Dave Moore, resident signwriter at Norton Canes Boatyard, has quite a reputation for his work
Signwriter Dave Moore of Norton Canes Boatyard shares his thoughts with us
1 What first attracted you to the waterways?
Being taken to my school’s boat, which was a converted Stewarts and Lloyds joey, as a 12-year-old. Soon after I met Malcolm Braine at the Norton Canes yard and he widened my waterway horizons.
2 Which is your favourite canal or river?
Probably the Staffs & Worcs, a canal I’ve known almost from the start of my boating life.
3 What do the waterways have to offer the country?
For the most part, a linear park rich in history and tradition.
4 What do the waterways need most?
A difficult one, this. The infrastructure is in much better shape than when I started boating, though not all of the changes are for the better. I’d opt for more experienced folk to maintain them, though where they’d come from, I don’t know.
5 What do you think of the people on our waterways?
There are many wonderful folk out there on the system, though I’m saddened to note that some modern boaters have little interest or connection with waterway traditions. These were the things that drew me as a youth, along with Rolt’s NarrowBoat.
6 What led you to a career as a signwriter? 7 What’s the best thing about your job? 8 And what’s the worst thing about your job? 9 Do people come to you with their own ideas or do you get a chance to design your own?
Being introduced to calligraphy at school and watching Ted Chetwynd, a boatyard signwriter, letter Cactus for Malcolm in the 1960s. I stood fascinated for two days. Having a delighted customer at the end of it, along with the kick of thinking “I did that”. Working in contorted, uncomfortable positions for long periods. Not all docks are signwriter friendly. Most customers are happy to rely on my experience with colours and layout, most of which is in the traditional field. I’m less interested in modern liveries.
10 Have you a favourite painting job you’ve done?
Lettering and decorating my own boat Resolute, despite not being paid.
11 Have you ever fallen in?
Not for many years. The last time was at Sherborne Street, in Birmingham, in the 1990s, carrying two paint boxes, one in each hand. The yard staff rushed for their cameras!
12 Tell us about your boating experience...
I started in the 1960s, largely with enthusiasts and a handful of working boatmen whom we strove to emulate. Sadly, their skills and techniques are not always understood or appreciated today.
13 What are you reading at present?
I revisit classic canal books constantly, mostly those concerned with earlier times. Currently I’m enjoying Bill Bryson’s Australia Travelogue DownUnder – I used to live there.
14 Who would be your ideal cruising companion? 15 What did you want to be aged 12? 16 What is your proudest achievement? 17 What is your favourite season on the waterways? 18 What do you do with your spare time? 19 Where would you go on your dream cruise? 20 What superpower would you like to have?
Other than my wife Gail, I’d nominate Horace Foster, a working boater sadly no longer with us. We had a long past. No idea. I was keen on science as a schoolboy in those days. Being recognised for what I do, still busy, despite never having spent a penny on advertising or promotion. I prefer to boat out of season, I don’t enjoy queuing for locks. Travelling, golf, stained glass... I love to work with my hands and envy the skills of the wood and metal workers I work with in boatyards. To work a pair of boats over a waterway in the style common before I came to the cut. I was born a little too late! This is silly. The ability, perhaps, to be able to letter both sides of a boat simultaneously – as I write on one side, it appears on the other too.
‘I stood fascinated fortwodays’ DAVE MOORE Signwriter
Dave Moore hard at work