Thursday, 23 September 2010

Great Canals - book review

Great Canals 
By T C Bridges

Here's a book you are unlikely to find on the bookshelves.

Belle was browsing Barter Books in Northumberland and she scanned the waterways section in search of the obscure and unusual. She found a number of books she thought I would like, but in particular she alighted on "Great Canals" by TC Bridges.
This was a first (and very likely last) edition published in 1936 with its dust jacket proclaiming "An absorbing account of canals home and abroad - the building and working of the Suez, Panama and Kiel canals, and the network across Britain. A book of unusual interest." The back goes on to explain that this Discovery Series are "Entirely new books which discover the world to young readers, opening fresh vistas of knowledge and adventure. Lucid, fascinating, modern in the best sense of the word".

 What we have here is a contemporary view of canal transport written just before the second world war, 22 years after the opening of Panama. Whilst the book contains interesting accounts of major ship canals abroad, it also covers the Nicaragua Canal, an alternate Atlantic / Pacific route which was started but never finished. It also looks at the plans to build a true ship canal across Scotland either via the Great Glen or as a substitute for the small Forth and Clyde. Historic curios I have never heard of before.

Perhaps the most interesting marker in the sand was the review of the Manchester Ship Canal. Elsewhere the  book laments the decline of the general inland waterways network but holds up the route to Manchester (then 40 years old) as the epitome of the role a waterway can still play. Bridges observes:

"The Ship Canal is always busy. Between four and five thousand vessels use it yearly, with a combined burden of more than six million tons. The trade to the port of Manchester is valued at about a hundred million sterling a year... making Manchester the fourth port in the UK."

Some contrast to the skeleton we see today!

Reading history from a pre war perspective is an interesting experience.

ISBN - They  didn't do ISBN numbers back in the 1930's!

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