Brian Holden

Canal Boat - - Canal Boat News -

The Rochdale Canal lost a stal­wart and a key fig­ure from its restora­tion with the death of Brian Holden on 25 Septem­ber.

He was a founder mem­ber when the Rochdale Canal So­ci­ety was launched in 1974, as the restored Ash­ton and Lower Peak For­est Canals were re­open­ing, lo­cal vol­un­teers were look­ing for some­where else to work – and the main tran­sPen­nine length of the Rochdale beck­oned.

Many thought that it was so far gone that it could never be restored (“Peo­ple may have thought we were round the bend” as he put it), but ‘never’ wasn’t a word in his vo­cab­u­lary, and in his role as sec­re­tary of the so­ci­ety, he spent 28 years grad­u­ally turn­ing back the tide of dere­lic­tion.

Time was spent or­gan­is­ing trail­boat ral­lies to raise aware­ness, and build­ing up grass­roots sup­port with lo­cal clubs and so­ci­eties. “I must have done ev­ery Ro­tary Club, Round Ta­ble, church meet­ing and Women’s In­sti­tute in the area” he said. Vic­to­ries came with the win­ning of a pub­lic in­quiry in 1986 to en­sure pro­vi­sion for the canal when the M66 mo­tor­way was built, and then the grad­ual open­ing of lengths of canal from Heb­den Bridge to Tod­mor­den in the late 1980s, then to Sowerby Bridge and Lit­tle­bor­ough, and fi­nally through to Manch­ester thanks to the Mil­len­nium Fund in 2002. Mean­while he cruised in boat Tim Bob­bin, and wrote a book about the Rochdale Canal, pub­lished in 1985.

But there was much more to his life than canals. He played church or­gan, most re­cently for Spot­land Methodist Church, of which he was an ac­tive mem­ber and un­of­fi­cial care­taker; ear­lier be­fore re­tire­ment he had been a clas­sics teacher, teach­ing Latin and Greek at schools in Bolton and Rochdale (and tak­ing sixth form stu­dents on boat­ing hol­i­days and canal restora­tion work­ing par­ties).

And he al­ways found time to re­gale peo­ple from his fund of lo­cal his­tory and sto­ries.

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