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Mendip and Quantock


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I have been trying to remember a camping boat trip I did with the scouts back in july 1981, I think we started off from Braunston and that there were 2 boats (motor and butty) and that we slept on bunk beds under canvas. That is about it as I did not have the interest in Narrowboats and Canals that I do now, but I did think the boats were unconverted 70 footers. I sent an email to the leader of the scout group, who then passed it on the scout leader at the time of the trip, after a few weeks I recived this reply

 

 

Hello Peter,

 

My name is Mervyn ---- and I was GSL when you were on the canal trip. Chris ----, the current GSL, passed me your enquiry and I have been having a search around to see if I could come up with an answer. One of my sons, Andrew, was also on the trip so he was my starting point, with no luck. You may remember Mike ----, one of the leaders who I meet fairly regularly but he could remember the trip but not the names!

 

I left answerphone messages for John ----, the Scouter leading the trip and, out of the blue, he turned up here today to talk about my calls. As he said, a lot of time has passed since then and, at first he could only recall one name. This morning while he was painting his fence!! he suddenly remembered the other name.

 

The company he used was Union Canal Carriers Limited out of Braunston. The two boats were the Mendip and the Quantock. One had a canvas cover for most of it’s length and the other a hardtop.

 

Hope this helps you in your research, I, having spent some time following the trail, think that is about as much as I can do to help you.

 

Well at least you gave John a chance to remember the event and some of the things you all got up to!!

 

Best wishes,

 

Mervyn.

 

 

I have looked on Jim sheads site but none of the boats fit the bill although one was built by UCC. Does anyone know if the boats from my trip are still around?

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I have been trying to remember a camping boat trip I did with the scouts back in july 1981, I think we started off from Braunston and that there were 2 boats (motor and butty) and that we slept on bunk beds under canvas. That is about it as I did not have the interest in Narrowboats and Canals that I do now, but I did think the boats were unconverted 70 footers. I sent an email to the leader of the scout group, who then passed it on the scout leader at the time of the trip, after a few weeks I recived this reply

 

 

Hello Peter,

 

My name is Mervyn ---- and I was GSL when you were on the canal trip. Chris ----, the current GSL, passed me your enquiry and I have been having a search around to see if I could come up with an answer. One of my sons, Andrew, was also on the trip so he was my starting point, with no luck. You may remember Mike ----, one of the leaders who I meet fairly regularly but he could remember the trip but not the names!

 

I left answerphone messages for John ----, the Scouter leading the trip and, out of the blue, he turned up here today to talk about my calls. As he said, a lot of time has passed since then and, at first he could only recall one name. This morning while he was painting his fence!! he suddenly remembered the other name.

 

The company he used was Union Canal Carriers Limited out of Braunston. The two boats were the Mendip and the Quantock. One had a canvas cover for most of it’s length and the other a hardtop.

 

Hope this helps you in your research, I, having spent some time following the trail, think that is about as much as I can do to help you.

 

Well at least you gave John a chance to remember the event and some of the things you all got up to!!

 

Best wishes,

 

Mervyn.

 

 

I have looked on Jim sheads site but none of the boats fit the bill although one was built by UCC. Does anyone know if the boats from my trip are still around?

 

If the boats you recall were a motor and butty then it was not MENDIP (B.W.B. index 70256) and QUANTOCK (B.W.B. index 65250), both of which had full length cabins and were modern motors.

 

If the boats you recall were a motor and butty then there would also have been a steerer supplied. Union Canal Carriers Ltd. operated the following steered motor and butty 'camping' pairs in 1981:-

 

BEXHILL and BRIGHTON - steered by 'Coco'

EDGWARE and BAKEWELL - steered by Andy Farquarson

PETREL and MOON - steered by Helen Smith (PETREL was replaced by Narrow Boat Trust Ltd. ALTON for 1982 season)

BAINTON and BERKHAMPSTEAD - steered by Roger White (on contract)

also owned BALHAM (which I think was laid up in 1981)

 

In 1981 Union Canal Carriers Ltd. also operated the following self steer camping motors:-

 

KIMBERLEY (exF.M.C. Ltd.)

LINDSAY ('Admiral')

LOUGHTON (modern boat)

HEYFORD (modern boat)

 

edit - change incorrect boat name and add B.W.B. index numbers

Edited by pete harrison
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The names Mendip and Quantock came from the email so i guess he could have been thinking of a different trip, dont really remember the motor but the butty was unconverted, we had two steerers, they were a couple (not sure if married or not) who were rather taken with one of our group known as fred!

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  • 1 month later...

Dear Sirs,

 

I am pleased to inform you that the nb Quantock (64ft steel hull narrow boat) still exhausts and is now a liveaboard upon the Lancaster Canal. It was indeed, as you remember, used as a motor vessel and towed Mendip the butty for camping holidays on the Grand Union.

 

I have some interesting details and photographs to post here shortly, if you are interested.

 

Wayne

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Dear Sirs,

 

I am pleased to inform you that the nb Quantock (64ft steel hull narrow boat) still exhausts and is now a liveaboard upon the Lancaster Canal. It was indeed, as you remember, used as a motor vessel and towed Mendip the butty for camping holidays on the Grand Union.

 

I have some interesting details and photographs to post here shortly, if you are interested.

 

Wayne

 

I look forward to seeing your photographs, not of QUANTOCK but of the butty MENDIP - a butty that I do not recall at all !

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I've just looked in my collection of assorted lierature and found a part complete copy of Union Canal Carriers brochure from the mid 1970's. Unfortunately I only have the loose sheet on camping pairs - which has 5 photos of varying pairs on it, including a rare interior shot. The quality is sadly quie poor. I recollect that they had 3 boats with hard tops but cannot remember the names.

I do have some slides of Lindsay taken in 1976 - they just need scanning which I might get round to at some point.

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  • 10 months later...

....dont really remember the motor but the butty was unconverted, we had two steerers, they were a couple (not sure if married or not) who were rather taken with one of our group known as fred!

This particular post has prompted me to join the Canalworld forum! (Hullo forum, BTW)

 

It seems extremely unlikely that two UCC crews were "rather taken with one of our group known as Fred" so I think that must've been me! If so, the pair was Edgware and Bakewell and the crew was Andy and Sarah.

 

Sarah was expecting our first child that summer and so taken were we with Fred (who was a real little character and always up to mischief) that my son Freddy (now aged 30) is named after him.

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...Union Canal Carriers Ltd operated the following steered motor and butty 'camping' pairs in 1981:-

 

BEXHILL and BRIGHTON - steered by 'Coco'

EDGWARE and BAKEWELL - steered by Andy Farquarson

PETREL and MOON - steered by Helen Smith (PETREL was replaced by Narrow Boat Trust Ltd. ALTON for 1982 season)

BAINTON and BERKHAMPSTEAD - steered by Roger White (on contract)

also owned BALHAM (which I think was laid up in 1981)

 

'Coco' was a nickname (unkindly intended) applied to Alan Johnson. Alan and his wife Viv crewed a single motor for Foxton Boat Services (Baldock IIRC) before joining UCC Ltd to take over Bexhill and Brighton after Geoff Mason left.

 

FWIW, to the best of my (no doubt fallible) recollection from around 1971/2 until the end of the decade, the UCC pairs and crews were:

 

Petrel and Moon; George and Helen Smith (Helen alone during mid-70s)

 

Kimberly and Puppis (later Bakewell for one season); Alec and Lil Purcell

 

Widgeon (formerly Thaxted) and Alperton; Ted and Anne Ward (later by Gary Ward alone)

 

Birmingham and Balham; Andy Iddins (and, later, by Andy and Liz Iddins)

 

Bexhill and Brighton; John and Sue Duddington (later by Geoff Mason alone; later still by Alan and Viv Johnson)

 

Ant and Axe (both 'Bluetop' butties; Ant motorised); Graham O'Leary (later, for one season, by Andy Farquarson and Sandy MacDonald)

 

Edgware and Bakewell; Andy Farquarson and Sandy MacDonald (later Andy and Sarah Farquarson)

 

There were a few other wannabe crews employed here and there but they rarely lasted a season and their names escape me now. The only one I remember was a very posh-sounding youngster called Kirk (inevitably referred to as Captain Kirk) and his even posher wife Cath (known as Catherine of Arrogant - which, in hindsight, was unwarranted). IIRC they took on Birmingham and Balham (though we continued to think of that pair as 'Andy's boats').

 

Typing out that list, it is rather sobering to be reminded how many of the people on it are now dead.

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This particular post has prompted me to join the Canalworld forum! (Hullo forum, BTW)

Hello Andy, and welcome to the Forum. I am glad to hear that you have come back to the canals as I understood you had found a 'new' interest some years ago. We last spoke almost 30 years ago when you were painting the Small Woolwich butty NEBULAE at Rugby following its renovation and conversion. At that time I was working for a Birmingham charity called The Ackers Trust, being steerer for almost 6 years of their modern pair REA and COLE (formally VOLGA and DON).

Edited by pete harrison
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...I am glad to hear that you have come back to the canals ...

Well, more 'joined the forum' than 'back to the canals' - the cut itself is now very different from when I worked boats so I content myself with walking beside it.

 

I understood you had found a 'new' interest some years ago.

Several other interests and incarnations, in fact. The current obsession is walking up mountains.

 

We last spoke almost 30 years ago ...

When I still had hair, you mean? Unfortunately, at my advanced age I find it hard to remember much before last Tuesday week unless nurse reminds me ;)

 

Which was Nebulae? Was it the one owned by Mike Samualson with the luxury conversion under faux 'cloths'?

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Also shown before, but I'll give them another airing.....

 

Kimberley, (The long haired chap with his coat asunder is me....)

 

Kimberley001.jpg

 

Bilster and ???? (I should know) Ted Ward on the left hand boat.

 

UCCCo004.jpg

 

Taken from top plank of Bexhill. Possibly Hawkesbury to the right??

 

UCCCo003.jpg

 

Bilster, again

 

UCCCo001.jpg

 

Bexhill (and me)

 

UCCCo002.jpg

 

Our Sickle at work, (Alf Best steering), passing Bexhill and Brighton (John Duddington at the tiller).

 

Sickle_Bexhill_and_Brighton.jpg

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Also shown before, but I'll give them another airing.....

 

I'm very glad you did. The pics below bottonm lock must be about 1972 or 1973 - that's exactly how I remember it there at that time.

 

Of the people you name, Ted Ward and John Duddington are no longer with us but I don't know if Alf is still alive - he'd be a fair old age by now.

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Of the people you name, Ted Ward and John Duddington are no longer with us but I don't know if Alf is still alive - he'd be a fair old age by now.

My understanding is that Alf Best has been deceased some years.

 

Tam at some stage fed me quite a bit of info about him, but somewhere along the line I managed to lose it, unfortunately.

 

Anyone who met him seems to think he was one of the true gentlemen of the canals, and I know he features in several of the promotional films that were made about the waterways.

 

Of course Janusz Rokicki, (possible spelling errors there!), was himself another sad loss. Given how prominent he was in the canal world, and I believe a rich history before then, very little about him seems to be recorded, and I have seen only one or two photos of the man in recent years.

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My understanding is that Alf Best has been deceased some years ... anyone who met him seems to think he was one of the true gentlemen of the canals...

He was indeed.

 

... Janusz Rokicki was himself another sad loss ...

I worked for Janusz for several years. In fact, if he and his wife Ruth had not befriended me I doubt if I'd have gone onto the boats full-time.

 

Januscz was co-owner (with Robin Hewitt) of Union Canal Carriers Ltd during the late 1960s and the 1870s. They started at Foxton I think before moving their operation to bottom lock, Braunston.

 

Janusz and Ruth were killed in the mid-1970s (to my shame I can't remember what year) when a lorry went out of control at Ironbridge, Salops, and crashed into a cafe where they were sitting in a window seat. Tragically, both their sons are now dead too.

 

... I have seen only one or two photos of the man in recent years.

 

Below is a photo I took at Braunston (no idea of the date). Sorry about the poor image quality but this is a second generation copy.

 

gallery_17683_1_81248.jpg

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Great picture - thanks for the reminder!

 

I have fond memories of when we hired Bexhill, (unusually we were given it as "self steer", having actually booked Bilster), of Janusz attempting to free a repeatedly sticking starter motor on the PD2 with all the tools at his disposal, (one of the kitchen knives from the camping gear!......).

 

We had to learn how to hand start a PD2 for a while after that!

 

A news item I found dates Janusz and Ruth's tragic deaths as 1983, well after I had at the time ceased any involvement with the cut. I was shocked to see what then happened to the sons - I didn't know about their children, and have not seen those stories until now. How awful.

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I have fond memories ...of Janusz attempting to free a repeatedly sticking starter motor on the PD2 with ...one of the kitchen knives from the camping gear...

Yup! Sounds like Janusz - although, on reflection, a lump hammer and mooring bar would have been even more characteristic.

 

We had to learn how to hand start a PD2 for a while after that!

Well, good luck with that!

 

I can honestly say - though doubtless it will provoke howls of outrage in some quarters - that the Petter PD2 was one of the most malign and evil pieces of machinery ever devised by hunmankind, a recalcitrant bad-tempered unco-operative conglomeration of cast steel hiding under a tin-can chip frier and relying on rubber bands to prevent it turning itself into a volcano. 'Twas a clattering barking hateful beastly loathesome engine, an abomination, truly the worst creation in the long and multi-faceted history of diesel power. And if the weather was chilly you needed Geoff Capes to start the thing. I still bear the scars.

 

The Lister JP2, by contrast, was a prince among marine engines, a veritable paragon of the arts and sciences, a joy, a delight. It was all that an engine should be - friendly, unhurried and unflustered, steady and reassuring, solid and dependable. And green, of course - all enginers should be green. The JP2's melifluous chuffing was the sound of contentment and peace - listening to it under load convinced you that God's in his heaven and all's right with the world. What's more, a child could swing it into life even on a frosty morning.

 

Er, I suspect we may be drifting off topic here ...

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