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Finch-The Remorseful Day

Finch-The Remorseful Day

The events recorded here relating to Anthony Ernest Finch are accurate 'to the best of my knowledge and belief.' I have not sought to add or embellish this strange story in any way, much of which is known to me at first or very close second-hand. I have used Finch's correct name, but otherwise changed all other names of persons and where appropriate, place names as well.
Evelyn's War

Evelyn's War


The newly discovered canal diary of Evelyn Hunt, an ‘Idle Woman’, edited by Tim Coghlan and serialised exclusively in Canals Rivers + Boats.
Olga's Boat Song - Part 1

Olga's Boat Song - Part 1

Tim Coghlan looks at the truly remarkable life of the former ‘Idle Woman’ Olga Kevelos, who recently died. She began her working life as an astronomer, became a working boatwoman during the war, then went on to become an international motor cycle racing champion, a publican, and finally a Mastermind challenger, and serial TV quiz star. And despite all of this, she never lost her femininity, remaining glamorous to the end. 
Olga's Boat Song - Part 2

Olga's Boat Song - Part 2

Tim Coghlan looks at the truly remarkable life of the former ‘Idle Woman’ Olga Kevelos, who recently died. She began her working life as an astronomer, became a working boatwoman during the war, then went on to become an international motor cycle racing champion, a publican, and finally a Mastermind challenger, and serial TV quiz star. And despite all of this, she never lost her femininity, remaining glamorous to the end. 
Joe Safe's Secret - Part 1

Joe Safe's Secret - Part 1

Tim Coghlan looks at the fascinating life and times of Joe Safe, a man who spent most of his working life on and around the canals, and who sadly died recently.
Joe Safe's Secret - Part 2

Joe Safe's Secret - Part 2

Tim Coghlan looks at the fascinating life and times of Joe Safe, a man who spent most of his working life on and around the canals, and who sadly died recently.
Joe Safe's Secret - Part 3

Joe Safe's Secret - Part 3

Tim Coghlan looks at the fascinating life and times of Joe Safe, a man who spent most of his working life on and around the canals, and who sadly died recently.
Waters Under The Bridge

Waters Under The Bridge

Alan Firth - the ‘odd lock’ artist. Tim Coghlan recalls the life and works, and his own personal memories, of canal artist Alan Firth who died recently after a long illness...

Bearing Gifts

Bearing Gifts

After twenty years and more of selling narrow boats on brokerage, I am still surprised from time to time by what comes along, and the fascinating stories that the owners have to tell about their boats. After all, even today you have to be somewhat different to be a canal boater...

Das Narrow Boot

Das Narrow Boot

So just what brought Germans Gunter “John” Magiera and his friend Harald to the English Canals? John was most forthcoming, “I had known Harald since 1970 when we met in the German Merchant Navy, and although in the years that followed I had never married, he had, and I also became a very close friend of his wife and family... 

Dover and out!

Dover and out!

The collapse in narrow boat building has taken its toll on some established boat builders and, it is with much personal sadness that I record the recent closure of the Braunston Marina based David Thomas Boatbuilders...

Farewell to 'Diesel Dave'

Farewell to 'Diesel Dave'

Dave Odell, known to one and all as Diesel Dave, was a great canal character. He is perhaps best remembered for his winter barbieon-ice in the great freeze-up of January 2010. There he sat in the middle of the Lower Reservoir some yards from his boat, in silent splendour all on his own, beneath his Tony Hancock hat, cigarette in hand, and tinnies chilling on the ice...

Running Scared - back on the big screen

Running Scared - back on the big screen

In the autumn of  2011, almost exactly forty years after its release in 1971, and after an extensive search with many people involved,  possibly the last surviving copy of this long-lost canal-thriller was finally found somewhere in America. The movie was then shown by the Braunston Cinema Club in early December to two packed houses at Braunston Village Hall, in the presence of  its co-star Gayle Hunnicutt. It was a cinematic  night to remember. Tim Coghlan was there…

Bringing the dead wench to life

Bringing the dead wench to life

My first encounter with the Morse circus – for circus it was indeed to prove – was on the morning of Tuesday the 23rd September, 1997, a sunny early autumn day. One of our staff came into the marina office to report that a couple were seen wandering around the yard, taking lots of photographs, and showing a much greater interest in the place than your average tourist...

Bringing the dead wench to life

Bringing the dead wench to life

It was a long day, with much progress backwards, as the canal at Braunston returned to the mid-Victorian era. From early morning the travelling circus had begun to arrive at its temporary base camp on a field nearby. First and perhaps most importantly it was the tea wagon, which soon proffered the welcoming smell of bacon butties...

Bringing the dead wench to life

Bringing the dead wench to life

Back in 1998 I was running South Midland Water Transport Ltd and the fleet then contained three vintage butty boats, all ex-Fellows, Morton & Clayton Ltd. (FMC). Their dates of construction ranged from 1897 to 1921 and they were all in good structural condition, having been rescued from virtual dereliction by the Company Chairman, Malcolm Burge. Two boats, Australia and Fazeley, were in regular work and the third, Sunny Valley, was kept in reserve...

Bringing the dead wench to life

Bringing the dead wench to life

There is an old saying, that the only thing certain about life is its uncertainty, a sort of variation on the Greek philosopher’s ‘All I know is that I don’t know’. Once the canal scenes for the Morse episode, The Wench is Dead had been filmed in June 1998, with a little help from myself and my canal friends, I was convinced that I had seen the last of the Inspector Morse circus...

A Friend of President

A Friend of President

When I acquired Braunston Marina in October, 1988, I knew very little about the canals and even less about their history, despite now being the owner of one of the most important sites on both counts. The marina was bankrupt and very run down, and had very few friends. My main priority was to get it back in business, without also going bankrupt in the process, and for the first six months, I looked little beyond that...

A Friend of President

A Friend of President

The year 1991 had been something of a spectacular year for President, with the successful reenactment of a fly run from London to the first Braunston Boat Show – in which I was involved – being only one of its many appearances at various canal events, where this fine old narrow boat always seemed to steal the show. But there were mutterings afoot amongst the purists - that President simply processed and posed around the canal system...

A Friend of President

A Friend of President

I have mixed views on Manchester. Brazen, brutish, and bleak - I have visited it many times over the years on a theme of ‘where there’s mook there’s brass’, but never in search for its beauty. In one famous divorce case, the great Mr Justice Melford Stevens said contemptuously of the luckless husband across the court, “He chose to live in Manchester, a wholly incomprehensible choice for a free man to make.” - and there he rested his case for the man’s ill treatment of his doe-eyed client...

A Friend of President

A Friend of President

We soon arrived at Mode Wheel Locks, the first proper Manchester Ship Canal locks which historically also controlled the whole of the water for the Manchester Docks. On the Manchester Ship Canal itself, all locks are plural, as they are all double locks – one for large and the other for smaller vessels...

Working boats galore!

Working boats galore!

We seem to have come a long way since our first Rally in 2003, when we were very pleased and indeed relieved to welcome 19 former working boats, mostly from the Fellows Morton & Clayton (FMC) fleet, to celebrate the re-restoration of the last surviving steam narrow boat President...

The Canal Adonis The Idle Woman

The Canal Adonis The Idle Woman

Tim Coghlan looks back on the life of the former working boatman George Smith, who died recently aged 97. He is best remembered for his short post-war marriage to the wartime Idle Woman Sonia South, which, in 1946, brought the pair of them to the forefront of the IWA’s campaign to save the canals, as the glamorous face of the working boatmen. Sonia dramatically left him in 1951 for the canal author and IWA co-founding member Tom Rolt.
Celebrity canal enthusiasts Timothy West and Prunella Scales to open 2013 Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally & Canal Festival

Celebrity canal enthusiasts Timothy West and Prunella Scales to open 2013 Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally & Canal Festival

The eleventh Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally, to be held on 29th – 30th June, will be officially opened by guests of honour, the celbratory actors and canal enthusiasts Timothy West, recently Eric in Coronation Street and his wife Prunella Scales – Sibyl of Fawlty Towers fame. For the occasion, they will wear traditional boatmen clothing.

Nene better!

Nene better!

There is a saying - perhaps made more appropriate in view of the Royal Wedding on the day preceding my opening of the three day IWA Northampton Rally – Three times a bridesmaid, never a bride! In my now rapidly approaching 23 years of running Braunston Marina, I have been involved in organizing nine Braunston Boat Shows and now the ninth Braunston Historic Narrowboat Rally.
The OwnerShips Ice Boat Show - with added Blue Shoots!

The OwnerShips Ice Boat Show - with added Blue Shoots!

For the last three years in a row, it looked like Lady Luck had gone on holiday to somewhere warmer, leaving the OwnerShips Boat Show to face the full fury of the English winter. This was after 15 years of holding the event at Braunston Marina, in a seemingly unstoppable succession mild ones...

Tom Rolt - narrow boat man

Tom Rolt - narrow boat man

At the invitation of Tom Rolt’s widow Sonia, Tim Coghlan joined actor and canal and train enthusiast Timothy West at the recent Cheltenham Literary Festival to discuss what was billed as ‘a celebration of Tom Rolt’s extraordinary life and remarkable achievements – engineer, prolific author and the man whose elegiac work Narrow Boat sparked the campaign to save Britain’s inland waterways…’ The event – a sell out with an audience of 240 - was the very first of the Festival...

"Apart from that, how did you enjoy the play?"

"Apart from that, how did you enjoy the play?"

 George was in great shape, living on his own in his little bungalow near the Coventry Canal. He was still the legendary canal charmer and raconteur, with a truly astonishing memory. He related this tale of his first visit to a London theatre. And also some other remarkable adventures to be published later in Canals Rivers + Boats...

War on the grand union

War on the grand union

Last year’s first Village at War weekend at Stoke Bruerne set the organizers, the Friends of the Waterways Museum, a hard act to follow. There was all the initial novelty, which as a one off gets the punters in, but would they come again? And there was also that moment of a very special occasion with the unveiling of the plaque outside the museum to the ‘Idle Women’ - who had worked as boatmen during the war...

Weekend at war

Weekend at war

Having prepared myself for something completely different, it still came as a surprise when it happened. I had arrived a little early as I had to be back to the marina-day-job by late morning and I wanted to see as much as I could. The offi cial car park at the top of the hill by Stoke Breurne’s church was almost empty and there was no one to collect my money for the advertised £10 car park charge to gain admission...

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