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Memories of Horse-drawn Boating

Life Afloat: NarrowBoat, Spring 2018

Graham Guest

Graham Guest provides personal recollections of working horse-boats on the BCN as a youth in the late 1950s and early ’60s

I was 12 years old and lived in Summit Crescent, Smethwick, between two canals, the Birmingham to Wolverhampton Old Line (built by Brindley) and the Birmingham to Wolverhampton New Line (built by Telford). We could not venture far without crossing a canal and as kids we would make a swing with a rope tied under the impressive Galton Bridge, and swing out over the water.Joining a boat crew I was always interested in canal boats, and particularly the horses, but could not find a way to get to know the boat people. Then, one day in 1958, a boat was coming up Spon Lane Locks drawn by a horse. As the boat came into the top lock it bumped the lock gate and the boatman’s milk, contained in a Camp Coffee bottle, tipped over on the cabin top. The boatman asked if I lived nearby and if he could have some milk, so I rushed home on my bike with the bottle, filled it, and returned it to him. Thus my friendship with George Arnold began. Following this meeting, all my spare time and school ho…

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