Miscellany...

A few selective bits and pieces

My interest in boats existed from an early age, and may have stemmed from being taken on boating holidays as a young child, on the Norfolk Broads and the Thames. My first boatbuilding ventures were in my early teens constructing model power boats from kits, and then from plans in magazines. However, working life began at the age of sixteen with six years spent working in offices, and studying to be an accountant.

A turning point came whilst in hospital following an accident, with the realisation that office life wasn't for me. I returned to full time education, eventually gaining a social science degree from London University. Soon afterwards a friend's suggestion lead to my arrival in Birmingham to take a short term job funded by Birmingham Children's Department, and my introduction to canals at Hockley Port

Hockley Port and Pike

Becoming "skipper" of the Hockley Port based community boat "Pike" (a converted Josher) in the summer of 1971 marked the beginning of a long relationship with "the cut", and soon enough to life as a professional boat builder. On the first day in my new job I discovered that Pike was in the dry dock at Hatton, having lost its rudder going down the flight. The missing rudder replaced, the rest of the summer, and the summer of 1972, were spent organising and running trips for local community groups and families. By the end of this period I was fairly well integrated into the canal community that existed at the time in Birmingham. The job with Pike came to an end at the close of summer 1972, with the loss of funding from Birmingham Children's Department.

Ledsam House Basin

Ledsam Street Basin was a disused factory canal basin off the Birmingham Main Line at the rear of Ledsam House, in Ledsam Street, Ladywood. In 1972 it was full to overflowing with decades of rubbish from the surrounding factories. For some reason to do with renewal of a lease it had to be cleared down to "a navigable depth". Due to the lack of road access, no conventional contracting firm was interested, so the job went to "Manders, Pearson and McGavin". Early in 1973 we set to, inserting stop planks, draining the basin, and transferring all the rubbish the old time navvies' way by shovel and wheel barrow into a succession of Caggy Stevens' joey boats. Apparently local BWB staff, who made and installed the stop planks, had a wager amongst themselves that the job would never be completed, but it was, on time and to budget.


Ledsam Street Basin. The bow of one of Caggy Stevens rubbish boats can be seen in the basin entrance. Kim McGavin's "Avon" is moored just beyond. More images available here