Monday, 28 April 2014

Canal Cuttings (11)

This is just one of a series of around fifty old newspaper articles that I have been reading. I have been researching from old newspapers and magazines the last 200 years or so of the inland waterways. With particular interest in the issues of the day that were effecting the canals. The most active periods for evaluation and change, has always been just prior, during and shortly after the two world wars. It should be remembered that between the wars the ownership of some of the canals changed hands as the railway companies bought up the waterways to get reduce competition. What is not clear is the effect this early form of asset stripping had on the viability of the inland waterways. Its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the past. Most surprising of all are some of the problems that beset the canals back then - are still prevalent today. Reading old newspapers can throw up some rather interesting stories. Here is what we would call today a public interest story.

Caveat: Some of the articles are difficult to read and even using modern electronic  scanning and text conversion methods. The odd punctuation, word or character may have been transcribed in error. 

City and Suburban

The Spectator: 22nd September 1955

By John Betjeman. It must be an unenviable task to be the editor of Waterways. whose first number has just appeared under the aegis of the British Transport Commission. It is a shamefaced and sad little periodical designed to pep up the bewildered remaining employees on our canals. The cat is let out of the bag surreptitiously here and there. The Report of the Board of Survey. which has condemned 771 miles of canals to become stagnant ditches and nuisances, 'sets the pattern,' we are told, 'for our future development.' God forbid! Elsewhere, in a list of canals 'to be retained for the present,' we find Kennet and Avon (River Avon section). This is like closing Barking Creek but allowing the Thames to remain navigable between Barking and Southend. 

It is, of course, sheer casuistry. The editor. luckless man, says he 'will welcome photographs, etc. on any subject connected with British waterways.' I wonder whether he would publish a photograph of the rally at Bath last April, in which that splendid character, Ted Leather, MP. took part. when they actually cut the lock-chain which the British Transport Commission had illegally put on the first lock-gate to make the Kennet and Avon Canal unnavigable. I wonder whether he would publish views of the Macclesfield Canal, which has been illegally stripped of much of its gear by the Commission. I wonder whether he would publish anything I wrote.

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