Monday 26 November 2012

Towpath Tale - book review

Towpath Tale
by Arthur Truby
October 2012

I happened upon this 1978 publication published by The Blackcountryman by chanceas I was leafing through the waterways section of Aacus Books in Milford (Caldon Canal). Therewere slim pickings to be had but this little (32 pages) booklet was found sandwiched between two other books. The Blackcountryman is the magazine of the Black Country Society and this august body offers good provenance of an interesting article.

This booklet represents eight separate articles recounting personal recollections of the BCN in the Tipton and Oldbury area between the 1930's and the 1970's. Whilst not always entirely historically accurate, its a fascinating insight into the boating characters of the time, their craft and the local canal scene, all told in the authors own words. He offers an unusually intimate series of recollection of the canals as he found them and there are several locations which will never be quite the same for me as I pass them.

Perhaps the quirkiest tale concerns the gas lights through the Netherton Tunnel. According to the old boatmen the gas switches were turned on in the morning by specially trained pigeons, who were then released from the other end an night and flew back, shutting them off. Typical boaters humour!

What it lacks in length it makes up for in richness of content, just what you would expect of The Blackcounrtyman.

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