I've been around boats since 1962 when I attended the famous Rally of Boats at Stourbridge as a member of the crew of Bumblebee ,a 70' wooden joey boat owned by my school. I was hooked at an early age! The boat was kept at Harris's yard, Netherton, near Dudley (known as Windmill End these days) in the days when Harris brothes still hauled boats out and repaired them, primarily rivetting steel plates on thin sections.
A couple of years later Malcolm Braine turned up with two ex BW joshers, Cactus and Peguin, and I helped him smarten Cactus up. It was Malcolm who opened my eyes to a wider waterways world than the school boat and I joined the Staffs & Worcs Canal Society, helped restore the "Stourbridge 16" with David Tomlinson and others' At this time I also helped Ken Dunham start to convert Grange from a butty to converted motor. I went on to hang around Gas St as Birmingham and Midland started and got to know some real boaters and enthusiasts, among them Tony Phillips who had recently bought Tay from Thomas Claytons, the Oldbury based liquid carriers. We boated together for several years.
At school my art teacher introduced me to calligraphy and I developed an interest in lettering. This took a sideways leap when I spent two days watching a local dock painter, Ted Chetwynd, letter Cactus for Malcolm. That got me into painting and there was a lot of painting still around to inspire me.I'm still fascinated!
I trained and worked as a teacher but never lost touch with canals and boats. My first job, back in the late 60s was to paint the name "Imp" on Alf Langford's then boat (Alf was a real Black Country boating character of the time). It took me a day to execute 6 shaded letters!
I kept practising and later formalised my experience with signwriting classes at a local College.
My skills grew and years later I went to letter boats at Norton Canes Boatbuilders, where Graham Edgson was building superb steel shells. He'd worked as Malcolm's foreman and had taken over in 86.
Graham and I formed a mutual appreciation society and several years later he suggested that we share a boat, built on very tradtional lines and a company "demonstrator". Thus we put Resolute toghether (with all sorts of input from very skilled people who work there) and we are proud - no, very proud - owners.
I've never thanked Ted for his original inspiration and it's many years too late now. Sometimes, when I'm working in the paint dock I fancy I feel his presence. I hope he'd say "Good lad. You're doing it right"
I was involved from the first wth the Waterways Craft Guild and have a strong belief that past practice needs to be preserved and encouuraged in the days when so few users seem to know nor care about the old ways.