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FRIDAY, JULY 05, 2013

Legendary K&A boat surveyor dies

George Gibson who was well known on the Kennet & Avon Canal as a marine surveyor and owner of Gibson's Boat Services on Builder's Wharf at Honeystreet near Pewsey died today (Friday July 5th).

Details of the funeral, which will take place at St. Mary's Church, Alton Barnes, and a full appreciation of Georges contribution to the maritime world will follow shortly.

Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©


TUESDAY, JULY 09, 2013

George Gibson: Marine Surveyor — obituary

Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©
George Gibson who died last week was a boating man to his very core.  He served as an engineer officer in the Royal Navy for 37 years. His last job with the admiralty as a Commander included the responsibility for several hundred small boats belonging to, or affiliated to, the services so when George retired from the Navy in 1985 he put this knowledge of small boats to good use when he became a marine surveyor specializing in canal and river craft.

George and his wife Shelagh in
his Royal Navy days
George was one of a band of entrepreneurs who put their faith, and money, into setting up businesses on the K&A Canal at a time when many thought it would never re-open. George and other riparian businesses, along with volunteers working on restoration projects, helped to drive the restoration forward. He was Chairman in the early days of the Association of Canal Enterprises (ACE), which later became the Kennet & Avon Canal Trade Association.
George ran an electric trip-boat, Patricia, from Hilperton and in 1986 he and his family moved to an old builders' yard and cottage alongside the Kennet & Avon Canal at  Honeystreet.
At that time the canal was closed. The weed clogged, shallow water of the 14 mile Long Pound was only just navigable largely thanks to the movements of the landlocked nearby Pewsey Wharf Boat Club.

Over the years proper wharf facilities and moorings at the 'bottom of the garden' site were installed and Builder’s Wharf run by George and his wife Shelagh was considered to be one of the best kept moorings on the canal system.
When British Waterways introduced the Certificate of Compliance (C of C) in 1990 (the forerunner of the Boat Safety Scheme) George was one of the first Surveyors in the scheme. His reputation for fairness in his examinations and his willingness to share knowledge is legendary — as are George’s surveys that he bashed out on his old typewriter with its distinctive italic type face.
As well as running a business on the canal George was involved with the K&A Canal Trust and he had been a volunteer engineer at its steam powered pumping station at Crofton. When, thanks to the efforts of the K&A Canal Trust and Bath City Council, the Widcombe Flight of locks in Bath was re-opened in June 1976 George and Shelagh were amongst the first to travel up  the flight in their boat  Border Gypsy
George finally retired at the age of 80, Builder’s Wharf was sold and he, his wife Shelagh and his son Chris moved to Devizes.
George is survived by his wife, Shelagh and two sons, Chis and Stephen and granddaughters Leila and Yasmin.

George Randle Gibson born 1931 died July 5, 2013

Bob Naylor

George's funeral is on Monday 15th July at 2.30pm in St. Mary's Church, Alton Barnes, Near Marlborough, SN8  4LR.  

Tea after the service in the nearby Coronation Hall.  Family Flowers only.


  1. George was also the last but one chief engineer on HMS Ark Royal. He told me when he surveyed my boat in 2000.
  2. Excellent obituary of a great man. Boaters on the K&A this summer have much to thank him for.
    Rob Dean
  3. RIP George Gibson, clever man, proper seaman, great, great character, even if we did have most of our funniest moments in the bottom of a dry dock lol You will be much missed George xx
    Denise Hanlon
  4. Sounds like we just lost one of the greats, thanks for all your work on the K&A from this water gypsy X RIP

    Helen Chambers
  5. A sad day in some ways, and yet today is the day to celebrate the life of someone who was a character and a friend of the K&A.

    Rest in Peace
  6. RIP Uncle Randle. It was so sad that your nephew from South Africa just couldnt get to the UK in time to see you one more time but know that you will be sorely missed. The Gibson family, South Africa

Jo Parfitt — English champion of French waterways — Obituary

Former President of Les Amis du Canal du Nivernais, Jo Parfitt died yesterday (10th January 2013) after a battle with cancer.
A lock on the Sardy Flight on the Canal du Nivernais — and
Jo Parfitt: Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©
Jo was the first English President of Les Amis du Canal du Nivernais (ACN) and he had run businesses on the Burgundy canals for several decades. There can be few boaters who have explored the inland waterways of France who will not know of Jo Parfitt, even if they have not benefited from his engineering skills or learned more of the Burgundy canals from his encyclopaedic knowledge of those waterways.
Jo came from a farming background but caught the bug of canal enthusiasm as an apprentice toolmaker in Enfield in the late 1960s.
He formed a canal society at the East Herts College of Further Education and by the 1970s he was spending his weekends excavating the locks on the Widcome Flight on the Kennet & Avon Canal in Bath, enjoying the local ale and — as he put it: “doing our bit to stop the local ladies becoming bored on a Saturday night”.
By 1977 Jo was running a company in Worcester building boats — including 15 for a hire base in France.
When the people who were to run the hire boats in France backed out, Jo and a French-speaking colleague stepped in and he moved to France to help run the fleet.
In 1980 Jo bought a Dutch barge (complete with a 100-Hp crane on the deck) to live, work and travel the canals and he started repairing passing boats when the hire boats were out.

Jo spent 18 months in Corbigny and 10 years in Mailly La Ville before moving to Migennes. 

After selling his business at Migennes and ‘retiring’ in 2010, Jo continued to carry out boat surveys, was establishing his general engineering business based near Clamecy and he also moved into technical journalism, writing a monthly column for the French waterways magazine, Fluvial.

Jo was a founder member of Les Amis du Canal du Nivernais (ACN) when it was set up in 1989 to promote the canal and to make it more accessible to as many people as possible without damaging its beauty and the tranquility of the countryside through which it passes.
Jo, prompted by the then ACN President Philippe Benard, looked for a canal in England to twin with. It was clear to him that the very canal that he had volunteered on as a young man, the K&A, was the most suitable.

The two canals have similar geographic and geological features — they both have 16-lock flights (at Sardy and Devizes), they both link two major rivers,  they both have tunnels and similar geological problems. Jo met with the K&A Canal Trust’s Hon Engineer Mike Lee and as a consequence of that meeting the first twinning trip took place in 1991 when Jo brought a party of 20 to the K&A.

Jo was passionate about the potential benefits of twinning. “it gives us a card to play that catches the eye of politicians and local authorities. We can show people here in France what’s being achieved abroad. In my opinion it will take European involvement to save the small central canals in France and for this we need our twinning links. There is also much more that can be achieved on the cultural front, with exchanges and projects between communities and schools.”  

Jo believed that ACN and KACT were the first canal associations to twin.  Since then others have followed. Jo’s influence prompted other French waterways to twin, including the canal D’Orleans, which is twinned with the Basingstoke (instigated by information on how to go about it from ACN), the Nantes à Brest is twinned with the Wilts & Berks and the Canal du Berry (ARICAB) has twinned with The Cotswolds Canals.

Since twinning with the K&A, Jo championed linking the Nivernais with other European waterways, including the Royal Canal in Ireland through their Amenity Group, and with the Dutch Barge Association.

Jo became President of ACN in 2008, four decades after he first caught the canal bug on the K&A Canal in England and he always remained passionate about the potential of inland waterways for recreation and employment.

Whilst he was President, ACN joined with six other French canals to form l’Entente des Canaux du Centre-France (Canal du Berry, Canal de Bourgogne, Canal de Briare, Canal lateral a la Loire, Canal d’Orleans, Canal du Centre et Canal du Nivernais) to encourage tourism and strengthen their voice in negotiations.

Jo said “United we stand, divided we fall!  It is good to have the support of the other groups and it is helpful that we can share the cost of exhibiting at the major waterways events such as Paque Boat in St Jean de Losne. And it gives us greater access to local & national politicians.”

 In 2009, his last year as President of Les Amis, Jo nominated K&A Canal Trust Hon Engineer Mike Lee to be invested as a Chevalier into the ancient French wine-makers’ society Le Confrérie des Chevaliers des Trois Ceps at the end of the two-day Fête Nautique in Vincelles to honour his involvement  in the twinning association, saying: “it needs to be now, you never know what the future may bring”. How prophetic those words were and how typical of Jo that he ensured that public recognition was given where deserved.
"No canal, no tourists — no tourists, no canal" 
Jo’s presidency of Les Amis ended in 2010, but his passion for promoting the Canal du Nivernais continued. He said: “The Nivernais, like any other canal, is an amenity for walkers, cyclists and anyone visiting the area interested in history, architecture, wildlife, botany and fishing. The canal makes a linear park that anyone passing can step into for a picnic if nothing else — and sit and watch boats go by.
“The canal supports employment in many forms, it is an artery bringing essential tourists to an area with only agriculture and forestry and a small amount of industry. Tourism is absolutely vital to the Nivernais. “No canal, no tourists!” says Jo, “but equally important, no tourists, no canal”.

Jo has left a legacy on the canals in central France that is being continued by his friends and colleague at ACN.

MERCI, très grand MERCI pour ce splendide article et surtout d'avoir fait le voyage à Auxerre... Di & Bob, nous sommes fiers d'avoir d'aussi bons amis...toute l'équipe de l'ACN vous embrasse et souhaite vous revoir bientôt. 

The French inland waterways magazine, Fluvial, marks Jo's passing...

English Translation: 
Jo Parfitt embarked on the morning of 10 January 2013 for a very long trip and we, on the dock, are left sad and shivering. It seems that he took his toolbox in one hand and, with a turn, he gave us a wink. Noah's Ark was in need a serious check-up ... But, his family, Doret, and his friends are now alone.

As soon as Jo received his ten fingers, he dismantled anything that's operation he wanted to understand.  Later, as a qualified mechanic, he set his sights on the boats, as so often have the poets and free men. In France, he created the shipyard Migennes and designed, fitted out, repaired countless boats. He was also a co-founder and one of the presidents of Les Amis du Canal du Nivernais, with the goal of saving the canal he loved.

He loved to share his knowledge and his dreams and launched, two years ago and with the blessing of Fluvial magazine, a technical column, now an orphan.

Many today feel alongside his two sons Matthew and Sam.

Sad times ...



Grumpy's Wonderful Railway

In the obituary for Kennet & Avon Canal restoration legend, Bryan 'Grumpy' House' we mentioned one of his many engineering projects —the railway system which he built in the 1970s to remove the debris from the locks on the Caen Hill Flight during the restoration — but we couldn't find a picture of it anywhere.  One has now come to light in a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings from Kester and Jacky Shave of Trowbridge.

Members of the Wiltshire Association of Youth Clubs and Boys Clubs and the Avon Youth Association cleaning out a lock on the Caen Hill Flight of locks in Devizes using the railway built by Bryan House.

Bryan House. 
Picture by Bob Naylor©
Read Bryan's obituary at: Goodbye 'Grumpy'

Bryan House, known to all as Grumpy, died on January 8th at the Royal United Hospital in Bath aged 71 and his funeral took place at Semington Crematorium on Tuesday 21st of January.



K&A Canal restoration legend dies

Bryan House, Kennet & Avon Canal restorer.
Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©
Goodbye 'Grumpy'
Bryan House, known to all as Grumpy, died on January 8th at the Royal United Hospital in Bath aged 71 and his funeral took place at Semington Crematorium on Tuesday 21st of January.
Bryan was active from the very early days of the restoration of the Kennet & Avon Canal and his ingenuity in finding novel solutions to practical problems as well as his ability to 'aquire' the means to implement them, along with his bloody minded doggedness, was legendary.

Bryan's day job for 30 years was as an engineer for the Cement Works at Westbury and unknowingly they contributed much to the canal restoration.  A mourner at Bryan's funeral who worked with him there said, "Bryan took me to visit the canal and when I arrived at the workshop at the wharf I thought I had walked into the Cement Works engineering workshop."

  The task they faced on Caen Hill
Caen Hill clearing
Speaking about how he got involved with clearing the Caen Hill Flight Bryan said, "In about 1970 we were in the pub in Rowde and I said to Commander Robinson, they managed to do all that work in the old days, so get your kids from Dauntsey's School and we'll have a go at clearing it out again."

And so they set to clearing the locks on the Caen Hill Flight. They used  slashers and hooks — and local people would come along and say "You're flogging a dead horse —  no way will you do that".  But the more they said that, the more determined Bryan and the others were that they were going to do it.

First Bryan brought an old tractor from Bradford on Avon, "We brought it very early one Sunday morning because it wasn't taxed or insured." he said, "And when we got it on site it was very handy — it made us realise that we needed to be more mechanised."

Bryan's Caen Hill railway
Caen Hill Railway
They found some old mini railway track along with some 3ft gauge mining trucks in the old BWB yard. One of the trucks was fitted with a brake so Bryan decided to turn it into a motorised rail truck.

He put together an old diesel engine and part of a car back axle with a chain drive down to the trolley wheels. He then fitted a compressor and some brake cylinders off a lorry and made a 'dead man' breaking system.  Bryan said, "It was very Heath Robinson — but it worked." 

They then laid track from a lock chamber and out into a side pound and they were able to take the rubbish out of the lock into the middle of the pond to burn it.

Bradford on Avon — the Kenavon Queen
Eventually BWB put a stop to the volunteer work on the Caen Hill Flight so Bryan moved on to help out at Bradford on Avon — first putting an engine into a boat called Kenavon Queen that the group there had made.  

An old Lister engine out of a dumper truck was fitted into the 25 foot wooden boat and connected to an old Ford 10 drive shaft and back axle onto which they fixed paddle wheels.  By braking each side independently they were able to steer the boat in the same way as a tracked vehicle.
The tripboat Kennevon Queen
Bryan said proudly, "For years we actually managed to get people to pay for trips on it — and we gave a guarantee with every ticket that we would take people out — but we didn't guarantee to bring them back.  They might have to walk."

Scary weedcutter
Weed was a serious problem so they decided they needed a pair of weed clearing boats.  They 'aquired' two ex-army flat bottomed bridging pontoons, put a weed scraper at the front of one and a silage blower in the other and worked the boats side by side.

The weed was pulled up on a rope and someone stood by the side of it shovelling the weed across into the other boat where it fed into the silage blower that shot the weed onto the bank - it had a six cyclinder Lister engine and it threw the stuff out with great force — beer bottles and everything.  People who saw it in action described it as "pretty scary".

Bryan House on the front of Ladywood
Tripboat Ladywood
They were doing well with trips on the Kenavon Queen but then someone saw an advert in Waterways World for a 70 foot narrowboat at Ladywood in Birmingham.

A group of them set off by car to look at the boat which turned out to be in a terrible state. Completely bare inside with the engine in bits in three bread baskets in a shed — and the propellor shaft removed.

The asking price was £15,000 but after haggling they finally paid £5,000 for the boat and went back to Bradford on Avon with the engine in the back of the car.

The next problem was getting the boat back to the K&A. Bryan called in a favour from Sparrow Cranes, who did work for the Cement Works. They had a depot very near to Ladywood and they agreed to move the boat as a favour next time they were doing a job in Bristol.

Once the Ladywood was at Bradford on Avon they fitted her out and with a refurbished engine she was soon taking people on trips on the canal.

Bryan and his son-in-law, Tupper Abbott, helped to run the dry dock at Bradford on Avon and many boat owners in those early days of leisure boating on the K&A were glad of their skills and inventiveness.  Ray Rogers who kept his boat nearby said, "There seemed to be no problem that Bryan couldn't overcome and he was always willing to help other boaters."  Bryan and Tupp were involved with the maintenance of the trip boat, Ladywood, which had by then been taken over by the Canal Trust.  Through Bryan's wheeling and dealing with suppliers the boat was kept serviceable at almost no cost to the Trust.

Because of the politics of the K&A Canal Trust at that time Bryan stopped volunteering for the Trust and concentrated instead on his own boat, The Lady Peggy, a clinker built wooden converted ship's lifeboat that he kept at Lower Foxhangers. And Bryan could always be relied on to help other boaters with their maintenance problems.

Although Bryan stopped his voluntary work with the Trust he remained a member and he was one of the small number of Trust members who attended every AGM.

In his later years Bryan lived in Bradford on Avon with his partner Pauline Elcock who sadly died last September.

Bryan is survived by his two daughters, Kim and Simone, and five grand daughters and three grandsons.
Bob Naylor


  1. Good piece. So hard to sum up how much he did but I think the canal would not be as it is without his work.
  2. Wonderful obit for Bryan, a good number of boaters, including us, would not be on the canal if it had not been for him. I don't join clubs so it was a mark of Bryan's persuasive powers and enthusiasm that he got me to join the Canal Taverners. Under his influence Bradford on Avon was alive with energy and a can do attitude, it was when he left that the rot started.
  3. This is great, I feel like I knew this man.



Wyn Gould dies on K&A Canal's 'Cruiseway Day'
Wyn Gould: Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©
Wyn Gould, who stood shoulder to shoulder with her husband John in their tireless battle to restore the Kennet & Avon Canal to a fully navigable waterway, died on Monday 18th April at the age of 95 — on the very day that the elusive 'Cruiseway' status that they had spent most of their married life fighting for was finally granted to the canal.

Wyn had been living at the home of one of her daughters near Marlborough for the last 18 months and it was there that she died peacefully on Monday in the company of her two daughters Jenny and Jane.

The canal became Wyn and John's whole life and she blamed herself for fanning the flame of a passion that was clearly in him. "Tom Rolt's book Narrowboat had just been published",  she said, "and I bought it for him for Christmas and sent it to him in India where he was serving in the Army. That fired the enthusiasm that had been dormant in his mind to come back to England and see what could be done to restore the Kennet & Avon Canal."

When John returned from India and left the Army he needed to find work and he began working for the British Transport Commission on the canal. It wasn't long before John decided to buy a pair of working boats and after a search he finally bought the motorboat, Colin and the Butty,Iris.
John and Wyn Gould arrive at Newbury Lock with Colin and Iris. Wynne is at the tiller of Iris with her oldest daughter Jane sat on the hatch in front of her.

They carried topsoil from New Mill in Newbury to nurseries at Sunbury-on-Thames but that stopped when British Waterways Board closed the canal.  

They then got some dinghies and skiffs and hired them out at Victoria Park in Newbury.  Wyn said, "We had five children and we literally dragged them up at Victoria Park where we hired out the boats".

They started doing boat trips and by getting schools interested they were able to get very busy with that but with the canal closed the time came for the working boats Colin and Iris to go. Iris was hauled out onto Newbury Wharf and burned. Then, Wynne explained, "John took Colin near to Bulls Lock where he and Bill Fisher dug out a pit for her and that is where she sank and disappeared — it was all very sad".

They later began the John Gould hire-boat business at Newbury Lock where they had cruisers and houseboats and it became very busy and popular.  Wyn said, "This meant that I not only brought up the children, but I hired out the boats and turned the houseboats round every weekend — changing all the bedding and cleaning them out ready for the next day."

And while Wyn was doing all this John was busy campaigning to save the canal. There were countless meetings to increase support for the canal but, said Wynne, "In the early days we never thought it would come off, not at this end of the canal anyway so it was really special that we lived long enough to see the canal opened. But not getting Cruiseway Status was so irritating."

"It was really special that we lived long enough to see the canal re-opened but not getting Cruiseway status was so irritating"
Wyn related that when they met the Queen at the opening ceremony in Devizes the Queen said, "Well John Gould I have heard a lot about you and I'm really glad to meet you at last, perhaps we shan't see your picture in the papers so much now."

Wyn said that their lives were quite different to other people's, "We ate when we had time and the children spent half their time down at Victoria Park."

The hire boats and trip trips were completely dependent on the weather and as the children got older they needed more money, "But", said Wyn, "money was the last thing John thought about — he would just say — Oh! we will get by, we can always eat the furniture". To help make ends meet Wynne took a job in a launderette and each day when she finished there she went to Victoria Park to hire out the boats and later go home and get a meal and do the washing. As she said, "We had no washing machine then, it was a very intense time and we just lived life from day to day and week to week".
"People who come through this canal now have no idea what it was like when we started"
The canal in the Newbury area was not getting any attention so they organised work parties to  repair the lock chambers and lock gates.  She said,  "It was unbelievable what we had to do and people who come through this canal now have no idea what it was like when we started.

"Sometimes you could only go a few yards on a boat with a propeller so we had 'paddle unit' boats that went flopping through the water and that got us along more quickly and more safely".
"Every time we went out it wasn't a trip, it was an adventure."
"Because the canal was in such a bad state the people we took out had to realise that we might not get back at the scheduled time — and we often didn't."

Newbury Mayor, Councillor Gillian Darrant, and Wyn Gould 
opened the 2006 Newbury Waterways Festival.
Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©
Wynne always kept in touch with the local Canal Trust Branch in Newbury and she supported the working boat rallies and later the Newbury Waterways Festival. In 2006 she and Newbury Mayor, Councillor Gillian Darrant, opened the festival at Victoria Park where she had hired out rowing boats for so many years.
Bob Naylor©

Wyn's funeral takes place at St Nicolas Church in Newbury on Thursday 28th April at 2.30pm.

1 comment:

  1. Obituary

    Alice Winifred (Wyn) Gould
    27 July, 1915 – 18 April 2011

    Wyn died peacefully on 18th of April with her daughters at her side. She was born to Alice and Otto Ryall in the village of Wolverton, just outside Newbury, 95 years ago. She was the eldest of 4 children, Joan and Ron predeceased her and her brother Bill survives her. The family came to live in Newbury in the 1930’s, and Wyn worked as a Nanny to several families in the area. She soon met her husband to be, John Gould, as both were members of St. Nicolas Church. Following a long romance, they were married in 1939 and had six children, David, Stephen who died in infancy, Jane, Jenny, Tim and Simon. Wyn’s life was dedicated to bringing up her family and being a tireless supporter of the campaign begun by her husband John and a small group of enthusiasts to prevent the Kennet and Avon Canal from closure and to bring it back to life; a campaign that by capturing the hearts and energies of thousands of people over the years, led to the complete restoration of the canal and a permanent leisure resource for Newbury and beyond. Wyn was a business partner of John’s canal carrying and pleasure boat operating company, John Gould Waterways, Ltd and an invaluable life member of the K & A Canal Trust , volunteering countless hours over the years. Wyn was also very well known in the community as a member of St. Nicolas young wives group and Mothers Union. In addition to this she was a member of Newbury society and always looked forward to helping at the church during Newbury Spring Festival. Another of her joys was doing the church flowers as well as being a member of the Dulcet singers for many years.
    Most of all though, she was a loving Mum and and Grandmother. Wyn had 14 grand children, 14 great grandchildren and 2 great great grand children. All of us have been guided by her love as well as her strength, perseverance and ready sense of humour. She had a love of nature, music and animals and her empathy for and concern for others never left her. All of these things have been paramount in her daily life and have been an example and inspiration to us all. After a long and debilitating illness she is now free to be with those who have loved and waited for her and who she loved so much. We’ll miss her always.

    TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2010

    Morris Roff 
    Morris Roff, one of the enthusiasts who made the re-opening of the Kennet & Avon Canal possible, died suddenly at his home in Pewsey on 19 September 2010 at the age of 79.

    His funeral took place at St John the Baptist Church in Pewsey on 1 October 2010 and he was buried at Christ Church, East Kennet.

    Morris was born at Poulton Farm Cottages in Marlborough and he went to the local St Peter’s School. Morris was profoundly deaf from birth and so his education was continued at the Royal Deaf School in Topsham near Exeter.

    He was apprenticed as a cabinet maker and although he did not make his living with those skills, instead working for Pelham Puppets and Marlborough Borough Council, he did put them to good use — and one of his many projects was to completely restore a wooden cruiser in the garden of his home in Marlborough.

    Morris with his sons, Aubrey, left and James beside the cabin cruiser he refurbished in the garden of his home in Marlborough

    Morris was one of the early members of Pewsey Wharf Boat Club who battled through the shallow waters and the duck-weed on the Long Pound between Wootton Rivers and Devizes and showed that navigation was possible.

    Morris and his late wife, Jackie, who died in 1999, became the unpaid wardens of Pewsey Wharf in 1979 and they lived in the cottage on the wharf with their two sons, James and Aubrey until 1998.

    Morris Roff beside the wharf at Pewsey
    Morris always kept his love of the canal and right up until his death he would regularly be seen on Pewsey Wharf where, despite his hearing and speech problems, he would chat to his many friends about the history of the canal and Wilton Windmill where his grandparents had been the last millers when it was working commercially.

    Morris loved the canal and he was an enthusiastic volunteer for the K&A Canal Trust crewing on the K&A Canal Trust trip boat Charlotte Dundas — and later as a skipper on the tiny trip-boat Dragonfly when it was relocated to Pewsey from Bath.

    Morris is survived by his two sons, James, 44 and Aubrey 42 and five grandchildren.

    Waterways elder statesman dies

    Tony Mason
    Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©
    Tony Mason, National Vice President and Vice Chairman of the Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs and President of Pewsey Wharf Boat Club on the Kennet & Avon Canal, died on 18 September.  His funeral took place at Kingsdown Crematorium, Swindon on 29 September.

    Kay Wardle of Pewsey Wharf Boat Club said, "Tony joined PWBC soon after it was in formed in 1972 — when the Long Pound was a muddy ditch.  He was always very active in the club and he held a number of senior committee posts. He will be sorely missed.N

    Roland Dotchin of the AWCC said, "There are many admirers of the work Tony did over so many years, on behalf of AWCC and our waterways. We are sad at the loss of another of the waterways senior statemen, he will be greatly missed.

    A full appreciation of Tony's life and his contribution to the waterways follows


    Tony Mason
    June 1934 – September 2010
    PWBC President and Director

    Tony, who was born in Birmingham, spent much of his childhood travelling, following his army officer father around the world. The war years were spent in India and post war some time in Egypt and Germany, attending no less than 33 different schools!
    His interest in aircraft led him to enlist in the air force as an engine fitter, and then spent the following 22 years serving in the RAF, once again travelling the world.  Returning to civilian life he continued his work with aircraft at a number of different bases, and over time worked for all three military services plus the US Air Force, at Wroughton, Shrivenham, Kemble and Brize Norton. Upon retirement he then made a complete career change and took employment with Maslin Funeral Service, and was still working for them up until his final illness.

    He had many interests and soon after settling in Wootton Bassett he became involved with and was a co-founder of the Otters swimming club.  Water loomed large with his other passion, the inland waterways and boating, and he and Enid were early members of the newly formed Pewsey Wharf Boat Club. This was in the days when the long pound was little more than a muddy puddle rather than a waterway. 

    He was already the Moorings Secretary and Licensing Secretary when records began to be maintained in 1982 and continued in this role up to 1991, he then became the General Secretary for a further two years.  This time introduced him to the AWCC (Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs), to which he gave considerable support; he was their Chairman for thirteen years before becoming a Vice- President.  This enabled our club to be kept up to date with all the work that the AWCC was doing on behalf of their members.

    He was elected Commodore of PWBC in 2005, following this he was appointed as Vice President from 2006 to 2009, and then became President in March 2010. He was also elected as a PWBC Company Director in 2009.

    He had several boats over the years, he, Enid and Freya the dog, were often seen up and down the long pound on their boat “Dragon’s Bane”. Their next boat was “Wild Thyme”, a new boat which Tony fitted out himself, although their early cruises with this boat were beset with engine teething problems.  At least seven new alternators were fitted over the first few years, so this must be another record for him as well as the number of schools attended!  He always seemed philosophical about the inconvenience. 

    Bracken, their new dog, did not take long to acquire her “Wild Thyme” boating legs, as on an early trip out she used her escapology skills to get through the netting on the back and take a stroll along the gunnel!!  A passing boater alerted Tony and Enid.

    He worked tirelessly on behalf of both PWBC and the AWCC, and was a member of the team involved in negotiating a lease with BW for the club moorings.  He was always ready to give help and advice.

    He will be missed.

    This obituary by Kay Wardle first appeared first in the Pewsey Newsy  (the magazine of the Pewsey Wharf Boat Club)


    Harry Bell

    Harry Bell died peacefully at The Lock House, Semington on 27th January 2010 while listening to music with his devoted Old English sheepdog, Sophie, by his side.

    Harry was one of that group of people who started canal businesses confident that the Kennet & Avon Canal would one day re-open.

    Harry was active in the K&A’s trade association, ACE (The Association of Canal Enterprises) and in its early days he served both as Chairman and Secretary.

    Harry and his wife Sue started Tranquil Boats in 1984 building a dry dock, taking in bed & breakfast guests and running an electric day hire boat.

    Sadly Sue died after only 10 years at The Lock House — but she was immensely proud and honoured to have been spoken to by HM The Queen at the ceremony to re-open the canal in 1990.

    Harry was a clever, forthright and honest man — with Harry respect had to be earned  and if gained then that person had a true friend for life.

    Harry was a fiercely independent and private man and very few people who met him on the canal had any idea of his long and fascinating life in the world of show business.

    Harry Bell was born in Forest Hall, between Newcastle Upon Tyne and the coast, on the 17th December 1935.

    He was educated first at a church primary school then moving on to the local Grammar school. It was in school plays that he showed an interest in the ‘back stage’ work which subsequently took over his life.

    His love of the stage soon saw him volunteering as a general helper at the Peoples Theatre in Newcastle during school breaks.

    He left school with few qualifications — just 3 GCEs — but he was ambitious and he got his first job as an electrician at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. He then moved on to the Empire ‘variety house’ in Sunderland but he was soon on the move again — this time with Billy Smart’s Circus. He soon realised that this was a bad move and he returned to the Empire in Newcastle, where he stayed until he was called up for National Service in the RAF.

    He served two years as a wireless mechanic — but he kept touch with the theatre by helping to produce the entertainment at the transmitting station where he was based. When he left the RAF Harry returned to the Empire in Newcastle where he continued as a stage hand until his 21st birthday.

    Then the big city beckoned and he left for London. He quickly got into his stride — first at the Chiswick Empire as an electrician, and then with the Paul Raymond organisation as stage manager, electrician and coach driver.

    He then joined HM Tennent who presented many of the top shows in the UK — again as an electrician — and he toured with Norman Wisdom in ‘Where’s Charley’. When the show came to the West End, Harry moved on to Drury Lane, this time for the big production of the year — ‘My Fair Lady’.

    Never staying still for long Harry joined the Talk of the Town as the sound man. He considered himself very lucky to work there with many performers in their last days in show business – Judy Garland and the Andrews Sisters among them.

    He met his future wife, Sue, and he soon realised that enjoyable as theatre work was, the wages would not buy a house or support a family. At that time commercial television was expanding rapidly and ATV had taken over the old National Studios in Elstree and needed staff — he applied and he was taken on as a prop man.

    Over the next 22 years promotion followed promotion and he progressed from Prop Man to Floor Manager and then to Production Manager. Harry was now in the prime of his life. He specialised in light entertainment for which ATV was renowned in the 60s and 70s.

    Harry worked with every major British and International star from Liberace to Bing Crosby and with his all time favourite — Karen Carpenter. He enjoyed every moment of an exciting working life alongside stars like Morecambe and Wise, Lena Horne, Dickie Valentine, Des O’Connor and Englebert Humperdinck.

    Harry said, “This was when TV was an entertainment medium run by show business people — unlike today when sadly it is run by accountants”.

    In 1983 ATV had become Central and relocated to the Midlands. Harry did not like the way things had been going so he decided to take redundancy and look for a new way of life. Harry and Sue had bought a boat which they named ‘Lady Caroline’ after their daughter. They used it to escape the pressures of work and to take their two Old English Sheepdogs on holiday with them.

    And like many boat owners they dreamed of retirement in a house with a boat on the canal at the bottom of the garden. They found The Lock House at Semington and although the canal was not open Harry and Sue believed that it would be one day. In 1984 they moved in and set up Tranquil Boats and they were able to live their dream — a total contrast to Harry’s previous hectic life.

    Harry freelanced at HTV so that he was able to live at The Lock House and develop the business — while still working in television.

    Harry was passionate about Old English Sheepdogs — and over the years four shared his life at The Lock House.

    Harry always said that he had been fortunate to meet so many good people and he hoped that he had provided a good service to boaters — but he said that his life would have been a lot better if he had not had to deal with the harassment from British Waterways management which over the years had caused him so much avoidable distress.

    Harry was immensely proud of his daughter Caroline, her husband Mark, and his two grandchildren, Eleanor and Rosie who were all a great comfort to him.

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