Issue 500 - September 2014

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Chairman’s Column
A New Look
Cruise on the Chichester Ship Canal
CRT find £3m additional investment
500 not out - a long innings
As we were
Rambling Roses
The English boatmen of the First World War
Day-Star Theatre
   
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September 4th Meeting

One of the stalwarts of the society Eva Drinkwater, mentioned her photographs of the old days of the Society. With a little persuasion, tonight we look forward to her reminiscing!!

After the break I am showing pictures of Foxton Locks and the Inclined Plane, with a brief history and commentary as I remember from our Easter meeting with Mike Beech the curator of Foxton Museum.

Thank you to David Doulton for the use of his digital computer.

Tuesday 23rd September - Chichester Canal Cruise

Please contact Aelred to book your place. Further details below and in last month’s Newsletter.

October 2nd Meeting

We welcome back Geoff Watts with his talk about “Memories of the Great War” in our area, taken from archives, letters & postcards.

6th November Meeting

Day-Star Theatre will be coming to Southampton to give a performance of “A Bad Penny.” Tickets are available as from the September meeting at a cost of £10 each.

Our traditional American Supper will finish off the evening.

Thank you all for supporting the Society.

500 Today

Three cheers for our Newsletter Editor & Webmaster, Peter Oates, for this special 500th edition of the Newsletter.

Alan Rose


A New Look

 
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In two months time, this Newsletter will have been published for 47 years. But it is this issue that has the distinction of being number 500.

I felt that this issue warranted a bit of a new design especially as the previous one was used for 100 issues having been introduced for number 400 in March 2006! I hope that you, the readers, will approve. If you feel that something in this new look could be improved then please let me know.

I will confess that after 19 years as editor of this Newsletter (and 19 years nearer my dotage) I am finding it difficult to come up with new ideas. Maybe, someone else in the Society might be able bring something new to this publication.

So, although the presentation has been changed, the type of content is likely to remain largely unaltered. Whilst I’m always on the lookout for new items to include in this Newsletter and a number of people have sent me contributions recently, maybe YOU could provide articles, news cuttings, pictures, etc to inform or entertain your fellow readers.

Peter Oates

To view the new design see the .PDF version of the Newsletter


Cruise on the Chichester Ship Canal

 
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Richmond at Poyntz Bridge

Above: The Richmond will be the boat used for the trip.

Left: The boat has a flexible layout, this picture shows a typical example.

As reported in the July and August Newsletters, the Society is organising a cruise on the Chichester Ship Canal on 23 September. We have to confirm numbers and pay the balance to the Ship Canal Society after the September meeting.

Interior of Richmond

The cruise will only accommodate a maximum of 28 people so, if you have reserved a place but not yet paid, or wish to reserve a place, the September meeting is your last chance. We will be pleased to receive your names and cash/cheques on 4 September.

Further details in last month’s Newsletter.

Aelred and Sue Derbyshire


CRT find £3m additional investment

 
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CRT are thrilled to announce a £3m package of additional investment in the waterways to improve the experience for boaters and other visitors.

Around £2m will fund dredging projects on the Erewash Canal, Trent & Mersey and a number of sections of the North Stratford Canal. This completes the full £7m dredging programme that we will deliver this year, as part of our commitment to deliver £80m of dredging over the ten years from 2013.

In addition, just over £1m of new money will go into a variety of other customer service improvements such as further vegetation management, repairing waterway walls and towpaths, improving sanitary stations and mooring locations and making lock operation easier.

This additional investment is available because we are anticipating that we will exceed our revenue target for the year and earn more money than originally planned. The investment will be targeted at specific projects across the network, identified locally from customer feedback.

The plans have the support of our independent Navigation Advisory Group - a panel of boaters from a variety of backgrounds who provide advice and feedback on issues including safety, maintenance, moorings and licensing. Boaters are invited to send any further suggestions to their local waterway team.

Richard Parry, chief executive of the Trust said: “It’s great news that, thanks to a lot of great work behind the scenes, we’re in a position to put this extra investment into improving things for our boating customers.

“I’ve spent a lot of time listening to boaters, through my series of open meetings and elsewhere, and I know that these are some of the things that have a real bearing on their experience of our waterways. That’s why I’m very pleased that, with guidance from our Navigation Advisory Group, we can target this investment at those areas we know will really make a difference.

“We’ve made clear our commitment to improving things for customers as part of our strategy for the next ten years, and we want to maintain the dialogue with boaters to ensure that, when opportunities arise to increase our spending, we can be responsive and apply our resources to make a positive difference.”

The projects

The projects will take place between now and April 2015, and the breakdown of the additional investment is as follows:

https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/news-and-views 5 August 2014


500 not out - a long innings

 
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The Southampton Canal Society Newsletter has now been published on a fairly regular basis since the first issue dated November 1967. Eric Lewis has a complete collection of old SCS newsletters and I have been looking through these.

Part of my interest was trying to find out who has been editor before me. Somewhat surprisingly, some editors seem to have tried to hide their light under a bushel by not announcing who they were. It seems that, for much of the time, items for the Newsletter were supposed to be sent to either the Chairman or the Secretary rather than to the editor.

I was also intrigued by the evolving methods of production. Today's use of a home computer to provide a publication of near professional quality would have been inconceivable to the early editors.

The first issue appeared as a single, stencilled foolscap sheet folded in half to give four pages. The editor seems to have been Mr Robert E Rice and Mrs Bessie Allcock did the printing (but their credits for these tasks appear only in the second issue). The newsletter gives details of the Society's second work party on 12th November at Sulhamstead Lock on the K&A (see page 3), and has a report of the Society's four hour boat trip at Newbury aboard John Gould's Motorboat Kelston in September.

The first year saw seven issues and ever since there have been between ten and twelve issues a year. Since February 2009 there has been an issue every month! In July 1972 it was reported that the Committee had purchased a secondhand duplicator which had been reconditioned by Roneo with a 1 year guarantee for £22.50.

The 45th issue in October 1972 was the first issue not in the folded foolscap format and was the first to comprise two sheets of paper. This also appears to be the issue when Misses Daphne and Diana Lusby became editors. The next two years saw a variety of different size issues, both in the number of pages (usually 4 or 6) and paper sizes (see page 4). March 1973 was the largest ever issue (issue 50) with four pages of news plus a ten page article by Peter Wheble about a holiday on his new boat.

New Year 1975 was the beginning of a two year stint by Margaret and David Kesslar-Lyne to be followed in turn by Pauline Hockley at the beginning of 1977 with issue 96. This and the following 20 issues saw the introduction of pictures drawn by Pauline's husband, Charlie. This was no mean feat when you consider that he had to draw straight onto the typing stencils (rather like a thin waxed paper) with a needle-like implement (see page 4). I am sure that I would not be editor if I still had to do it that way!

Sadly, Pauline had to give up being editor through ill health and her obituary appeared in May 1979. For a number of issues, there seems to have been no regular editor - a few seem to have my hallmark as I think I recognise an old typewriter of mine.

I have also discovered that there were two issues numbered 127 in both October and November 1979. Maybe the 500th issue should have been celebrated last month!! At the 1980 AGM, the Chairman thanked Jan Durrant and Annegret Evans for typing the newsletter and someone called Peter Oates for doing the duplicating. It seems that Brian Evans became editor and Annegret the regular typist for the next few years. In August 1983, the family were involved in a car accident and an anonymous typist took over for a few months.

During 1985 there were a number of appeals for help with the newsletter, but I have been unable to find any mention of who was editing or producing the newsletter. It seems, from the quality of reproduction, that the first edition to be photo-copied (rather than duplicated) was number 180 in April 1985.

A computer seems to have been first used in the production of the Newsletter in November 1989 (issue 227) where one page out of the two was printed with a dot matrix printer (the other page was typed). The whole publication has been printed using a computer from February 1990, although the computer printouts were reproduced by photo-copier.

It is not until June 1990 that we find Tony Coles is thanked for composing and typing the Society's publication, but I suspect that Brian Evans was editor for much of the 1980's. In September 1990, the accounting firm of Hunt & Co began a long standing sponsorship to print and distribute the Newsletter. The last issue to be sponsored in this way was the October 2004 edition.

The introduction of photo-copying made it easier to include items from other sources. The Society logo had been introduced at the top of the front page in October 1986 but it wasn't until Tony's editorship that the use of "cut and paste" techniques became usual so that drawings, newspaper cuttings and even photographs came to be included. Cut and paste in the beginning was literally that - involving the use of scissors and glue. In 1993/94, Tony also started using computer publishing software to improve the layout of the periodical.

Every so often there were appeals for items for the newsletter, but if your only contact with the Society was the Newsletter you still would have had to send your contribution to one of the Society Officers rather than the editor - not that many people did. During the 15 years up to 1995, only a small number of issues had more than two sides.

Tony Coles retired from the editorship at the 1995 AGM and I took over the mantle as from the September issue (number 291). Being a bit of a computer buff, I continued to develop the production of the Newsletter by electronic means.

The first issue to include colour was number 310 on the occasion of the Society's 30th birthday (June 1997). The front page was laboriously printed (about 75 copies at nearly two minutes a time) in colour on an ink-jet printer. The other seven sides were produced normally in black and white.

The personal acquisition of a scanner at the end of 1999 meant that almost any printed text and images could be more easily incorporated into the Society's publication.

Information is now also gleaned from the internet and the use of email can transfer the Newsletter from the editor to the person making printed copies of it in minutes rather than days.

Since May 1999, the Newsletter has been published not only in paper format but is available to anyone around the world (in full colour) from the Society's website. By 2006, the rising cost of printing the Newsletter and particularly distributing it by post led to the introduction in June 2006 of delivery via email. Today most members get their copy this way and the Society prints very few copies each month. The Newsletter also appears on the Society’s website and all issues since July 1995 can be found there in the Newsletter Archive.

I hope that I have continued to inform our readers over the last 209 issues as well as past editors (whoever they were). Oh yes, my name and address can be found on the back page of this Newsletter so you can make your contribution.

Enlarged and updated from articles that appeared in Issue 300 (July 1996) and Issue 400 (March 2006)


As we were

 
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The following pages contain a selection of items from previous editions of the Newsletter:

SOUTHAMPTON CANAL SOCIETY WORK PARTY:

A second work party was organised for Sunday 12th November. Twelve members met at the Kennet and Avon W P Blockhouse at Sulhamstead Lock where Maurice Cusden greeted us with armfuls of riphooks, axes and other useful implements.

The day was bright and dry as smoke billowed up from piles of cleared undergrowth and trees. Unfortunately, some mature trees have to be felled to allow access by the British Waterways Board dredger which will be working on the pound above Sulhamstead Lock when the bank clearance is completed.

We all returned home that Autumn evening feeling well satisfied with our efforts and full of Maurice Cusden’s cups of tea which he generously provided.

Our Society has now cleared the bank as far as the first swing bridge - an effort of which we can quite justifiably feel proud!

Laurie Pearce

Issue 1 (November 1967)

YEARLY SUBSCRIPTIONS:

It was agreed that these should remain the same as last year ie

10/- for each member [50p]

15/- for Husband and Wife [75p]

5/- for members under 18 years of age. [25p]

If you intend to renew your membership, please forward your name and remittance to the Treasurer as soon as possible.

Issue 4 (June 1968)

QUICK MAINTENANCE REPORT OF OUR HOLIDAY 1971

by Chris Golding.

BOAT: 45' Narrowboat “IBIS” 2' 8" draught. DATE: 5th to 17th JUNE

Every day rain; no more than 12 hours sun during the daytime. Started from Rugby Wharf, N Oxford Canal and headed for Hawkesbury Junc. Good depth, clean canal; passed 1 dredger (Hallelujah!). Attempted to navigate Coventry Arm. Took 3 hours for 4 miles and at 11.00 after 1 ducking, we gave in 1 mile short of the basin. Bottom far too near top. One bridge we think had been dropped straight into the canal.

Sunday - We journeyed along Coventry Canal to Curdworth (Dog & Doublet). Several butties and motors at Hawkesbury & Charity Dock, Bedworth. Silt near Atherstone terrible, bottom scraping all the way, although we passed 2 quite active dredgers (more humble bowing!!). Atherstone Locks quickest filling we came across. Shallow near Polesworth, Fazeley to Curdworth, on Birmingham & Fazeley good.

Nelson Lock, Braunston

Over the years, many pen and ink drawings by Brian Evans appeared in the Newsletter. This one showing Nelson Lock at Braunston was featured in Issue 438 (July 2009).

MONDAY - through Birmingham via Aston, Farmers bridge on to Worcester & Birmingham to Hopwood. Lots of rubbish at Salford Junction. Passed a Morris Minor which was lining Canal bed near Aston Bottom Lock. Progress quite good to Gas Street Basin. All B & M C Co boats still there as well as several pairs of new ones. One boatman told me he trades quite regularly to Preston Brook - with what, I couldn’t find out. W & B Canal very attractive, very shallow in places.

TUESDAY - night arrives, very wet, 8 locks out of Worcester, all locks very easy to work (50 in a few miles) some shallow - no complaints.

WEDNESDAY - down on the Severn - bombing upstream at 6 mph, cor! No hold-up at Diglis Locks. Lock-keeper very helpful since he’d just had to lock down a canoe? Delayed at Stourport, lock-keeper’s tea stretched an hour overtime. Up the basins and away to the “Lock Inn” past Kidderminster. Staffs & Worcs very shallow in places, little rubbish, easy deep locks.

THURSDAY - up the narrows & shallows of the S & W. Past pair of NB’s at Kinver. Turned up Stourbridge. Terribly shallow from Stourbridge to sixteen locks. Top lock - Bumble Hole terrible, unbelievable rubbish, mud; 1 mph improved slightly after Blowers Green where there was a dredger - epithets hurled in it’s direction. Stopped before Netherton. Rain.

FRIDAY - through Netherton - big & wide down Birmingham Level - deep, no rubbish down B & F past Salford and on to Minworth. No hindrance, good until Salford where the Motorway goes.

Stencil drawing

One of Charlie Hockley’s stencil drawings for Issue 100

SATURDAY - lazy day down Curdworth to Fazeley, left hand down up to Huddlesford. Very shallow up to Huddlesford 6" at the side, another 1½ mph canal for our 2' 8" draught - “Cruiseway”. The sun came out this evening.

SUNDAY - Up to the “Swan” at Fradley, still shallow then down the T & M through Burton, much rubbish. Shallow (no full beer crates ‘sob’), on to Findern. Another sunny day - a full 4 hours followed by a thunderstorm. Canal very poor at Burton. Didn’t pass 1 boat all day.

MONDAY - a very wet windy day for navigating the 2 miles or so of the Trent. A full 8 mph on the wide deep river avoiding weirs left, right and centre AND CENTRE? Time to turn right up the Soar. Galloped on to Barrow-on-Soar, wide, deep - some weed. Excellent progress.

TUESDAY - through Loughborough - clean, clear & deep on to the G U C at Leicester where Limekiln Lock was a disgrace, 1 top paddle unusable, the other like trying to shift a mountain. Belgrave Lock, both top paddles out of action - vandals. Firm of Golding, Thornton & Pike - bodgers unlimited - repaired one much to our relief and the elderly crews of 2 boats who were crying into the chamber to try and fill it up. Tied up at Wigston. Many new gates, a lot of visible dredging but many shallows between dredgings. Rain.

WEDNESDAY - through Saddington Tunnel, past swarms of flies & fishermen, moored out of Saddington Tunnel. Canal became shallower, weedier, towpath very overgrown. Rain.

THURSDAY - to Foxton & staircased up. Sun came out; very easy to work. Foxton Boat Services narrowboats passed, they have been carrying lockgates & gravel from the Thames (Great stuff!). Dredging along the summit pound, although weedy, a definite rut where loaded N B’s have scraped along. Navigated the Welford Arm. Very pleasant, a little shallow in places, a good winding point - a gem of an Arm. Thoroughly recommended 4 star Arm.

FRIDAY - saw us at the “Rose & Castle”. Fair progress amid the rain, non-stop all to Watford Locks. Good to Norton Junction & excellent down to Braunston which shows what even scanty narrowboat traffic can do to a canal. At Braunston Bottom, passed about 10 pairs of Union Canal Carriers Ltd boats (Campers) several Willow Wren C T S Ltd boats still in original livery & 5 Blue Line Boats, even Bill Whitlock bade us “Good? Evening” as we snailed by. A stirring sight to see the colourful N B’s there. Pity they weren’t laden out whilst they are still intact - take the hint?

SATURDAY - saw us up to Rugby where we were promptly greeted by the sun as we stepped on the Wharf. Still we had our moments! Look out next year. I’d like to chat with anyone who has traversed any of the canals I mentioned to see if my comments still hold water!

Issue 32 (August 1971)

THANKS

Our thanks to Mr & Mrs “Bunny” Austin, through whose efforts we were able to keep to our planned programme at the February meeting. One of our guest speakers, Mr Tony Jervis, unfortunately sustained an accident whilst starting off for Southampton on his moped. The Austins went all the way to Southsea to pick him up. On the return journey, Mr Jervis collapsed, probably through deferred shock from his accident. Bunny and Lillian took him to Haslar Hospital at Gosport for treatment and examination and then put him to bed at their home at 4.30 am! The next day, Bunny took Mr Jervis back to his flat in Southsea and made sure that he had medical attention and that he was fit enough to be left. It is pleasant to know that we have such kind and considerate people as members of our Society.

Issue 50 (March 1973)

The editors offer their apologies for the varying sizes of paper used in the production of the Newsletter. Recently a free gift was made of paper of a now not used size of duplicating paper and it was felt, in view of the costs involved, that this could not be refused.

Issue 50 (March 1973)

SCS trip on the Kelston

This picture shows a Society Boat Trip on the Kennet & Avon at Newbury in 1968. The picture was scanned from a black and white negative by Brian Evans and was published in Issue 481 (February 2013)

Extract from

MINUTES OF THE 13TH AGM HELD ON 5TH JUNE, 1980

SECRETARY’S REPORT: He was pleased to report an overall increase in membership from 135 to 148 including 7 family memberships. Monthly attendances had increased from an average of 56 to 65 members.

Issue 134 (July 1980)

COPS SCUPPER CANAL PIRATES

A hijacked canal boat was stopped by police yesterday after a family raced off in it - at 4 mph. A helicopter joined the chase after the green narrowboat was pinched from moorings at Nether Heyford, Northants. By the time they caught it, nearly 40 miles away on the Grand Union Canal at Stoke Bruerne, it had been repainted black. A man was being questioned last night. (Eva Drinkwater spotted the above in ‘The Sun’ on Monday, 16th February).

Issue 200 (April 1987)

NOVEMBER MEETING.

Another visit (the 4th?) from Hugh McKnight with a brand new subject of which, before the meeting, we knew little.

Hugh claims to have been in the first crew to take a British registered boat into the eastern part of Germany since ‘the wall’ was dismantled. He gave a lively account, illustrated with first class slides, of their journey through both busy commercial waterways and quiet lakes.

We heard a number of amusing stories and from time to time were taken from the waterways briefly to visit a town centre or restaurant.

Members learned about the waterways of Eastern Germany but also had a geography lesson and even touched a little on politics.

We thank Hugh for travelling to Southampton to give us a very amusing and entertaining evening.

Issue 250 (December 1991)

BARGE IN AT FULL SPEED

The following question and answer was spotted in the Daily Mail of Tuesday, February 20, 2001 in their ‘Answers to Correspondents’ section:

QUESTION In Hornblower And The Atropos, C. S. Forester’s hero takes an express canal boat service, drawn by teams of fast horses, with other traffic obliged by law to get out of the way. Did this service ever exist?

EXPRESS canal boats (called fly-boats) existed on several canals, but the service mentioned in Hornblower And The Atropos did not. In the story, Hornblower is on his way from Gloucester to London for Nelson’s funeral, following the admiral's demise at Trafalgar on October 21, 1805.

Hornblower ‘legs’ the packet boat through Sapperton Tunnel under the Cotswolds, and negotiates a ‘flash lock’ on the Thames. The historical truth, sadly, is that the poor state of the river between Oxford and the junction with the Thames and Severn Canal prevented reliable traffic developing after the canal opened in 1789.

In 1819 - 14 years after Nelson’s death - a fast boat service which by-passed the Upper Thames was operated from Gloucester to London following the opening of the North Wilts Canal. Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse story The Wench Is Dead is based on the real murder of a person on a Pickford’s flyboat, where the passengers had to accommodate themselves as best they could amid the cargo. Hornblower’s packet boat seems to be based on the more luxurious Duchess Countess, which worked a short distance on the Bridgewater Canal near Manchester. This carried a knife on its fore end to slice through towlines of oncoming boats.

Flyboats In pre-railway times paid a premium toll and were accorded priority by some canal companies. They were also worked by relays of horses and crews. They survived until well into the 20th century with some services being mechanised.

Examples of these ran between London and Birmingham, Ellesmere Port and Birmingham (the latter being horse drawn) and from Leicester to London.

One of the last flyboat services was the ‘paper dasher’, a nightly run from John Dickenson’s paper mills at Apsley on the Grand Union Canal in Hertfordshire, to Battlebridge Basin, Kings Cross, with newsprint for Fleet Street. It survived into the late Fifties.

David Blagrove, Commercial Boat Operators Assoc,

Towcester, Northants - Issue 350 (April 2001)


Rambling Roses

 
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Left: Purton descending the narrow locks at Ellesmere Port.
Below: Purton next to the barge Cuddington
Photos ©Alan & Angela Rose

Purton and Cuddington

Ellesmere Port is situated at the north end of the Shropshire Union Canal in Cheshire.

Purton descending the narrow locks

We were pleased to have moved on the eight miles and three locks from splendid historic Chester to find Ellesmere Port and the National Waterways Museum so interesting.

The work that has been carried on over the last forty years has been worthwhile, with more challenges to come with the variety of old working barges and narrow boats, some lying submerged awaiting restoration.

We moored in the basin and took the opportunity to chat to other visitors, some who worked for ICI and had actually worked on the boats i.e. Cuddington, one man was surprised to see her moored alongside; the first time he had seen her for many years.

The Port & Museum are well worth a visit.

After making the necessary arrangements with Eastham Harbour Master we ventured out onto the Manchester Ship Canal and motored up past the refineries and chemical works to Weston Marsh Lock which is the downstream entrance to the River Weaver.

At the time of writing, Purton is moored in Yarwoods Basin in Northwich where she was built in September 1936.

N.B. We passed Gordon Osborn & Family they were cruising down from Chester, doing the Cheshire ring.

Alan and Angela Rose


The English boatmen of the First World War

 
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By Tim Coghlan

This month we conclude Tim’s article about Braunston boatmen in WW1 which appears by kind permission of both the editor of Towpath Talk and the author.

Boatmen on the Front

Back from the War: Braunston FMC boatman Michael Ward was called up in 1916 to join the Royal Engineers as a boatman on the Western Front. He was given the rank of sapper – a Royal Engineers private. He left for war only months after marrying his wife Susan, whom he left behind pregnant. To get work, she took a canalside terraced cottage in Rickmansworth and worked whilst pregnant in the canal yard at Batchworth. He would not see her or his daughter until 1919. The photograph here of him in his sapper’s uniform, with wife and daughter, was taken soon after his return. (Whitlock / Carne)

Michael and Susan Ward

In 1916, all unmarried boatmen under the age of 25 were eligible for call-up. After the fiasco of the Battle of the Somme later that year, it was commonly agreed that the bad communications to the Front were partly to blame. Prime Minster Lloyd George now appointed Eric Geddes, Goods Manager of the large and successful North Eastern Railway - ‘a man of push and go’ - to take charge of all transport in the British Sector, sending him to the Western Front with the rank of Major General.

Part of his reforms were for the two inland waterways leading to the British Sector - the Pas de Calais to Ypres and the River Somme from the Channel coast to Peronne - to be taken over and run by British boatmen. They would enlist as sappers (privates) in the Royal Engineers, Inland Waterways and Docks.

FMC steamer Vulcan

The FMC Steamer VULCAN: Michael Ward as a flyboat crew is third from the right with his brother Charlie on his left. Both were called up to work as boatmen on the Western Front. The captain, who is steering, is wearing white trousers, which FMC required its captains to wear. Vulcan is still Braunston based and was in a prominent position in the opening parade of boats in the Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally this year, steered by actor Timothy West, and ably assisted by the great-grandson of Michael Ward. (Whitlock / Carne)

Some boatmen who had already joined the army were pulled out of the line to join the sappers. Others were recruited from the major canal carriers like Fellows, Morton & Clayton, some of whose boatmen were already experienced in operating steam-motorised rather than horse-drawn boats.

Going to the front

A long way from Tipperary: British soldiers being ferried to the front in French commandeered barges. The steerers are called-up British boatmen put into Royal Engineers uniform. Michael Ward could well have done this work. (Imperial War Museum)

Hospital Barge

Going back from the Front A precious cargo of British wounded, probably in Calais Dock, brought down in the hold of a French barge converted for the purpose. The steerer in his army greatcoat would again have been a called-up British boatmen. (Imperial War Museum)

One FMC man was the recently married Braunston boatmen Michael Ward, who enlisted in late 1916, he having served on the steamer Vulcan. Ward was sent for training on wide-beamed boats on the canal at Devizes, and then over to France.

His work there would have involved moving goods and troops to the Front, and coming back, bringing out the wounded. Whilst being a boatman was much less hazardous than being in the front line, the boatmen were at times well within the range of the guns and attacks by German planes.

In an interview with his daughter Rose Whitlock in 1996, she told me that on one occasion a kind French woman had offered to go and get him a drink from a nearby tavern. As she was walking back and only a few hundred yards away, he saw her hit by a shell and blown to pieces. Ward was amongst the lucky ones, and returned safely in 1919 to meet his wife Susan and two year old daughter Rose, who was being carried by her pregnant mother when he departed for the front.

A photograph survives from that time. Susan had spent the rest of the war working in the boatyard at Batchworth Locks, Rickmansworth. She was working on a boat in one of the double locks which was empty, when a Zeppelin dropped a bomb which hit the other lock, causing mayhem.

Miraculously Susan survived. Ward was given a special medal for the spotlessly clean way he had kept his boats on the Western Front. On discharge he was allowed to keep his uniform, which he wore on the canals for at least another twelve years.

Your canal history needs you

What I have written here is a taster of what I and others have collected, and kindly allowed me to use here. With your help, we would like to put something more substantial. If you have any further first-hand WW1 stories or information to add, please contact me at Braunston Marina on 01788 891373, or by email tim@braunstonmarina.co.uk


Day-Star Theatre

 
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Our friends from the Day-Star Theatre will be visiting Southampton on Thursday 6th November with their play “A Bad Penny.” The following provides a taster and will hopefully whet your appetite to come to the show.

Day-Star graphic

Doctor Morris Trubshaw is fifty this coming Friday. His wife, Doreen wants to mark the event with some sort of celebration. The good Doctor sees no reason to do so. After all, in his opinion, fifty is well over the hill and down the other side.

The year is 1964 and the place is the quiet village of Nether Claybourne where the Trubshaws run the local G.P. practice. Morris came to the village soon after the 2nd World War to take over the practice from local girl Doreen’s father. And well, one thing led to another.

With a now established National Health system and a general feeling of prosperity in the country, Morris is content with his lot. He sees no advantage in change. However change is on it’s way to Nether Claybourne.

Firstly there is the arrival of the new vicar the Reverend Martin Braithwaite. He is a ‘switched on’ modern thinking cleric who embraces the burgeoning youth culture of the sixties. And then there is the mysterious but charming Micky Greenaway who has taken out a short term lease on the empty Claybourne Hall. To the horror of some in the village, Micky is the manager of up and coming pop group The Bad Pennies. He has leased the Hall as a luxury hideaway for them and they are due to arrive on Friday.

The self appointed guardian of traditional values in the village, Mrs Allenby-Croft, is determined to prevent Claybourne Hall from becoming a den of iniquity and local hypochondriac and mother of six, Nelly Drake, fears that her eldest son, who is already the village tearaway may be led further astray by the new arrivals.

Day-Star theatre weave a comic and thought provoking tale of one small rural community at a time of emerging social change just fifty years after the outbreak of the first world war and nearly twenty after the second.

Tickets for this performance are available from our secretary Angela Rose at Society meetings. Should you be unable to get to a meeting, you can contact Angela as detailed here to reserve your tickets. The performance will be followed by our traditional American Supper.


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