Blue plaque for IWA pioneer
WATERWAYS SUPPORTER AND actor David Suchet is pictured unveiling a plaque to commemorate the Inland Waterways Association’s co-founder Robert Aickman.
It was an appropriate, gesture given that it was while performing at Stratford, the meeting point of two navigations Aickman was particularly involved in, that Mr Suchet’s attention was first drawn to the waterways.
During the unveiling current IWA Chairman Les Etheridge recalled how Aickman’s meeting with Tom Rolt in 1945 led to the decision to found an organisation, and to the inaugural meeting at Aickman’s home in London’s Gower Street in 1946.
Acknowledging that he was “a complex man” whose undoubted abilities as an orator and leader were combined with a “combative stance” who wasn’t “one to worry very much about being popular with all men”, Mr Etheridge quoted former IWA General Secretary John Dodwell’s view that “without Robert’s ‘unreasonableness’ we would have lost the Oxford Canal south of Banbury, the southern Staffs & Worcs Canal, and perhaps the Leicester Summit as well.” David Suchet then recollected hearing a “commotion” outside the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1974 which turned out to be the re-opening of the Upper Avon Navigation, following on from the 1964 Stratford Canal restoration. This kindled his interest in waterways, becoming a boat owner and led ultimately to him becoming an IWA honorary vice-president and to carrying out the unveiling.