Boating with the Purcells

Last Traffic: NarrowBoat, Winter 2013

David Blagrove

Mike Stone journeyed up the Grand Union Canal in the summer of 1961 on a pair of Willow Wren boats

As a pupil of Nottingham High School in 1960, Mike Stone won the Nottingham Chamber of Commerce’s Centenary Scholarship to study the “Inland Waterways of Western Europe”. The main part of the research for this was carried out in 1960 when he travelled by water and road around the waterways of the Netherlands, Germany, France and Belgium. Ready co-operation from European shipping companies and waterway authorities enabled him to report on the latest developments in freight carriage by water, handling techniques and infrastructure improvements. He wanted to compare this with the situation in England, but arranging an equivalent trip on board a pair of narrowboats proved more difficult. It was not until 1961 that Leslie Morton of Willow Wren arranged for Mike to spend three weeks with Alec & Lil Purcell on the Grand Union Canal. In his thoroughly professional 60-page report, Mike was thus able to compare conditions and facilities in the UK and mainland Europe, and…

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