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Midlands Boaters Wages

Working the Waterways: NarrowBoat, Winter 2020

Tom Foxon

Tom Foxon studies correspondence showing the pay and conditions of boatmen engaged in short-distance boating on the BCN

The methods of payment for Midlands short-distance boatmen working on the narrow canals of the Birmingham Canal Navigations and connecting canals differed from that applied to long-distance boatmen working narrowboats. The latter were paid either by the weight carried, which reflected the fact that they were responsible for the weight put on their boats, or by mileage. Only the captain was employed by the company and he had to recruit and pay his mates. Midlands short-distance boatmen usually did not load their own boats but collected one that had already been loaded by wharf workers. It was the practice, therefore, to pay these men by the trip. Where boatmen did load their own boats, such as at Saltley Sidings, a tonnage rate was paid for loading and a trip rate for movement. If they unloaded themselves, a tonnage rate was paid for unloading. Horse-drawn boats were crewed by two men, a boatman and a horseman, and both were paid the same rate. Tug-hauled boats were worked by one man. …

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