Eerie go­ings-on at Clay­don Top

Canal Boat - - Letters - PAUL STRUTT,

AT THE END of the 70s, the old work­shops at Clay­don Top Lock on the south­ern Ox­ford canal were fall­ing into rack and ruin, which pre­sented me with an op­por­tu­nity to start a woodworking business. My builder brother-in­law, Roger, had of­fered to help out and we stayed on a boat moored up be­side the work­shops.

One evening, I found Roger look­ing very shaky, and jok­ingly said: ‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost!’ His re­ply took me aback. “I think I just have.” Roger said he saw a man in what he de­scribed as old-fash­ioned trousers and just a short-sleeved shirt.

A week or two later, I was in the gal­ley when I heard a splash out­side. I raced to the cock­pit and there was Roger’s head dis­ap­pear­ing un­der the wa­ter. Grab­bing the bow line, I man­aged to drag him out. He had fallen in just above the top gate where the wa­ter is deep.

Hav­ing changed into dry clothes, he thawed out in front of the fire, and I asked him how he had man­aged to fall in. “I didn’t fall in. I was pushed!” he stated.

Time passed and one day, a young woman friend, who was some­thing of an artist, set up her easel at the Top Lock. She pro­duced a beau­ti­ful ren­di­tion of the lock and work­shops but for some rea­son, she in­cluded a man, up to his shoul­ders in the wa­ter, just above the top gate. When asked why she had drawn him, her re­sponse was “it just felt right”.

I be­came friendly a lo­cal farmer and broached the strange tales with him. He came back to see me a few days later. He told me he had been to have a look at the par­ish records. He went on to tell me that a lock-keeper had been drowned in the 1930s, in sum­mer, just above the top lock gate at Clay­don Top.

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