Thursday, 22 May 2014

Speech From A Barge

This is just one of a series of old newspaper articles looking at the inland waterways and the things that were effecting the inland waterways. The most active periods for evaluation and change was always just prior to the two world wars. Between the wars the ownership of the canals changed hands and the railway companies bought up the canals to get rid of competition. Its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the past. Most surprising of all, is the problems that beset the canals are still prevalent today.  Reading old newspapers can throw up some interesting stories. Here is what we would call today a public interest story.

Daily Telegraph
2nd January 1935 

Speech From A Barge

Picturesque people of the canals gave the Duke of Kent a rousing welcome when he opened the new, wide locks which completed the £1,000,000 scheme for bringing the Grand Union Canal up to date. By cutting a tape with a pair of golden scissors, the Duke gave access to a flight of 51 locks on the Warwick section of the canal. These wide locks make it possible to convey goods along the entire length of the canal in large motor-vessels without the necessity of transferring cargoes to narrow, barges, at the old bottle neck at Hatton. The Grand Union Canal is now a 280-mile artery of commerce Joining London to Birmingham and Nottingham with a silent highway for efficient modern transport. The improvement scheme, begun in May, 1931, has involved widening the canal for a considerable length, walling and piling the banks for many miles, and extensive dredging to carry craft with a draught of 4ft, 6ins throughout the whole system. Travelling in Progress, one of the new motor barges, the Duke opened No. 1 lock at Hatton, 20 miles south of Birmingham. After the barge had gone through four locks, cheered by crowds of excited bargees and their families on the towing path, the Duke received two canal boatmen, three gangers, and several members of the company. 


Later he visited a family of 'Water Gypsies' In an old barge which has been converted into a motor-vessel. The head of the family, 'Ike' Merchant, who is known along the canals as the 'flying Bargee,' and who is intimate with every yard of England's inland waterways, told the Duke that although he was not pleased at first with the new developments he had soon adapted himself to the new conditions. 'Ike' comes from a long line of bargees, and the family which the Duke met — 'Ike's' wife, his son, and two daughters — are typical of the romantic people of the canal. The Duke remarked on the barge's sparkling interior, its polished fittings and snug compactness. The Duke, speaking from the prow of the gaily-painted barge, referred to the opening of the locks as 'a new milestone in the canal history of this country.' Our inland waterways, he said, had been greatly neglected until recently, but during the last few years it had been realised that waterways could be used to carry large quantities of goods without inconvenience and noise, and that they had several natural advantages. 'Many industrialists now regard canal communication as a necessity when planning new works and factories,' he said, 'and I am told that In 1932 the amount of traffic conveyed by independent canal and water way companies in Great Britain was as much as 13,500,000 tons. He added that he was glad to hear that the canal boatmen, who were the backbone of the industry, were to remain, and were readily adapting themselves to mechanical traction.

Albury Banner
15th April 1938


With two propellers under the bows, an experimental river and canal vessel has just completed successful trials at Mannheim, Germany. This new type of craft is expected to revolutionise traffic on inland waterways. In the past, the wash from propellers of ordinary craft has done colossal damage to river banks. The new vessel goes twice as fast as those with propellers astern, yet leaves no trace of a wave behind it.

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