ON THE BOATS
Given the number of books of reminiscences of working boat life already published, not to mention the number of years that have passed since the demise of regular traditional narrowboat trade, it might come as a surprise to see another one published. But not only is this just such a booklet; it covers the trade on a very little-known part of the network – the isolated part of the Cromford Canal north of Butterley Tunnel, where a handful of boats carried on a local trade after the tunnel collapsed in 1900. Les Mason was a 14-year-old lad, destined to go ‘down the pit’ on leaving school but, in the meantime, helping out on the coal boats from Hartshay to Cromford. These memories, passed on before his 1994 death to his son-in-law who wrote them down before he too died in 2014, recall bailing out wooden horse-boats, loading coal by hand, hitching a ride on the colliery’s steam locomotive, and having to buy a licence from the railway company to keep ducks on the canal!
On the Boats, Les Mason, Friends of the Cromford Canal, cromfordcanal.info, £5.00, 978-0-9544482-2-6