While working as a civil engineer on the Hockley Flyover in Birmingham I became fascinated (obsessed?) with the BCN and bought a wooden narrow boat with a 9hp Bollinders engine. By the time I had finished building a cabin I was married and we moved the boat to Gas Street Basin. I had also moved jobs and was employed on the M5 viaducts in the Black Country and was surrounded by small engineering businesses producing all kinds of metalwork mostly in premises going back to the 19th if not the 18th century. I was very discontented with the standard of design of the motorway structures and when I saw a small add offering the lease of the canal boatyard at Braunston I rashly made an offer to take over the disused Willow Wren yard there.
With my wife Rhondda I moved the Silver Jubilee to the Bottom Lock and began to build steel hulled narrow boats with wooden cabins. This was 1968 and there were still a few trading boats working, mostly carrying coal from North Warwickshire to the few north London factories still using it. Part of our work was maintaining these examples of Industrial Archaeology, patching up steel or even wood and iron hulls for the few remaining carriers.
After completing some 60 boats over ten years we felt that the prospects for the canals were so poor that we should spread our interests – government indifference, VAT raised from 8 to 25% and not least, the dry summer of 1968 when most of the canal system shut down all spelt trouble. We moved to a small farm which appealed to us both and I started a new business making modern wooden furniture. The farm and the furniture kept us busy until retirement.
I had always been interested in industrial history and technology and had joined the AIA about 1974 but with family commitments and the need to make a living had been unable to take part in any activities except for a couple of early conferences in Ironbridge and Norwich.
By 1998 commitments had eased enough for me to join Barrie Trinder’s two year course at Ironbridge on Industrial History and by 2007 I had time to go to the AIA Conference at Preston. Since then I have been to all the Conferences and in 2007, at Lincoln, I joined the AIA Council.
In 2011 I took over the editorship of the IA News from Peter Stanier who had done the job for 15 years. This kept me very busy for a few weeks every quarter until 2020 when Pat Bracegirdle took over.