Courting on the Cut

Working the Waterways: NarrowBoat, Spring 2023

Ex-working boater John Saxon passed away last year. We revisit his account of courtship on the canals, originally published in a 1977 issue of Waterways World

Travelling around the cut once more and being an ex-boatman, I have noticed that a lot of things have changed and some have disappeared – like centre paddles on some of the lock gates. What a waste of time. Used properly they saved a lot of time. Cut-side pubs have gone as well – the Spotted Cow at Buckby, the Navigation at Willoughby, the New Inn at Bedworth (known to us as ‘Shaw’s pub’) to name but a few. Those that remain are very pleasant though they don’t have the atmosphere or friendliness that they used to, but the thing I have noticed most to indicate that there are no boating families left on the cut is the absence of the messages of love written in paddle grease on the lock gates from a boat girl to a boat chap and vice versa. Love on the cut was famously depicted in the 1945 Ealing Studios film, Painted Boats. Of note is working boater George Smith, on the extreme right. Love letters On almost every lock from one end of the c…

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